Nothing can be so simple and often so enjoyable as giving the walls of your home a new lick of paint. It freshens up the place and gives everything a new cosmetic lease of life. But, if you can’t do it yourself, what should you look out for when hiring a professional?
The first thing you want to know is the cost of painting a room. As all rooms are different, they’ll cost varying amounts so you should get a proper quote for the job. However, a good place to start is to find out average painting and decorating costs from a professional painter. Most day rates work out to be between £150 and £200 per day. Having said that, the cost of painting the walls and ceiling of a small room (about 2.2m x 2.4m) will cost around £200 and take no more than 1 day. And, the cost of a large room (about 6m x 5m) will be around £400, taking no more than 2 days. Don’t forget to add the cost of paint on top.
Before we go any further, you must understand that we are assuming 2 coats of water–based emulsion paint on walls and ceiling. And, the plaster is in good condition. We have yet to think about painting the woodwork with an oil–based primer, undercoat and topcoat.
So, let’s move on and go into far more detail in the next section.
Painting & Decorating Price List
If you look at the table below, you’ll find a much more comprehensive list of typical examples. Although your home is probably not the same size as these, you can compare the dimensions of those given, with your property. You can then come up with an approximate amount for your home’s painting and decorating prices, together with the duration of the job. Remember, these costs exclude VAT and will vary depending on a few different factors, including whereabouts you live in the country.
|1 bedroom flat||1 to 2 days||£700|
|2 bedroom flat||2 days||£1000|
|3 bedroom house||2 to 3 days||£1100|
|4 bedroom semi-detached house||2 to 3 days||£1200|
|5 bedroom detached house||4 days||£1300|
The painting prices shown here are approximate and only intended as a guide. The painter and decorator day rate mentioned earlier is a good estimate for most of the country. But tradesmen in the London area, extending out to the entire southeast of England will ask for a day rate between 10% and 20% more.
On average if you’re quoted a price which includes materials, you can expect the labour to take up 80% of the cost. While paints and other materials will cost about 20% of the total price. It’s also reasonable for a painter to include into the bill, a surcharge of about 20% the cost of the paint. This covers the time taken to buy it.
Although this is rarely done, another way for a painter decorator to charge you is per hour. Typical hourly charges hover around £25/hr. But, can extend up to about £50 depending on skill, location and the working conditions.
So far we’ve only considered emulsion paint on walls and ceiling. But, this isn’t all a painter and decorator does. We must also consider the ‘woodwork’. This includes windows and doors (unless they’re uPVC), stairs, architraves and skirting boards. Typically, a painter decorator won’t charge a separate amount for the woodwork, preferring to include the labour and paint costs into the final amount when giving you an average cost to paint the room.
If you believe that the woodwork doesn’t need repainting when you have the walls and ceilings done, think again. When the bulk of the room has a fresh couple of layers of emulsion, you’ll be surprised how the grubby woodwork shows up against it. It’s much better to repaint the skirting boards and other woodwork in a room, so everything looks good.
Is a small room easier than a large one?
You might think that a small room is easier to paint than a large room. Most of the time it is. But, if the small room has lots of alcoves, corners and other awkward shapes, you can be sure that it will probably take longer to paint than 4 flat walls of a large rectangular room.
You’ll also find that two rooms in the house take less time to paint than the remainder. You’ve guessed it. Often, the bathroom has large areas of ceramic tiles covering the walls. While, the kitchen’s walls have base units, wall cupboards and tiles. So, there’s a large area in your home that doesn’t usually require painting.
Let’s look in more detail at the average cost to paint a room including oil–based paint on the woodwork.
For a small room, which has an average wall area of about 15m2, you can expect to pay about £200 to £300. This includes preparation and two coats of emulsion on the walls and ceiling. Also, it includes preparation, undercoat and topcoat (gloss) for all the woodwork in the room.
A medium room has a wall area of about 30m2 and costs between £400 and £600. Once again this includes the preparation of walls and ceiling and 2 coats of emulsion. As well as, the preparation, undercoat and topcoat for the woodwork.
If you have a large room, it will typically have a wall area of about 60m2. To prepare all surfaces, give 2 coats of emulsion to walls and ceiling, plus undercoat and gloss to woodwork will cost from £800 to £1200.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage about stairs. These are different from the remainder of the house. Stairwells consist of the walls and ceiling over a staircase. Usually, they have high walls that need scaffolding for the painter to reach the ceiling.
