How to choose a professional painting contractor

Choosing a quality painting contractor is just as important a decision as choosing your paint, and usually more crucial. The highest quality acrylic or oil cannot make up for sloppy corners, poor surface preparation, drips, and overloading. There are so many painting companies with integrity of workmanship and business practices. Here’s how to find one: ask, browse, and check. Do one, both or all three based on the following criteria:

Ask your contractor to show you their license, or to provide their contractor and business license numbers. You can verify this information on many government websites or by calling a licensing office. A licensed contractor has met the standards of practice and business knowledge. An unlicensed painter can create insurance issues, which we’ll examine in a moment. A guy with a door-to-door truck may quote a low price, but he’ll have expensive problems.

Ask for references. He wants names, addresses, and phone numbers, and he wants to call them. Everyone loves to brag about finding “the best of this” or “the most amazing of that.” Being driven to find someone to do a great paint job is no different. Plus, they already know how hard it is to find a solid painter, and most are happy to tell you the result of their research.

There is another reference that is highly recommended: the Better Business Bureau. If they have received a lot of complaints about a particular contractor, they give that business a lower rating. “A+” is the best, and there is no “F”. “C” does NOT mean this is an average painter. It means there have been quite a number of complaints.

Examine the quality of work. You may not want to search for references and ask if you can come, although many people do. But at least you can stop by and take a look. If it’s interior painting, obviously someone will have to open their house to you. You want to check that the surfaces are well prepared: no obvious repairs, no sloppy issues, no sloppy edges, and so on. Does the paint cover evenly? Is there evidence that he used masks to keep the colors separate? Also, there are questions you can ask references for verification. Did the painters arrive on time? Did they move furniture, cover floors or outdoor plants, maintain a clean workplace, and clean up well before leaving? Were they nice? I believe that an unsympathetic person is often not happy with his job, and a bad attitude leads to bad workmanship.

Ask about the price and ask what factors went into establishing that particular price. You want separate figures for labor, paint, and other materials, and you want to know if they charge you for cleaning, moving furniture, and travel time. To check if the price is in a normal range, ask references how much they paid and ask around the neighborhood to see how much it cost them.

You want all prices spelled out in a written contract. You want everything in writing, from start and end dates to daily arrival times. You want the estimated amount of paint to be indicated. If there is a primer, it must be quoted separately, including the labor time for the primer (it is usually faster). Ask the painting contractor to estimate how many coats you will need and explain what you are agreeing to if it is determined that another coat is needed.

Do you offer a labor guarantee? How will it work? Will you completely refinish, touch up, and pay for replacement paint? You also want the guarantee in the contract.

Insurance: A professional painting contractor should carry both liability and workers’ compensation insurance. The former protects you if someone is injured in the workplace. If there is no coverage, you can be sued or your homeowners insurance may have to cover the costs. Workmen’s Comp insurance also protects you, as well as the crew. If they are hurt, you are not responsible for their lost wages.

Too much work for you? Ask yourself this: can I live with a bad paint job for 7 years? Most last that long.

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