What does the job involve?
Painting and decorating adds the final touch to our built environment. The job involves work both inside and outside, painting walls, windows, woodwork and other fixtures. You’ll frequently need to work at height on scaffolds, gantries or safety cradles and even up ladders.
You could be working on renovations or new construction projects or even painting large structures such as pylons or bridges. In addition to painting, you’ll be required to prepare surfaces with fillers and abrasives. You may have to strip off old finishes and wall coverings before applying the new. And you’ll need the skills to hang wallpapers and fix other decorative finishes using adhesives.
Decorators need to take special pains to clean the site after work, and to clean and maintain tools and equipment. The work can be physically demanding, especially if you’re working for sustained periods with your arms above your head. In addition, you can face exposure to mildly hazardous substances like spirit-based paints, adhesives and cleaners.
What is a carpenter’s salary?
Decorators’ pay can vary according to location, and from employer to employer. Starting pay is in the region of £15,000 per year, rising to £25,000 with additional skills, training and experience.
The most experienced decorators can earn up to £30,000, with self-employed painters and decorators setting their own rates.
These figures are intended as a guideline only.
What skills do I need?
Painters and decorators need patience and dedication to achieve an excellent finish, especially in renovation projects. You’ll need a good eye for detail to ensure that measurements are accurate and that patterns and cuts are properly aligned. You may work with a variety of different materials, and will need a working knowledge of the suitability of each to a given application, and the skills necessary to apply different finishes.
Painters and decorators need a good grasp of arithmetic and geometry to correctly calculate and gauge quantities, minimising wasted materials.
Painting and decorating can be physically demanding (especially when working outside). The profession is traditionally male-dominated but more and more women are entering the trade.
What qualifications do I need?
There are opportunities to train on the job, starting out as a decorator’s assistant or ‘mate’. Many colleges offer good courses to teach you basic and more advanced skills and techniques.
The City & Guilds programme offers an Introduction to Decorating and a more detailed C&G course (6707) Levels 1 to 3, which covers the principles of building construction, information and communication. It also includes essential health & safety training, and will enable you to organise, plan and price jobs effectively.
Decorators need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card if they’re working on building sites.
What are the hours and conditions?
Decorators usually work a 35 to 40-hour week, Monday to Friday.
Whether working indoors or outdoors, decorators tend to be among the last teams on site. If you’re working inside, the building will almost always be roofed and glazed to create a dry envelope. Cold and wet weather is never optimal for decorating. But nonetheless, some modern finishes can withstand application in the face of bad weather, meaning decorators also need to be able to put up with cold and damp conditions when working outdoors.
The work can be noisy and dusty especially when using sandblasters or other power abrasives to prepare surfaces prior to finishing. Decorators may encounter further hazards when working at height. And using hazardous solvents and materials may mean that personal protective equipment like gloves, overalls and safety glasses are essential.
Experienced decorators can progress to team supervisors or move into related areas such as estimating and contract management.
Areas of specialism
Decorating opens up a number of interesting creative opportunities for specialism, including interior design or set building.
Artisans with the right know how and expertise can develop specialist skills in areas like paint spraying. And there are opportunities for skilled experts in many arcane techniques and materials, with applications for heritage restoration projects.
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