How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off When You Hire a Painter

I bet the reason you are reading this is you are considering hiring a professional painting contractor to paint your home. Whether you are going to have the interior or exterior painted there are several key factors to consider as you make this decision. Let’s face it, your home is an important asset. Not only do you want it to look great but you want to protect the value by having high quality workmanship and the best products for the job decision.

Check List for Finding a Good Painter:

1) Check to make sure that they have a (Current & Update to date) contractors’ license for the state. For example in California – you may check the Contractors Licensing State Board CLSB License Check the Contractor Name and see their license status you may also check with the City where you live for a valid business license.

2) Get two or more references of past customers that have used their service, talk with these folks and ask very detailed questions of each reference.

3) Ask the contractor how long they have been in business and make sure they have done the same type of work you need often & what percent of their work it represents. You need a painter who’s done this before & not just once or twice.

4) Get at least two other written bids/quotes from different painting companies to make sure that they are not totally ripping you off on the price make sure the quotes are apples to apples – paint and other materials vary and you need to know what’s included!

5) Find a painter who is willing to give you pricing for small jobs over the phone.

6) Get flat rate estimates so you know the total you will pay BEFORE you reach an agreement and sign a contract with the painting company. You want turnkey pricing not hourly rates.

The best place to start asking about painters in your local area is neighbors, family and friends, because they will tell you the truth and answer your questions quickly. Other good sources of referrals include contractors in a different trade, real estate agents, property management companies, and your local paint supply store or hardware/building supply just remember they sell to all of the contractors and may know the reputation of those you are considering.

When asking for referrals, be sure to check the type of jobs the painter was called into accomplish and compare that to the type of painting work that you have in mind for your house. Also, determine if the painter specializes in residential or commercial work.

Examples of Questions We’d Ask

1. Would you hire this company again to paint your house?

If their response is “no”, then stop…and ask why? Is this a good reason or irrational nor logical.

2. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest), how happy were you with the quality of work performed by this painting contractor?

Everyone has an opinion of quality workmanship, so you may want to see the work for yourself to make sure your perception matches with your friends.

Look closely at Cut-In areas around doorways, windows and trim. Are the lines straight and was caulking applied to seal the joints.

3. Did the painting contractor protect unpainted surfaces, furniture, floors, or other such areas in their home?

For exteriors, this includes concrete, roofing, and plantings. For interiors, moving and protecting furniture is a major concern. Make sure not to forget about the flooring because you may live to regret it! If a painter is sloppy with one customer, chances are, they will be sloppy in your home. If you are left to clean up after your painter even once or EACH and every DAY, this will cost you a lot more money and aggravation after you’ve already put in a long hard day yourself at work. You may want to visit a site where work is currently in progress to see how the painter conducts his business.

4. Were they courteous and polite to you, their customer (and your neighbors)?

This is a very important consideration because who wants to pay money and be disrespected in the process? If the answer is “no” then do NOT go any further, because you don’t want to work with this company. The entire experience, from beginning to end, needs to be as stress free and painless as possible. If the house painter(s) enjoys their job, the quality of their work and attention to detail is better. The painter’s attitude can and will affect the entire paint job. Most people will treat you best when they are trying to land the job. If they are rude early on, things will only get worse if problems and stress arise.

5. Does your contractor offer a clearly worded, written warranty (Satisfaction Guarantee) included in the price and the written proposal?

If a warranty is included, find out if it has a reasonable amount of time before it expires. Two to Three (2-3) years is usually enough time to protect you in the event that something major goes wrong with the results of the paint job. Verbally stating a warranty is NOT enough. Any guaranty worth having is in writing. So, Get it in writing! Get it in writing! Get it in writing!

Reason and reality check guarantees have their limitations! A good painter is always glad to stand behind his warranty, no Questions asked. Good painters use quality materials, hire excellent workers, know their level of expertise (and limitations); they won’t promise you things beyond their level of expertise. If a painter won’t offer you a written two to three-year warranty, you may want to look one who does.

How to Hire a Painter

Remember the last time you made a decision to purchase a car, or some other high value item. Because it was a large amount of money at risk, chances are you didn’t go to the yellow pages, choose a dealership at random, and buy a car from the first lot you visited. Unfortunately, though, the yellow pages method describes the way homeowners conduct their search when it comes time to find a good quality painting company. They call and hire the first painter they come across and then totally REGRET the decision for the next 10 years. Why put yourself through that kind of grief? It is fairly easy to follow a simple process like the one outlined here, and come to think of it, you found this article online or someone who gave it to you found it on the internet. You know, the internet is a great information resource and It makes the research, comparison-shopping, and insisting on written terms to protect yourself in the event of a major problem(s) even easier and much less time consuming than letting your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages.

There Are No Dumb Questions (Unless they go unasked and unanswered)

How will the painter prepare the surfaces for painting?

All bare surfaces require a primer; previously painted surfaces usually do not require primer. However, they do usually require an appropriate level of cleaning, patching, sanding, and taping PRIOR to beginning the process of painting. Interior or exterior doesn’t matter; proper surface preparation always leads to better, more pleasing results.

Do they prime before caulking and painting?

Again, all bare surfaces require a primer; previously painted surfaces usually do not require primer.

What areas will require caulk?

