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How Much Does It Cost To Restore A Painting?

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At first glance, this painting seemed like it should have had a lot of color but there was this overall smoggy, dark look. In fact, you can see by the cleaning test on the upper left side that the original colors are extremely different/brighter. This oil on canvas painting’s surface is very grimy; imagine the walls of your home if you didn’t paint them for 80 years!  Add to that a moderately yellowed varnish leaving the original colors dim and darker than the artist had originally intended and the painting looking nothing like it is supposed to.

Besides needing a cleaning, towards the lower left side of the painting, there is a tear which also means there is flaking paint. Fortunately, though, this tear is not in a main focal point of the painting. As it is, the small tear won’t impact the value of this $15,000.00 painting. But if it had been in a focal area or disturbed a main subject matter, it would have. Conservation professionals are not appraisers and it’s actually not ethical according to our national code of ethics to give values to clients in order get the work approved.

The treatments will include repairing the tear, consolidating or stabilizing the flaking, cleaning the grime layer and the varnish layers, fill with gesso any spots of missing paint where it flaked and then to inpaint the loss so you can’t see where the damage used to be.  After restoration the painting will have brighter colors, enhanced depth of field, the tear will disappear and the varnish will look even and clear.

In this case, the total cost was $1,380.00. But that number could vary, a lot, buy the difficulty of the removal of the grime and varnish, the sensitivity to solvents of the original paint, the size of the rip, the amount of lost paint, whether there are cracks in the paint layers that need to be laid down and more. So, as you can see, each project is a custom job. There is no per square inch pricing that someone can give you over the phone.

If someone is willing to give you a per square inch price, then they are smoothing over unseen problems instead of correcting them. They also may be just doing whatever it takes to make the painting “look” better but ignoring important issues that impact long term preservation. You also may have to settle for inferior workmanship.

Let me give you a hypothetical example: Let’s say the painting in the photo above were estimated for you at $500.00 to do everything. Is that a good deal? Here’s what you would get for your money:

1. The restorer would wipe down the surface of the painting with a rag to remove the grime only (not including the varnish). Because the painting now looks brighter, you will see a big difference and think its clean when actually there’s another disfiguring layer of varnish still left behind.

2. The rip can be patched instead of the fibers “rewoven” and “welded” together.

3. Then a smear of putty over the lost paint and a repainting of the ripped area with a broad brush possibly adding a bush or two to help camouflage the retouching. This will confuse the eye and obliterate the rip.

4. A new varnish makes it all look fresh and new.

The result:

1. The painting is not as clean and colorful as it could be.

2. The patch will cause a bulge in the future, look unsightly and cause flaking

3. The overabundance of retouching that does not respect the artist’s original work impacts the value. If it is done in oil and dries harder than the original painting, it will not be able to be removed in the future without damaging the artwork.

This quick example is worth gold to you when you evaluate previous restorations (when buying) and when having your artwork restored. Here’s a link to a valuable analytical tool you can carry with you to help you see previous restorations: www.tipsforartcollectors.org/blacklight-package.

As the curator of your collections, caveat emptor.

Questions about conservation/restoration? Call us toll free at 888-704-7757

Questions about preparing your stuff for an earthquake or hurricane? Click on this link: www.tipsforfineartcollectors.org/museumwax-package/

Questions about art and antique appraisals? Call Richard at (805) 895-5121

Questions about working with an insurance claim? Call us toll free at 888-704-7757

Also see: www.tipsforartcollectors.org
www.insurancepersonalpropertyassessment.com

What can you do at home or at the office to protect and save your artwork and collectibles from damage in an earthquake or hurricane?

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48 Responses to “How Much Does It Cost To Restore A Painting?”

  1. Very good information. Our prices are fair and we warn people about the risks of paying too little for restoration, especially when the restorer will not give you a few quality references.

    Life on the Wall
    Oil Painting Restoration Houston Texas
    http://www.lifeinthewall.net

  2. Very good information. Our prices are fair and we warn people about the risks of paying too little for restoration, especially when the restorer will not give you a few quality references.

    Life on the Wall
    Oil Painting Restoration Houston Texas
    http://www.lifeinthewall.net

  3. Ryan says:

    I loved your post. Art restoration is something that I’ve always wondered about.

