1. Who will do the work?
The chap that comes out to measure up and give you a quote might be very nice. But who will be holding your front door key and wandering around your home for weeks?
My wife hired a painting company to paint the interior of a youth refuge. The boss sent two guys who did a crummy job, disrupted the whole place and came close to punching one of the youth workers. But hey, they were cheap.
Insist on meeting the 'key onsite painter'.
2. Who will recommend you?
You must get recommendations. Google reviews. Facebook reviews. Website reviews. Recommendations from Facebook groups. All fine. But best of all is a few phone numbers from past clients that you can call. Ask them lots of questions about how THEY found the process.
3. How will it be done?
Ask what you should expect from the WHOLE process - How long will it take? What sort of disruption? When do the painters start? When do they finish? How many painters will there be? How will your furniture and floors be protected? How will the surfaces be prepared? What brands will be used?
4. What am I getting for my money?
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF ALL.
Don’t just ask how much? Ask how much and WHAT do I get for that price?
Is a $10,000 job from Dumb and Dumber (from question 1) a better deal than a $12,000 job executed by a highly recommended top painter? Of course not.
Is a $10,000 job rushed through in two weeks better than a $12,000 job done carefully and properly over four weeks? No.
Cheap paint that fails after a year better than more expensive paint that lasts decades?
No preparation better than outstanding preparation?
You get the idea.
So ... Ask lots of questions. Love your walls. Enjoy the process.
Another small hardware store on my circuit has closed – Pyrmont this time.
While the big guy – Bunnings (RIP Masters) is very good at what it does, a good, local hardware deserves to be supported.
Need a few nails or a small can of paint? Try Ewens Hardware in Mosman.
(They are part of Thrifty Link group)
Visiting Ewens is like stepping back in time. Small items are hung on every available surface. The guys are very helpful too. AND they can mix paint with the best of them – using a space about as big as a phone booth.
Have a look and remember to support Ewens here:
Colours are personal. Some you like. Some you hate. And some … you’re just not quite sure about.
I’ve found nearly all of my clients in the last camp. Just not sure.
So here’s some simple ideas to make the whole process of colour selection a bit easier.
1. If you’re in a hurry just do this.
Paint your walls with Dulux ‘Antique White USA’. (Also paint trim Semi Gloss White and ceiling, Flat white.)
I’m not trying to be funny. This combo works for almost any décor (or lack of).
Antique White USA is a super-colour. It works in old and new homes, dark or light. The reason I think is that it’s a pretty near perfect mix of tint colours.
It is mostly white then a bit of ochre to make it creamy. Then a tiny bit of red to make it warm. Then an even tinier bit of black to calm it all down and stop it from going ‘buttery’. The end result is a neutral that is very … neutral. It’s not as severe as plain white but not as intense as many creams and beiges.
Also It hides dirt so is good for rentals or kids.
Antique White USA is very popular and is even premixed at the paint store.
But, if you want something a little less common …
2. Steal. Or rather be inspired by other people. One client liked a bathroom in the Dulux catalogue and had the whole thing copied: lights, enamelware, tiles and paint. Worked a treat, because a clever designer had already designed it for Dulux.
Another way to steal is find inspiration in magazines and the interweb. Rip our magazine pages you like or save images on the computer. If you go to paint manufacturers/retailers sites like these ones you can get heaps of ideas AND he exact name of the colour you like.
3. Go grey! Grey is the very popular NOW colour for walls. Everything from ‘almost black’ to ‘hardly grey at all’. The key with getting a good grey is to make sure it is a bit warm rather than too cool. Too cool a grey often looks light blue when its up. A warmer toned grey (sometimes called Greige. Haha) usually sits better with your furnishings. Some folks like to go very dark which I like . But most are happy with quite a light grey, which is still noticeably ‘not white’. There will be some examples in the links above.
4a. DIY colour selection. Grab some colour chips from the paint store and take home. Hold each one against the BIGGEST coloured thing in each room. In the lounge it’s usually the couches. In the bedrooms it’s your favourite doona cover.
Now each of these large items will have an –ish to them. By that I mean your neutral sand coloured couch may be a bit green-ish. Or your grey bedspread may be blue-ish. The trick is to find a wall colour that is similarly green-ish or blue-ish. I don’t mean the walls should be the same colour but should be in the same family. Yuck combinations arise when the –ish is ignored.
4b. DIY colour selection. Start with a favourite Persian rug or big painting or whatever else will be in the room. Take one of the colours in the rug/painting/whatever and duplicate that colour for your walls. Usually it’s a neutral colour but it doesn’t have to be.
5. Go Pro. Hire a professional colourist. They start at about $400 for an hour consultation and follow up boards to try around the house. Well worth it if you want something a bit different from the ideas above, or different to what you would do on your own. Also colour professionals will be able to work with your existing furnishings, natural light, personality, and architecture.
