How to Choose a Professional Painting Contractor

Choosing a quality painting contractor is as important decision as choosing paint, and usually more crucial. The highest-quality acrylic or oil cannot make up for sloppy corners, poor surface preparation, drips and over-charging. There are so many painting companies with integrity of workmanship and business practices. Here’s how to find one: ask, examine, and verify. Do one, both or all three on the following criteria:
Ask your contractor to show you his license, or to provide his business and contractor license numbers. You can verify this information on many government websites, or with a call to a licensing bureau. A licensed contractor has met standards of business practice and knowledge. An unlicensed painter can lead to insurance issues, which we will examine in a moment. A guy with a truck going door-to-door can quote a lowball price, but you will get expensive trouble.
Ask for references. You want names, addresses and phone numbers and you want to call them. Everyone loves to brag about finding “the best this” or “the most amazing that”. Boasting about finding someone to do a great paint job is no different. In addition, they already know how difficult it is to find a solid painter and most are happy to let you in on the result of their research.
There is one other reference that comes 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 best, and there is no “F”. “C” does NOT mean this is an average painter. It means there have been a fair number of complaints.
Examine the quality of work. You may not want to call up references and ask if you can come over, although many people do. But at very least you can drive by and have a look. If it’s interior painting, obviously someone will have to open their home to you. You want to verify that the surfaces were well prepared: no obvious repairs, no neglected issues, and no sloppy edges and such. Does the paint cover evenly? Is there evidence he used masking to keep colors apart? In addition, there are questions you can ask references for verification. Did the painters arrive on time? Did they move furniture, cover floors or outdoor plantings, keep a clean job site, and clean up well before leaving? Were they pleasant? I think an unfriendly person is often unhappy in their work, and bad attitude leads to bad workmanship.
Ask about price, and ask what factors went in to setting that particular price. You want separate figures for labor, for paint and other materials, and you want to know if you are charged for cleanup, furniture moving and travel time. To verify if the price is in a normal range, ask references what they paid, and ask around the neighborhood to see what it cost them.
You want all of the pricing 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 listed. If there is primer, that should be priced out separately, including labor time for priming (it is usually faster). Have the painting contractor estimate how many coats it will take, and spell out what you agree to if it is determined you need another coat.
Does he offer a workmanship warranty? How will it work? Will he repaint fully, touch up, and pay for replacement paint? You want the warranty in the contract, too.
Insurance: a professional painting contractor should carry both liability insurance and workmen’s comp. The first protects you if someone is hurt on the job site. If there is no coverage, you can be sued or your homeowner’s insurance may have to cover costs. Workmen’s Comp insurance also protects you, as well as the crew. If they are hurt, you have no liability for their lost wages.
Too much work for you? Ask yourself this: can I live with a bad painting job for 7 years? Most last that long.