Paint the house: The broad strokes on what it takes to refinish your home’s exterior

The type of paint you use can affect the price. File photo The type of paint you use can affect the price. File photo

There are two kinds of people in this world—those who can get Ralph Macchio to paint their house by pretending to teach him karate, and those who can’t.

Unless you’re Pat Morita, you’re in the second camp, leaving you with a few options of your own. Do you hire a full-service contractor, or do you go a more unique route by doing it yourself or hiring someone to help you with the nitty-gritty while you manage the project?

For Waynesboro residents Allen Groves and his husband Adam Donovan-Groves, having a trustworthy handyman at the ready meant being able to see to each detail of their painting project without having to quit their day jobs for three weeks. Groves, who many know as UVA’s dean of students, said he found his color of choice by knocking on the door of a stranger whose house he admired, and the couple decided to go with a higher end paint variety so they wouldn’t have to apply a primer. All told, Groves and his partner spent less than $5,000 on a job they were able to carefully oversee and that turned out to their precise specifications.

“[Our handyman] knew exactly what he needed to do, and we trusted him,” Groves said. “Put it this way: He is meticulous when it comes to detail, and he wants to do everything right.”

You? You’ll have to find your own super-handyman. Groves isn’t giving up the name of his.

Alternatively, you can go the full contractor route. A good place to start looking is the trade organization Painting and Decorating Contractors of America. The PDCA website offers a search tool that links you to painters, with some information provided about quality of service.

On the plus side, hiring a contractor means your job should be completed in about a week, and if you go with a more middle-of-the-road paint quality, you, too, should be able to slip in under the 5,000 dollar mark. A quality contractor also brings with him a range of experience that can help with work on tricky substrates (the stuff that’s being painted on) and help find the right materials for your job.

“If I am painting a certain substrate like brick or a metal roof or old wood trim, there is a method to follow for each of those substrates,” said Charlie Davis, owner of Piedmont Paint & Finish. “That’s why product knowledge and experience are so important.”

Once you’ve found your contractor, expect the unexpected. Bad weather can cost days on end for the total project time, meaning duration can vary widely and drive up the price in the meantime. And remember that every house is different. While brick houses are typically easier to prepare for painting than housing with siding, they can bring with them problems like gaps in the mortar. Older houses present unique challenges.

“Painting projects are just a difficult thing to generalize,” Davis said.