DIY or Hire a Painting Pro? Savings May Not Be What You Think in D.C.

Jason Hargraves
Written by Jason Hargraves
Updated September 19, 2014
Painted room in Arlington, Va.
Professional painter costs are often worth it for the quality and time saved. (Photo courtesy of member Clifford D., Arlington, Virginia)

Older houses and multi-story town homes are two challenges DIY painters face in the D.C. area when figuring out whether to turn to a professional for the job.

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If you think DIY painting is the cheapest and easiest way to freshen up your home or change the interior style, you might want to think again.

All those century-old homes and multi-level brownstones in and around the D.C. area come with concerns that can make potential savings much less than first thought.

Those concerns also can prove an obstacle to achieving the quality "finished look" you were hoping for.

“Sometimes people think they may be saving more than they are by painting themselves,” says Robert Reynolds, project manager with the highly rated Benchmark Painting and Carpentry in Kensington, Maryland.

It's wise to consider a few things before heading to the paint store. Try to focus on the end product, not just the short-term savings.

“Tons of time and money have been wasted from not doing the job the right way," Reynolds says.

Ceilings May Be the Limit

How many of us have an extra tall ladder and dozens of drop cloths just laying around the house? It's common for homes in D.C. to extend beyond three stories, with some interior spaces to match.

That isn't much of a concern for those hiring a local painting professional.

The cost painters charge can run a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands for an entire home. Much depends on the scope of the job and the condition of the interior walls. 

True, challenging conditions will cause the price to rise, but so will the difficulty level if you attempt the job yourself.

Paint is Cheapest When You Buy the Right Amount

Professional painters normally can buy paint more cheaply than a home owner. Same goes for supplies, many of which are tools of their trade.

Pros know how much paint a job requires and typically only charge for what they use.

It also gets pricier when you have to remove paint from places it shouldn't be.

"It can get expensive if you get paint on your carpet or hardwood flooring," Reynolds says.

Will You Like the Finished Product?

Let’s face it, professional painters have done this before. It’s how they make their living. Through experience, they have learned tricks of the trade and the techniques used to get quality results.

It's not uncommon for home owners to call a painter to finish a job they started. Plus, DIYers often skip steps in the process and end up doing the job over and over before calling in a pro.

"That starts to add up," Reynolds says.

So, how do you find the right painters for the job? 

Painters Expect Questions, You Should Expect Answers

Don’t be afraid to ask for references or testimonials from previous clients. These references should give you a picture of how the work was done, the quality of the painting provided and timeliness for completing the contracted task.

Also, Reynolds suggests finding a painting company that is insured and bonded.

Insurance should cover any injuries suffered by employees on the job, as well as injuries that might be suffered by the home owners and family members as a result of sloppy workmanship.

Bond insurance protects the home owner from intentional destruction or theft of property by the painting company’s employees and owners.


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