Hiring a Professional Decorator – Questions and Answers

By Mike Cupit


I’ve been a professional painter, decorator and blogger on the Decorators Forum UK for many years now. I thought I’d put together a simple guide to answer the most frequently asked questions when it comes to hiring a professional decorator. Hopefully this will help put your mind at ease and give you an idea of what to expect.


How Long is a Decorator’s Waiting List?


The lead time, from first having someone look at a job to actually hiring a professional decorator can be many months. It varies depending on the time of the year, how busy the building industry is at the time and how established (or good) your decorator is.


Summer is the busiest time of the year for most decorators as they have the added workload of exterior painting. Some decorators can be booked up 6 months in advance!! So, make sure you plan ahead. This is an extreme example though. It’s more likely that a waiting list is 2 – 3 months long. It’s always worth asking your decorator about his or her waiting time when you make the initial enquiry.


Never trust a quiet decorator unless they have a legitimate reason. Sometimes they have a gap in their diary due to job cancellations or postponements. Other great decorators may just not be as well established. A quiet decorator is always quiet for a reason, whether it be one of the above, or simply because they’re not very good.


Is it Normal for a Decorator to ask for a Deposit?


Yes, a lot of decorators do take a deposit, particularly if they have a long waiting list. This solidifies the intention of the homeowner to carry through with the work. However, it’s actually beneficial to both the homeowner and the decorator.


If a decorator asks for a deposit, they should first provide a detailed quote, outlining the amount of prep, the process, materials and the full list of works they intend to carry out. This, along with their T’s and C’s becomes a legally binding contract, which the decorator essentially enters upon payment of the deposit.


I think it is also fair for a homeowner to ask for a firm start date for the works before paying a deposit (unless the work is exterior). You should check the Ts and Cs the decorator provides before paying, just so you know what the process is if alterations need to be made. Be it extra work, or delaying a start date, or cancelations.


Do Decorators Charge for Quotes?


I know of one decorator who charges for every quote she provides. This is then refundable upon agreement of the work. Practises such as this are not money-making schemes, but they cut down on the amount of “time wasters”.


The other time a decorator might charge for a quote is when going to see a job which is to be put through a homeowner’s house insurance. This is because there is a requirement for a homeowner to collect quotes to make a claim, however they often end up taking payment from the insurance company and carrying out the work themselves. As you can imagine, this is a total waste of time for any decorators involved.


Other than that, quotes are generally free. You can ask a decorator to come round, talk about the work involved and be left with a no-obligation quote. If you’re comfortable with the decorator and the price, you can then follow up and book. If not, just leave it. Polite feedback either way is often appreciated by a decorator.


Do Decorators Supply Their Own Paint?


Absolutely!! There is a massive difference between trade and retail paint . Almost every decorator I know will only use trade quality paint. Although trade will always cost more than retail. A decorator is often entitled to a small “trade discount” on trade paint, meaning we can buy the materials cheaper than you can.


You should always allow a decorator to use the brand and products they recommend, and you should also let them supply all materials.


Do Decorators Make Money on Paint?


I may get some stick for telling you this, but yes, most decorators make a small mark up on the materials they buy. They need to, simply because they often end up needing slightly more paint than expected, or they need to use additional products such as Zinsser Peel Stop, or specialist stain blocks. If they didn’t add a contingency, they would lose money on almost every job. Plus, decorators get a trade discount, meaning you’ll pay less anyway, even with their mark-up.


Do Decorators Guarantee Their Work?


Most decorators will guarantee their work to a certain point. You should always be able to rely on a decorator to come back and fix problems such as wallpaper seams opening or flaking paint.


It can be a little bit more difficult to guarantee work completed to the exterior of a building, as there are a lot of other factors to take into a consideration. Factors such as moisture contained in the substrate or a previous coating failing, are out of a decorator’s hands, so it is not really fair to hold a decorator accountable.


That said, some decorators do offer a full and formal guarantee on all works. If this is important to you, you should speak to your decorator at the quoting stage. Dulux Select decorators normally offer a guarantee on all projects completed using Dulux Trade products. This comes directly from Dulux and is taken very seriously.


The other thing to bear in mind is regardless of whether a decorator has given you a guarantee or not, if you have paid a professional for their services, that professional has a legal requirement to complete the work to a certain standard. If you start to experience problems a short time after the job has been completed and it’s clearly the fault of the decorator, you have every right to ask him or her to come back and fix it. This is one of the advantages of hiring a professional decorator.


Are Female Decorators as Good as Male Decorators?


I personally find this a bit of a ridiculous question, but I know it gets asked, so I thought I’d touch on it. Decorating is physical work and it’s true that the industry is filled with predominantly male tradesmen. However, there are some female decorators knocking around and I’ve worked with many over my years.


Some of the best decorators I know are female and I would have the same level of confidence hiring a female decorator as I would a male decorator. I’m not part of the PC brigade, but the sex of your decorator should not be a concern.


Should I Decorate Before or After Replacing my Carpet?


If you are simply changing a carpet, then ideally you would complete the decorating beforehand. A decorator may ask you to remove the existing carpet before carrying out the works, or they may cut around the edge of a room and remove a strip about two inches wide.


A good carpet fitter should be able to replace a carpet without scuffing paintwork. If they do damage the work, your carpet fitter should really pay for the decorator to come back and repair.


It may also be worth allowing the paint to cure for a week or so before having new carpets fitted. This will give the paint time to harden and become more durable.


Should I Decorate Before or After Replacing my Hardwood, or Laminate Flooring?


This completely depends on the individual job. Some flooring needs to be tucked underneath the existing woodwork. Other flooring is offered up to the existing woodwork, then finished with beading. Sometimes a joiner will remove skirting boards to refit them over the top of flooring. In all these instances, you should only decorate after replacing the floor. I know this takes more protection when carrying out the decorating works, however it is the only way to get the perfect finish.


If feasable, replacing the flooring after the decorating works are completed would be easier all round.


Should I Paint Before Fitting a Kitchen?


Yes and no. You can’t expect a kitchen fitter to come in and install a kitchen without damaging any paintwork, it’s impossible. Plus, kitchen units often need to be caulked before you finish painting the walls.


That said, it is easier to apply a mist coat to walls and ceilings before the kitchen is fitted. So, you should apply the first coat of emulsion to the walls and ceilings, being careful not to seal the plaster where any tiles are to be fitted. Then fit the kitchen, then finish the decorating works.

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Hiring a Professional Decorator – Questions and Answers