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Painting a Room – DIY or Hire a Professional?





Preparing for a newborn certainly kicks the “honey do” list into warp speed. Besides shopping around for more newborn essentials, this time, we’ve (my wife) decided that the childrens bedrooms needed new colours.

With our toddler ready to move into the “big bed”, it was an opportunity to setup the spare bedroom with new colours, decorations and furniture.  It just so happened that there was a time limited online sale on bedroom furniture, but it would mean that the furniture would arrive relatively soon.  So we were in a time crunch to get the spare room cleared out and painted before it all arrived at our door step.  With a busy work schedule, it was unlikely that I would get everything painted in time, so we outsourced it.

We called around for quotes from painters that we knew from our home build, and others based on referrals from friends.  The quotes were all over the map and ranged from $100 – $300 for a 12×12 bedroom.  One of the $100 quotes that we received was from a guy that was highly recommended by a friend, so we decided to go with that.  Here were the total costs of painting a 12×12 bedroom (walls only).

Cost of Hiring a Painter:

  • Labour: $100 (~$20 / hr)
  • Paint: $120
  • Lint Free Roller Refills: $15
  • Total: $235 + tax

The painter did a great job and finished two coats, with one accent wall, in a relatively short period of time of 5 hrs.  Not only was he quick, I didn’t have to buy any of the tools besides the roller refills.

A few weeks after setting up the new room, the nesting instinct was still in full force which lead to the decision to repaint the nursery.  In hindsight, it would have been great to have the painter complete both rooms, but with a bit more time on my hands, I decided to tackle the project on my own.  The bright side was that we saved the labour cost, and had the satisfaction of finishing the job myself.  However, this was overshadowed by the fact that I needed to purchase all the painting equipment new (cutting brush, rollers, tray, tape etc), and it took almost twice as long.  As a novice painter, the time delay was mostly due to taping everything before starting the job whereas the painter did everything by freehand.

As for the dollars and sense, even though the actual cash outlay was less, it really ended up costing me more in the end due to the time it took.

Cost of DIY:

  • Labour: free
  • Paint: $120
  • Lint Free Roller Refills: $15
  • Cutting Brush: $10
  • Roller and Roller Tray: $25
  • Painters Tape: $6
  • Total:$176 + tax

Due to my lack of experience painting, and the time it takes, we may end up out sourcing all of our painting going forward. Back to you, when it comes to painting, do you “do it yourself” or hire a professional?





42 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1. Eric

    I do it all myself. The tools you buy will eventually cost next to nothing if you keep reusing them. Your skills and efficiency will become better the more you paint.

    Also, as a side benefit painting gives me time to think, although my wife tells me that might not be a good thing….. :)

  2. 2. MP3

    I do it myself because I really enjoy painting, even though I’m not really very fast. I spend a lot of time prepping the walls, cleaning, filling in holes, sanding, base coating.

    Unless I want to spend a lot of money, most “professional” painters don’t take that time, which would then cause me massive aggravation because I’ll be looking at picture hook holes and being obsessive about how I would have done a better job myself.

    The only time I bring in painters is for the really high entrance way and staircase walls – because I’m too scared of heights.

  3. Do you guys find it faster with, or without painters tape? I tried a section of the wall without painters tape, and although I could paint straight, it was painfully slow. :)

  4. 4. Alex

    I fall into the tape the floor along the baseboards (under if I can) because I always drip paint. But otherwise I prefer to free hand it, forces me to slow down a bit and take care, with the time saved by not taping.

  5. 5. Chris L.

    You got a painter who likes to lose money! Congrats. How does a painter make a living on $100/day? 5 hours you say? What about the other 3 hrs…he probably had to go home.

    Curious where and how you found him?

    Paint with a brush without tape.

  6. @Chris, LOL, as I mentioned, it’s slow season for some painters and apparently, he was between jobs. He was recommended by a friend.

  7. 7. Kevin

    You didn’t mention how long it took you to get the two coats on… ;)

  8. @Kevin, it took the painter about 5 hrs, and for me, it was about 8.5-9 hours spread over two days.

  9. 9. Emily

    FT…We are in the exact same boat. Our daughter is 2 + 3 months and will be ready for the big girl bed when this baby comes in July. I have painted her room but agree that for small projects (ie a 12 x 12 room) hiring someone to do it saves time, money and aggravation!

  10. We are DIYers but considering the value we place on time, we really should outsource. We have 2 rooms to paint in the near future – we bought the paint and have the equipment. Mrs.SPF wants to Do it Herself but i think our time is worth more than $10 per hour so perhaps we should out source this time.

  11. @ Chris. L : I find that in the current economy labourers can be found somewhat cheaply. IIRC, FT lives in Newfoundland? $20 an hour is a pretty good wage for a labourer on the east coast maritime provinces.

