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A Homeowner’s Guide to a Successful Painting Project

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Painting projects are the most popular home improvement projects to dramatically change the look of your house and improve home value. Every year thousands of home owners like you decide to embark on a painting journey, whether it is just one room, a series of rooms, the entire house, or the home’s exterior.

Like any other home improvement project, painting projects run more smoothly when you have a solid game plan and a series of steps to follow. To help you out, we’ve dissected the main steps in any residential painting project. For a stress-free and successful venture, follow this detailed guide during your next painting project.


Although it is tempting to just jump right into your painting project, there is a lot of preparation, thought and research that must be done to ensure a successful project. The main steps are:

(1) Determine project parameters. In this step you’ll want to determine all the areas of the house that you want painted. Is the paint beginning to fade or chip? Do you not like the current color? Are you ready for a change? Each of the identified spaces should go on your to-paint list.

When creating your list, don’t forget about the little extras that may need painting too. For interior projects you are likely going to concentrate on the walls – but how about the trim or the ceiling? If you’re choosing an exterior painting project, have you considered things such as shutters, the porch, the front door, or the garage? In determining your project parameters you will want to create a complete list of all things that will be included in your project. This will help you communicate clearly with your painting contractor, improving the accuracy of your house painting estimate.

(2) Gather design inspiration. The design inspiration you gather will help guide your project. It will help you specify the look and styles that you are considering, which is helpful for narrowing down the final colors, and also useful information for the painting contractors. You can get design inspiration online (painting websites, home improvement sites, or even Pinterest), in print (design and home magazines), on television (home improvement shows), and more.

(3) Researching painting contractors. Before you hire the first painting contractor you find, research the available contractors in your area to create a pool of candidates. Look for reviews on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and Houzz, check the Better Business Bureau for ratings, and visit the companies’ websites to read testimonials and to see project portfolios.

(4) Getting estimates. From your pool of candidates, choose the top contractors and get project estimates. The project parameters and design inspiration you gathered will be helpful in getting an accurate estimate. You should also ask questions to ensure that you understand the estimate, for example:

• Is labor charged hourly or fixed price? • How much will labor cost and how much will materials cost? • What kind of paint do you use? • Do you offer any warranties or guarantees? • What are the estimated start and completion dates?

(5) Hiring a contractor. After you’ve gathered your estimates, it’s time to choose the right contractor for your project. Don’t blindly go with the lowest estimate; instead use price as one of the deciding factors while also considering ratings, reviews, references, awards, portfolio pics, and their customer service. Whoever you choose, make sure they have the proper licenses for your area and that they are fully insured.

(6) Choosing paint colors.

You may have chosen your colors in the design inspiration phase, but if not, now is the time to make your final color choices. Consulting the color wheel will help you learn about how colors work together. You’ll also want to consider things such as shade (light or dark), paint finish (flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss), the style of your home and/or neighborhood, and how well the color goes with other rooms and with existing furniture and décor. Some contractors also have professional colorists to assist you – color experts that can help you choose the best colors for your home.


During the project your painting contractor will take over, but you should still have an understanding about what will happen during the project. The main steps are:

(7) Preparing the area. A professional painting contractor will always start out by preparing the area for paint. This includes things like removing wall hangings, moving furniture out of the way, taping areas that are not to be painted, and covering the floor. This preparation protects your home and belongings from damage during painting.

(8) Priming. Priming involves adding a coat of specially-formulated primer onto the surface to get it ready for the actual color paint. Although priming is not always necessary, it offers a range of benefits including neutralizing dark colors, creating a better surface for painting, and blocking stains.

(9) Painting. Now it’s time for the magic – that moment when your whole house is transformed with a simple coat of paint. How long the actual painting will take will depend on how big the room is, how many coats must be applied, and the speed of the workers. A professional contractor will make sure to clean up every day to minimize the disruption in your household.

(10) Clean up. The final clean-up process is pretty much a reverse of the preparation process. Tape is taken down, furniture is moved back, wall décor is rehung, and any other mess is cleaned up.


Remodeled Kitchen in Santa Maria, CA

Remodeled Kitchen in Santa Maria, CA

When the project is complete, you want to keep your painted surfaces looking their best for as long as possible. The main steps are:

(11) Cleaning.
To keep your walls and other paint surfaces in top shape, you’ll want to clean periodically. For interior surfaces, make sure to use a soft cloth or towel that will not scratch the paint, and a mild soap that will not discolor the paint. For exterior surfaces, the easiest cleaning method is power washing.

(12) Touching up paint.
Over time your paint may acquire some imperfections – scratches, chips and other signs of wear. Touching up paint is difficult but in some cases can be performed with good results; the most important factor is that you should keep a leftover can of the original paint. We wrote a guide to touching up paint here. When in doubt you may also want to call the painting contractor, place a piece of décor or furniture in front of it, or just leave it alone until you get ready to paint the room again.

(13) Guarantees or warranties.
In the “Getting Estimates” section, we recommended that you ask each contractor if they offer any guarantees or warranties on their work. Sometimes a contractor will offer a warranty on the materials, or sometimes on the work performed, or sometimes on both. If your contractor offers a guarantee or warranty, make sure you get it in writing and save the document in safe place in case you need it down the line.

(14) Annual inspections.
Some painting contractors will also offer annual inspections to check on the condition of your painted surfaces and offer repairs and other recommendations for maintenance. If your contractor does not do annual inspections, you can still conduct them yourself. To do an inspection, thoroughly review all painted surfaces, looking for chips, scratches, bubbling, peeling or other issues. Keeping a record of your inspection will help you communicate the issues you’ve found to a painting contractor who may be able to fix the damage before it becomes worse.

This guide has taken you through the entire process of residential painting. Use it to organize all your interior and exterior painting projects for successful and stress-free home improvement.

If you’re a homeowner living in California’s Central Coast, we’d love to discuss your next interior or exterior painting project. Call us at (805) 937-9836, or request a free estimate online here.

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