As a professional painting contractor, you will be part of the well-established U.S. painting industry. The good news, according to a painter’s market research report released by IBIS World, is that demand for your services should increase as the rate of construction increases. After all, every new home needs a fresh coat of paint lest it get mistaken for an assembled pile of rubble!
According to the report, there are more than 400,000 people employed in the U.S. painting industry, but incredibly there are also 250,000 businesses. This is a clear indication that the majority of companies are one- and two-man Industrial Paint bands with few large organizations. Indeed, the report states that the top three businesses in the industry account for less than 5 percent of the market. Annual revenue stands at $31 billion, and the average annual growth over the last five years is 3.5 percent.
In this article, we take a look at what it means to be involved in the U.S. painting industry. We analyze the growth of the industry and discuss the problems faced by contractors. First up, however, we look at commercial and residential painting as a career choice.
Commercial/Residential Painting as a Career
The fact is that there are tens of thousands of painting contractors without qualifications; homeowners looking for a “cheap and cheerful” job may not even bother to check a contractor’s credentials. Yet this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to follow a certain path towards legitimacy.
While you won’t need specific qualifications if you set up your own business, you will probably require at least a high school diploma and some work experience to get a job with a reputable company. Some contractors will allow you to work as an apprentice for a couple of years fresh out of school, but you will receive a fairly low wage.
In most U.S. states, working as a painting contractor without a license is against the law. When it comes to the construction bidding process, interested contractors must prove they hold a state license by providing a license number with the bid. Every state has its own licensing process and regulations, so find out the rules and regulations in your state. For example, painting contractors in New Mexico need to have two years of experience before becoming a contractor, must pass a licensing exam, and provide proof of financial responsibility.
You also need to become part of the Environmental Protection Agency Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (also known as RRP) program. Contractors are responsible for preventing lead exposure, and being in the RRP program is a necessity to prove you follow safe working practices when dealing with lead-based paints. As a general rule, you can expect to complete a certain amount of hours in business and law classes, pass an exam, and have a specific amount of work experience before you receive your license.
Other credentials you need if you intend on being seen as a reputable painting contractor include a surety bond and liability insurance. The purpose of a surety bond is to protect consumers in case damages occur due to defective work practices or other license law violations, and it also protects employees in case they are not paid their wages. At standard market rates, you will pay 1 to 3 percent of the cost of the total bond, so a $10,000 bond may cost $300.
You need liability insurance to protect yourself in case any legal action is taken against you. It is also important to have insurance in case you sustain a serious injury at work and are laid up for a considerable period of time. Contractors without liability insurance are placing their livelihood at risk.
Should You Join a Union?
For painting contractors in the United States and Canada, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (also known as IUPAT) is your best option if you wish to join a union. It represents North Americans in trades such as floor covering, glazing, drywall finishing, and commercial and industrial painting. There are 140,000 members of IUPAT at the time of writing, and we look at the pros and cons of being a member.
First and foremost, you can expect to be well-paid if you are a union member. For instance, you could earn up to $40 an hour if you have completed a three-year apprentice program. Naturally, wages vary depending on where you live, but you also enjoy an excellent pension plan along with health and dental insurance.
As a member of IUPAT, you are protected against poor working conditions and should be given breaks in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the afternoon. IUPAT also provides free training at its own school, though taking these classes is mandatory. During these lessons, you can expect to learn all aspects of the painting trade, including wood finishing, wallpaper, taping, spraying, and much more.