The median annual wage of construction painters was $34,280 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $22,450, and the top 10% earned more than $58,480.
The starting pay for apprentices is usually between 30% and 50% of what fully trained construction painters make. They get pay increases as they gain more skill.
Most construction painters work full time. About 53% of construction painters were self-employed in 2010. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule. Those who paint bridges, buildings, and other structures outside are not able to work when it rains.
Cover floors and furniture with drop-cloths and tarps to protect surfaces
Remove fixtures such as pictures, door knobs, or electric switch covers
Put up scaffolding and set up ladders
Fill holes and cracks with caulk, putty, plaster, or other compounds
Prepare surfaces by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish
Calculate the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed
Apply primers or sealers so the paint will adhere
Choose and mix paints and stains to reach desired color and appearance
Apply paint or other finishes using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers.
Applying paint to interior walls makes surfaces attractive and vibrant. In addition, paints and other sealers protect exterior surfaces from erosion caused by exposure to the weather.
Because there are several ways to apply paint, workers must be able to choose the proper tool for each job, such as the correct roller, power sprayer, and the right size brush. Choosing the right tool typically depends on the surface to be covered and the characteristics of the finish. A few construction painters—mainly industrial—must use special safety equipment. For example, painting in confined spaces such as the inside of a large storage tank, requires workers to wear self-contained suits to avoid inhaling toxic fumes. When painting bridges, tall buildings, or oil rigs, construction painters may work from scaffolding, bosun’s chairs, and harnesses to reach work areas.
Some construction painters learn their trade through a three- or four-year apprenticeship, although a few local unions have additional time requirements. Through technical instruction, apprentices learn how colours go together; to use and care for tools and equipment, prepare surfaces, mix and match paint, and read blueprints; application techniques; characteristics of different finishes; wood finishing; and safety practices.
After completing an apprenticeship program, construction painters are considered journey workers and may do tasks on their own.
Unions and contractors sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:
Minimum age of 18
High school diploma or equivalent
Physically able to do the work
Although the vast majority of workers learn their trade informally on the job or through a formal apprenticeship, some contractors offer their own training program. There is no formal educational requirement, but high school courses in English, math, shop, and blueprint reading can be useful. Also, some two-year technical schools offer courses connected to union and contractor organization apprenticeships. Credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.
Because construction painters apply finishes to a wide variety of structures—from bridges to the interiors and exteriors of buildings—they may work both indoors and out. Painting requires a lot of climbing, bending, kneeling, and stretching. Industrial construction painters typically work outdoors in dry, warm weather. Those who paint bridges or building infrastructure may be exposed to extreme heights and uncomfortable positions; some construction painters work suspended with ropes or cables. Construction painters have a rate of injury and illness that is among the highest of all occupations. Falls from ladders, muscle strains from lifting, and exposure to irritants such as plaster dust are common risks.