I have hired many painters over the years, from Task Rabbit pros to amateurs to professionals for both interior and exterior projects. Despite all of my experience, I feel that hiring a professional painter is a waste of time. I don’t know the secret formula that will guarantee a flawless job every time.
Catchlight feels like old friends after completing several interior and exterior projects at my house. I was curious to know if there was a way to ensure that you hire the best painter. He said that it was a wild west when it came to painting contractors. Anyone can use a brush and be a painter. He explained that there are signs that a company is reputable and steps homeowners can take to ensure they hire the best painting contractor for their project. Here’s Nigel’s recommendation:
Step 1: Begin with online research.
Asking a friend or general contractor for recommendations is a good place to start. My Cape Cod cottage was painted by a talented painter who also painted the homes of my cousin (a contractor); my aunt (an architect); and my other aunt (who is more picky than the others). However, prior to this painter I had hired another guy on the recommendation from a friend who owned a similar historical house. Disaster! The paint job did not last for two years. Nigel recommends that you research online before you accept a recommendation. Ask your friends and family to rate the work of the contractor. Also, ask if they have worked on houses similar to yours. Modern and vintage houses are two different things when it comes to painting.
Find reviews online.
Google and Yelp lists (mostly) have independent reviews from real customers. It is possible to “game” them. However, Nigel offers some suggestions on what to look out for.
- Detailled reviews are better than vague or general reviews. The latter indicates that the reviewer has actually worked with the company. Their detailed descriptions will provide more information about the company’s policies and job performance.
- Multiple sites have different reviews. If there are inconsistent reviews on different sites, it could indicate that reviews were manipulated.
- Yelp does not recommend reviews that are too long. Yelp prioritises reviews that have frequent reviews. Non-habitual reviews (a.k.a. The featured reviews will include reviews by the non-habitual (a.k.a. “not recommended”), which can be found at the bottom of each review. These comments are often from clients motivated by a very good or terrible experience and can provide valuable feedback.
- Responses from the company owner If you have a negative review, you want to be able to get a response explaining what went wrong. Even a simple “thank you” for a positive review is a sign of superior customer service.
Please also note:
- This can indicate a potential problem if a company does not have an online review profile.
- Brokerage sites that offer referrals should be avoided. These brokerage sites often make money on referrals and not jobs booked.
Visit the website of the company.
Nigel believes that a contractor’s website can reveal a lot. These are the things to look for:
- Portfolio of past projects. Photos of different projects are a sign that you have more experience. Close-ups of detail work should be included in the images. You can also see the progress of the company by taking photos. You should look for evidence that the crew is using proper equipment and following safety protocols. Particularly for older homes with intricate details or lead paint, it is important to see pictures that show that the company has extensive experience with these types of properties.
- Crew page, with bios or images of crew members on-site. These pages will allow you to gauge the experience of your workers and will give you an idea of who will be arriving at your home.
- Blog. Blog articles can be a sign that the contractor is proud of their work and business. You should look for original posts by the owner, which show actual projects done by the company. Boilerplate articles can be used as a selling tool.
- Information about the length of time that the company has been in operation.
- Awards and professional affiliations
- Information about Lead Paint Safety
Google the founder/owner of the company.
- You don’t want to hear about lawsuits. A proven track record, announcements from professional affiliates, and possibly even an interview for the local newspaper or trade magazine are all important.
You can search for the company in the EPA’s Lead Paint Certified Database.
You may have lead paint if your house was built prior to 1978. It is important to learn about the current RRP (Renovation, Repair and Paint), laws through the EPA’s site. This site also allows you to look up the name and certification of contractors who handle lead paint.
Step 2: Interview the artist at the job site.
After narrowing down a list to semi-finalists via thorough online research, you can schedule a few appointments to get an estimate. These meetings can be thought of as interviews. Nigel emphasizes that these meetings are your best chance to not only get to know the company but also to communicate expectations. So make sure you’re there when they visit.
These are the signs of a trustworthy company.
- Look for someone who is passionate about craft. Is the owner interested in the chemistry behind paint? Are they willing to share stories about past projects? These are all signs that the owner of the company takes pride in what they do.
- Are they able to spend time on the property walking with you? Are they able to point out any potential problems and ask questions about your expectations? Your contractor will spend more time with you and your house to get a better understanding of your project and provide a more accurate estimate.
- Are they able to make specific recommendations for your home? Are they able to spot problems that you might have missed, such as paint buildup or excessive moisture that could compromise the job? These observations will not only show knowledge, but also educate you. You will need to know the details of your project, especially if it involves lead paint.
Request a detailed proposal.