Staircases can be made from hard or softwood. Usually, in an average house, the stairs have a large expanse of woodwork that requires preparation, undercoat and gloss. If the staircase is made from hardwood, it will need careful sanding, then a coat of stain, followed by 2 coats of varnish to give a first–class finish.
Painters and decorators don’t only paint walls and woodwork. They do many other jobs that you wouldn’t expect. But first, the commonest decorating job after painting is to decorate a room with wallpaper. Sometimes wallpaper has a printed pattern on the surface. While other types have a plain textured surface designed to cover and improve a poor plaster surface. This type usually has two coats of emulsion, the same as a smooth plaster wall.
Although many people might have a go at wallpapering a small room, hanging wallpaper is a very skilled task. Especially, those rooms where there are many irregular corners, slopes and high ceilings. You’ll probably notice this when you have a go at cutting and hanging the hall, stairs and landing wallpaper yourself.
Other inside jobs
There are many other jobs that a decorator needs to know about that might need doing to assist with the main task of decorating, such as:
- Removing and replacing curtain tracks and poles.
- Tiling bathroom and kitchen walls with ceramic tiles.
- Installing plaster or polystyrene coving in a room at the internal corner between the wall and ceiling.
- Although you should leave carpet fitting to a professional, most decorators can remove and refit carpets before and after painting a room if necessary.
- Running a bead of mastic around external door and window frames to seal against weather and prevent water from blowing inside. Caulking around the inside of the frames helps produce a smooth surface to paint.
- Replastering small areas of a wall to ‘make good’ before decorating.
- Repairing imperfections in woodwork before painting.
- Touching up small knocks and scrapes on the paintwork after having carpets fitted, or installing fitted furniture.
- Not everyone has decorating experience, and often need help with choosing colours. Painters and decorators work with paints every day and soon learn which colours go well with others. If your painter has completed a decorating course, he or she will already have some knowledge and can assist you with your décor.
There are also outside jobs that decorators can do:
- Painting the outside render, windows, doors and fascia boards.
- Painting sheds and fencing panels with garden wood preservative.
- Repairing cracks and small holes in outside walls.
- A painter will often treat areas of damp before painting them.
Types of Paint Finishes
Although in theory, you can use just about any type of paint in your home. Practically, you are limited by the specifications and price of the paint.
Emulsions are the cheapest type of paint, although some good quality emulsions can be quite expensive. Generally, water–based paints such as emulsion will be used on plaster, masonry and cement–based surfaces after using a primer. These paints have a water solvent that easily soaks into and bonds with the surface.
Generally, most emulsion paints fall into the categories of vinyl matte or vinyl silk.
- The added vinyl component gives the emulsion waterproofing qualities so the surface can be easily wiped down during normal house cleaning activities.
- A matte finish means that the surface isn’t glossy.
- Whereas, a silk finish provides a smooth, semi-gloss finish.
There are also similar categories when choosing oil–based paints for woodwork. Generally, wood needs a first coat to be a primer. This soaks into the wood and bonds with its structure. Then, the primer’s surface bonds with an undercoat. The undercoat seals the surface and prepares it for a decorative topcoat. Undercoats also prevent the underlying colour of the surface from showing through and ensures the topcoat can adhere to the wood. Finally, the topcoat, which is usually glossy, but can be semi-gloss or eggshell, protects by drying to a hard shell. This gives a smooth, hard and waterproof topcoat which also assists in blocking intense colours from showing through from below.
Matte paints, sometimes known as ‘flat’ finishes, are not reflective, so do not distract the eye. They have from 0% to 10% glossy finish. So, they aren’t very good to use if you have children or pets as they are difficult to wipe clean.
This type of paint is great if you have moisture in the air such as in kitchens and bathrooms. They also resist grease and other deposits that might discolour the surfaces. It lasts well and can easily be scrubbed clean due to its high sheen.
This is more reflective and easier to keep clean than ‘semi-gloss’ surfaces. These are also used in kitchens and bathrooms. But also, might be used on doors and window frames. However, because the surface is highly reflective, you can see almost all surface imperfections.
