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You've Decided to Paint Your House - Now What?

You've Decided to Paint Your House - Now What?

You’ve decided it’s time to make an improvement to your home, and paint is the perfect choice. No other renovation can dramatically change the look and feel of your home, while being completed in a reasonable time frame and under a reasonable budget. So painting it is – but where do you go from there?

This article is meant to guide you through the process of completing a home renovation painting project. It will take you from your initial considerations, to finding and hiring the right contractor, to the actual painting process, to what you need to do to keep your paint beautiful for the long term.

No matter what part of the process you have questions about, you’ll find the answers below.


The first thing you need to do is answer some questions about where you want the painting done and how much work you want to complete. The idea to paint might have started with a realization that the living room paint is chipping and could use a new coat, but is that the extent of your project or does it make sense to expand?

Often times the rooms of your house are painted at the same time, so if you’re noticing wear in one room, it’s only a matter of time before other rooms start to follow, in which case it might make sense to paint them now. There are also other considerations to take into account: does your trim need new paint? How about the ceiling? The condition may look okay now, but when compared to new painted walls, the imperfections may stand out. The same goes for exterior paint, where you also have to consider whether the porch, the door, the shutters, the garage, etc. should be painted too.

Traditional Exterior by San Francisco Paint & Wall Coverings MB Jessee

To define the scope of your project, give your home a thorough inspection, room to room, inside and out. Take notes on condition and write down all the areas you’ll want painted. If you’re worried about your budget, make a two part list of the things you need to paint now and the things you’d like to paint if they are also within budget.


Before you move on to finding a painting contractor, it’s a good idea to think about the look you’d like to achieve with the new paint.

  • Are you going to keep things the same, or make a dramatic change?
  • Are you looking to brighten up the room, or to tame the colors down?
  • Do you have a particular design style you admire, such as traditional, modern or rustic?

Thinking about WHY you decided to paint in the first place is often a good way to direct the project. Then you can get inspired by searching online, flipping through magazines, watching home improvement shows, getting advice from friends, and even browsing Pinterest.

It’s important to note that getting inspiration is not the same thing as picking the exact colors that you will use. If you do decide on colors at this point – good for you! However, you can decide on these specifics down the line, and painting contractors often have professionals who can help you choose colors so you may want to wait and get help from an expert. Getting inspiration at this point is more about deciding the look, feel and vibe that will drive the painting project forward.


One of the most important parts of the process is finding the right contractor for your project. It’s typically a big mistake to choose the first contractor that you find. Instead you’ll want to do some research to gather a pool of potential candidates to see who can prove themselves in the estimating/hiring process.

While this works, it shouldn’t be the exclusive strategy you use to choose your pool of candidates, because what worked out for their project may not work for yours. Other methods of finding a contractor are:

  • Online searches to see which painting contractors come up for your area.
  • Using Yelp, an online review website, to locate potential contractors.
  • Searching the Find Pros section of Houzz, a website devoted to home improvement and remodeling.
  • Looking at ratings and reviews for painting contractors in your zip code on Home Advisor.
  • Checking out the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Browsing the company’s own website to check for other reviews and to assess the overall quality and professionalism of the company.
  • Checking local directories for contractors.

Each of these methods of finding a painting contractor will help you evaluate what other people are saying about the company. Are they reputable? Do they do a good job? Would their past customers recommend them? Evaluating ratings and reviews from all of these sources will allow you to create a pool of candidates who you can request estimates from.


From the narrowed down pool of choices, it’s time to contact each one to see who will be best for your painting project.

The biggest part of this is the estimate, because we all have to work within specific budgets and each contractor will come back with a different number. To understand how contractors arrive at different numbers, it is important to ask questions about the estimate to understand what you are getting. For example:

  • Do you charge for labor at an hourly rate or fixed price, and how much is it?
  • How many employees do you plan to have on the job?
  • How much will materials be and what kind of materials/paint do you use?
  • Do you offer and guarantees or warranties on your work?
  • What things are and aren’t included, in terms of work that will be performed?
  • What is the project timeline? Estimated start date?

By learning more about the estimating process you will understand why estimates differ from company to company. Usually with a little investigation you realize that the lowest estimate is not necessarily the best deal.

As important as the estimate is, you should never hire the painting contractor based on the estimate alone. You want to choose the company that will do the best job, which sometimes means paying a little more for the quality of work you get. Other things to consider before hiring the painting contractor are:

  • Do they have the proper licenses required for your area?
  • Do they carry full insurance?
  • Do they have references?
  • Do they have a portfolio of past work for you to view?
  • How do their ratings and reviews hold up against the competition?
  • Do they assist with colors – helping you choose the right colors, mixing custom colors, etc.?
  • Are they friendly and professional when you deal with them, from the initial phone call to the estimate to any other points of contact?

Taking these things as a whole, you’ll be able to find the contractor that offers the best overall package for your painting project.