One of the most common causes of paint failure is due to moisture from water getting behind the paint. For that reason caulking all joints, seams, gaps, and cracks in the surface is a must to

ensure a tight seal.

What kind of paint will be used? Why they recommend that type/brand? What are the options? Benefits & drawbacks of each option?

Good quality paint will be recommended by good quality painters, you probably don’t need the most expensive paint they are suggesting, but ask them for documentation of any special manufacturer’s warranty info and product data. More extreme conditions, heat, cold moisture and other environmental factors should be considered, the most severe conditions my require more costly coating.

Who are their references?

Ask for references and don’t be afraid to go see their work. Many painters have photo albums to show case their work. Get at least two or three references of satisfied customers from the painting contractor and then the easiest way to see his work is to ask them to provide some BEFORE and AFTER pictures of the houses that the represent these satisfied customers.

Find out whether the workers are employees or independent contractors.

Direct employees who have years of service with the contractor show loyalty and a consistent track record with one employer. If the workers are independent contractors, ask how long they have worked for the contractor. In both cases the contractor’s knowledge of the quality of work and the work history of the workers is a key factor being a good place to work also creates the atmosphere for productive good workmanship by the workers.

Who will supervise the work, make sure you have been introduced and that you are comfortable with the supervisor. Will the owner of company manager be available? How often will the boss check up on the workers and the progress/quality of the job?

When you know who is overseeing the work, you will be able to address quality issues directly with the supervisor of your particular job. Make sure to communicate your expectations that the workers will be supervised; this sets the tone for the Company to deliver a high quality of work on your project.

Always Get a Written Quote

Invite three painters to look at the job and ask each for a quote in writing. In the quote, also ask them to specify the amount of time it will take to complete the work. It is absolutely unacceptable for you to try to live in a house that is covered with drape cloths for two weeks because they simply won’t finish the work within the time you expected them to be 100% finished. Also, make sure that the painters providing you a quote are all quoting on the EXACT SAME specifications – areas or rooms to be painted, number of coats to be used, and so forth. ONLY an apples-to-apples comparison will have meaning when you attempt to make a decision on which painter to hire to paint your house.

Execute a Contract

Execute a Contract specifying in writing the scope of work to be done at your house, the total cost of the final bill, the payment schedule (ABSOLUTELY NEVER PAY ANY PAINTING CONTRACTOR 100% OF THE MONEY UPFRONT), start date, and estimated completion date.

If your request is to paint the exterior of your house, then weather may play a factor on the completion date. Make sure that the contract includes the paint brands; name the exact color(s) to be used in each room or location of your house, as well as the number of coats to be painted. (a diagram or drawing of the areas which specifies what goes where is a great way to check signals – especially when there are multiple colors/textures/ etc.) Make sure that the contractor specifies that the painter is responsible for cleanup (the removal of ALL paint from all surfaces, windows and floors) and for any damages that he or his employees/agents cause to your property. Get a certificate of insurance from the painter’s insurance broker which names you as an “additional named insured” and which shows that the painter carries adequate amounts of liability, automobile and worker’s compensation coverage.

As an Added Bonus – Get a written LIEN WAVER, signed off by the contractor, after the work is completely 100% done and you have paid 100% of the agreed upon amount. With a Lien Waiver signed, all parties agree that the work was completed and paid in accordance to the contract agreement. This provides you with some level of protection against a potential BOGUS lien recorded on the title your home in the future filed by a sub-contractor or paint dealer claiming the contractor didn’t pay them. Just imagine, selling your home and then getting this nasty SHOCK. It’s happened to people before, and now it does not have to happen to you.

What Else to Look For in a Qualified Painter

There are a number of qualifications which can set a professional painter apart from someone who will do shoddy work, over charge you, waste your time or just plain vanish into thin air mid job.

We may cover some things twice here but this is the list we use when hiring for our needs.

· Insurance — Be sure that the prospective painting contractor you are considering hiring is fully insured; having both workers’ compensation and liability insurance. Your prospective painter should be able to provide you with a Certificate of Insurance or a copy of his/her insurance policy for your records.

· Better Business Bureau — Contact your local Better Business Bureau (or go to their website) to see if any complaints have been filed against the company you are considering hiring. If there are complaints, the Better Business Bureau should be able to tell you if the complaints have they been resolved by the company or not.

· Safety Commitment -Accidents can happen with almost any home improvement project. So ask your prospective painting contractor what steps they will take to prevent injuries and property damage during the time that they are on your property doing their work.

· References – Satisfied customers and a place where you can check out their work for yourself.

Again, if a painter is good at their work, they will be able to answer these questions with ease and confidence. They should have a strong attention to detail and be cognizant of safety while working at your home.

· Clean Up — Ask the painter how he or she intends to leave the work areas of your house at the end of each day AND upon full completion of the job. You don’t want to be cleaning up for hours after they’ve left your home. It’s so much easier to just work with someone who will respect your home and your family.

· Accidents Will Happen — How they’ll handle any unforeseen disruptions during the project, such as, them having to leave your job site and not return for several hours, days or weeks.


* Small business painters will sometimes be much more affordable because their overhead can be much lower, in general.

* If it’s a big job, ask a number of painters and discard the cheapest and most expensive proposals because they are probably wrong. The cheapest will have under-estimated and may sting you for it later and the most expensive doesn’t really want your business, probably because they are already at full capacity and not able to take on the work.