What’s the Difference Between Commercial Painting and Residential Painting?

To the average person, painting is all the same, regardless of the scope of the job or the type of building to be painted. Unlike residential painting that involves relatively small tasks, commercial painting deals with office buildings, schools, sports arenas, and many other huge establishments. 

Needless to say, commercial painting involves more complexity, something the Commercial Brisbane Painters can attest to. Of course, some companies can handle both types of painting tasks though most choose to specialize in one type.

The main differences between residential and commercial painting involve the following factors.

Size of the project

By definition, anything considered to be at a commercial level is usually a large-scale undertaking involving significant division of labor. It is the same with painting. Commercial painters are all about big projects. They do painting jobs for shopping malls, retail stores, airports, stadiums, skyscrapers and may be involved in many stages of other large-scale construction projects.

Residential painters usually do the painting in small homes and apartment buildings. Their services may extend to painting things like kitchen cabinets and decks. Exceptions do occur. Sometimes, a huge residential home like a sprawling mansion may require a painting job. While technically a residence, most residential painters may not be able to handle such a job because of the sheer size of the house. In such cases, commercial painters may be called in.

Materials and equipment

This area presents one of the biggest differences between commercial painters and their counterparts doing residential paintings. The scope of residential painting is usually small. This means that nearly all the material and equipment for such jobs can be found at your local hardware store. Things like step ladders and painting trays are among the necessities. Residential paint is usually classified as oil-based, water-based, or latex-based paint. The ease with which such materials and equipment can be acquired partly explains why many homeowners fancy themselves as competent painters.

On the other hand, commercial painting requires vast experience in handling and dealing with different types of surfaces. Wood, concrete, and asphalt are numerous types of surfaces that require commercial painting expertise and experience. Here, much of the equipment needed is also advanced. Things like aerial lifts and pressure washers are among the many complicated and sometimes dangerous pieces of equipment used in commercial painting.

Services provided

The services offered by both commercial and residential contractors can be very similar in many aspects. However, there are major differences.

Residential painting contractors do the painting jobs of an average house or apartment, involving walls and other small surfaces like cement siding and vinyl. Some can be trained to do the odd construction task that may arise during some painting jobs. Other services they offer may include plaster and drywall repair, cabinet painting, and wallpaper removal.

Commercial painters usually offer more advanced services than residential painting contractors. In addition to large-scale painting, commercial painters also do concrete ceiling repairs, brick waterproofing, stenciling, and much more. Some services like industrial coating are delicate when, for example, the building being worked on will house dangerous industrial products.


It’s easy to forget that the amount of paint needed for any particular task depends on the wall surfaces to be painted. Painting a one-bedroom apartment, for instance, requires a few paint containers compared to painting a shopping mall. Because commercial painters usually work on a large scale, they tend to require very large amounts of paint compared to residential painters. Good-quality paint is crucial for good painting. Using poor quality paint can mean the paint starts to come off, needing repainting. This can increase the total cost of a project if the repainting needed is on a massive scale.


Residential painting projects are usually small and easy to manage. The painter can promptly talk to the homeowner and resolve any minor issues. There are usually many moving parts with commercial painting projects that need to be handled carefully. Because of their large size, commercial painting outfits may have several mid-level management teams. A large project can, therefore, require approval and micro-management at several levels. This level of complexity can slow things down as the actual painter may sometimes need the approval to perform a certain task. Also, commercial painting companies usually have to contend with local and federal guidelines, environmental issues, and safety concerns for their workers. In the latter case, local regulations may require that all workers wear protective gear at the site of any painting. Therefore, the risk of injury and liability is much more prevalent for commercial painters than for commercial ones.

Understanding these differences helps you choose the kind of painters most suited for your needs.

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