painter and decorator
Painters and decorators use a range of coverings to enhance and protect surfaces. These surfaces could include plaster, metal and wood. If you like practical work and enjoy being artistic, this could be a perfect career for you.
To be a painter and decorator, you should have good practical and creative skills. You will need to be able to work carefully and pay attention to detail. Sometimes you’ll need a good head for heights.
Employers often prefer people with some relevant experience. You could start by looking for work as a painter and decorator's labourer or 'mate'.
As a painter and decorator, you would work on a variety of domestic and industrial projects ranging from re-decorating homes to applying heavy-duty finishes to large structures like bridges.
On a domestic job, you would use paint, varnishes and wallpaper to decorate rooms. You would follow the householder's instructions about choice of colour, finishing texture and wallpaper patterns. Your main tasks would include:
- measuring surface areas to work out how much paint or wall covering you need
- stripping off old wallpaper or paint
- filling holes and cracks and making sure surfaces are level
- preparing surfaces with primer and undercoat
- mixing paint to the right shade, either by hand or using computerised colour-matching equipment
- applying layers of paint and hanging wallpaper
- tidying up after finishing a job.
On some jobs you might apply specialist finishes such as rag rolling, graining and marbling. You would often work from ladders or raised platforms to reach ceilings.
For industrial projects, such as bridges or ships, you would remove old paintwork with abrasive blasting methods before applying new coatings using industrial paint spraying equipment. You would use a cradle or safety harness when working.
Paints and solvents give off fumes, so you may have to wear a protective mask or use fume extraction equipment on some jobs, if in enclosed spaces.
You would work around 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Extra hours may be necessary to meet deadlines.
You would be expected to travel from site to site and some jobs may require overnight stays away from home.
Starting salaries can be between £14,500 and £17,000 a year.
Average salaries for qualified painters and decorators are between £17,500 and £23,000 a year. Decorators with supervisor duties or specialist skills can earn over £23,000 a year.
Overtime and shift allowances can increase income. Self-employed painters and decorators set their own pay rates.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Employers often prefer people with some relevant experience, so you could start by looking for work as a painter and decorator's labourer or 'mate'. Once you are working, your employer may give you the chance to take further training in painting and decorating. See the Training and development section below for more details.
Another option is to take a college course, which would give you some of the skills needed to start in this job. Courses include:
- Level 1 Award/Certificate in Basic Construction Skills (Painting and Decorating)
- Level 1 Certificate in Construction Crafts - Painting and Decorating
- Level 1/2/3 Diploma in Painting and Decorating.
For more details about courses and entry requirements, contact your local college.
You may be able to start your career by joining an Apprenticeship scheme. You will need to check which schemes are available in your area. To find out more about Apprenticeships, see the Apprenticeships website.
Training and development
Once you are working, you could take further work-based qualifications to develop your career. Qualifications are generally split into two areas of work, depending on your job:
- Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Decorative Finishing and Painting Occupations - Painter (includes brush and roller techniques for interiors and exteriors, fitting and hanging wall coverings, specialised finishes, and installing coving and ceiling centre pieces)
- Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Decorative Finishing and Industrial Painting Occupations (includes preparing work areas with special treatments, abrasive blasting, applying industrial finishes and paint spraying methods).
Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
Many building contractors will want you to have a CSCS card before you can work on their sites. The card is proof of your skills and ability to carry out the job safely. To get your card, you must:
- pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test
- prove your occupational competence (by holding appropriate qualifications).
If you are working without qualifications, you may be able to use the On-site Assessment Workshop or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) schemes to gain a qualification and qualify for a CSCS card. See the Assessment Workshop and EWPA websites