Painting, it’s an easy DIY, so why bother to hire a contractor for the job? You may lack the time, or be working with a hard-to-paint space with high ceilings and lots of architectural details. Maybe you’ve got an old place where there may be lead paint to deal with. Or maybe you’re not the DIY type. There are plenty of reasons to call in the pros. No matter what your reasons, it’s important to get apples-to-apples estimates from multiple contractors, and that’s not always easy to do. When you’re talking to the pros, check them out first, then have a checklist for the things you want to see on the estimate.
Things to ask the contractor about their business
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have the proper/required licenses? Requirements vary state by state, and some may not require any licensing. Get straight answers and ask to see their license.
- Do you have insurance and bonding? Ask to see proof.
- Are you a member of any national or local painting contractors’ associations?
- Do you subcontract your work or perform it yourself?
- Can you provide references? Get at least three from similarly sized projects.
- Do you offer written guarantees of your work?
Things to ask yourself about the contractor
- Does the contractor project a sense of professionalism and experience?
- Is the contractor courteous and business-like?
- Is the contractor busy? Good ones usually are.
- Does the contractor return phone calls and provide estimates in a timely manner?
- Is the contractor on time for appointments?
Getting the estimate
- Get all of the details in writing, from estimate to contract. If the contractor offers something verbally, ask for it in writing. If you ask for something specific, make sure it’s written into the contract.
- Be specific about what work you need done, the type of finish you want, and what colors should be painted where. The more specific you are, the more accurate your estimate will be.
- If you want low- or no-VOC paints, specify that before they start writing up the estimate, and be sure the contractor has knowledge of the options
- Include all the details on preparation, cleanup, and disposal, and any associated fees.
- Make sure they have a plan to protect plants, patios, furniture, or other items, and that costs for that are calculated into the estimate.
- Get an estimate for how much time the project will take, from start to end, include a completion date
- Specify when and how the contractor will be paid, including any up-front payment. In general, don’t pay more than 10%-30% up front when work starts. Installments paid during the work process are acceptable and effective, and should be defined in the contract.
- Ask for a breakdown of materials and labor costs. It will help you to compare different estimates.
- Be wary of bids that are too low, ask about what’s not being done, where corners are being cut, and find out the reason for a bid that comes in well below others.
Once you’ve settled on a contractor, review the contract before any work is done and ask questions on any details that need clarification. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and let someone else paint your house!