Choosing the Right
Painting Contractor

Choosing the right painting contractor can be a challenging assignment. As consumers, we all want the best value in exchange for our hard earned dollars. The dilemma is that the cheapest painting estimate is not necessarily the best value. Without additional information, consumers can be easily misled by price alone.

Quality vs. Time

The old adage that “time is money” does hold true with house painting. The bottom line of a painting estimate usually reflects the time required to complete the job. One could assume that a more expensive painting estimate would allow more time to complete the painting project. Conversely, a cheaper estimate would reflect a quicker completion.

Different painting contractors do not necessarily have the same vision of what a professional paint job should be. Some painting companies are built upon delivering high quality craftsmanship. A typical painting estimate might include thorough masking and covering, meticulous surface preparation, professional paint application, and the use of premium quality paints. On the other hand, paint companies that specialize in delivering economy to their customers must use time saving methods. Paint prep is one component of painting where considerable time can be saved. The use of cheaper grade paints is another way to control costs.

The outcome of a paint job is not solely based on the time spent to complete it. A painting company that employs talented, highly skilled painters and is run efficiently can produce a better paint job in the same amount of time as a poorly run painting company with a high rate of employee turnover.

Before you interview various painting contractors, take into account your expectations of budget and outcome. Once you make that determination, look for a contractor that could best fit the bill. A very cheap painting estimate might not meet your expectations of quality. A painting proposal based upon very high quality work may be a budget buster.

Finding a Painting Contractor

The best way to find reputable painting contractors is through the referral process. Friends, co-workers, and family members are trustworthy sources for recommendations. Respected general contractors in your area are another good resource for references.

Additional sources for contractor referrals include various contractor networks and associations. Many of these organizations only require that their members be properly licensed and insured. Because these types of referral networks do not typically establish personal relationships with their various members, they offer very little information about a company’s work and business practices.

The Selection Process

A common practice is to obtain multiple (three) painting estimates. It's a good idea to walk the job with each potential contractor. Try to be specific about your painting project. Discuss your expectations and concerns as well as any aspects of your project that could affect the price.

Always ask contractors the following questions:

  • What type of painting projects does your company usually perform – new homes under construction, residential repaints, apartments, commercial space, etc.
  • How long have you been in business
  • Does your company have the proper/required licenses and bonding? (Some states may not require licensing.)
  • Does your company have the proper workers compensation and liability insurance policies?
  • Do you subcontract work?
  • Can you provide two or three references?
  • Do you offer a written guarantee of your work?

Ask the contractors to provide you with detailed painting estimates. Request information regarding the following:

  • what is to be painted
  • how much masking and covering
  • extent of surface preparation
  • method of paint application
  • number of paint coats
  • types of paints and finishes
  • number of painters
  • time estimate to complete the project

Follow up with the customer referrals from each painting contractor. Try to get an idea of the previous customer’s job satisfaction.

Contract Review

Once you have decided on a contractor, review your contract. Confirm the following items as outlined above:

  • Specific details on what is to be painted
  • Details on masking and covering
  • Details on surface preparation
  • Paint colors and type of paint for each area to be painted
  • How much time to complete the project
  • When and how the contractor will be paid

Final Thoughts

Try to find a painting company that is a good fit for your project. Many painting companies settle into a particular niche for which they develop a specialty. For example, painting apartment buildings requires production minded painters with good airless sprayer skills. On the other hand, staining, glazing, and finishing exotic hardwood kitchen cabinets calls for detail minded painters with previous experience in that area of expertise. It is helpful to ask the painting contractor about his painting specialty.

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Professional Painting, Inc. is a full service painting company serving the San Francisco Bay Area since 1988.