Do Painting Contractors Need Different Skills for Interior and Exterior Painting?

On the surface, painting seems superficial, leading some people to believe it is easy. While anyone can hold a brush and dip it into a can of paint, not everyone can paint well. A paint job can make or break a home’s look and feel, depending on the painter’s skill level and experience.

Many homeowners choose to go the DIY route to save money. However, some believe hiring a professional painter can help them save more money, which is true. While hiring a professional seems costlier than DIY, it is actually more cost-effective. A professional painter does the job way better, providing quality results that will save you money in the long run.

Some painting contractors only offer interior or exterior painting, while others offer both. Every painter may have skill sets that are different from the others. The fundamental steps of interior and exterior painting are the same: cleaning and prepping the surface, priming (if needed), painting, clean-up, and inspection. However, interior and exterior painting differ in many ways.

The Differences Between Interior and Exterior Painting
Interior and exterior painting jobs differ in several key aspects, including the type of paint used, preparation required, and environmental considerations. Here are the main differences:

Paint Types

Interior Paint:

  • Formulation: Interior paint is more resistant to abrasion and easier to clean. It often has lower VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels to minimize indoor air pollution.
  • Finish: Common finishes include matte, eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss. These finishes are chosen based on the desired look and functionality (e.g., satin and semi-gloss are easier to clean and often used in kitchens and bathrooms).
  • Durability: It can withstand routine cleaning and contact but not extreme weather conditions.

Exterior paint:

  • Formulation: Exterior paint contains additives to resist fading, mildew, and harsh weather conditions such as rain, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations. It typically has higher VOC levels.
  • Finish: Often comes in finishes like flat, satin, and gloss. Gloss finishes are more durable and easier to clean, making them suitable for trim.
  • Durability: Designed to withstand environmental factors and maintain appearance over time.


Interior painting:

  • Surface prep: It usually involves cleaning the walls, filling holes and cracks, sanding, and priming. Interiors are generally free from severe dirt and contaminants.
  • Protection: Furniture and flooring need to be covered or moved. Proper ventilation is necessary to reduce fumes.

Exterior painting:

  • Surface prep: Often requires more extensive preparation, including power washing to remove dirt and mold, scraping off loose paint, sanding, filling gaps with caulk, and priming.
  • Protection: Landscaping, walkways, and other exterior features must be protected from paint splatters and spills. Weather conditions must also be considered to avoid painting during rain or extreme temperatures.

Environmental considerations

Interior painting:

  • Ventilation: Good ventilation is crucial to reduce the inhalation of fumes. Windows and doors should be opened, and fans used to circulate air.
  • Temperature and humidity: Ideally performed in moderate temperature and low humidity to ensure proper drying and curing of paint.

Exterior painting:

  • Weather: Weather conditions play a significant role. Painting should be done during dry, mild weather to ensure proper adhesion and drying. Paint should not be applied during rain, extreme heat, or cold.
  • Environmental exposure: Exterior paint must withstand exposure to sunlight, moisture, wind, and temperature changes.

Tools and techniques

Male worker painting a white wall

Interior painting:

  • Tools: Generally involves brushes, rollers, and occasionally spray guns for large areas.
  • Techniques: Techniques focus on achieving a smooth, even finish, often involving multiple thin coats.

Exterior painting:

  • Tools: Often includes larger brushes, rollers, and spray guns. Ladders, scaffolding, and sometimes pressure washers are used.
  • Techniques: Techniques emphasize durability and coverage, sometimes requiring thicker coats and more extensive preparation.

Understanding these differences helps ensure that the right products and methods are used for each painting job, resulting in a long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing finish.

Do Painters Need Different Skills for Interior and Exterior Painting?
In general, yes. Painters must have different skills for interior and exterior painting due to the varying requirements and challenges associated with each type of project. Here are some key differences:

Interior painting skills:

  • Surface preparation: Interior painters must be adept at preparing surfaces, including patching holes, sanding, and cleaning walls to ensure a smooth finish.
  • Attention to detail: Fine detail work is essential for painting trim, baseboards, and other intricate areas inside a home.
  • Knowledge of finishes: Understanding different types of paint finishes (e.g., matte, satin, semi-gloss) and where to use them within a home is crucial.
  • Indoor environment management: Painters need to manage ventilation, protect furniture, and ensure minimal disruption to the living space.

Exterior painting Skills:

  • Weather conditions: Exterior painters must consider weather conditions and choose appropriate times for painting to ensure proper drying and adherence.
  • Surface durability: They need to be familiar with durable paints and primers that can withstand various weather elements, such as rain, sun, and wind.
  • Preparation of different surfaces: Exterior surfaces may include wood, brick, metal, or stucco, each requiring specific preparation techniques.
  • Safety: Working on ladders or scaffolding is often necessary for exterior painting, requiring safety skills and equipment knowledge.

Both interior and exterior painting require a solid understanding of paint types and application techniques, but the context in which these skills are applied can differ significantly.

Skills and Services Other Than Painting

Here are some of the other skills and services commonly associated with professional painters:

  • Surface preparation: This step includes sanding, scraping, patching holes, and cleaning surfaces to ensure the paint adheres properly.
  • Color consultation: Offering advice on color schemes and finishes that best suit the space and client preferences.
  • Knowledge of materials: Understanding different types of paints, primers, and finishes, as well as their appropriate applications.
  • Application techniques: Proficiency in using various tools like brushes, rollers, and sprayers, and techniques such as cutting in, rolling, and spraying.
  • Detail work: Skills in fine detail work, such as painting trim, moldings, and intricate designs.
  • Wallpaper installation and removal: Some painters also offer services for applying and removing wallpaper.
  • Minor carpentry: Tasks like repairing or installing baseboards, molding, and other woodwork that may need to be done before painting.
  • Drywall repair: Fixing or patching drywall to create a smooth surface for painting.
  • Staining and finishing: Applying stains and finishes to wood surfaces such as floors, cabinets, and furniture.
  • Safety practices: Knowledge of safety practices, including using ladders, scaffolding, and personal protective equipment.
  • Project management: Managing timelines, budgets, and client expectations to ensure they complete their projects satisfactorily.
  • Environmental considerations: Understanding and using eco-friendly products and practices, such as low-VOC paints.

These skills and services make painters versatile professionals capable of handling various aspects of a painting project beyond just applying paint to walls. A painting contractor with a broader skill set is generally more in demand among customers.


Interior and exterior painting requires a solid understanding of paint types and application techniques, but the context in which these skills are applied can differ significantly. Painting is also a multi-faceted job, which explains painters often need various skills and may offer additional services beyond mere painting.

The more skills a painting contractor has, the more valuable they become to customers looking for a seamless, high-quality, and efficient service. The next time you need a professional painter, turn to Custom Painting, Inc. We make elevating the look and feel of your home less complicated and more convenient. Book a free consultation today by calling us at 925-866-9610 or messaging us via our online contact form