How to Choose the Right Painting Contractor

Choosing the right painting contractor for your home can be a difficult task. As with any other goods or services, the objective is always to secure the best value. However, the dilemma with selecting the right painting contractor for your project is that the cheapest painting estimate is not necessarily the best value. Without additional information, it’s easy to be misled by price alone.

Quality Vs. Time

The old adage that “time is money” holds true with house painting. Because the bulk of a painting project is labor, the bottom line of a painting estimate generally reflects the time required to complete the job. One could assume that a more expensive painting estimate would allow more time to complete the painting project. Conversely, a cheaper estimate would reflect a quicker completion.

Different painting contractors do not necessarily share the same vision of what a professional paint job should be. Painting companies operating under the philosophy of delivering high quality craftsmanship would typically include thorough masking and covering, meticulous surface preparation, professional paint application, and the use of premium quality paints in their painting estimates. By contrast, paint companies that specialize in delivering economy to their customers must use time saving methods and materials. Paint prep is one component of painting where considerable time can be saved. The use of cheaper grade paints is another way to control costs.

The outcome of a paint job is not solely based on the time spent to complete it. A painting company that employs talented, highly skilled painters and is run efficiently can produce a better paint job in the same amount of time as a poorly run painting company with a high rate of employee turnover.

Before interviewing various painting contractors, assess your expectations of budget and outcome. Once you make that determination, look for a contractor that can deliver the results you seek within your budget. A very cheap painting estimate might not meet your expectations of quality. A painting proposal based upon very high quality work may be a budget buster.

How to Find a Painting Contractor

The best way to find reputable painting contractors is through the referral process. Friends, co-workers, and family members are trustworthy sources for recommendations. Respected industry professionals such as general contractors and architects in your area are another good resource for securing referrals.

Additional sources for contractor referrals include various contractor networks and associations. However, keep in mind that these organizations typically only require that their members be properly licensed and insured. Because these types of referral networks do not generally establish personal relationships with their various members, they are unable to offer much information about a company’s business practices and past work.

The Selection Process

Though it requires some work time upfront, it’s a good idea to obtain multiple painting estimates to help you establish a realistic frame of reference. Securing at least three estimates is recommended for large projects. Walk the job with each potential contractor and be as specific as possible about your painting project. Outline your expectations and concerns, and be forthright with any aspects of your project that could affect the price.

The following is a list of questions to ask your potential contractors.

  • What type of painting projects does your company usually perform (ie New homes under construction, residential repaints, apartments, commercial space, etc.)?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Does your company have the proper/required licenses and bonding?
  • Does your company have the proper workers compensation and liability insurance policies?
  • Do you subcontract work?
  • Can you provide two to three references?
  • Do you offer a written guarantee of your work?

Ask the contractors to provide you with detailed painting estimates. Request that the following information be included in the scope of work.

  • What is to be painted
  • How much masking and covering
  • Extent of surface preparation
  • Method of paint application
  • Number of paint coats to be applied
  • Types of paints and finishes that will be used
  • Number of painters
  • Time estimate to complete the project

Follow up with the customer referrals from each painting contractor. Try to get an idea of the previous customers’ satisfaction with the painting contractor’s performance.

Reviewing the Contract

Once you have decided on a contractor, review your contract. Confirm the following items as outlined above.

  • Specific details on what is to be painted
  • Details on masking and covering
  • Details on surface preparation
  • Paint colors and type of paint for each area to be painted
  • How much time will be needed to complete the project
  • When and how the contractor will be paid

The Best Fit for Your Project

Try to find a painting company that is a good fit for your project. Many painting companies settle into a particular niche for which they develop a specialty. For example, painting apartment buildings requires production minded painters with good airless sprayer skills. On the other hand, staining, glazing, and finishing exotic hardwood kitchen cabinets calls for detail minded painters with previous experience in that area of expertise. It is helpful to ask the painting contractor about his painting specialty.