Finding a Good Honest Painter

While many homeowners are incapable of rewiring their own electrical or upgrading their plumbing, many often try to tackle their own painting projects. However, if you’ve ever tried it yourself, you’ll soon realize that painting can be a lot more difficult than you originally thought. Hiring a painting contractor is often the most economical and realistic way to take on your household painting projects. A painting contractor can be found in a variety of forms. They can work as a sub, or sub-contractor, under a general contractor, or they can hire itself out directly to the homeowner. Painting contractors are usually pretty small operations ranging from the one-man sole proprietor up to 20 or 30 painters working for a small company. While paint contractors often just concentrate on painting, some perform associated tasks such as plaster repairs, minor drywall work, trim and molding, and wallpapering. Whatever your preference, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration when searching for your ideal painting contractor. Below are 4 tips toward finding a good, honest contractor.

1. The Search- Once you have armed yourself with a good plan and a set budget it’s time to find a contractor. Websites like are devoted to matching people like you with their ideal contractor. You may also ask friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbors if they have any recommendations- or just as importantly, for the names of contractors that they wouldn’t hire again. A contractor's reputation among former clients is the best gauge of his or her work. It's also a good idea to look at the work a contractor has done for previous clients. If they have a website where you can look at projects they have completed, even better.

2. Interview prospects- Once you have a few candidates lined up, set up interviews with each of them. Some good topics to cover during this initial interview include proof of worker’s compensation insurance and any licenses that your state requires. Unlike conversing with an electrician, you do not need to know specialized lingo. Most house painting contractors are good at making things clear to the homeowner. A few topics that you’ll want to discuss include:

  • Is the cost of the paint included in the estimate?
  • What type of paint does the contractor intend on using?
  • How many coats will be laid down?
  • How does he intend on covering the non-paintable areas?
  • How long does he expect the job to take?
  • Is it preferable for the residents to vacate the house during the job

3. Get an estimate- Estimates should be free. Almost all painters and painting companies will come out to your home and give you a free written estimate; if they don't you shouldn't bother calling them. Most painting contractors will have formulas that they use, totaling up square footage of walls and ceilings, along with linear footage of trim. They will calculate preparation time, as well as the “hard costs” for primer and paint. Most paint contractors will give you an estimate based on their experience with similar jobs. While this estimate cannot be tied to specifics, it is usually a reasonably good figure. However, the only way you will know if this is a good estimate is to compare it to quotes you get from other contractors. When you do receive the quote don't be afraid to negotiate, painters want your business. If the painter you feel most comfortable with doesn't give you the lowest quote, give him a call and tell him that you would like to work with him but you got a lower price from someone else. As long as the quote is reasonable most painters will match it. Here are a couple of additional questions to ask your painter once you receive the bid that you may want to ask the contractor once you receive their quote:

  • How many coats does it cover?
  • What additional expenses could raise the cost of the job?
  • Do you have insurance and what does it cover?
  • Do you move furniture? (moving it out to paint/ moving it back after the job is done)
  • Does this price include all prep work and clean up?
  • What happens if I change my mind about the color after you've started?

4. Conduct a thorough prospect background check- Once you have narrowed down the list of potential candidates, it’s important to do your homework. These people are going to be in your home and involved in a large financial investment so check them out thoroughly. Here are a few things to take into consideration:

Gather References- A professional will easily give you a list of references and volunteer this information from the beginning of the process. If certification is a requirement in your area, make sure to see their credentials. If they are unwillingly to supply any of this information it may be a red flag.

Call References- Call references directly and ask them the following questions:

  • Did they complete the job within the timeframe they originally estimated?
  • Did you run into any problems during the work and if so how did they correct them?
  • Did they clean up well when the job was finished?
  • Did you feel the workers were respectful of your home and property?
  • Did they show up and leave on time on the days the work was being done?

Check with the BBB- Search the Better Business Bureau website at "" to locate your local bureau. Enter the company’s name on the website to see if they are BBB accredited and if they have any complaints against them.

5. Final inspection- You deserve to be completely satisfied with your new paint job, so before handing over that final check, make sure that you’ve done a thorough inspection of the work. If there is something you're not happy with, tell the painters and they should correct it. Once the check is cashed and the painters have moved on to their next job it can be difficult to schedule time to come out and fix minor issues. So your best bet is to address any issues while the crew is still on site. While there are certain things that will never look perfect no matter how much paint you put them, you should still expect a clean, professional looking paint job when all is said and done.


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