  12. @FT. We’re writing about our home purchase (and sale!) right now. We painted the entire house at the old place and a lot of the new place too (it was “staged” beige and then we got the house insulated – hundreds of drywall plugged holes to re-paint). Mrs. SPF is turning into a REALLY good painter and doesn’t need to tape anymore. We find that if you keep a bucket of water and cloth nearby any drips or mistakes can be quickly wiped up if you tend to them immediately.

  13. 13. wendi1

    You left out the cost/ time to prep the walls. You can “change the colour” of a room very easily, but you will get a better, longer lasting finish if you wash with TSP, rinse with water, fill holes and sand, prime the fixes, and maybe prime the walls before you paint.

    I agree that you will get better at painting a straight line without the tape – but you probably need some anyways to mask hinges and the like.

    We paint our own rooms – the equipment get amortized over the life of the house.

  14. 14. Dilbert789

    One thing to remember also when painting is that your hired painter isn’t using a cheap brush to cut in with. A higher priced brush will be easier and more consistent to use. Check out the video’s on youtube on how to do the cutting in/edges. Once you get it down, it’s not that hard. I hate the edge that taping leaves if it’s not placed perfectly.

  15. 15. Geoff

    I’ve told my wife – I don’t paint. Ever.

    I’ll do plumbing, I’ll do electrical, I’ll do ditch digging, whatever… but I don’t paint.

    A bad paint job is really noticeable, drip marks, etc. Plus I hate it. Hate it! While no one knows if the plumbing under the sink is a little messy with the glue, as long as it doesn’t leak.

  16. I don’t like painting. That said, for one room I would probably rather do it myself. There is a big hassle factor when hiring someone.

    For two rooms I’d probably hire someone.

  17. 17. Jason R

    For me it is simply not worth my time. I have more work then time.
    I could do my ‘day job’ instead of painting and come out ahead and not have a sore back and paint in my hair!
    And when you consider the quality of the work (vs DIY), it is well worth it to me to out source all but the smallest work.

  18. 18. Echo

    We had to do some painting recently to get our house ready for sale. Lucky for me, my wife is a really good painter and she enjoys it…but I hate painting.

    It turns out we just needed a few touch ups so we did it ourselves, but we have really high ceilings and if we needed to do the entire living room and kitchen I would definitely hire someone.

    I also agree with the time factor, doing a good job means a lot of prep work and careful painting. The touch-ups alone took us a few hours.

  19. 19. John

    Additionally I think you could add 1 of 2 things to your DIY cost. 1. The cost of 9 hrs of labour at the painters rate of $20/hr or 2. The cost of 9 hrs of labour at whatever cost you value your time at.

    Either way I think you may find that $59 savings quickly disappears.

  20. 20. Ryszard

    I am probably too cheap to pay anyone to do almost anything in and around our house. Except, of course stuff that requires certificates such as electrical or plumbing. But, even with these I try to do all the prep work, so when an expert comes in all he has to do is the “important” work.
    It is hard and sometimes stressful work because I learn as I go, but it is very very rewarding in terms of self satisfaction.
    Yes, it cost a lot of money to to begin with, I just purchased a table saw for $450, but it pays off in the long run. Maybe, if we had a lot of money I would not have to do it, but only maybe.
    I use a lot of tape, out of habit. Because I do most of my work after I get home from my day job and have a dinner, sometimes I am tired, and I don’t trust my hand. Especially, when painting around and close to glass or natural wood.

  21. 21. nobleea

    I would never consider paying someone to paint. that’s the most basic of DIY jobs. buy the proper equipment and tools, take care of them, and you can use them for a long time. I’m quite picky about colours and have had to go back and buy a slightly different tint after 2 coats were up. that’s when DIY helps pay for itself.

    i use tape. just remember to peel the tape off as soon as you’ve finished, before the paint dries. you can retape between coats.

  22. 22. saveddijon

    Tape works only if your walls and baseboards are straight. Mine aren’t.

  23. 23. Echo

    The one thing that does bug me about the argument against DIY is that they need to factor in their “hourly rate” into the equation (like John says above, 9 hours at $20 or whatever).

    Is your free time really worth $20+ an hour? So what you’re saying is that in order for you to get up off the couch on a weekend or evening you need to factor in your hourly rate to that task?

    Unless you’re taking a day off work (without pay), that’s not a reasonable comparison.

    When I mentioned “time” in my comment above, I meant that I am lazy and careless, so it would take me twice as long to do the work half as well as a professional. But I’m certainly not putting a premium on my time.

