Why Are Decorators So Expensive?

By Mike Cupit


I’ve been a professional decorator for almost two decades. I’ve also been a blogger and collaborated with other professional decorators on this website for the past 5 years. As decorators, sometimes we’re asked to justify our prices. I find this a little bit insulting to be honest, and if a client saw things from our point of view, they wouldn’t need to ask.


Training to Become a Proper Decorator


Most decorators start their professional life as an apprentice. This means we go through 2 – 3 years of training, splitting our time between college and working for another decorator. In that time, we’re expected to carry out the menial tasks such as keeping the van tidy, fetching and carrying, sanding, caulking and pasting. Sometimes we sand for days on end to the point where the tips of our fingers bleed.


After our apprenticeship we may be qualified, but very few of us are capable of starting our own business at that point. A professional decorator with their own business needs to be an expert. We need a vast array of knowledge when it comes to products and application. We must know each process inside and out. You don’t become an expert after a few years at college. I honed my skills for a further 7 years by working for other decorators before I was able to get a business off the ground.


The Running Costs of a Decorating Business


This is something the public don’t tend to take into consideration while they’re trying to work out why decorators are so expensive. At first glance, one would assume the cost of labour goes straight into the pocket of the tradesman. This is far from the case!! All businesses have running costs and a decorating business is no exception. I’ll take you through some of the general running costs.


The marketing budget of a decorating business can be substantial. This includes everything from social media advertising, to a subscription to something like Check-a-Trade (£1,200 on its own).

Then you have liability insurance, employers insurance, tool theft insurance and income protection insurance.

Tool maintenance is probably the third biggest cost to a decorator. We need professional quality tools which we use day in/day out, so they’re always going to need topping up or replacing.

We also need to account for jobs which run over and non-payers (customers who decide they’d rather rip an honest tradesman off, rather than paying for a job).

Keeping a van on the road, which is often a second vehicle. That includes the cost of the van, fuel, tax and yet more insurance.


Unpaid Time


We’ve done running costs, something else people don’t consider is all the unpaid time that comes with being self-employed. All this also needs to be accounted for in our bottom line. We spend our weekends cleaning and organising tools. We pack the van at the start of each day. Run around collecting materials, quoting, paperwork, marketing. Then, because we’re self-employed, we need to pay into our own pension and put money away for holiday pay.


The Cost of Trade Paint


A lot of our clients don’t realise the difference between trade and retail paint. Not just in quality, but also in price. We’ve had price hike after price hike in the past few years due to the lack of raw materials, Brexit and Covid. So, before you moan at our materials bill, go through a decent trade paint website and just look at how much paint costs nowadays.


So, is it Worth Hiring a Decorator?


You may think you’re a DIY God, but trust me, a decorator can do what you can’t!! A decorator will get a better finish, with products that will last and complete a job in around half the time you can. We spend years honing our skills, studying different products, testing different tools. We’ve seen how each product ages in the real world and we know how durable each finish will be.


If you are a hard-working professional and you can afford it, you deserve a professional standard of decorating in your home. Just bite the bullet and stomach the cost. If you’re not happy with a price, get another one from somewhere else, but at least now you know why decorators are so expensive.

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