Eggshell & Satin
Both these names describe the same finish. Eggshell has more lustre than a matte finish. But, you won’t have shiny, glossy surfaces. The surface resists stains and moisture and they can be easily wiped clean with a damp rag. This finish is best used in bathrooms, kitchens, kids rooms and rooms with high traffic.
Paint costs vary depending on the manufacturer as well as type. If you can afford it, use a well–known brand. Although you will pay more than the cut-price discount brands, you will get what you pay for, and it’ll be worth it in the end. Having said that, many professional painters might use a good quality paint brand that you’ve never heard of, specifically designed for professional use. Be guided by the professional, and use whatever brand they recommend.
Typical emulsion paint prices range from £8 to £18 per litre. Whereas, oil–based paints can go up to around £30 per litre. However, remember that you usually use less volume oil–based paint compared to emulsion paint. So, it won’t work out as expensive as you imagine.
How should you apply the paint?
Many people who aren’t professional painters, but want to have a go, often ask this question.
There are two simple rules when applying paint and we’ll look at these now.
- Start at the top of the wall and work down. Sometimes, if you add thick paint to a surface, you cause ‘runs’. This produces dribbles of paint running vertically down the wall. If this dries, you will be left with ridges of hard paint to ruin the appearance. By starting at the top, you can ‘brush out’ any runs that appear before they have a chance to dry.
- Many people who attempt painting, want to know whether they should paint the skirting or the walls first. Always paint the emulsion on the walls first before using the undercoat and gloss coats. This means you can roughly paint the walls using a roller and cut in around the edges without worrying about getting emulsion onto newly painted woodwork. Finally, paint the woodwork with more care, while cutting in at the joint with the wall using a straight line with no overlap. Having said that, professionals are much more skilled than you are, and know-how to change this sequence to their advantage. So, don’t challenge a professional if they don’t stick to this rigidly. They know what they’re doing.
Common Quotation Cost Factors
Always ask for a quotation before the work starts. The best thing about a quote is that everyone knows exactly where they stand. You know what you’re paying for. And, the painter knows what they’re expected to do. However, there are a few things that are very difficult to quantify. For example:
The average householder rarely gets down on their hands and knees to inspect the skirting boards, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to know that when you disturb the existing hard shell of a glossy topcoat, you might find a few centimetres of rotten wood lurking beneath. This isn’t any problem for a skilled professional to overcome. But, you should have already sorted out between each other, how you are going to approach paying for work that wasn’t originally obvious. Neither of you would be expected to know that the rotten wood was there, so how do you handle it?
Simple. Arrange to pay an hourly rate for any work not explicitly mentioned in the quote. This means that as the bits and pieces come to light, the painter should let you know what they are and give you an approximate verbal estimate of time. You can then convert this into money and add it to the bill. Alternatively, the painter might have a better and simpler method learned from experience. Use whichever method works for you.
When removing old wallpaper, you never know the state of the existing wall beneath the paper until it’s exposed. The painter might be able to repair it with a few scoops of filler. Or, you might need to hire a professional plasterer. Don’t worry too much, as most professional building contractors know each other. And, your painter will know of someone who can make your wall like new. You will have to pay the plasterer separately. But, it’s very worthwhile.
Removing wallpaper is one of the jobs that you can do to save a bit of money. Make sure the painter knows you intend doing this yourself, so they don’t turn up on Monday morning prepared to remove the wallpaper. Make sure you ask the painter how much you need to do. Whether you have to only remove the paper, or whether you should also remove all trace of paste with sugar soap. And if you say you’re going to do it. May sure you do.
Often, the painter will want to remove the radiator to decorate behind it. Usually, the painter can do this. But, sometimes you might need a plumber, especially if the radiators are old, non-standard or difficult to shift. Once again this will be extra to the original quote.
If you or the person who lived in your house previously was a heavy smoker, you might find you have nicotine–stained walls that must be painted over. Don’t even think about applying water–based emulsion directly over tobacco stains. The colouring on the wall comes from the oils in the smoke collecting onto an absorbent surface. So, you will need to cover this with a good solvent–based primer, designed to cover stains like these. Your painter should be aware of this and will ordinarily have included it into the quote. If he hasn’t you should ask yourself whether he is experienced enough and whether you should be looking for another painter.
