When a homeowner is thinking about getting their house painted, there are many factors to consider when comparing estimates and choosing a contractor. For many people, price is the most important factor. Finding out the cost of painting is the most obvious and likely the first question you’ll ask, so we’ll skip that one. Several different estimates can vary wildly in price, making the homeowner wonder why. Here are some tips for going through different companies and bids, and some questions to ask a painter.
1 – “Are You Insured?”
This is the most basic of questions, but likely one of the most important questions to ask a painter. Most fly-by-night painters or “guys with a truck” do not have insurance. This means the homeowner will assume all the risk for a job. If someone falls off a ladder, destroys a piece of furniture, drops your television, or steals your jewelry, you will have little recourse.
Always ask for a Certificate of Insurance (COI) and make sure the contractor is listed on it and that the dates are current. Beware of anything that looks doctored, such as a modified name, date, or policy number. Some “contractors” will even try to pass off an auto or home policy as their business insurance.
You can also call the insurance company listed on the COI to verify that the contractor is indeed covered. Most painting companies will have a minimum of a million dollars in liability coverage. SurePro Painting will gladly send a copy of the Certificate of Insurance whenever requested.
2 – “What Kind of Prep Work Will Be Done?”
Always read the contract and make sure it is clear about the type of prep work that will be performed. As the homeowner, is there anything that you need to do to get ready, such as moving furniture?
If you hire a guy to paint the walls, he’ll probably just paint the walls. All of our interior and exterior estimates include cleaning and prepping, caulking open seams, filling nail holes, and priming wherever necessary at a minimum. This is a hidden cost of house painting that gets overlooked by many.
Don’t hire someone based on a verbal agreement! Be wary of any “contractor” who doesn’t actually provide a contract. It isn’t necessary for it to be complicated, but make sure it lists all the details about you, your home, and the exact work that will be performed. If it isn’t explicitly stated on the contract, you can assume it won’t be done. If anything is missed, make sure the contractor adds it to the contract before signing on the dotted line.
3 – “What Type Of Paint Do You Use?”
This is another one of the important questions to ask a painter, but we surprisingly don’t get asked it very often. Not all paint is equal. Like most other products, you get what you pay for.
Cheaper paint has worse coverage and can wear and fade more quickly. Higher quality paints give you a thicker coat and more color consistency. They are also more resistant to dirt and can be cleaned more easily, adding years to the life of a paint job.
Also, not every type of paint is right for every application. What happens if you want to paint over oil-based paint using latex? Why type of paint do you use for exterior metal railings? What about for stucco? What is low-VOC paint? The estimator or painting company you hire should know the answers to these types of questions, so make sure you are getting what is best for your project.
At SurePro Painting, we always use higher-quality paints from dealers such as Sherwin Williams, Benjamin-Moore, and Behr. Many cut-rate contractors will use contractor-grade paints in order to cut costs.
4 – “Who Will Manage My Project?”
This one is important in our opinion. A solo painter will be the estimator, salesman, painter, and project manager all rolled into one. A true painting company will usually have separate employees in these different roles, sometimes with shared responsibilities.
Make sure there is someone who will be checking on the crew and project that you can contact with any issues or questions. This will usually be the person that also does a walkthrough when the project is done to make sure everything in the contract was completed.
5 – “Do You Have References?”
Any good experienced contractor should have no problem providing you with references for work that has been completed. Ask for five or six and contact them. Double-check the names to make sure they’re not related. When you contact them, ask about the work they had done, how long ago it was, and what the experience was like.
6 – “What Are The Payment Arrangements?”
Beware of any contractor or company who requires cash only, and never ever pay for an entire job up-front. Almost all companies will ask for some kind of deposit before getting started. This is generally in the 25-35% range and is used to cover the purchase of materials and commit a crew to a specific schedule.
The remainder will usually be due once the job is completed. Larger jobs might have a payment schedule with payments due at pre-determined points in the project.
At SurePro Painting, we send secure e-invoices that can be paid online with a bank account or credit cards. When paying with cash, there is no paper trail or evidence of payment. We have heard of jobs where a contractor was paid cash, then filed a claim saying they were never paid. Paying with personal check, bank transfer, or credit card ensures that you have proof of payment.
7 – “Do You Have A Guarantee?”
One of the last questions to ask a painter is if they have a guarantee. Almost every reputable painting company will have some kind of guarantee which covers defects in materials or workmanship. These are typically one to two years. Make sure the painter has an office to contact and mailing address (not a PO Box!), and that the phone number is more reliable than just a cell phone. Find out about the policy for touch-ups after the job is complete. Service after the sale is equally important to service during the job. Again, a good painting company will come back to take care of small details and touchups.
Anyone these days can put together a website to create an online presence. But it is hard to fake real customer reviews. Visit sites like Yelp and Google and read reviews from actual customers. When we are checking out a business, we always read the 1-star reviews and look for a pattern. Did they do the work they were asked to perform? Did they take care of customer issues and complaints?
Also check to see if they have any complaints against them through the Better Business Bureau. Most reputable businesses will be members of the BBB, while a fly-by-night painter will not be.
**Bonus 2: Beware of Unsolicited Home Repair Work
It’s not uncommon to hear of someone getting scammed by a roofer, painter, or other general home repairman. The main thing to be aware of is that these guys usually knock or call – unsolicited. They identify homes that are in need of work and approach the owner. They will often require funds for the entire scope of work up front, sometimes simply making off with the check and sometimes completing partial or very shoddy work. If they complete the work, they’ve often used the cheapest materials, paint, etc. that they could find. If they get away with it, they’ll often keep coming back to the same home owner.
It’s unfortunate when anyone gets scammed, but it’s particularly heinous when it’s an unsuspecting elderly member of the community. If someone does approach you about doing work to your home, do your research. Find them on Yelp and read their reviews. Better yet, choose a local company that has a local owner and has done work for years in your community. They aren’t going anywhere. They are reputable and they rely on their good reputation to stay in business.
SurePro Painting Has Over 15 Years Experience
We are a professional Austin painting company that provides top-notch results and a superior customer experience. We also have fabulous reviews from our happy customers. In fact, we’ve won customers for life:
“Surepro did such a great job on my house and they were so friendly! I will never even look for another painting company. These guys are the best!” – Elizabeth D. Austin, TX.