How to Choose a Great Painting Contractor

“He seemed like a nice guy and the price was right…” was the way my neighbor described the path she took in choosing the person who would be in charge of painting the interior of her beloved century-old Tudor home.

Now, after a series of disasters that resulted in her ending up having to get a new contractor to redo some sections and complete the project, she regrets not taking those few extra steps toward hiring the most competent, professional and trustworthy painter available. Nice guys aren’t always skilled painters, and a low price isn’t always the best price.

There are several factors for homeowners to consider as they search for a painting contractor.

Below are the facts to obtain and the questions to ask before you make this important decision.

  • Make sure your contractor is licensed and insured. You can call your county licensing bureau for verification. Quality contracting firms will be happy to provide you with copies of their certificates of insurance and proof of workers’ compensation.
  • Insist upon a written contract that clearly outlines the scope of the proposed project. It should include details such as which surfaces will be painted, the methods and extent of surface preparation, time schedules for the project, payment procedures, and a statement clarifying who will be doing the actual work.
  • Painting is the easy part — it’s the prep work that can make or break a quality paint job. Be wary of the contractor who wants to head straight for the brush.
  • Does the time frame for completing the job sound realistic? Find out how many other jobs they will have going on at the same time as yours.
  • Be wary of requests for full payment up front. A contractor who asks for payment in full at the beginning of the project may be having financial problems, or is worried that you’ll be dissatisfied and won’t pay the balance once the job is completed.
  • Ask the contractor if subcontractors will be used. If so, make sure the subcontractors have proper licensing, insurance and workers’ compensation.
  • Request a list of references, and be sure to actually make the calls. If you only ask one question, it should be, “Would you hire this painting contractor again?”
  • You may wish to go one step further and make visits to former painting jobs, or jobs-in-progress, to determine for yourself the quality of workmanship. It’s always a good idea to check your local Better Business Bureau for reassurance that the contractor you’re considering hiring does not have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.
  • Find out what type of warranty or guarantee the contractor offers on his or her work and the products to be used.
  • Be willing to spend those few extra dollars on high quality paint products. This cost does not add significantly to the total bill, but will add years of satisfaction once the job is complete. If your contractor convinces you to save money by using cut-rate products, you may end up spending your hard-earned leisure time watching your new paint-job peel.
  • Question low bids. Keep in mind that a low bid may be the red flag of a contractor who’s out to cut corners (and quality.)

And finally, you should hire someone with whom you communicate well, and who appears to take a genuine interest in working for you. “Nice guys” CAN be great painters – as long as everything else checks out!”