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?

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FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
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10 years ago

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.

The Passive Income Earner
10 years ago

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 :)

10 years ago

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!


10 years ago

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!

Stephen Winters
10 years ago

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 :)

Melanie S
10 years ago

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

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

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.

Chris L.
10 years ago

@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.