How to Choose a Painting Contractor (or Not All Painting Contractors Are Created Equal!)

“Other contractors could learn a valuable lesson from Donovan’s.” – Steven K., Clarksville
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All contractors are not created equal. If you’re not careful, you could get stuck with a paint job that you don’t like but have to live with for a long time to come. Here are a few tips that we hope will make the process of selecting and working with a contractor easier for you.

1. Ask to see a Maryland Home Improvement license. Make the painter show you a current license as well as liability insurance papers. Probably 50% of painters out there are not licensed, so make sure yours is—it’s the law! And by all means, contact us about our MHIC license.

2. Make a full disclosure. Give the painters you’re considering as much information about the full extent of the job as possible—what’s being painted where, how many colors, any foreseeable problems, etc. Take the time to write down exactly what you want done and give all of the painters a copy so that when they work up their quotes they’re all quoting on the same thing. Typically, if one painter is extremely high and another is extremely low, somebody’s misunderstanding something, leaving something out or doing something very different from the rest. Make sure you’re not comparing apples to artichokes.

3. See for yourself. Go and look at several recent jobs done by the painter.

4. Check references. If you can, get referrals from people you trust. If not, ask painters for 3-5 recent references (and not-so-recent references) representing work they’ve done which is similar to the job they’ll do for you. When calling references you’ll want to tailor your questions based on your job and what you consider most important, but if you’re drawing a blank we’re happy to offer some questions that may help you narrow down your needs:

  • Did the painter start and finish when they said they would?
  • Did the crew arrive on time?
  • Were the painters polite to you and your family?
  • Was the painting crew noisy and disruptive, or did they make an effort to be as non-intrusive as possible?
  • Did they prep each area before painting it (washing, scraping, fixing holes, removing and replacing caulk, sanding, taping edges and trim, priming? (Proper prep allows paint to adhere better – preventing the growth of mold and mildew. It also improves the final appearance of the painted area.)
  • Did they use quality paint or whatever was on sale at the hardware store or big box store? (Quality paint lasts longer, covers better, and has a nicer final look.)
  • Did they cover all areas not to be painted—furniture, floors, carpets, lamps, chandeliers, etc.?
  • How carefully did they clean up before they left each day…and at the end of the job?
  • Was the job started on schedule?
  • Was it finished on schedule?
  • Did the final price match the quote? (We give final prices only unless work is added or is work we generally only do hourly, such as wood replacement and wallpaper removal.)
  • What problems arose, and how easily were they resolved?
  • Would you hire them again?

5. Put it in writing.
 Get a signed agreement that clearly states exactly what work is to be done, what it will cost, when work will begin and when it will end. Include any brand preferences concerning the type of paint products to be used. If you want your house to look its best for a long time, ask the painter to only use top brands, even if it costs a little more. Remember, you get what you pay for, so it’s well worth the effort.

6. Look at swatches. Not sure what colors you want? Ask the painter to come in and paint sample swatches of possible colors on the walls where you are considering them. This can be particularly important. A color may look pretty on a three-inch square sample chip, but when it fills a wall and reacts with the light in the room, it could look completely different to you.

7. Clean up your act. The day before painting is to begin, remove all clutter, extraneous furniture, knickknacks, and personal items from the areas to be painted. Be sure to put away breakables and items of value—accidents happen with the best crews.

8. Make new friends. When the crew arrives, be cordial. Get to know them by name. While they are working, stop in now and then to see how they’re doing, offer a glass of water or see if there’s anything else they need. They’ll appreciate it and want to do their best for you.

9. Demand excellence. Check the work. If something doesn’t look right, insist that it be done to your satisfaction. And when it is—be sure to let them know!

Not sure of your colors? Want more tips, ideas and other useful information?

Here are a few sites that we use regularly. We thought you might find them helpful as well.

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