If you’ve decided to hire a paint contractor to help you paint your home or business follow these guidelines to make sure you select a professional painter and avoid the downfalls of hiring an unprofessional or unqualified contractor.
- Check online listings and directories that prescreen their contractors for compliance with local laws and regulations. See our directory here.
- Ask friends and family if they can recommend a contractor
- Do a Google and/or Yahoo search for painters in your area. A painter’s web presence says a lot about their work ethic, attention to detail, and professionalism. Be wary of outdated or incomplete websites.
- Check the yellow pages.
- Make note of any painters who have large scale advertising in your area because large scale advertising requires money, and money means successful business with satisfied customers.
- Solicit bids from several painters (at least 3). Note: many painters will not be able to give an accurate estimate without an onsite inspection.
- Ask for references from each (at least 3) and check them.
- If required by local laws, ask for proof of their contractor license.
- Ask for proof of liability insurance and workman’s compensation.
- Will they will be able to accommodate your schedule? Ask the painter when they can start the job and how long it will take.
- Ask if they offer a warranty on their work.
You've chosen a painter, now what?
- *IMPORTANT* require a written contract which details every aspect of the job as well as the specifics of how and when payment will be delivered. See below for more information on painting contracts.
- Never pay for the entire job up front, but expect to have to pay either a deposit or advance (but never more than 50%). Remember the need for trust between client and contractor goes both ways.
Having a written contract which details every aspect of the job is an absolute must. Written contracts are legally binding documents that protect both the contractor and client by compelling each party to adhere to the contract’s contents. Every detail that is important to you, the client, should be in the contract. Any and all verbal agreements between the contractor and client will not be enforceable in court in lieu of a written contract, so if it is important, make sure it is in writing!
Your contract should at least include the following details:
- Full name, contact information, and license # (if required by state law) of the paint contractor.
- Description of surfaces to be painted.
- Details of paint application.
- Description of prep work to be preformed.
- Number of coats to be applied.
- Materials and products to be used.
- Description of cleanup to be preformed.
- Project schedule.
- Payment agreement.
- Warranty information, if any.
Estimates and Pricing
Pricing will vary dramatically from project to project depending on the size and scope of the job, materials used, application methods, and even on the competition between paint contractors in the area. Unfortunately it is impossible for informational articles such as this to give specific advice on ‘good’ prices or ‘bad’ prices; however, we can give advice on how to compare estimates and explain why it is so important not to choose a paint contractor based solely on price.
- Although it is an important consideration, price should be the last factor considered when choosing a paint contractor. It should only be done AFTER a painter’s qualifications and references have been checked.
- Most of the time you will get what you pay for; be very wary of contractors who offer significantly lower estimates than their competitors. Sometimes contractors who have no experience or poor references will try to make up for these shortcomings with low prices.
- When considering a range of estimates, the sweet spot for price is the mid to low end of the spectrum. Avoid those outliers at the bottom.
- Always remember the old adage “There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap contractor”.
Keep in mind painting is a high skill job which requires expertise in application, knowlege of products, and safety. Even the best paint contractors often operate on a thin profit margin. Letting an unskilled or inexperienced worker loose on your home or business is a recipe for disaster. Avoid prices that are too good to be true and check those references!
Setting up a Payment Plan
Setting up a fair payment plan with your contractor is critical. All details regarding the payment plan should be in writing in the contract.
- Expect to pay a deposit or advance before work commences. However, this is the only time you should pay for work that has not yet been completed.
- For larger jobs arrange a milestone based payment plan: set milestones in advance and agree to pay a certain amount when those milestones have been reached. A typical payment plan might be 10% at the beginning, three payments of 25% spaced over the duration of the project, and the final 15% when the job is completely finished.
- Excluding the deposit, never pay for work that has not yet been completed and don’t pay the final bill until the job is totally, completely, and utterly finished including all cleanup.
- Remember trust is a two way street, the payment plan in the contract should be honored by both you and the contractor.
Note: licensing requirements vary from state to state so check requirements for paint contractors in your area. Hiring a licensed contractor generally assures the following:
- The contractor has demonstrated knowledge of their industry via written exam.
- The contractor has the training and experience necessary to obtain a contractor's license.
- A criminal background check has been performed on the contractor and they have been found worthy of holding a contractor’s license.
- The contractor has liability insurance and pays workman’s compensation for their employees if they have any.
- The contractor is able to obtain and sign building permits.
Remember, hiring an unlicensed contractor is often against the law, and doing so may prevent you from recovering the cost of any damages that occur to your property. Contractor licenses exist to protect consumers so make sure to hire only licensed contractors.
All paint contractors should have liability insurance to cover property damage or bodily harm caused during the course of their duties. If painters in your area are required to be licensed then you can usually rest assured that they have liability insurance. However if paint contractors in your state are not required to be licensed then it is very important that you request proof of liability insurance. Proof of liability insurance will usually be in the form of a certificate and painters who pay into insurance will be all too happy to show proof of it.
Bonding is very similar to insurance, except instead of covering costs related to injury or property damage, bonding covers costs related to poor workmanship and unsatisfactory performance by the contractor. Hiring bonded contractors, aside from being required by law in many states, is also a good way of guaranteeing the quality of the results and adherence to the project’s contract. Bonded funds are usually controlled by state agencies which vary from state to state.