  4. Scott says:

    Emma-Louise,
    Great questions and very common concerns but, perhaps more info than a comment response can address. You may call me (805 564 3438) and I will take the time on the phone to discuss with you the answers to your questions. Also, in a generic (but useful) sort of way, you may be interested in another website I am rebuilding (after it got hacked) where I talk to Collectors: http://www.tipsforartcollectors.org
    TTYS
    Scott

  5. Emma-Louise says:

    Hi, I am thinking of buying a painting from an auction in Europe (which I probably will not get to see/inspect in advance). It has been relined and I want to know how much this reduces a painting’s value. It is dated 1876 and is by a popular British artist and the size is 51 x 76 cm. The estimate of 4,000 euros seems very cheap (at least half it’s value) and I was wondering if this is purely due to the relining or merely because it is being sold abroad rather than in the UK. What do you think? If relining reduces a painting’s value by that much then I would not want to buy it.
    Also, I would be grateful if you could let me know what questions I should ask the auction house as to it’s condition.
    Many thanks!

  6. Scott says:

    Thanks Robin for your question. Of course, there’s a difference in price and quality of work from someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and someone who does a profession-expert job.

  7. laurent says:

    Thanks for the tips for renove a old painting. I am a novice in painting but my grandfather have a lot of paints

  8. akash says:

    This is a very good article. Damage to oil paintings is serious and repair costs should be relatively high.thanks for sharing

  9. Robin RULE says:

    A friend asked if I could restore an 75 year old painting of her father that had soot damage from a fire. (I am a oil painter). There is no way I can help except to find help. The painting is buckled and needs to be put on a wood panel or lined canvas. The canvas looks very fragile to me. The painting is about 14 X 16″. She does not want retouching altho there are several areas missing paint. How much would it cost to just reline the canvas or mount it on wood, it has carpet tacks holding it to the stretchers now? I realize only a rough estimate can be given with out examining the painting.
    R. Rule

  10. Scott says:

    Holly, the art conservation process, unfortunately is often a “discovery process” and unforeseen situations arise. Of course, the more inexperienced the art conservator or restorer is, the more unforeseen situations arise! But it is entirely unprofessional, in my opinion, that someone would go over their estimate by more than 10% and not call you to give you the chance to make a new decision. The restorer should know within an hours worth of work whether they are into unforeseeable problems or whether the project will go as estimated. In our lab we have a cardinal rule to notify the client when unforeseeable situations arise in order to give them a choice to go ahead… or the art conservator that didn’t follow protocol eats the extra time and must finish the work on their own time. Sorry for your experience but glad you got quality work done for you, in the end.
    Scott

  11. Markette Cooper says:

    This is a very good article. Damage to oil paintings is serious and repair costs should be relatively high.

  12. Holly says:

    Hi Scott,
    Great site, glad I found it. Have a touchy question and I hope you might address it, at least in general terms. Have 2 portraits have had restored (haven’t seen them yet), and was given a quote of Apx. $1600 – 1700 for both of them. They had fungus issues and the paint was beginning to flake off. I just received the bill and will get them this week. The final bill was $4270. More than 2 1/2 times the estimate. The person doing this has extremely good background and I am trusting that they will be lovely. Obviously, the needed work was much more extensive. However, in the almost 2 months, she never emailed me stating that the estimate would be much higher. I might have told her not to continue at that price, unfortunately, because of my budget – but I had not told her before hand. Now, I will of course pay, but am quite amazed and my question to you is …… Is this common in the restoration world; to have such a huge discrepancy between an estimate and actual price? I will ask what constituted the difference when we meet. She has done beautiful work, and I mean no disrespect, I am just wondering and any light you could shed I appreciate.
    Thank you kindly,
    Holly

  13. Scott says:

    Hi Johanna, feel free to call me and we’ll discuss your options and I can answer your questions.
    Thanks for leaving a comment.
    Scott
    805 564 3438

  14. Johanna says:

    I would love to get my painting restored. Anyone know what it would cost. Apparently it’s an original A Zoffoli oil painting. Been in my family for almost 40 years

  15. Yahya Anass says:

    What a beautiful painting you have on your hands! In response to your questions, I would absoutely not attempt to restore the painting yourself. Painting restoration is a form of art in which you must be unquestionably expert in order to end up with a good result.

  16. temizlik says:

    not everyone can do the job of cleaning. it is difficult

  17. Erin Rivera says:

    Nice, and thanks for sharing this info with us. A little care will save big bucks later, for sure. Good Luck!

  18. Evan says:

    Painting restoration is the art and science of restoring old and/or damaged paintings back to their original or a near-original state. This may include \resetting\ a painting if it is set on damaged wood. Also \relining\ the painting: attaching a new canvas to the back of the painting, if the original canvas is too fragile and damaged.

