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DON’T Hire a Painter Without Asking These 10 Questions (FREE Printable)

Posted on February 20, 2020 by KylieMawdsley


The 10 Questions You Need to Ask a Painter Before Hiring Them

Painting your home can be stressful. Not only do you need to choose the best paint colour, but you also need to hire the right people for the job – and trust me, there are the right people…and there are the wrong ones.

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And don’t worry, we’ve ALL dealt with the wrong ones. The ones who don’t sand, don’t prime, go skimpy on the coats, flaunt their plumber’s butt and so on.

DIY Decorating and Design ideas.Open layout, Cambria Brittanica Warm countertop, greige walls, painted cabinets, modern farmhouse. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

If you want professional results, you need to hire a real professional

I’m here today to help you AVOID those painters. I can’t personally account for their QUALITY of work in the end, but we can at least address a few red flags before they start sloppin’ paint on your walls.

SECTION 1    Brand Preference

1. What is their preferred brand?

If their brand matches up with YOUR preferred brand and has a good selection of colours, you’re set. If not…

2. Are they open to using a different brand of comparable quality?

If the answer is yes, again, awesome. If not…

…then you may want to find another painter. Remember whose money is actually paying for the paint and a good painter, technically, should be able to apply ANY brand well.

Some painters are married to a brand because they’ve used it for a long time and are used to the consistency and coverage – it’s familiar.

The problem with familiarity is that not all painters will take the time to TRY another paint, to get used to it and appreciate its finer qualities – they’re loyal to their brand, to the exclusion of other possibly GREAT brands. It’s like me drinking the same wine again and again because I know it’s good. However, if I were to branch out, I’d realize there are equally as good, and likely BETTER wines out there (it’s easy to go up when you drink out of a box – wink wink).

questions to ask when hiring a painter for your home. Kylie M INteriors Edesign

This is my favourite local painter, Delea (Details Painting)

If your painter claims that their brand is superior to another, do your OWN research. Sometimes this is right (there are some brands that make me twitch and drool in the corner). However, when it comes to the big boys like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, as long as you get paint that is ‘better than contractor grade’, you’re really comparing apples to apples (or grapes to grapes if I were to continue the wine innuendo’s). That being said, I’ve found BM’s and SW’s contractor grade paints to be nicer than some brand’s mid-line paints.

Questions to ask before hiring a painter for your home. Kylie M INteriors Edesign

If your painter can get ‘said’ paint cheaper, do the math. Say you’d save $20 per gallon. Sounds like a lot on a small scale, but if you need approx 5-7 gallons you’d save $100-$140 dollars. In the BIG picture, I’d rather pay that extra $140 if it meant I had a better quality paint on my walls OR to get the actual colour that I want (don’t trust brands to colour match others).

Once you’ve nailed down which brands your painter is open to using, ask them a third question…

3. What QUALITY of paint is their quote based on?

If they base their quote on ‘contractor-grade paint’, which is common for spec homes and general construction, then you might be awfully surprised at how the quote looks when you ask for a mid-level+ paint. You might also be surprised at how your walls look once the painting is done if you don’t ask for a mid-level+ paint. Make sure the quote is built on quality paint (I almost always choose ‘middle of the road’ with any brand). Sure, the quote LOOKS more doable when it’s based on contractor-grade paint, but your walls won’t look better for it.

SECTION 2     Discount

4. What kind of discount do they get on the ‘chosen’ brand of paint?

Painters get a discount from paint suppliers, usually between 20-40%. They can then pass the savings along to you or keep the difference for themselves. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, while they have occasional sales, tend to be on the lighter side (20%), whereas some smaller companies go a bit higher. Some brands will give ANYONE a discount, but this doesn’t mean their paint is worth investing in.

Getting a great discount is one way that painters can secure a contract when there are other painters bidding on it. Cheaper paint = cheaper quote. Many homeowners will go for the lowest bidder without realizing it can come at a high cost.

Ask if you benefit from the discounted price or if its a shared discount. If the painter’s preferred brand offers a better discount than YOUR preferred brand, don’t get sucked in by the savings. Make sure they’re painting YOUR walls with the brand/quality that you prefer.

SECTION 3     Preparation

5. What type of prep work will they be doing?

This is MASSIVE. I will pay MORE for a painter who does great prep than a painter who skimps at the start. What is good prep?

Old construction (non-new drywall)

  • Sanding any rough spots, shiny finishes
  • Filling any holes/divots and smoothing any rough areas
  • Cleaning – not just the sanding mess, but any oils or residues (common in kitchens and on bathroom walls)
  • Priming. Priming isn’t something that needs to be done EVERY time but does need to be done in certain situations, such as…
    • A larger than quarter size drywall patch. Drywall mud/filler absorbs paint different from a previously painted surface
    • The old colour is STRONG (common with primary colours, yellow and red in particular). Even a neutral with a STRONG yellow will need to be primed
    • The old finish is oil paint. This is VITAL. Oil paint was used a lot, right up into the ’90s, so make sure that your painter knows what he’s going over and preps accordingly. And if your painter still PAINTS with oil (cabinets or walls) – you may want to interview more painters

New construction

  • A check-over to fill any pinholes/misc. left from the drywaller
  • One coat of primer. Always.
  • Two coats of wall paint in the chosen finish/colour. A TWO coat application is the best way to get a) a consistent finish without flashing (well, I’ll flash you if you’re lucky) and b) a solid looking colour


  • Cleaning
  • Sanding
  • Cleaning again
  • High-adhesion primer
  • 2 coats of paint

cabinets that were not prepped well by a painter

This is what happens to paint on cabinets that aren’t prepped well. The SAME can happen on walls! 

