5 Differences Between Commercial And Residential Painting

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There are several prominent differences between commercial and residential painting, though many painting contractors offer both services to various clients. These two jobs require different paint formulations and also entail varied scopes of work and services, tools and equipment, and expertise.  

Commercial painting is primarily done on business establishments and buildings, while residential painting is intended for houses, apartments, and other forms of living spaces. Though painting shops and homes aim to give interior or exterior structures a fresh coat of paint or color, painters use a different approach for each type of project.  

If you'd like to know more about the differences between commercial and residential painting, here are a few points you may find helpful:  

Scope Of Work

Commercial painting projects typically have more extensive work than residential jobs, especially if the location is a business establishment. Examples of these establishments are office buildings, churches, schools, government offices, retail stores, and other establishments. Meanwhile, residential painting mainly involves work on any dwelling place, such as single-detached homes, apartment complexes, condominiums, and the like.

Since commercial establishments often come with square footage, they're considered more significant projects that entail more work. As labor commonly makes up 80% to 85% of paint job charges, it's essential to understand your contractor's basis for calculating fees to help you prepare for the project's expenses.  

Some contractors charge per square foot, while others may base their rate on the number of rooms, which is more applicable in residential jobs. It's also possible for home painting contractor to charge by the hours or days worked, though it's not considered standard practice.  

Services Offered

There are various services involved in painting commercial and residential spaces. For commercial spaces, painting contractors may offer different services relevant to commercial painting. This may include coating, waterproofing, and repairs.

On the other hand, for residential spaces, a painting project may entail interior or exterior painting or staining. Other tasks may be required before a new color is applied to surfaces, including power washing, sanding, scraping, and caulking or sealing. The cost of exterior prep tasks ranges from USD$25 to USD$50 per hour.  

Painting Equipment Required

The painting equipment used for commercial and residential painting also differ. Commercial painting projects commonly involve the following power tools and industrial equipment:

⦁   Aerial lifts

⦁   Scaffolding

⦁   Power washers

⦁   Sandblasters

⦁   Paint sprayers

It's important to note that not all contractors have the equipment required for complex painting projects. Hence, essential to acquire the services of those adequately equipped to achieve the desired results.    

Meanwhile, residential painting commonly requires only essential tools and equipment, such as paint brushes and rollers, long handles or bars for hard-to-reach surfaces, ladders, and paint sprays. The job can be done with simple tools because painting houses is less complex than working in commercial establishments.  

Paint Formulation

Another way commercial and residential painting differ is with paint formulation. There are two types of paint used: exterior and interior. Usually, exterior paint is formulated to endure various harsh weather conditions, extreme elements, intense ultraviolet rays, and cracking, among others. Meanwhile, interior paint is formulated to be easy to clean and repel stains, which are less intense because they don’t have the same exposure as that outdoors.

That said, a commercial painting contractor may opt for paint that’s formulated with fire deterrents, anti-corrosive compounds, and chemicals that enhance energy efficiency. Whereas, a house painting contractor may use basic paint to put a fresh coat and improve the aesthetic quality of a room or an area in the house.

Project Duration

A painting project's completion depends on several factors, though one of the most essential is the scope and complexity of the work required. For instance, large-scale commercial painting projects would cover square footage and entail more detailed or complex processes. Because of this, commercial painting work usually take more time to complete than residential types.  

Another aspect contributing to project duration is the location's availability for continuous work. For instance, commercial establishments may have limited availability, especially if the business stays open during the project. Owners prefer shorter workaround times to avoid losing essential business hours and revenue.  

On the other hand, in a residence, contractors can work uninterrupted if the area is closed off until the completion of the project. The result can also be scheduled during regular hours.  

The project duration also depends on the type of paint used. For instance, painters working in residential places requiring oil-based paints will have to wait 24 hours before applying the second coat. These wait times can also influence the timelines for project completion.  


Commercial and residential painting has different requirements regarding the scope and locations of work, types of services offered, tools and equipment used, and project duration. Moreover, painters come with various levels of expertise; some may be more knowledgeable and skilled to take on one type of job than another. Because of these, it's essential to consult an expert before you hire painting contractor to ensure you acquire the services that would best match your needs.

MIT Citations

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How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Painter? Forbes

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James, F. (2022, January 14).

How Much Does It Cost to Paint the Exterior of a House? The Spruce

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Jill, C. (2022 April 19).

How to Pick Paint Colors for Interior Rooms. This Old House

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