You may be an active do-it-yourselfer, but painting the second story may be intimidating. You may find changing colors invigorating but the prep involved before applying the new color can take more time than you have. You may know that the peeling paint contains lead but may not know how to safely handle and dispose of paint chips.
While anyone can call themselves a painter, hiring a skilled professional painter must be an informed decision.
Even though you will not be doing the painting, familiarize yourself with what is involved in a successful painting project. Check out books on home painting from the library. Consult magazines such as Consumer Reports to learn about quality painting products.
Experience: Call licensed contractors on your list to determine how many projects like yours they have done. Just because a painter has been in business for years does not mean they have painted a project like yours. For example if you have a two-story home with gables it may be problematical to hire a painter who has only painted one-story homes.
To determine the durability of the work ask for references that are at least several years old. If possible, try to see the referenced work.
Call the references. Don’t ask simple questions like, “Do you like the end result?” Or, “Would you hire the painting company again?” Instead get the details: “Describe the condition of your home before you hired the painter. How did prep work precede? Were there any product substitutions? Was the final cost the same as the estimate? Did the work get done on time?”
Select several painters to do a walk around your home to decide what will be done. Because poor preparation is the leading cause of paint failure, pay particular attention to how the painter will prep the project. The prep work should actually take longer than the actual painting. As much as 80% of the cost of a usual painting project will be the cost of labor.
If possible, meet the painter who actually will do the work. Often the person giving the estimate will not be the painter. You may find the estimator personable but the actual painter may not respect you or your property.
Check with the CCB to make sure the contractor’s license allows for employees. A license allowing employees (nonexempt) means the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance. This is important because if a worker on your project is injured, his employer’s workers’ compensation will cover the costs and prevent you as the owner of the property from having to pay for the injury.
Bids: If you have defined the scope and specifications for the work exactly the same to each bidder, then when you look at the bids they should all be in the same general range. If one bid is much higher, or much lower find out why. For example if one painter is going to only pressure wash before painting and another was going to take the time to scrape and sand, there would be a difference in price. What may seem like a little thing to you — like cleaning up the work area every evening instead of at the completion of the project will add to costs.
Contractors Board: Either read it on line or request a copy of the Construction Contractors Board’s (CCB) publication 16 Ways to Avoid Remodeling Repair and Construction Problems. Not only does the publication offer a list of questions to ask potential contractors, it supplies information on what should be in a contract, how to avoid scams, and what to do if you have problems with a contractor.
Construction Contractors Board (CCB)
503-378-4621, P.O. Box 14140, Salem OR 97309-5052, www.ccb.state.or.us
The CCB is a state agency that protects consumers by regulating all types of contractors who perform work on residential and non-residential structures. Licensing is not a recommendation for the quality of work. Licensing ensures that the contractor has a surety bond and liability insurance. Both offer some financial protection if problems develop.
Ask family and friends about painters they have used. Call paint stores and ask them to recommend some painters. Look at ads in newspapers and telephone directories.
After you have assembled a list of painters, make sure your contractor is licensed with the CCB, also check with the board about past and current claims against the contractor.
Contract: The contract has to be more than an agreement to the number of coats of paint. It must include if the paint will be applied with a brush, roller, or sprayer. Is the trim going to be face painted or entirely painted? Is the painter going to safely dispose of paint chips containing lead?
When you decide on a painter have a contract that includes at least the contractor’s name, address, and phone number, the scope and cost of the project, specific product identification, warranty for the work, the start and completion dates, penalty fees for not completing the work on time, and a payment schedule.
Finally, remember that you are hiring a painter not a color consultant. If you have selected your colors and have a preferred brand of paint do not allow for substitutions. Often painters will offer to match paint colors in the brand paint that they usually use, but since paint sheen is not standardized between brands, there is no such thing as the perfect match. If the painter agrees to use your brand paint, make certain that the painter still guarantees the work.
Paulette Rossi is a Certified Master Recycler.