What Should You Expect From a Professional Pittsburgh Painter?

Steve Reutzel

There's a business practice becoming commonplace in the house painting industry that most homeowners are unaware of. Many house painting companies, including large national franchises, don't do their own work. When you think you’re hiring professionals to paint your home, you should get professionals, right? Knowing the difference between professional painters and general labor crews can save you time and money in the long run. 

What Should You Expect From a Professional Painter? 

Professional painters are more than just a guy with a brush, or a gal with a sprayer. They have comprehensive knowledge about the total life-cycle of paint, from prepping the area to maintaining the highest quality work for the longest amount of time. This knowledge comes from specialty training programs and nationally recognized standards.  

If house painting companies don't use their own professional painters to paint your home, who does the work? Many companies don’t even have professional painters on their staff. They sell their services to unsuspecting homeowners, then pass the contract off to a sub-contractor to perform the labor. This way, they are just a go-between, collecting the checks and splitting the money 50/50 with the painting crew who actually does the work. This practice only benefits the company and can put the home owner at risk. 

Why Professional Painters are Worth It

Good painting companies with W-2 employees have the ability to control their quality of work by having a continuing skills training program for their workers. Following best industry practices ensures their employees are using the most effective equipment and techniques.  They also abide by the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America's standards for craftsmanship so the quality is always consistent from job to job. 

Professional Quality Painting

Professional painters complete a project in three stages: Prep, Paint, and Punch Out.  

Prep work is the most important part of a painting job. Professional painters put a lot of their time and attention to detail in preparing your project before painting. At a minimum this includes, cleaning and drying surfaces appropriately to ensure the paint will adhere properly. They also protect surrounding areas from damage by covering or removing items and surfaces you don’t want painted. While these tasks can be time consuming, professional painters are far more concerned with their quality of work and ability to stand by their craftsmanship warranty.  

When it comes to painting, professionals know the right tools for the job. They also use higher quality materials over cheap short cuts to make sure their work lasts until you decide—rather than need—to repaint again.  

Finally, the punch out includes cleaning up and touching up areas. The foreman conducts a walk through with the home owner, matching the scope of work to the work done. This quality control step demonstrates the highest level of professionalism and pride in the finished product. If the work does not meet the company or home owner’s standards, the punch out identifies any short comings for the painters to correct before the job is considered complete.  

Due to legal restrictions, painting companies cannot regulate or control the methods a subcontracted crew uses to complete a painting job. This makes guaranteeing any professional standards near impossible. I have seen, firsthand, there is very little vetting involved when hiring an outside crew. Work varies in quality from one job to the next and getting a subcontracted crew to fix their mistakes is not always a pleasant or easy experience.  

A primary contractor can refuse to pay the crew for their labor until the problems are corrected. That's of little consolation to a homeowner when they're stuck with a painting project that looks terrible, waiting for it to be corrected by a disgruntled sub-contractor who just wants to rush through the repair work so they can get paid. 

In these cases, aside from fixing the mistakes, the only recourse a sub-contractor has to collect their money, other than litigation, is to file a mechanic's lien on the homeowner's property to force the painting company to pay them. 

These may sound like extreme situations, but they happen more than you might imagine. 

Painting Crew- Know Who is In Your Home

In my experience, when subcontracted workers are left to their own devices, paid such a small fixed portion of the overall painting contract, they feel the best way to make any money for themselves is to get their work done as quickly as possible. They are neither being directed nor compensated in a way that is encouraging them to take the time necessary to do the job the right way without cutting corners. 

What does this say of their character? You'd expect the crew members working at your home to be good people. The company you contracted with would never endanger you, your family, or your belongings by sending shady characters to paint your house, would they?  

You’d be surprised.   

During the time I worked for one of the largest national franchise painting companies, not once did they do a criminal background check on the crew members of the new sub-contract crews they hired. They didn't even meet all of the crews before assigning them to the jobs. 

Whether you decide to go with a painting contractor that performs their own labor or not, make sure the people coming to complete your painting project are fully vetted by the company, background checked and drug tested

Contractor Safety Plan

Another serious issue that often gets overlooked is one of homeowner liability.  Every legitimate painting company has an OSHA-based safety training program in place for its employees to ensure that appropriate workplace safety practices are always being followed.  After all, falls from ladders are one of the most common workplace accidents. A legitimate painting company pays workers' compensation insurance premiums for each of its employees so that they are covered if such an event would occur. 

