Painting the interior or exterior of your home is one of the most cost-effective home improvements that you can undertake. The first question you have to ask is, do you have the knowledge and skills to do the task yourself and have it look professional?
The last thing you want to do is invest weeks or months of work and not be happy with the result and possibly do more damage to the integrity of your home. If you have walked into a rental property and seen the numerous poor paint jobs done by owners or handymen, you know what I mean.
So if you decide to hire a painting contractor what is the best way to go about it?
SEEK OUT REFERRALS
The best way is to seek out referrals. Talk to relatives, friends or neighbors and find out if they have had a recent experience with a painting contractor. Find out if they were trustworthy, neat, clean and on time. I feel personal experience is the best referral.
If you can’t find personal referrals, the next option is to search the Yellow Pages, internet or check with the paint stores in your area. The paint stores deal with contractors on a daily basis and might be able to recommend a reputable one. An advantage of hiring a contractor that has a good long-term relationship with a paint store is that if there is a problem with a product or color, the store will back the contractor for labor and material not just a few gallons of paint. I would steer clear of the big box stores as they typically recommend contractors who pay them 20+% of the total bill to be a recommended contractor.
ARE THEY LICENSED?
Always hire a State licensed contractor, not a handyman. If a handyman does damage to your house, you have no recourse. One clue is that a handyman will only have five numbers on their license and a painting contractor will have six numbers. The lower the number on the license the longer they have been in business. A State licensed contractor has to carry a $12,500 bond to protect their clients.
If you hire a State licensed contractor, you also want to check to be sure that their license is active. You can check with the contractors license board online. All you have to do is enter the license number and it will show the status and the name of the workers compensation carrier. I looked at a job recently and was underbid by a contractor that does not have workers comp. He claims to do the work himself, but his website shows he has employees. If his employee injures himself on the job, you, the homeowner, will be responsible for his medical bills and rehabilitation. Most homeowners don’t know this.
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Be wary of claims of “years of experience”. Check on years of experience as a contractor, as opposed to as a painter, or “in the industry”. When you are at the state license board website under the license number, it tells you when the business was started. To me, painting at ten years old doesn’t count as years of experience. It is pretty easy to start a painting business, but a lot more difficult to stay in business.
Don’t hire on price alone. If an estimate is extremely low, there is usually a reason for it. There are many ways to cut price; cut corners on the prep work, number of coats of paint, and quality of paint used; forgo liability insurance, don’t pay workers compensation (illegal if you have employees), use undocumented workers.
Sometimes what seems like the cheapest bid ends up costing more in both money and time – not to mention aggravation. The problem with a bad paint job is that it lasts the life your house unless you strip the paint or replace the surface that has been poorly painted.
Here are some things to ponder. Does the contractor pay their employees a living wage? Do they pay overtime? Do they pay or help with health care? Do they give their employees any paid vacation time? While these factors may not affect the quality of the paint job on your house, they do affect the quality of life of the people who did the work, people who also live in your community and will depend on public services if they can not make ends meet from their wages.
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THEM?
Any contractor worth hiring should be willing to consult with the owner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with colors. I have found spending a little time figuring out what my clients are looking for works out for both of us in the long run. There is nothing more difficult than looking through a color deck and picturing what it will look like on the wall. Your contractor should be willing to do a paint out for you on a 8×11 card that you can move around the room from shade to sun. You will be amazed how it changes as the daylight changes.
Find someone you are comfortable with. The contractor and his employees will be working around and inside your house. Many of my clients feel comfortable enough with my employees to leave us in their house while they go to work. Some even plan to have us come in while they are on vacation.
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