The ABCs of Painting

To do or to hire...

House Painting

How to Determine Who Does the Painting

DIY v. Hire a Professional

When it comes to house painting, it's pretty easy to sit back and say, "I could do that."  The reality of it is, there are more considerations than the ability to hold a brush and move your arm up, down and sideways.  While some interior projects can be completed in a matter of hours, others are signficantly more time consuming and technical in nature.  So, when making a decision about do-it-yourself or hiring a professional painter, always start with the ABCs.

(A)ssess the Project

When scoping a project, it's imperative to consider the magnitude of the job both in terms of size as well as the importance. Some projects may cover a large area but attention to detail is of minimal importance - like painting the broadside of a barn.  Other areas may be a much smaller scale, but require almost an artist's touch - bathroom decor that you and your company will see every single day up close and personal.

Additionally, think about painting in terms of investment.  Is this going to be a long term or a short term investment?  If you have an old house like mine, exterior painting is my first line of protection against the elements.  We recently repainted our house and recognized that we didn't want any area to be compromised, plus we were hoping to add to the curb appeal.  Other interior painting projects may only be for a season.  (I sure hope the Pepto-Bismol pink in my daughter's room is just a phase.)

Assessing the project can be done by considering factors such as man hours of labor, long term v. short term investment, square footage of the area, any high or hard to reach areas, cost of materials, and the importantance of the result. 

If you still think you have it in you, then move on to Step B.

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(B)e Honest with Yourself

Do you have the knowledge, skills, and tools to do the job and do it well.  I have a tendancy to think I can take on the world.  After all, I was a single dad working a demanding full time job for more than 2 years - after surviving that, I can do anything. What's a couple hundred square feet of wall and a bucket of paint got on me?! 

Then I walked around our house, I saw a bunch of cracks, imperfections, and found out from some professional estimates that some of the flaking areas of our little, old house had lead paint.  The prep work alone, that I have no experience doing, seemed daunting after a realistic assessment.  Then realizing that lead paint removal process could be dangerous if I didn't do it well. 

Another consideration to be honest about is, did I really want to spend my time doing this.  I'd only be able to work weekends and nights.  Living in Seattle, we really value our beautiful summer weather.  If it'd take professionals a week or so working full time with several guys, how long would it take me?!  As much as I like doing my own work, I'd rather go camping and hiking in the mountains during summer.

(C)onsider the Alternatives

Just because a project may not end up being a total DIY update, that doesn't mean you have to bring in a pricey contractor.  Consider if you have an family and friends with the skills you need, the time, and the willingness to help.  Maybe you help with their garage roof repair and they'll give you some painting assistance.  If you have a handy father or father-in-law, they often enjoy sharing their skills and experience to help.   Remember that friend you helped move...maybe he/she could take a turn giving you some assistance.  Then, of course, you could exchange manual labor for meals/beer. 

Of course, contractors area always an option.  Ultimately, for our external house painting, we picked this option.  It's best if you can get a personal reference.  So ask around.  Good resources for this type of information could be your realtor, neighbors you've seen get house work done, friends, family, etc.  We always get at least 3-5 bids for any work with a contractor.  Personally, I like to go with one of the contractors who sends the actual professionals to give you the estimate. Several places send hired sales reps, but the rep disappears after you sign.  A work crew shows up and you cross your fingers and hope all the expectations were communicated appropriately.  Honestly, I typically want the person whose name is on the line actually holding the paintbrush.  I hired a local guy who proudly put his sign up in my yard as he worked.  He was then incentivized to do great work, because everyone that drove by knew that it was him.  I also told him ahead of time about some friends that we knew that may need a painter.  I planted the idea of a glowing Angie's List review, a word of mouth referral, and free advertising in my yard while he worked. Needless to say, he went above and beyond our expectations, and we paid exactly the amount that he bid.