When selecting paints, remember that most will resist cracking, peeling, mold, and mildew. Who does the painting—and how well they do it—is more important than what’s in the bucket. To help you find a pro who will do the job right, our Ratings Tables report ratings and reviews from local consumers on painting businesses they’ve used.

Many people do their own painting, but you’ll probably want to hire an expert if you’re putting a few coats on every room or the exterior of a house two stories or higher. If your home was built before the 1978 lead paint ban, you’ll want a pro to deal with that.

When selecting paint or working with a contractor to select it, first check Consumer Reports’ paint ratings. In its tests, some relatively inexpensive paints performed better than more expensive ones and cost $10 to $20 less per gallon.

To choose a contractor, have several candidates inspect the job and provide proposals. After you compare proposals and prices—you’ll likely find huge price differences for the same job. Have the contractor you choose put everything in writing. The contract should include prep work; specifics on paint brand and color; number of coats; and a full description of the work, including frequently omitted items such as cabinet interiors and shutters.

No matter who does the job, expect a lot of prep work before the actual brushing and rolling begin. We provide tips for painting inside and outside.