  24. 24. Geoff

    @ Echo – with a young child to mind and my wife and I both having a workweek of about 70 hours a week, hell’s yes is my time worth $20/hour.

    But even without that, to me it’s more about who will do a better job. I won’t remember saving $500 if the paint job blows (which it would if I did it).

  25. 25. tthompson

    I do all “my own stunts.” The cost is less, and there is more pride and self improvement.

    Sticking to the costs though. The cost of the tools can be reduced on a per room basis by redoing more rooms. You can also get cheaper materials. A paint tray set on canadiantire.ca is $10, and economy rollers are the same. That’s a savings of $20

    Another thing obviously, is tax bracket you are in, how easy it is to make an extra 60 to cover the cost, and how tight the finances are in the first place.

    You got a good deal, no doubt about it, But in my situation, it’s easier to save the money than make the money.

  26. This is a good question indeed. A few years ago I would probably have just done it myself but these days I find my time is at a premium and I don’t really enjoy painting. I would definitely consider hiring someone to do it now … but then again if the quotes came in too high I could easily see myself changing my mind again.

  27. 27. Chris L.

    @Sustainable PF

    Hey, if you can find a guy to do it cheaper, by all means. We hire out painting, but there’s always someone who will do it cheaper, so we don’t. We do it for what it’s worth for us to do. Often people are pretty stingy, but this post proves that it doesn’t really make sense to DIY unless you appreciate the hourly wage it saves you. For most, it pays to hire out, as most people are not skilled enough to do it less than 1/3 the time…take your hr rate and multiply by 3…unless you really enjoy doing it…and in that case…hire yourself out because you are in the wrong line of work!

    Don’t have a day job, don’t want one? Then it’s a no-brainer, of course you DIY.

    I wouldn’t touch one room for $20/hr, unless the room was bare, everything was ready-set-go and I was paid $35/hr! LOL and it was 6 hrs min charge. However this is exactly why I don’t HAVE to work like the $100/day guy! Ha!

    Yes a good brush, but a pro can find a $3 brush and paint just as well.

    While I generally don’t like painting, it easy and requires so few tools.

  28. 28. krantcents

    Aside from the quality differences, the difference in savings was not enough for me! I call a professional, much cheaper in the end!

  29. 29. Ty Webb

    I just painted my kids room and it cost me $30 for a gallon of paint and $3 for a roller refill. Brushes and trays are reusable left overs from other projects. I could never bring myself to pay someone to do something that I can do myself.

  30. 30. Joe S.

    $59 savings for 9 hours work is $6.59/hour. If you derived pleasure from working at Tim Hortons, you’d probably have been better off working a shift making coffee and serving donuts.

    On the plus side, now that you have the extra painting tools, so the next time your significant other wants you to paint a room, you can invest another 9 hours saving $59, even if the room maybe really didn’t need painting ;)

  31. @Chris L

    Question: If you had no other jobs, would you turn down $20 an hour? Would you sit home doing nothing, earning nothing, on a week day instead of taking available work?

    My point was only that in some parts of the country people need work and a $20 an hour job during a slow period is nothing to sneeze at! Sure, the GTA or GVA likely doesn’t have many $20 per hour painters but head into smaller communities or some east coast provinces and the reality for people needing work changes.
    Cheers

  32. 32. Dr. STAN

    I always find interesting these “would it be worth it at my hourly rate” analyses. After all taxes and deductions, I make $180 per day net at work. So working a few hours on a DIY project to save $200 or $300 labour works for me if it’s basic enough (painting, electrical, studding, insulation, etc.) Of course, you have to enjoy the work itself. If you hate it, pay someone and get it over with. I ran into a friend’s father, a semi-wealthy guy in his 60′s who still changes the oil in his cars because he enjoys it, certainly not because he needs the extra $40.

    I have however learned a bit of a lesson regarding “critical” work. Hire it out. I had some damage to my chimney cap and took on the repairs myself. Not only is it dangerous to mess around on the roof, but it did end up leaking even more than the initial problem after my handiwork. I clearly was in over my head. Sometimes, being cheap is, um, bad. The chimney guys will probably get a good laugh when they take down my crappy work and replace it with a brand new cap that will never leak. The hassle wasn’t worth it. A poorly done DIY job is not worth it.

  33. 33. Chris L.

    @Sustainable PF

    Yup, I do it all the time. I don’t leave my house unless I will get $250. Today is a prime example of that. Money doesn’t rule my life. Understanding money and it’s flow is why I control money vs. the other way around. Yeah it takes some time to figure this out, but I know that the more jobs I turn down, the more I make overall and hourly. I charge a minimum price, work half as much and earn the same. This means I don’t tie up my time doing things I’d prefer not to do.