Contemporary Kitchen by San Francisco Paint & Wall Coverings MB Jessee

If you didn’t select colors in the “Get Inspiration” phase, now is the time to think seriously about the colors you want to use. As mentioned before, you may get help from a professional colorist with your painting company. This is an expert who can help you choose the right colors based on your neighborhood, home style, the other rooms in your house, the lighting, and more.

If you’re not going to be working with a professional colorist, here are the most important things to consider:

  • Consult the color wheel: The color wheel will help you learn more about colors including which colors work together, and it will help you narrow down your favorite color options.
  • Consider shade: Once you narrow down the color choices, consider if you want to go light to create a bright and airy feel, or dark to create a bold statement.
  • Lighting: The lighting of the room will determine how the color will actually look on the wall. Rooms that have a lot of natural light will show true color; fluorescent lighting will cast a blue tone; and incandescent light will bring out yellow/warm tones.
  • Paint finish: Paint finish refers to how glossy the surface is. Paint finishes range from flat (no gloss/shine) to semi-gloss and high-glosses that have a noticeable shine. The shine makes the paint easier to clean, so gloss is typically used in kitchens and bathrooms, whereas bedrooms, living rooms and offices typically use a less glossy paint (satin or eggshell).
  • Check the neighborhood: Particularly for exterior projects, you’ll want to choose a color that works harmoniously with the style of the neighborhood.
  • Other rooms: You’ll want to pay attention to colors of other rooms, especially adjacent rooms, to make sure the colors work well together.
  • Furniture and décor: If you’ll be keeping the same furniture and décor, make sure to compare your color next to these design pieces to see if the color makes sense.
  • Mood: Are you looking to achieve a specific mood for the room? Look into how color impacts mood – for example, how yellows create an inviting, social space and blues create a relaxing space.
  • Personality: Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. This is your home, and your color choices should be a reflection of your personality.

Choosing a color is difficult, but it’s also very rewarding. Get opinions from friends and family members, and also consider trying digital tools that allow you to import your picture and ‘try on’ different colors. Two options are the Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer website, and the Sherwin Williams ColorSnap app.


The painting process takes time because it includes so many important steps:

  • Prepping the area: Taking down wall hangings, moving furniture, cleaning the surface, protecting the floors, taping areas.
  • Priming:Priming is the process of putting a neutral white, specially-formulated paint on the surface before adding the colored paint. Priming is not always necessary, but there are many reasons why your contractor may suggest to prime before painting.
  • Painting: Actually putting the paint color on the wall, which sometimes requires applying multiple coats.
  • Clean up: Cleaning up the workspace, reinstalling wall hangings, moving furniture back, removing tape.

The painting process may also include special considerations for pets and children, for example, blocking off the area to keep them out and keeping paint and supplies out of reach.

It’s hard to give a general answer to the question of how long it will take for your painting project – it will depend on the size of the room, special considerations (such as priming, extra coats of paint, extra preparation requirements, etc.), and the speed of the workers. When you get your estimate, the contractor should be able to spell out a project timetable, including when work will start, how the project will run, and an estimated completion date.

The good thing is that if you choose a professional contractor who knows what they are doing, they should be able to minimize any disruption to your household. For example, some painting (such as cabinets) can be handled off site, and a good painting company will keep a neat workspace and clean up every day.


After the work is done, you’ll want to keep your painted surfaces beautiful for the long term. The two most common things homeowners do are:

  • Cleaning: Keep your walls and other painted surfaces clean with periodic maintenance. Use a soft cloth or sponge and a mild soap to wipe down walls and other surfaces. Cleaning periodically prevents built up dirt that can be harder to clean (and can lead to paint chipping as you try to clean it).
  • Touch up: Over time your painted surface may get a scratch or chip. Unfortunately it is hard to get touch up paint to match the wall color, but you can do your best by keeping a can of the original paint and diluting it by 5-10 percent. There are DIY instructions online but you could also consider calling the paint company, moving furniture/décor to block the imperfection, or just living with it until your next major painting renovation.

During your estimate and when you do the final walkthrough, you should also talk to your painting contractor about any guarantees or warranties they make. Some companies offer exceptional warranties on both the professional workmanship and materials, as well as scheduling annual inspections to keep your painted surfaces looking beautiful.

Painting is an involved process, but it is one of the best home improvement projects to completely transform the look and feel of your home. This guide should answer all your questions and help you navigate the process with ease.

For over 25 years, our company has been providing professional painting services to San Francisco, East Bay and Contra Costa Counties. If you're a home or condo owner looking to beautify or restore your property, call us to request a free estimate at (510) 655-7000.

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Customer Reviews

“Dear Matt,You must be so proud of your men! They were fantastic to have around. Polite, courteous and hardworking. I am so pleased with the outcome of our home--in fact, I couldn't be any more pleased than I am!”