Bids for big jobs can range from tens to thousands of dollars. There is a good chance that lower bids will mean less preparation. They could also use less expensive materials or not follow time-consuming safety protocols or pay their workers a living wages. Some painters in auckland will increase the cost based on their zip code, or because they don’t need or want your business. To truly compare apples to apples (i.e. You need to get detailed proposals from all of your contractors in order to truly understand what your money is buying.
A delineated bid can also be requested if you want to record everything that was said during the interview. You might forget who said what after so many interviews. Ask them to include the following:
- Below are detailed descriptions of the work required, broken down by phase and area. For example, for exteriors the time/methods/materials to prep and paint siding, trim, porches, windows (areas) may be different. For each area, ask for detailed and separate descriptions of the prep work, including any scrapping, grinding or repair, and paint (number and type of primer and finish). You will want to separate interior work by room (doors, floors, stairs, etc.)
- Quantities: Find out the number of hours and materials that were used on each phase. How much time will they spend preparing the trim and siding? You can find out how each contractor plans to spend their time by asking for the estimated hours they spent on each part of the job.
- Rates: This is the cost for each quantity. Rate per hour or cost of material. These numbers can give you a glimpse into the quality of your work. One contractor might pay his workers much less than another. They might be less skilled. One person may recommend ten cans of paint while the other five? What are the paint prices? These details will assist you in making the right decision for your budget.
- The recommended paint type and the number of coats. Ask them to repeat the information they gave you about paint in their answers to your questions above.
For insurance information, ask.
Ask for the contact information of their insurance company. Even if they present you with a certificate, they may call and cancel right after your meeting. To make sure your insurance is current, call the insurer directly.
Step 3: Compare and review each proposal.
Nigel points out that you need a detailed proposal for two reasons. As mentioned above, the first is to help you make informed decisions about how much you are getting for your money. The second is because the proposal serves as a roadmap for the project and can be referred to by you, the crew, and everyone else. Nigel’s designated person foreperson also checked in with me at the end each day to check on the progress. He/she was able tell me that the area was moving faster than expected and asked me how we could adjust. The bids were a reference point that helped us to communicate clearly and had a positive impact on our mutual expectations.
You will find line item details and the hours and rates for each.
A bid proposal should include detailed descriptions of all work from start to finish. This includes how they will protect the property and how they will prepare the surfaces. How they will prime, paint and clean up. The following details should be included:
- It should include a detailed description of their plans to protect you and/or your property (including protective tarps, covers, tape, etc. Exterior work may involve lead paint or falling debris (both scraping as well as sanding can release lead into the air). If you use oil-based paint, interior work can produce a lot dust and fumes.
- Here is how they will clean the surface to be painted. Before they paint, you want to ensure that they have washed off any dirt or mildew.
- A detailed description of how they will prepare each section of your job. This includes any of the following: scraping and sanding; grinding; caulking and repair. Include an estimate of the time and cost per hour for each area. Why such detail? Line-item descriptions can help you compare apples with apples. Painter 2 might choose Painter 1, if Painter 1’s total prep bid is twice that of Painter 2. Painter 1 may be more cost-effective if Painter 1 is able to show that he will spend three times as long prepping the job.
- This comprehensive description of their painting plan (i.e. Number of coats required for primer and paint.
- Each phase’s materials cost. One painter might budget for five cans of paint to paint one section and ten for another. One may use better paint.
- This will include daily cleanup and cleanup after the project is completed. This is particularly important if you use lead paint.
- Portable toilet for exterior use. I had to question Nigel about whether he believed this was so important. It is. He noted first that lead paint in your home is a legal requirement. The crew will need to disinfect their homes every time they visit your house. Even if you don’t have any lead paint, a portapotty is a great idea. It shows respect for your home and their workers.
- A description of the warranty offered by the company. It must include labor and paint, as well as the number of years.
- This is a great option for carpentry and other structural work.
- You should also read the fine print regarding what they aren’t responsible for. It is possible that this section is more than the bid.
Call us to ask any additional questions after you have reviewed each bid.
Step 4: Discuss your budget with your painter.
A note on negotiating the price. Many people feel sticker shock when they receive a quote for painting. It’s tempting for a painter to lower their price or match another bidder. Nigel suggests that if you have done thorough research online and bid, you can be sure that the quoted price is accurate. This will indicate that any price reductions are likely to be made by the contractor. Nigel suggests that you work with the company to discuss options that may be more within your budget. You might be able to do less work on the back end of your house or you could put off some of the project until later. Again, this is where a detailed plan can be helpful. This will allow you and your painter to work together with exact details so that you and your workers know what to expect.
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