Sure, there are 2 in 1 paints, but there IS no one-trick pony that is 100% effective at everything it needs to do. If you have bare drywall, you need primer to set the surface properly.

6. How many coats of paint do they apply and does that include one coat of primer? 

Or the real question is, how many coats SHOULD the wall be getting?

New construction: 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint

Existing drywall/remodel: 2 coats of paint (1 coat of primer prior to painting as needed)

Cabinets: 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint

Which leads us to our next question…

7. How are they going to protect your existing finishes (ie: drop cloths/plastic sheeting/etc…) and what is the clean-up procedure at the end of the day?

Please, do not take your painters word for it when they say they don’t need a drop cloth as they don’t drip. It’s not the painter – it’s the paint (well, sometimes it’s the painter). Really though, even the BEST painters get drips on the floor and there is NO HARM in putting down a dropcloth – in fact, I would not have them paint without one. If they don’t, it’s more about their ego and I’m not interested in hiring an ego.

The best paint colors for your room. Benjamin and Sherwin. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting. Home Decorating and diy ideas blogger.market

SECTION 4     Other Details

8. Are they properly insured?

I’m not going to advise you on what that looks like as it can vary widely. However, make sure your painter has proper insurance and coverage should anything happen to THEM or your home while they’re working on it. Don’t be nervous to ask for proof or to phone WCB for confirmation.

9. When will they start and finish?

Because of the nature of painting projects/new construction, it’s easy to get bumped. Make sure your painter agrees to a start date and an end date.

10. What is their payment schedule?

Never pay in full upfront…never. In fact, many painters will take only a small deposit to start a project and will agree to full payment upon completion. Please pay the painter promptly as they are likely out of pocket from purchasing the paint and supplies for you.


The 12 Best Whole Home Neutral Paint Colours

3 Whites I Would NEVER Paint my Trim or Cabinets

For your FREE printable of the above 10 questions, please click HERE!

(document will automatically download to your computer)

Need a good painter in the Nanaimo Area? Check out Details Painting

Summary of 10 Questions to Ask a Painter Before You Hire Them

1. What is their preferred brand?

2. Are they open to using a different brand of comparable quality?

3. What QUALITY of paint is their quote based on?

4. What kind of discount do they get on the ‘chosen’ brand of paint?

5. What type of prep work will they be doing?

6. How many coats of paint do they apply and does that include one coat of primer? 

7. How are they going to protect your existing finishes (ie: drop cloths/plastic sheeting/etc…) and what is the clean-up procedure at the end of the day?

8. Are they properly insured?

9. When will they start and finish?

10. What is their payment schedule?

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature


  1. This is a good article, but I think the most important thing is to get recommendations from people who are really picky! I hired a painter recently and asked ALL of these questions but because I was out of the house most of the time he was here, I am not sure he did what he said he would do, which is two coats. Several of the walls look like they only got one coat when they were supposed to get 2. A few of my ceilings also look like one coat. I bought the paint, and know it was higher level Ben Moore, but there was so much left over, I figure he couldn’t have done everything in 2 coats. I didn’t want to lose sleep over it, but if you have any advice for how to make sure painters are doing the number of coats they promise, I would love to hear it! It has also just been 4 months and several cracks he was supposed to have filled have open up again. Any advice? Thank you.

  2. With respect -I disagree regarding oil paint. A chemist at a respected paint company told me several years ago that yes there are good acrylics now but nothing is as strong as oil paint. I have come to see his point. I use Fine Paints of Europe and BM impervo. My projects level out to glass – glass . You can’t see brush marks with a magnifying glass and seem impervious to daily wear (Especially with FPE) . None of companies here mentioned are of the chemist with whom I spoke. Have used Farrow and Ball too and love it for walls when I can convince my husband to bear the expense. Love their “All White.” Just my opinion because of my experience. And yes, priming is everything.

  3. Wish I’d had this a month ago before I hired a painter! It turned out OK, but I was timid about asking questions, and didn’t get what I expected in terms of wall repair and prep work. I didn’t want to offend them by questioning too much. So I’ll need to hire someone else to come back who knows how to do more drywall repairs.

  4. Great list! I totally agree with these guidelines. I work in new Construction s d remodels snd it DOES matter! Keep up the great work!!!

  5. How do you pick out colors for a new construction home? Any tips for the average homeowner?? I’m so overwhelmed at the idea of picking colors and avoiding certain undertones all while not having the actual light fixtures in place. The last house we built, the color turned out almost peach, and was supposed to be beige. I’m terrified of this happening again. I’d love to hire you, but I don’t see a full house(walls, trim, and cabinets) option. Do you offer that service??

  6. Hi Kylie! My painter used oil paint on my trim 15 years ago. Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo and it dries beautifully and has lasted a very long time. Are you not in favor of oil paint for trim?

    1. Post

      Hi Leslie! Nope, not a HUGE fan, although I’m glad you’ve had a good experience! It’s the smell and it can age/discolour quite a bit over time. Most brands don’t even sell oil for this reason :). However, it IS hardy!

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