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Angie's List: Painting Your Home

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- When it comes to home improvement, painting is one of easiest and least expensive ways to spruce up a room. However, there are many factors that can influence how your project will turn out. In this week's Angie's list report, Jim Donovan has a look at some things you should know before starting your next paint project.

Brad Stutler recently had his kitchen painted and plans to have several other rooms painted too.

"Like many people, I've got three little kids, so there are many stains and scratches and nicks on the wall," said Stutler.

A fresh coat of paint is a great way to fix those flaws. It can also boost your home's value. Plus, a change in color can give any room an entirely different look. Paint experts say blues and grays are the latest color trend.

"But the grays aren't traditional grays, they are more earth-toned grays, a little softer than just a steel gray, so it's a little warmer finish," said painting contractor Sean Eichenberg.

Once you've picked the perfect color, you'll have to decide on what type of finish is best for the area you're painting.

"If you have a bathroom that's a high humidity area, you'd want a higher sheen paint, an eggshell or a satin. That way it would be moisture-resistant and clean up a little bit better," said Eichenberg.

If you're thinking of doing the painting yourself, it's important to recognize the importance of prepping the area so it holds up well.

"A lot of times people tackle this project themselves, but you need to understand when you're over your head because a good paint job is dependent on the prep work. If you have walls that need a lot of repair or resurfacing hiring a professional may be well worth the money. If you have tricky have trim work, that might not be the room you want to test on," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks.

More from Angie:

• Colors: Simply thinking about what color would look best on a wall isn't enough to ensure a positive paint job. Choosing the right color involves looking at an interior space with a very critical eye. Look through color catalogues and paint samples.

• Finish: Once you've picked the perfect color, you still have to decide on what type of paint you want for the space. Whether you're looking for an elegant, refined finish or a material that will wipe clean after an impromptu mural from your little one, there are paint types to suite every situation.

• Flat-finish: Good for covering up mistakes, and is therefore ideal for large areas like walls.

• Satin finish: Has more luster and is more durable, so it is ideal for high-traffic areas like hallway walls.

• Semi-gloss finish: More durable, shiny and water resistant, making it ideal for areas like bathrooms.

• Gloss finish: The most durable and water resistant, but it also is the most likely to show brush strokes. Glossy finish is usually more appropriate for surfaces like trim and door frames that take a lot of abuse.

• Prep work: Before you start to paint, it's important to properly prepare the walls for painting. Fix any imperfection to ensure your painting job holds up well.

Painting is one home improvement task many homeowners can do and do well. However, there are several reasons that it might be a good idea to hire a professional interior painter - experience, tools and responsibility.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a painter:

• Experience: How long has the contractor been in business? This trade can have high turnover. Make sure you hire someone who has been operating for two years or longer. Also, do they keep up on the latest products and techniques?

• Employees vs. subs: Does the contractor have employees? If so, are they direct employees, meaning they receive a paycheck from the contractor, or are they considered subcontractors? If they are direct employees, the contractor's workers' compensation and general liability insurance policies should cover them. If they are subcontractors, they should have their own insurance policies. Either way, the contractor should give you a copy of proof of insurance both for their business and any subcontractors, if necessary.

• Licensing: Does the painting contractor have a state-issued license, general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance? It is absolutely critical that the contractor has all necessary insurance and licenses. A reputable, licensed and insured contractor will have all the proper documents. Remember, it protects them and any workers they may have on site, as well as you and your home.

• Prep work: What kind of preparation work does the contractor do? A cheaper job will skimp on the prep work to cut corners. A good painting contractor will take the time to do everything that should be done, what they have stated they will do and what you both agreed would be done. The workmanship will show in the end, good or bad.

• Call references: Can your contractor provide them? Call references and ask questions about how the company worked, communicated and addressed the homeowners' needs.

• Get a formal estimate: Make sure the contractor puts the scope of the project, materials they will use and amount of prep work in a written contract, not on the back of business card or a haphazardly drawn-up dollar figure on a piece of paper. A professional painting contractor provides their clients with written contracts and specifications.

• Is there a guarantee? Besides the guarantee offered on the products by the paint manufacturers, most reputable painting contractors will offer a warranty on the application/preparation process. Get it in writing.

• Cost: There are many factors to consider when getting an estimate such as number of coats, square footage, prep work, etc. Get three bids and compare apples to apples.

• Contract: Review contract details before signing on the dotted line. A good contract will include the type of finishes and colors as well as the number of coats and the pricing for additional coats. Quality products are key so be sure your contractor is using what you want.

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