How to become a house painter

About the job:

House painters apply paint, stain and coatings to walls and ceilings and more. Commercial painters might also work on buildings, bridges and large machinery.

Golden Boys Painting, a Henrietta-based business, focuses specifically on house painting. Owner Dan Cavagnaro said exterior jobs usually start in late May. “The biggest challenge – we call it playing chess – is maneuvering around the weather,” Cavagnaro said.

Interior work is entirely different, he added. “You’re working in someone’s house, with their valuables, with their kids. When we’re there, you have to treat (their home) as your own. There’s a ‘hand-holding process.’”

A lot of preparatory work is involved, like scraping off loose paint, setting up tarps and picking up new paint. Exterior work might require power washing. Golden Boys also has worked on decks.

Qualities needed:

Being personable, communicating and working well with others and trustworthiness were traits that Cavagnaro mentioned. Painters shouldn’t have a fear of heights, because they might be working up high (particularly with exterior and commercial work). Cavagnaro also said punctuality is essential as well as just showing up, ready to work.

“I always say, I hire character first, and can teach skill,” Cavagnaro said.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that painting can be physically demanding, with lots of bending, kneeling, reaching and climbing.

Education/training needed:

No formal education is needed, and no licensing or certification is needed for painters in New York state. “You don’t need a lot to get started,” Cavagnaro said. On-the-job training is typical.

Cavagnaro has been painting professionally for nearly 20 years and incorporated Golden Boys Painting in 2012. His company has four employees. He noted that painters can get a job at age 18 and start making money immediately, and said painters could advance to become subcontractors.

What the job pays:

House painters make less than commercial painters, but Cavagnaro said the work environment is “way better.” House painters can expect to make $15 to $25 per hour, he said, while the prevailing wage for commercial painters is $30 to $40 per hour.

According to the New York state Department of Labor, the median salary for “painters, construction and maintenance” (lumped together) is about $38,000 in the Finger Lakes region.

The job picture:

The need for painters is there, and the work demand is ongoing, Cavagnaro said. “I can’t stress the need,” Cavagnaro said. “There are tons of (opportunities). You go on any website, and the list (for jobs) is endless…We turn away dozens of jobs, because there’s not enough workforce. It’s always a struggle to find help.”

Golden Boys has done a lot of work lately painting customers’ kitchen cabinets, he noted.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth in the profession as flat, but notes that “openings are expected to arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.”


“We’re not doing rocket science here,” Cavagnaro said. “There’s so much opportunity to make this (profession) your own. Attention to detail is so, so important.”

Where to learn more:

Cavagnaro said national paint retailer Sherwin Williams has a great website with training information and videos. The website is (search “careers”). The Painting Contractors Association website is

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Alan Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.

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