Painting may be the most common DIY project, but sometimes you’re better off sending an SOS and calling in a painting contractor. So says Deborah Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute, part of the Dow Chemical Company. Here’s her list of when to cry uncle:

There’s extensive prep work. If there are layers of old paint that are peeling or chipping, or holes or major cracks in the walls, you could spend days prepping. And homes built before 1978 may have lead-based paint. In that case, hire a pro who’s certified in lead removal by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The wallpaper must go. It has to be stripped before you can paint or the surface won’t be smooth.

Details, details. Decorative crown molding and chair railings are reasons to steer clear, especially when you want them to be a different color than the walls.

Heave-ho. Moving heavy furniture to another room isn’t easy. And if you have a piano, consider hiring a piano mover to prevent any damage as it’s wheeled from one room to another. Or move it to the center of the room and cover it.

Beyond your reach. After renting a special ladder or scaffolding to paint your two-story foyer or stairway, you might decide the job really isn’t so DIY after all.



Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.