  19. Yes, its obvious if you not do a proper packing of your paintings when you are moving or shifting to somewhere else then it may get damaged or broken down. So be careful while doing packing of sculptures and paintings of your home.

  20. Yes, it’s obvious if you not do a proper packing of your paintings when you are moving or shifting to somewhere else then it may get damaged or broken down. So be careful while doing packing of sculptures and paintings of your home.

  21. Scott says:

    Is the value of the artwork reduced by chips of paint missing? Probably. That’s because chips in a painting look bad. If inpainting is done carefully, then it probably won’t impact the value. We use very small brushes when we inpaint. Of course, the inpainting is only part of the equation for making the painting look its best after its been stabilized. There is also the quality of the fill of the loss, the texture of the loss after the inpainting and the gloss of the varnish on the areas of repair. Here’s a video that talks briefly about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhhu0AZ_WVI

  22. Jane Sarah says:

    This is a very good post. During a recent trip to Europe my partner and I bought a painting that was in rough shape. After we bought it, we took a closer look at it and recognized that the problems with it (we got it at a great price!) were really awful and seemed difficult to restore. After some questions and consultation with Scott M. Haskins at FACL we discovered the painting had been in a fire. Well, we didn’t want to repaint the painting which would have ruined the historic value and the integrity of the old painting (1850ish). What does it cost to restore a painting?! Wow, I can see why there is no per sq. inch price. Depending on the problems, the price will vary. We are excited about the progress being made on our painting. The photos Scott sends us are very promising.

  23. Emily Mason says:

    Painting restoration is the art and science of restoring old and/or damaged paintings back to their original or a near-original state. This may include “resetting” a painting if it is set on damaged wood. Also “relining” the painting: attaching a new canvas to the back of the painting, if the original canvas is too fragile and damaged. It seems you do a very professional job and good quality.

  24. Charmaine says:

    Should I allow the restorer to do a little in painting if I have chips? I heard that this will reduce the paintings value. I could have it cleaned and have the glue put on the back of the canvass to prevent further loss. I found a cheap restorer and one that charged 1,400.00 that advised I not do in painting. help.

  25. Barry Angus says:

    There is no set cost, but will vary from restorer to restorer and also to the amount of damage to the piece of artwork.

  26. Mukesh says:

    Nice post! Photographs are treasures and that’s why photo-lovers can do anything to preserve them.

  27. Corky Giles says:

    Great information for “How Much Does It Cost To Restore A Painting?” Thanks for sharing useful information

  28. Simon Lombardy says:

    I work in the insurance industry and found your article to be “on the money.” Thanks for getting the word out there about value. That’s a hard question to resolve with people when they have a claim, especially with artwork. Establishing and documenting value is a basic part of the insurance claim process,once again, especially for memorabilia, heirlooms and collectibles.

  29. Mae Hazel says:

    I do like discolored grimy oil paintings for their antique look. But I suppose that if I knew more about it, I’d be more selective… or maybe I’d be able to find a treasure being sold for a pittance! But alas… it never happens to me.

  30. Scott says:

    Andrew, thanks for your inquiry. There are lots of variables in estimating a repair: age of the artwork, if there is paint loss or not, how big the painting is. It is not as easy as just a quick patching, spackle and paint if you want to preserve the artwork for long term. Here’s a video link to show why paintings should not be patched: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOk0vk3w5zs

  31. Andrew says:

    I accidently shot a hole in my mom’s paining with an Airsoft gun. The size of the hole is really small, probably about 1/2 a centimeter in diameter. I don’t know if this affects the amount it is to fix that. I just want to get the rip fixed, not the whole painting redone, cleaned, ect. Could you give me a quote on the price to fix this and where to fix it? Thanks in advance!

  32. Scott says:

    Your welcome Miller. Best wishes.

  33. miller says:

    Great blog. I have some wonderful paintings which were saved by my grandmother. They are really very good paintings. As they have become old, I was always thinking of ways to restore them to their original beauty. Thanks to this post, I have got some idea and guidance about the same. Thanks again.

  34. James Brown says:

    Great post!! Restoring a painting is a nice idea but can be quite expensive. But you don’t really have a choice if you are going to preserve the value, memories or history of that item. Sometimes I think of it kind of like a car: If I get it done right, I only have to have the art conservation done on a painting once. But I have to pay and pay and pay to maintain my car… especially if its an old one… and yet I do it. So, for all the pleasure etc I get from my paintings, making sure they are in great condition and looking their best is a very small price to pay, comparatively.