Professional painters are often required to know and correctly demonstrate the following OSHA regulated safety protocol: 

  1. Ladder Safety and Fall Protection 

  2. Hot and Cold Weather Safety 

  3. Lead Awareness and Respiratory Safety 

  4. Hearing Protection 

  5. Heavy Machinery, Pressure Washing, and Airless Sprayer Safety 


Many sub-contract crews have other crew members working for them who are NOT employees. They can be sub-contractors of the sub-contractor or they are paid under the table by the sub-contractor for their labor.  In either case, rarely are they covered under a workers' compensation policy. If an uninsured worker falls off of a ladder or gets injured on the job, they can attempt to hold the homeowner liable for their medical bills. What a nightmare. 

Never assume the workers in your home are covered under the company’s insurance or have attended safety training. Ask for proof of all insurances, especially general liability, workers’ comp, and vehicle insurances, before hiring anyone to work for you. 

There's a common saying in the workplace: "Safety is no accident."  Good safety practices are not instinctive, they're learned.  So ask yourself:  If your painting company is not safety-training or insuring their workers, who is? 

General Liability Insurance

Without proper insurances, you could be at a loss if something goes wrong on your painting project, not to mention, held liable if a worker is injured in your home. Ensure the company you hire carries a general liability insurance of at least $1 million and worker’s compensation insurance which is required in most states.  

General Liability Insurance protects you from being held legally responsible for injuries and accidents that occur during your painting project. It also protects the contractor in the case they are responsible for any damages to your home.  

Without General Liability Insurance, you are forced to trust the company will pay for repairs to your home if they are responsible for damages. Spilling five gallons of paint on your new roof, which drips onto your vehicle below can be an expensive mistake. But mistakes can happen even under the best circumstances. Never attempt to save money by hiring an uninsured company. It could cost you more in the long run. 

Finally, make sure every person on the crew is covered under the company’s General Liability Insurance as well as Worker’s Comp.  

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Professional Painter 

When shopping around for painting estimates, homeowners ask, "Why is there such a difference in price between painting companies?"   

It is not uncommon to see price fluctuations when comparing proposals of multiple companies. Variances can be caused by a simple difference in the scope of work. Meaning, one company intends to do additional work that another does not. Other times, the difference can be in comparing a legitimate company to an illegitimate company (one who doesn't have licensing, insurance, workers' comp coverage, and/or are paying their workers under the table). Regardless, whenever there is a huge discrepancy in the price for the same scope of work, it is because there is not an apples-to-apples comparison of companies. 

Painting companies invest money in the following areas to ensure their customers receive the safest and highest quality of professionalism and craft: 

  1. Find, screen, hire, and properly train high-quality professional painters 

  2. Follow the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America’s standards for craftsmanship on all jobs 

  3. Maintain required insurance and workers’ comp levels 

  4. Operate an OSHA-based safety training program 


It most certainly costs more for companies to do business the right way, which can affect their bid price to the customer. While the dilemma of the business owner may not be the homeowner's concern, the end result is almost always a happy, well-protected customer, and that is definitely important to any homeowner.   

There are always going to be customers who need to go with the lowest bidder, and times when all ends well when utilizing a go-between or even illegitimate painting companies, while saving money in the process. However, it is easy to see the risks and the gamble these types of business practices can expose the customer to.  

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Painting Contractor

If you're considering hiring a painting contractor to paint your home we suggest you make sure you're asking the right questions

  1. Are the people working in my home employees or contractors? 

  2. Are all workers fully insured under the company’s general liability insurance, worker’s comp, and commercial vehicle insurance? 

  3. Is everyone assigned to my painting project background checked and drug tested? 

  4. What safety programs and training do you require your workers? 

  5. What are your company’s quality standards and how are they measured? 

  6. Can you provide proof of training and all insurances? 


Deciding what qualities you find most important in a painting contractor will help you review these answers to determine the best fit for your project. The cheapest option is not always best. 

ImageWorks Painting, INC. understands we aren’t the cheapest option in your area, but we are one of the safest. With multiple awards and affiliations, you don’t have to take our word for our high level of professionalism and quality of work. Our FAQ page answers many questions you might have. If you’re ready to schedule an estimate, or have more questions, contact us today.  

Contact the Pros

Ready to get started with your next painting project but unsure if it is in your budget? Reach out to the expert painting team at ImageWorks Painting to schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at 724-898-2446, or request a visit online.