— Mrs. S
San Leandro

“Hello Matt,Just another notice of thanks to your wonderful crew, Rigoberto, Javier and John. They did fantastic work, with Rigo providing meticulous and conscientious attention to the details and excellent woodwork finishing, as evidenced by the beautiful fireplace. Javier did a fantastic job in the bathroom especially, it looks "brand new," and John always does quality work, both with the interior and exterior. I can tell they care about what they do. Rigo's "punch out" was very thorough, too. I will call again when I need some more work and will definitely recommend your company and fine crew. I also felt as a homeowner, I could leave my house in their good hands during the day and that took a lot of worry from me, they were honest, prompt and reliable. They were also very kind, respectful and clean in their work, very professional. Thank you.”

— Beth Marx & Melissa Kirsch

“In September, MBJessee finished painting two sides of our 3-story condominium building (six owners). We were impressed by the professionalism of the company and every one of its workers, Matt Jessee couldn't have been more helpful in planning the project. His painters were well-trained, easy to communicate with and eager to please. In addition to painting the stucco, they made extensive repairs on windows and frames, which will save us considerable money in the future. They finished earlier than anticipated, with as many as five men working on the job, and the scaffolding came down the next day. All of us were delighted with the results. Now my husband and I are looking forward to having MB Jessee paint our own apartment later this month. Matt and Gustavo (who will be our crew leader again) have explained how they will work to make the painting proceed smoothly while we're living here, and they have been endlessly patient with our protracted decision-making process. If you look at their website, you'll learn that MB Jessee is an exemplary company that takes good care of its workers as well as its customers, and contributes public service projects to the community. All in all, we can't recommend MB Jessee highly enough.”

— Jayne W.
San Francisco, CA

“I can't say enough about how courteous and professional my foreman was. He was on time every morning and arrived cheerful and ready to go. He is highly organized and very thoughtful. He was extremely careful and respectful when moving my belongings - a mature professional.”

— Nora Robinson

“I just wanted to send you an email to say that John did such a great job over here today. He is truly a hard worker. He has the perfect balance of friendliness, honesty, and professionalism. I trust him. He takes the time to do the job to the best of his ability and that is what sets him (and your company) apart from the competition. He didn't make me feel rushed. He really made me feel like our job was the most important thing in the world. Thanks again!”

— Jo

“MB Jessee just finished our exterior and we couldn't be happier with our experience. The foreman (Pedro) and lead painter (Ricardo) were incredible to work with: they communicated scheduling clearly, Ricardo was a joy to be around every day, the showed up early every day, were incredibly tidy and did great paint work. The final walk through experience was incredible. Pedro pointed out items I missed demonstrating a clear desire to complete another quality project. I highly recommend them. As others have noted they definitely aren't the cheapest but you quickly realize that you're getting what you pay for. The 3 year guarantee is also a nice touch since there are likely touch up items that will show up after the job is done.”

— Joshua Jansen

“I want to express my thanks for a job well done. The rooms look great and there is no problem with any marks on the all the trim, floor, carpet, etc. The paint job is lovely. I also want to express my thanks for the level of professionalism the foreman showed in running the job. He was very attentive to any changes I needed to make, was extremely careful in getting the faux paint color and effect correct. Thanks so much for a job well done.”

— Suzan D’Arcy

“Matt, We are very happy with how all of the painting worked out. We were extremely impressed with the quality of the work in the bathroom. I liked working with Victor, he and Marvin were extremely conscientious about doing a great job, not just the minimum. I know the front door took a lot longer than you'd expected. But they did it PERFECTLY. We never thought it could turn out like that! Thanks again for the great work. We'll be calling you again in the future!”

— Craig
Alameda, CA

“MB Jessee just finished our exterior and we couldn't be happier with our experience. The foreman (Pedro) and lead painter (Ricardo) were incredible to work with: they communicated scheduling clearly, Ricardo was a joy to be around every day, the showed up early every day, were incredibly tidy and did great paint work. The final walkthrough experience was incredible. Pedro pointed out items I missed demonstrating a clear desire to complete another quality project. I highly recommend them. As others have noted they definitely aren't the cheapest but you quickly realize that you're getting what you pay for. The 3-year guarantee is also a nice touch since there are likely touch-up items that will show up after the job is done.”

— Joshua J.
Oakland, CA

“The people at M.B. Jessee are great – from the painters to the office staff to Matt. Talk about leadership from the top.”

— Kevin Ames, Mark Becker Homes

“Very easy to work with, they did an outstanding job with our project of re-painting our painting our kitchen cabinets. Given the scope of the job and that our kitchen is roughly half of our upstairs living area they did a fantastic job of minimizing the mess. Workmanship was top notch, would definitely recommend.”

— Vince Scola

“Charles finished yesterday and did a fantastic job. We really enjoyed meeting Charles and having him in our home. He is a great guy in addition to his attention to detail in his work, the protection of our floors, walls and furnishings, and his overall interaction with us both. I would be pleased to recommend him to any of my clients.”

— Ken Morrison