  35. Haley James says:

    Great blog. It takes as much effort to restore a painting as it does to create one. Both are tedious tasks and would require and experienced hand for good results.
    Some photos are kept in the family for sentimental purposes and they must be maintained well for generations.

  36. Scott says:

    Hi Cheri, thanks for your question. The question is a very common question with insurance adjusters and with lawyers settling probate. A little fading sometimes won’t be noticed and may not impact the value much. And minimal damage to a canvas may not have any affect on the value. But the variables on the math in your question depend on a lot of things. The details will be different if we are talking about $100 painting vs. for a $100,000.00 valued painting. Feel free to call and ask your questions (no charge to chat over the phone) to a business partner of mine who is a certified appraiser. His name is Richard Holgate and his mobile number is 805 895 5121.

  37. Cheri says:

    I am doing some research and my question that I hope you can assist me with is: Approximately what percentage does a painting decrease when damaged. Such as fading and minimal damage to the canvas? thank you.

  38. alex adam says:

    This is great article with important details for “Restore A Painting.” Sometimes it seems so complicated but thanks for making the process of getting an estimate seems more logical… or normal… or whatever. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Daniel says:

    I have read about a more scientific approach for restoration of Artworks discovered by NASA’s scientists. NASA research into the damage to satellites caused by atomic oxygen in low Earth orbit has led to a new way to restore damaged artwork.
    Atomic oxygen is an elemental form of oxygen that does not exist in Earth’s atmosphere. In space, however, it is common in the area where satellites orbit Earth. There, it reacts with other materials very easily and exposes satellites and spacecraft to damaging corrosion. Researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center study these damaging effects in order to find materials and methods to extend the lifetime of communication satellites, the Space Shuttles and the International Space Station. While developing methods to prevent damage from atomic oxygen, researchers discovered that atomic oxygen could remove layers of soot or other organic (carbon-based) materials from a surface. Because atomic oxygen will not react with inorganic oxides, such as most paint pigments, it could be used to restore paintings damaged by soot. For paintings containing organic pigments (which could be damaged by the atomic oxygen), the exposure could be carefully timed so that the removal would stop just short of the paint pigment. Because the unpaired atoms react very easily with other materials, they are very destructive to spacecraft and satellites, but very beneficial for cleaning surfaces on Earth. Atomic oxygen can remove any organic coating (a compound containing carbon) from a painting that contains inorganic paint pigments by reacting with the organic coating. This forms a gaseous byproduct while leaving the inorganic pigments undisturbed.
    The invention can remove all types of organic protective coatings uniformly over the surface without physical contact, which could alter the painting. Low spots and high spots on the painting surface can be cleaned equally well.

  40. Teri Alvarez says:

    Sometimes, whatever the cost, you just have to make the effort at restoration. It feels really really bad if something that we like the most is damaged especially the paintings and photo frames that you hope can be fixed but they seem like they may never be the same as before. I didn’t realize that you could fixed damaged and even torn paintings so perfectly. Great site!

  41. Linda Wieg says:

    Sometimes, whatever the cost, you just have to make the effort at restoration. Its the only way to preserve the past.
    Great site!

  42. Judy says:

    I didn’t realize that you could fixed damaged and even torn paintings. That is so great to know. I have a little tear in a painting, but I just love it, it would be a shame to throw it away.

  43. An expert would surely be able to restore this painting. Doing it on your own is reserved for the things that are easy to do. With damaged art, at our Service Master Center we work with professionals.

  44. Scott says:

    Thanks for the good comment Flower. Another way fixer uppers try and restore their own artwork is to patch torn, punctured,riped art on canvas. Here’s a video I made recently on this subject that you will find interesting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOk0vk3w5zs

  45. Flower Rathee says:

    What a beautiful painting you have on your hands! In response to your questions, I would absoutely not attempt to restore the painting yourself. Painting restoration is a form of art in which you must be unquestionably expert in order to end up with a good result.

  46. Lauren says:

    It feels really really bad if something that we like the most is damaged especially the paintings and photo frames as the can be fixed but they can never be the same as before.

  47. Francesca Salas says:

    Restoring your house and stuff from damages as soon as possible is part of the healing process. Thanks for the good advice on how to do it right.

  48. Jenny Best says:

    This is a great post. It seems that having the wrong person to do a cheap job is the easiest way to damage a valuable piece of art? There are some things money cannot replace and sadly if a family portrait or an important painting were badly damaged in restoration, that would be something money cannot correct. Thanks for the coaching.

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