Hire a Pro Advice: Paint a Room

Get help finding a painting contractor to paint a room and advice about what should be in a written contract with a painting contractor. Learn to choose the finish of paint for the surface being painted.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Even if you are considering painting your room yourself, it's generally a good idea to get a couple of estimates from reputable painting contractors. If nothing else, you will find out what they recommend, in terms of preparation, type of paint and number of coats. You'll also get a pretty good idea of the number of man hours the painter's crew will require. From that you can judge how much time you will need to spend to paint a room and compare that against the money saved.

A friend or neighbor can be a good source for referral of a painter. "Painting Contractors" are listed in the Yellow Pages and many paint dealers recommend paint contractors who are their regular customers. Go online and use a search engine like Bing by entering "painting contractor in (your city)". Make sure the contractor has a certificate of insurance and workers' compensation insurance, if he has employees.

Generally, the contractor will come to your house for an assessment of its conditions, before quoting a price in a written proposal or contract.

Here are the basic points that should be included in a written contract with a painting contractor to paint a room.

  • Specific room(s), siding, windows, surfaces, etc. to be painted
  • Total cost
  • Payment schedule
  • Start and completion dates
  • Paint and primer brands with grade, colors, gloss and base; how they'll be applied; and the number of coats
  • Type of caulk to be used and the extent of caulking to be done
  • Specific preparation and repair work (i.e. wall cracks, broken glass panes) to be completed
  • How the site will be protected from spills, splatters and over spray and who is responsible for removing them
  • Who is responsible for moving furniture and cleaning up

If the price seems reasonable and you are unsure about the painter's reputation, ask for several references and make follow-up calls to determine if the homeowners are happy with the contractor's work. These should be referrals for similar work.

The sheen (finish) of paint ranges from flat, to satin (also called "eggshell"), to semi-gloss to gloss. Most people choose flat paint for interior walls and ceilings, preferring the look to the more shiny alternatives. Aside from personal preference, there are some practical considerations: The more shiny the finish, the less vulnerable it is to dirt and the easier it will be to clean. That's why trim is usually painted with a semi-gloss or gloss finish. If you want to brighten a dark room, consider a shiny finish that reflects more light than a flat finish. The flip side is a shiny finish can cause an uncomfortable glare is a sunny room and light reflects off any imperfections.

Best advice: Choose flat for all ceilings and walls in rooms not likely to get dirty, such as living rooms and bedrooms. Use a satin finish for hallways and family rooms and consider a semi-gloss sheen for kitchens, mud rooms and other rooms likely to get greasy or dirty.