Mrs Jones asks 2 different painters to submit a quote to paint the interior of her home. When both quotes arrive she is shocked to see that Joe’s quote is nearly twice as high as Sam’s quote. What a rip off! That Joe is charging Mosman prices, the dirty rat-bag!
What Mrs Jones doesn’t realise is that Joe is taking his time to provide a paint job will look great and last a long time. Also Joe's paint will only go where it's meant to.
By contrast Sam will rush through in half the time, providing a top coat (and very little else), and a general mess.
So the cheap job, will be badly done AND cost more on an hourly basis.
I’ve made a table that shows the parts of the paint job that Joe will do compared with what Sam will do. Or put another way, what SHOULD BE DONE verses what CAN BE GOTTEN AWAY WITH.
Most talk about paint revolves around the latest colours or the best brands.
But the place where appearance meets functionality (when it comes to paint) is finish.
Paint finish is another way of saying paint shiny-ness. And there are good reasons to choose the right shiny-ness for each surface inside your home.
Nearly all ceilings are painted in a Flat or Matt finish. The main advantage of Flat paint is that it doesn’t reflect. So light fittings illuminate the room below and don’t create any distracting shapes on the ceiling. Also until recently ceilings in old houses were a bit flimsy and prone to cracking. A flat paint hides minor imperfections very well.
In the USA it is not uncommon to use a flat paint finish on walls. I tried this myself on an investment property I own. It looked great and hid centuries of patching and plastering. BUT … when my dear tenants wiped the marks and scuffs on said wall, the wiping left lots of visible swirls and scrub marks, which is why nearly all Aussie walls are painted in … Low Sheen finish.
Low Sheen is a tiny bit shiny. Dulux have a range of Low Sheen wall paints the best of which is ‘Wash and Wear’. Taubmans’ low sheen range is lead by ‘Endure’.
Choice did a side by side comparison of various Low Sheen wall paints and found that most were pretty much similar EXCEPT when it came to scrub-ability. Cheap Low Sheen paint literally comes off when you wipe or scrub it. Expensive stuff doesn’t.
TRIM (DOORS, WINDOWS, SKIRTING BOARDS, PICTURE RAILS)
Trim has a hard life. It suffers constant bumping and knocking so needs to be resilient and tough. Traditionally a High Gloss Finish has been used to paint trim. But high gloss can look a bit ‘syrupy’, especially on old surfaces that are not completely smooth. A more contemporary finish is ‘Semi Gloss’. It’s shinier than the Low Sheen walls but hides some imperfections and just looks more up to date.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE USUAL
There are some exceptions to these 'rules', mainly in very wet rooms (bathroom or laundry) or greasy rooms (kitchens).
Bathrooms and laundries can fight mould much better if both ceilings and walls are painted in Low Sheen or even Semi Gloss. The mould has more difficulty taking root on these smoother surfaces.
In even the cleanest kitchens a thin layer of oil builds up on the walls and it soaks into the ceiling. Over time this spoils the appearance (unless you like the 'Heavy Smoker House' look). So when it comes time for a good scrub, a slightly shinier surface can make the job easier.
Having said that ... the 3 finishes are standard for the good reasons outlined above, but really you can do anything you jolly well want when it comes to finishes. A bold, decorator statement can sometimes be more important than super-longevity.
A Low Sheen ceiling could work if you want an exact match with your walls. Super High Gloss new doors could look great in say black. And walls that don't get many sticky fingers would look nice in a matt finish.
Interior painting is not like other trades.
When you hire other trades you look at references; you look at ability to do the job; you look at the price.
But with interior painting there is a fourth aspect that’s unique to interior painting and That’s one of trust.
Because you’re letting people you don’t know into your home!
You’re handing over the front door key for weeks on end.
You know that this is the person doing the job will be in your bedroom; in your bathroom; your kids bedrooms; all through the house while you’re at work.
So it’s absolutely vital that you have trust in this person that’s why it’s absolutely vital that you MEET the person who will be doing your painting job.
Many larger painting companies sub contract the job itself out, so the person you meet at the initial meeting may be loveliest person in the world, but they won’t be doing the painting.
They’re the estimator, or the salesperson, and they sell you the job then they move onto the next one.
They sub contract the the actual task (painting your home) out to subcontractors and if one of those painters or groups of painters is unavailable they just find another one.
The day that your painting project starts a stranger turns up at your front door and you give them the key and away they go.
That’s why it’s so important that when you get a quote from a painter (whether it’s me with somebody else) you meet the person is going to be in your house for weeks on end.
You need to be comfortable with the guy getting his hands dirty and his team.
So sure have a look at their work make sure the painting company has done something similar to your home already.
Look at their reviews online make sure that other people think they’re pretty good. Look at their costs and make sure they’re fair.
