About Hiring a Painter or Wallpaperer

You walk into a room painted a beautiful celadon green and immediately your mood changes—you become calmer, more relaxed. By merely changing the color of a room, you can produce a feeling of drama or tranquillity. Designers know that painting is one of the quickest, most versatile and cost effective things you can do to transform a room. But painting can be a messy and hazardous proposition for the novice, so many homeowners opt to hire a professional contractor.

Paint contractors with a wide range of abilities and services abound in the New York City area. Choices range from small start-ups to large established firms. Depending upon the size of the job and the quality and complexity of the work, there is a paint contractor out there for you.

Where to Look for a Professional

Finding the right paint contractor for your job involves some research. There is no licensing agency for paint contractors in New York State, so it is very important to check references and ask to see a certificate of insurance. Each contractor should have worker’s compensation and general liability. These certificates of insurance will protect you from jobsite-related liabilities. Several trade organizations, such as the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, list paint contractors in your area. If necessary, your contractor should also be able to provide you with bonding information and documentation of safety training and compliance programs.

Contracts

Reputable contractors will encourage using a written contract. Your contract should clearly explain the scope of the work to be performed and include a list of the surfaces to be painted, a time schedule for the project, payment procedures and any warranty or guarantee the contractor might offer.

Pricing Systems

Cost for painting residential homes varies widely based on such factors as the cost of the materials used and the company’s overhead costs. You should invite at least three paint contractors to bid on your paint job, and ask each to submit a detailed written proposal. Contractors charge for painting on a per person per day basis, which generally runs in the $400 to $450 range for non-union jobs. Union jobs start at about $500 per day. The contractor should provide you with an overall cost estimate for the job that is broken down by room. Also ask for a step-by-step plan outlining how the job will be spackled, skimmed and painted. If colors are being matched, ask the painter to apply 24" square samples on the walls.

Ask for client references. They can provide valuable insight into the quality of work, timing and cost.

How Many Painters Will Be in My House?

The size of the crew needed largely depends upon the scope of the job involved. Some painters listed in this guide are sole proprietors who work on small jobs themselves and subcontract larger jobs; others are larger companies with complete crews. Ask how many men will be working on your job and whether there will there be a supervisor or principal on site.

The Elements of a Professional Paint Job

Typically, paint contractors offer the services of flat painting and wallpapering. Flat painting a room involves preparing the walls, trim and ceiling surfaces for the paint as well as the paint job itself. A primer coat, which prepares the walls for the paint, should be applied to dry walls. Two coats of high-quality paint should be applied to the wall surfaces.

The quality of the paint is crucial in determining its longevity. Fine quality paint, properly applied, should last for six to seven years. If you or your contractor skimps on the quality of the paint, you may be facing a new paint job a lot sooner then you would like. The two most common types of paints are latex and oil-based paints. Latex paint is water based and dries quickly, which allows for more than one coat to be applied in a day. Acrylic latex paint is better at resisting mildew, easier to clean and lasts longer than alkyd paints, which are oil based. Alkyd paints are preferred by many painters because they are durable and long lived, but they take longer to dry and have a significant odor. Most experts agree that oil-based paints are best suited for the doors and trim, and latex paint for the walls and ceilings.

The presence of lead paint presents health hazards in many homes. The federal government banned the use of lead paints in 1978, and your apartment is likely to contain a layer of lead paint if it was painted prior to that year. When sanding is done in advance of painting, the sanding may cause lead dust to enter the air in your home environment. Your contractor should provide you with a pamphlet that discusses lead issues in your home. Ask your contractor what measures he takes to ensure that lead particles are eliminated. To find out if your residence contains lead paint, see the testing alternatives discussed in the Lead & Asbestos section of this book.

Wallpaper

Wallpapering can add depth, texture and visual interest to a room. Floral or striped wallpaper can make even small windowless rooms cheerful. It can be a costly investment, so it is important to find a qualified, competent professional to install your paper. Finding a wallpaper hanger can be as easy as talking to your paint contractor, as many of them also provide this service. Depending upon the complexity of the job, it may be appropriate to contact a professional who specializes in wallpaper hanging. Cost for this service is charged on a per roll basis with rates averaging about $50 per roll. Most wallpaper is sold in double-roll units which measure approximately 60 square feet. The price quoted should include trimming the sides of the paper if necessary. Professionals will strip your walls of existing paper and prep it for the new paper at an additional fee. Your wallpaper hanger should calculate the quantity of paper you will need for the room based on the room size as well as the “repeat” pattern on your paper. The larger the repeat, the more paper you will need. The newer vinyl wallpaper comes pre-pasted, while traditional and costlier papers need to be trimmed and pasted with wheat paste.

Decorative Finishes: The Art of Imitation

Decorative finishes are used by painters to imitate materials such as marble, wood, paper, stone, metal and fabric. These finishes can be elegant, whimsical or dramatic, depending upon the artist and the paint technique utilized. Current trends today include fake wood- (“faux bois”) paneled libraries and limestone facades. When done by a gifted artist, a faux finish can cost more than the material being imitated. Decorative finishes can customize a space through color and texture and dramatically reflect the owner’s style.

Decorative Painting: A Master Tradition

A wall-sized mural that recreates a Pompeian gallery . . . majestic Greek columns beside the swimming pool . . . famous storybook characters dancing along the walls of a child’s room . . . these enchanting effects are the work of decorative painters. Both artists and craftsmen, decorative painters have a thorough knowledge of specific historical and decorative styles and have the ability to translate this knowledge in a historically accurate artistic rendering.

There are many forms of decorative painting. Some of the most popular today include fresco, murals and trompe l’oeil. Over time, techniques and materials have been enhanced and improved, allowing artists and artisans to produce works that have lasted—and will last—for centuries.

Decorative painting is an art form using techniques that have been passed down by artisans throughout the centuries. Today, decorative painters come from a variety of backgrounds—some have fine art degrees, many have studied the techniques of the Old Masters in Europe and others have been schooled specifically in decorative painting. These professionals carry the legacy of a tradition that was once passed from master to apprentice.

When you are considering any decorative painting style, ask to see a portfolio of the artist’s work and, if possible, visit a home that has work of a similar nature. Decorative showhouses are also an excellent venue in which to witness the artistry of decorative painting. Many decorative painters use these showcases to demonstrate their talents. If working with an interior designer, consult with him or her on the project and how it will enhance your overall room design. Artists should also provide you with renderings of the work being produced.

Fees vary widely for decorative painting and are based on many factors, including the scope and scale of the project and the expertise of the painter. Ask your contractor to provide you with a sample board of the paint technique you desire. Some charge for this service while others include it in the total cost of the project. Decorative finishes can be charged on a per person, per day basis or priced per job.

Decorative painting can be a major investment, but certainly one with exquisite results.
Paint-Choosing Tips

  • Use oil-based paint for metals and trim; latex for wood and drywall.
  • High-traffic areas need a durable, easy-to-clean paint job. Use delicate paint applications in light-traffic areas only.
  • Use flat paint for base coats; gloss to set off trim and doors.
  • Be alert to the number of coats required. Eggshell paints, for example, take at least one extra coat.
  • Take into account the light in the room when choosing colors. They will look different in artificial and natural light.
  • Note that darker colors make a room feel smaller and cozier, while lighter colors open it up.
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