What To Ask Your Painer or Decorater
The best way of hiring a painter and decorator is by recommendation from friends or family. If you already know the person, you might even get a favourable rate. If this isn’t the case, you should ask certain questions to find out whether the painter satisfies your requirements.
- Find out whether the quote includes VAT. Many building contractors automatically quote without VAT because that’s what they do when working for other contractors.
- Make sure you know what brand paint they’re using. That way you’ll know whether you’re being overcharged.
- Make sure the painter surveys the job so you’ll receive an accurate quote. Avoid ‘so-called tradesmen’ who offer a quote over the phone. They won’t know the pitfalls of the job, or if there are any awkward patches unless they see the job in person.
- How do you intend paying? Is it cash, card or cheque? If the painter insists on cash, make sure you get a receipt written on his headed paper, with a signature and date.
- Does the painter hold any qualifications or belong to any trade bodies. The painter might have City and Guilds Painting and Decorating NVQ qualifications. Three separate qualification levels depend on the level of experience. He should also have basic health and safety at work qualifications.
- According to the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), painters are susceptible to health problems when working with solvents, painting asbestos, and when removing old lead–based paints. Suitable qualifications provide training when handling these substances.
- The Painting and Decorating Association (PDS) is the largest trade association for painters in the UK.
- The Guild of Master Craftsmen provides an association for all professional tradesman.
Painting and Decorating Q&A
What’s the difference between a painter and a decorator?
Usually, these terms are interchangeable. However, they have very different meanings. A painter is a professional who is skilled at applying paints, varnishes and stains. Whereas, a decorator has extra skills such as the ability to hang wallpaper, how to combine colours to create a theme and how to include home furnishing in the overall scheme.
Can I just paint over old paint?
That depends on a few factors. If the paints are chemically similar (say, both vinyl emulsions), then you can paint straight over. However, if the colours are very different, it will be worthwhile blanking out the original colour with a cheap white emulsion (if they’re both emulsion paints) or with white or grey undercoat (if they’re both oil–based paints). Once the original colour has completely gone, use 2 coats of the chosen colour.
What is the quickest way to paint a room?
You could use the following sequence:
- Prepare all surfaces. Wash off any dirt, fill holes and sand smooth.
- Always paint the ceiling first. Because this is the warmest part of the room, you’ll probably find the first coat will be dry within a few minutes and you can start the second coat almost immediately. Use a roller and cut in along the edges with a brush.
- Cut and roll one coat onto the walls.
- Paint undercoat onto the woodwork, allowing the painted edge to overlap slightly onto the wall.
- Cut and roll the second emulsion coat onto the walls, while the undercoat dries.
- Give woodwork a gloss coat. Cut in gloss paint exactly to the wall edge without any overlap.
- Keep the windows open and the room well ventilated at all times to assist with drying.
Alternatively, the quickest way to paint a room is to hire a professional.
What is the correct order to paint a room?
Most professional painters use the following sequence. Although, some might change things slightly based on many years experience and the unique situation they’re in. As a general rule, paint the ceiling first, then the walls starting at the top working downwards. Followed by the woodwork.
What kind of preparation do I need to do?
Wash the woodwork and walls to remove grease. Make sure all cracks and holes have been filled with a suitable filler. Allow the filler to dry and sand smooth. All surfaces must be perfectly smooth and must have a light sanding between paint coats. Vacuum away all dust before beginning to paint.
What makes a good painter and decorator?
A good painter and decorator strives to be professional in everything they do. All their work must be to the benefit of the customer, of good quality and give value for money.
Do you have to sand before painting?
Usually, yes you do.
First, fill every crack and hole. Then sand all surfaces smooth. Vacuum all surfaces to remove dust and wipe with a damp cloth. Then paint. After every coat dries, run fine sandpaper over the surface to remove all runs. Then, wipe with a damp cloth to remove dust again. Do not sand over the final coat.
Find local Painters & Decorators near you
Painting your home is something that many people can manage as a DIY project. However, if you want a professional finish, done in the shortest possible time, you should always hire a professional.
It isn’t always easy to find a reputable painter amongst all the cowboys, and you should try to choose someone who has been recommended. So, why not choose from our recommendations?
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