They should be not so high that you feel as though you’re being ripped off, but not so low that you feel as though they have to rush the job and can’t fix any contingencies that may arise.
These are all important factors when choosing a painter, but at the end of the day, probably the MOST important part of choosing a painter is if you can TRUST THAT PERSON IN YOUR HOME.
Living through renovation work, house painting or other large projects is not for the faint hearted! Most of us have done it, or at least had friends who have done it. And nearly all have some degree of dissatisfaction with the process (even if the final result is often quite good).
The horror stories that abound are occasionally about rip-offs or dodgy work, but more more often they're about mis-communication, mess, chaos, unforeseen extra work, missed deadlines and broken budgets. In fact Kevin McLeod has made a very successful career televising just these events in Grand Designs. He and his team can be sure every build will contain these exciting elements. Reality TV with guaranteed drama! No wonder the series has lasted decades.
So it's surprising that when we talk to builders, painters, and other trades about a big job, we forget to cover 'possible dramas'. Nearly all pre-work discussions centre around price. When we first phone a tradesman we ask for a 'quote' before anything else.
Of course price is an essential part of every job. But maybe we should be asking other questions before we even bother with the quote.
Until fairly recently my wife and I always started with 'money'. But we are older and wiser now.
From personal experience here are some questions we should have asked before we talked money.
1. To a paver - Who can recommend your work? We didn't and now have paving that sends rainwater the wrong way. We hired a nice guy who was just not great at his job.
2. To a fencer - How likely is it that we will have to pay extra? We didn't and when the fence-post-hole-digger hit sandstone (almost inevitably in the Lower north Shore) we had to pay a lot more money for this 'extra', written in mice type at the bottom of the quote.
3. To a painter (supplied by a real estate agent for our rental property) - When you say you can paint the gutters, does that mean you'll clean/sand/prime before the paint goes on? We didn't and our El Cheapo painter just went over rust and dirt. Now the gutters are peeling and in a worse state than before.
4. To a kitchen installer - Will you finish our kitchen before you start the next project? We didn't and cooked in the lounge room for 6 weeks while out new kitchen sat 90% finished but unusable.
A lot of this comes down to experience. My wife and I now know not to take anything for granted. But, looking back our obsession with the 'best price' (read cheapest price) seemed to end in frustration nearly every time. I'm sure we could have found good value AND professional tradesmen by asking more questions than 'How much?'
Other questions might include:
How long will this take?
When are you free to start?
What disruption can I expect?
What are your working hours?
Can you work around our schedule?
How else will my home be affected?
Will my neighbours be affected?
Do you clean up off site or at my home?
Do you do the work or sub-contract?
What materials do you use?
What preparation do you do?
How will you protect my home?
Who helps you?
How many people can I expect?
Who holds the key?
Have you done much of this before?
What problems can you foresee?
Do you live nearby or 100kms away?
Will you tell me as soon as 'extras' arise?
Can you show me pictures of similar work you've done?
What else do I need to be aware of?
What past clients can I speak to?
Do you feel confident doing this work?
Do you really want this job?
... you get the idea ...
My clients are smarter than me because they ask these sorts of questions all the time. And I've worked hard to provide an interior painting service that can answer these questions, online and in person.
There really are hundreds of guys who will give you the lowest price and the highest stress, if thats what you want. But there are also many, many tradesmen who are professional and realise theres so much more to the job than 'the job'.
You just have to ask.
You have a couple of rooms to get painted. And its just paint on the walls right? I mean, how hard can it be? You get 3 quotes and go with the cheapest. Because each of the 3 painters are essentially going to do the same work, aren't they?
There are basically two scams that very cheap painters use to turn low bids into gold for them and garbage for you.
The first way is to simply skimp - on labour, preparation and materials.
Cheap paint is lot cheaper than good paint. It looks fine going on but will literally rub off on your hand when dry.
Watered down paint could start out as quality paint but by adding water it magically becomes half price paint. It too is hard to spot until its too late. Its also thin and transparent and may need extra coats (and extra money from you - see below).
Another way to skimp is to rush through the job. Sure paint goes on the wall but it also splashes onto your floor, furniture and dog.
And rushed paint work is usually laid over improperly prepared surfaces. So it peels or flakes off later.
The second way is Bait and Switch. But in the trade it's simply called 'Extras'. You find out after the job starts that what you thought were included are actually extras - very expensive extras.
Usually the painter comes to you with the sad news that, now he's started and taken your deposit, things are harder than first thought. Maybe the walls or ceiling need patching, that wasn't included in the quote. Or the colour you chose needs a special under coat that wasn't included in the quote. Or the kitchen walls need to be scrubbed of oil, that wasn't included in the quote.
Any of these Extras should have been recognised at quoting stage, talked about and included in the quote.
