Hiring a Professional Painter or Paint Contractor

Undertaking a paint job always calls for some forethought beyond color selection and decorative themes.

Painting a room is not difficult. In fact, it's just about the perfect do-it-yourself home improvement project. Nevertheless it is a job that places demands on your time, budget, and skills. So before you haul out the brushes, paint cans, and ladders, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How much preparation will I need to do and will I have the time to do it?
  • Do I have the patience to learn a new skill, and can I accept that my initial progress might be slow and somewhat frustrating?
  • Am I up to the hard parts of the job, such as climbing ladders and moving furniture?
  • Will I be able to live with a room left unfinished if I am called away or when I have to return to work after the weekend?
  • Are there aspects of the job I can do but simply don't enjoy? Are there parts of the work I can do myself and parts I want to contract out?

If your answers to these questions make you decide to contract all or some of the job, go about gathering bids and hiring a contractor methodically.

First talk with friends and neighbors and get their recommendations about contractors they have used. Take a look at the work done for people you know so you can make sure the quality of the work meets your standards.

Then contact at least three of the top contractors to discuss the work you want to have done. Meet with each of them individually to look at the job and discuss the specific job details.

Interview contractors

  • For each surface (including trim, stucco, aluminum siding, walls, and so forth), ask what will be done to prepare it, to prime it (including what type and brand of primer), and to apply the finish coat (including the type and brand of the paint, how it will be applied, its quality, and the number of coats).

    Make sure the contractor will use a top-quality paint. A quality acrylic latex paint may cost more initially, but its durability will save money in the long run.
  • For exterior work, ask what will be done to protect landscape plants. For interior work, find out how furniture will be protected and moved. Ask when the contractor can start the job and how long it will take. You should also know what remedy will be available if the job is not completed on time.
  • Discuss the warranty on the work, how long it is, whether it covers both labor and materials, what kind of failures are covered (peeling, cracking, fading), and what will be done to correct such failures.
  • Make sure the contractor is bonded and insured. Bonding will replace your costs if the contractor fails to complete the job. Insurance will cover any injury to any of the workers. Without such insurance, you may be liable for such injuries. Insurance may also cover damage done to your property.
  • Ask each contractor for the names and contact information for previous customers. Call some of the references; ask if you can see the contractor's work.
  • Get written estimates from at least three contractors. Be wary of any bids that are significantly higher or lower than the others. Bids from reputable contractors are usually fairly close to each other for the same work. The estimate should break down material and labor costs and show payment terms.
    Before you make your final choice, consider the contractor's demeanor. He or she should be responsive, punctual, and businesslike when returning phone calls or arriving for an appointment. The contractor should take time to answer your questions and explain details of the job.

Hire a contractor

Once you've selected a professional painter, that contractor should submit a formal written contract for the work (unless the bid or estimate was already in contractual form). The document should spell out everything you've discussed with the contractor about your job. It should specify these things:

  • The work to be done
  • The materials to be used
  • The starting and completion dates and remedies for failure to stay on schedule
  • Methods for resolving disputes
  • Procedures for making changes (change orders are alterations to the contract to which both parties agree)
  • Evidence of insurance and bonding, and licensing if required by local ordinance

Before you make final payment, inspect the job with the contractor, making notes about anything that needs correction (proper coverage, cleanup, and so forth). The contractor should correct the problems before you make final payment.


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