Description of Job
• Work with client to choose appropriate paint and method of application.
• Prepare interior or exterior surfaces for painting or repainting.
• Make minor repairs to wall surfaces, as needed, or arrange for repairs by a
• Apply paint with brush, rollers, or spray.
• Clean up the home.
Painting is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Some homeowners will tackle a
small job like slapping a fresh coat of paint on their bathroom walls, but repainting the entire interior of a house or its exterior siding, trim, and decks may
require the time, expertise, and equipment of a professional.
Some jobs are much more complicated than others. Among difficulties requiring
extra time, materials, and equipment are cathedral ceilings, multicolor rooms,
textured applicators, and fancy trim.
You will need to be able to recognize the type of surface to be painted and
match it to the appropriate type of paint and method of application.
For a bathroom or kitchen, you may need to use mildew-resistant glossy paint
that cleans easily; bedrooms and common rooms may call for more subtle shades
in a flat or nongloss finish. Do interior walls already have one or more coats of
paint, or are some covered with wallpaper? Is the underlying surface drywall,
plaster, or wood?
Is the home empty, with no carpeting or hardwood floor in place, or will you
need to move and cover furniture and protect floors and rugs?
In some areas, many painters belong to a union. You may have to apprentice
with the union or join as a full member to be considered for many business
jobs—and perhaps some house-painting assignments if a contractor or government agency is involved.
Know the Territory
The best way to obtain experience in this sort of work is to work as a helper for
a professional painter or assist a knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer on a major job.
In other words, don’t start a business as a housepainter and expect to learn on the
job; the risk of damage to the home or its contents, or inefficient use of time and
materials, is too great.
There is a great deal of information available on the web sites of paint manufacturers and in books. Manufacturers of paint sprayers and other equipment
may offer training sessions.
In most jobs, the homeowner is asked to remove paintings, drapes, and other
wall decorations; the painter is responsible for moving and covering furniture and
protecting carpeting and other flooring. Other tasks include taping trim and windows to protect them from overpainting and removal of outlet and switch covers.
Modern water-based paints are much easier to clean up for interior jobs; for
exterior work, the choice is either latex (water) or oil (alkyd) base. Floor enamel,
available in acrylic latex and polyurethane formulas, is often used in areas that
receive a great deal of traffic or are exposed to extremes of weather; floor enamel
can be used on wood, concrete, and metal.
How to Get Started
Post flyers and ads in community centers, retail outlets, and bulletin boards.
Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.
Make contact with contractors, real estate agents, and cleaning services; offer
a bonus or commission on work they bring your way.
You will need ladders, high-quality brushes, roller applicators, paint trays, tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, painter’s masking tape, mixers, and other tools. For
some jobs, especially interior painting of new or otherwise empty homes, you
may need a commercial paint sprayer. (It may be possible to rent a sprayer, as
Some painters work with high-powered portable lighting rigs to help them in
their work. If you use a paint sprayer, you may need a breathing mask and eye
You will need a vehicle large enough to carry your necessary equipment and
Other costs include advertising and promotion.
How Much to Charge
Most painters quote a fixed price for a job, based on a careful estimate of the
number of hours it will require, plus the cost of paint and other materials. Some
jobs are quoted on a cost-plus basis: a charge for hours of work plus the actual
cost of paint and other supplies.