The way to avoid most scams is to demand a fixed, detailed, written quote agreed BEFORE the painter starts. The quote should outline what is going to happen to every surface, what paint will be used, how many coats etc. Beware of micro type disclaimers about unforeseen issues. (The fencing industry are very good at finding expensive unforeseen rock to dig up at your expense!)
You shouldn't need to pay a deposit either. Any business that is that short of cash, should be avoided.
And finally, you really do get what you pay for. Most tradie horror stories or total rip offs come from a guy who is pretty obviously dodgy but we go with because he was ... cheap.
Asking “How much does it cost to paint a House or Unit interior in Sydney?” Is a fair question. But it’s a hard one to answer.
Many ‘cost factors’ apply to the final price.
The first cost factor is size and number of rooms. Obviously the bigger the home the more surfaces to paint. Most bedrooms are pretty standard sizes. But what about, say, the family or lounge room? I’ve seen tiny ones and ones that (in paint terms) are the equivalent of 3 or 4 rooms!
The second cost factor is building age. A unit or house built after about 1960 is usually quite a simple affair. The windows might be aluminium and not need painting. The doors are usually flat and therefore quicker to paint. The skirting boards are usually small and simple too. The ceiling height is usually about 8 feet/2.4 metres, meaning less area, less ladder work, less paint, less labour etc.
Compare that to a Federation or Art Deco style home or unit. These design styles are very popular on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Built between 1900 to 1940, there is much more architectural detail.
The skirting boards are bigger and more intricate. The doors will be 4-panel and often have a small window and frame above. The sash windows will be complex and made of timber that also needs painting. Often there are picture rails that not only need to be prepped and painted BUT create effectively 50% more cutting (brush painted outlining before rolling) for each wall. The ceiling heights are higher meaning bigger ladders, more labour, paint, masking etc.
Older ceilings are usually ornate and decorative. Poking a paint brush into detailed moulded plaster cornice and ceiling roses takes a lot more time than applying paint to a flat surface.
The third cost factor is building condition. Are the walls and ceilings smooth and firm? Are there cracks and loose plaster that needs gluing, patching, sanding and priming before paint is applied? Are there holes that need filling?
Sydney homes can get pretty mouldy. Is there mould that needs to be removed? If so it’s also wise to add mould inhibitor to the paint.
And the fourth cost factor is WHO you choose to do the painting work. All painters are not the same. And all painting companies are not the same either. For more info on what types of painting companies are out there, click here.
Once you have decided which type of painting company is right for your needs, the very best way to choose is to ask for references.
A couple of people you can phone and chat to, who have a similar home to yours, painted by THIS painter, is THE BEST WAY TO CHOOSE A PAINTER. Well recommended painters usually have a few jobs already lined up, so it’s wise to book them and wait. They are also usually able to charge more for their superior work. Go figure!
NOTE 1 - Savings – Cost savings can be made if the paint project is for walls only, or walls and ceiling (but no trim), if the exact same colours are used, if the home is empty or if you are away. Buying the paint yourself won’t save you much at all.
NOTE 2 - You will find on-line some hourly rates for painters. Like $30-$40 an hour. This is what you might pay a painting EMPLOYEE. Unless you want to start your own painting BUSINESS these hourly rates are pretty pointless!
So the best way to get the best price/quality balance is this:
1. Ask friends for personal recommendations.
2. Search online for painters with informative websites and lots of good reviews.
3. Decide if you want a small or large company to paint your home.
4. Invite one or two (No more than three. You’ll get confused! ) companies to quote.
5. Observe everything from punctuality, to listening skills, to appearance, to advice, to speed of quote, to follow up.
6. Ask for names and numbers of happy clients that you can phone. Phone them!
7. Consider all of the above AS WELL AS the quoted price. Your gut feel is usually right.
8. If your favoured painter is more expensive (why is that always the way?!) by all means, call and discuss. There may be a simple remedy that is win win. eg. simplified painting plan, certain quiet times of year, doing some prep. yourself, replacing flooring after painting etc.
PS. Other painting cost saving options that I DON’T recommend:
1. Paint it yourself. Most normal people only paint a whole house once in their lives! If you don’t like the work it can be very long and very boring. Also factor in the hundreds of hours of your valuable time not spent with the kids or at the beach.
2. Manage the job yourself. One person I know hired painters by the hour. But he ended up having to be the site foreman and believed work stopped as soon as he stepped out the door. You need to be a special kind of person for this to work. You don’t know what the cost will be until the end. And I don’t think my friend even saved that much money!
3. Hire the very cheapest quote you can get. Cheapest is almost never any good. Very low quotes have a habit of increasing soon after the job starts. There is little or no prep. so the paint soon peels off. And the people who give very low quotes often vanish for months mid job. More info here.
I've been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I've studied art and design and have worked in visual areas my whole life. Now I'm a house painter!