    It’s the math I did when I quit working for someone else. They would bill me out at 2-3x what I would earn…the math was pretty simple – cut out the middleman.

    Most of these guys are fly-by-night. You simply can not live on 40k/year running your own operation. If you get hurt…? Your truck, materials, slow-time? Pricing stuff out? Quotes that don’t materialize…there’s a lot more to running a biz than most realize. Your work is tied up in more than just what your produce. Yeah this might tied people over, but if they charge too little, they end up working full time for someone else at $15/hr everyday of the week and some weekends….speaking from experience here.

  34. 34. Subversive

    I would hire a professional one million times out of a million. Part of it is I hate painting. However, even for things I don’t hate as much, I can always earn more by spending my time on building my marketable skills than by learning a skill that I’ll rarely use. Also, odds of my doing as good of a job as a professional are slim. So, I focus on what I’m good at and hire people who’ve done the same in another area.

  35. 35. SoloWoman

    After years of renting and painting my places (some huge), I became quite good – and had a great friend to help. We were precise and perfectionistic. When I bought my little condo, the many bulkheads were a killer and so was the popcorn ceiling. It was hard to believe that such a small place could take so long. To top it off, I did my worst work in my own home and to this day, some parts of the ceiling still bug me, but I can only live and suffer with it. I guess I could have, just this once, hired a painter. When I do, I’ll have him finish the baseboards too.

  36. 36. Marina

    For one small room I would paint myself, for larger projects I would hire someone.

    I’ve painted a few rooms and tried with and without tape, and without tape gives me the best results. There always seems to be some paint that gets under the tape, whereas I get perfectly straight edges free-hand.

    As mentioned earlier, you need a good brush, and a wet cloth to wipe out mistakes right away. You save the time it takes to tape, and you get faster the more you paint.

  37. 37. Melanie S

    20$ an hour in NL is still a decent wage.

  38. I am in a similar boat.
    I just finished painting our second spare room in preparation of the new addition in 2 months time.
    In the past I have used cheap brushes/rollers (some from the dollar store) and a cheaper paint.
    I recently tested out the “premium” grade brushes and rollers ($15 – $20 per item) as well as the Benjamin Moore Timeless paint ($55/gal) While the cost was MUCH more then the cheaper version, the painting experience was VERY different. Less “splatter” and mess and a much cleaner job.
    Cutting in the baseboards and trims was a lot easier free hand with a premium brush too. Overall time was cut in half as well.
    If you remember to clean THOROUGHLY the rollers and brushes after using you should be able to re-use them many times. (this is my 4th room now with the same gear)
    On a side note, when you do remove the paint can lid….make sure you do not place it on the drop cloth on the floor, you might step in it. Not that I would do this of course :)

  39. 39. cannon_fodder

    38 comments and no one is in the same position I am? I hate painting yet I’ve never hired anyone to paint. But, I could see myself doing it (especially because our family room is 2 stories high).

    But, for most rooms I don’t have to paint and I don’t have to hire anyone. How is that possible? My wife loves painting!

  40. 40. Eric

    I do not use tape.
    1. If you sequence properly it certainly speeds things up. i.e. I do windows and doors first (this includes the trims). Who cares if you get paint on the walls while you are doing this because you have to cut-in the trims anyway. Ceiling next. Then the walls. I always paint the baseboards last and don’t be afraid to caulk the top of the baseboards (before you paint them) with painters caulk – just use a fine bead. It really gets rid of the annoying gaps.
    2. If you add the time it takes to tape things up and then take it off, I bet it is faster to take your time when you do the cut-ins.
    3. If tape is not put on properly then the edge line looks horrible.
    4. I will use tape if I need to create a pattern on the wall or ceiling.
    5. If you want to use two colours on a single wall, I suggest using a chair rail to separate them.

    I think that’s it. It may sound like a lot but it’s actually not that bad once you get use to it!

    Eric

  41. I am just finishing painting our daughter’s second room … I do it all free hand now. I found that the tape can let some paint underneath it and it’s a pain to clean since you only find out later.

    I find that prepping takes the most time. Patching the walls from all the push pins plus bad paint jobs from previous owners and other dents created by the kids … You need to patch, let it dry and sand. Rinse and repeat if you miss anything or did not put enough.

    I do hate cleaning up though … If you want to do the whole job in one day, make sure you have enough paint brushes and rolls. Your prime the walls, then do 2 coats and then an accent wall requires 3 sets. There is no way your paint brushes and rolls dry fast enough.

    I almost forgot … The time really start when you move the furniture around and remove everything from the walls and so forth. Painting is a relatively small job compared to what it takes to get there :)

  42. 42. Savannah

    I personally really like painting rooms myself. It is quite a bit cheaper, and for me at least it provides sort of a zen moment.

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