How to Find a Good Painting Contractor
A do-it-yourself approach can work well for a simple painting project. More complicated, large-scale endeavors tend to require the expertise of a professional contractor. If you live in a house built before 1978, there’s an extra reason to hire a contractor: safety. Houses from that era often contain lead paint, and most contractors are specially trained to minimize the health hazards it can cause.
Like most worthwhile undertakings, finding a good contractor is a step-by-step process. The first step is to ask around. Contacts like real-estate agents and general contractors may be able to give you quality referrals, but so might your local paint store, your Aunt Trudy, the guy in the cubicle next to yours, or a neighbor whose house was recently painted. If you come across a newly painted house and there’s an ad for the contractor on the front lawn, it’s a sign that the customer was satisfied.
Once you’ve collected some referrals, make sure they’re licensed. Most states have government Web sites that allow consumers to look up contractors or tradespeople to verify their licensure. In Washington, the Department of Labor & Industries maintains such a site at https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/.
Create a shortlist, then get three or more references — contact information for previous customers — from each contender. Ask these references how long ago they hired the contractor in question; if it’s been several years, they can evaluate how well the paint job has held up. If you go so far as to inspect the work in person, pay attention to the windows, doors, and trim. These are areas where careful technique goes a long way, and where carelessness is especially evident.
A good contractor doesn’t just do quality work, of course. Workers should be courteous, pleasant, and capable of clear communication. Ideally, the people altering your home’s look will be enthusiastic about the task rather than jaded and burnt out. Find out from your references what kind of attitude the company’s workers displayed, and whether they behaved professionally. Also ask whether the crew stayed on schedule, and whether they arrived early each day, did their work, and got out of there.
Some previous customers may blame the contractor for problems that resulted from adverse weather conditions — something no one could control. Negative feedback can be important to consider, and repeated horror stories are a sign to stay away, but some complaints must be taken with a grain of salt. This is especially true if you visit online guides like Yelp, where disgruntled customers can anonymously rip a company to shreds, with or without cause.
In addition to getting references from your finalists, you’ll want bids. Get them from at least three different contractors, and make sure they’re all based on the same criteria. Find out what each contractor’s estimated timeframe is for the project, and whether there’s a waitlist. A good contractor should offer a warranty. Three years is fine; one year usually isn’t enough. Look at the warranty in writing, and make sure you understand any limitations or exceptions written into it.
Finding a skilled, reliable contractor can seem like an overwhelming task at first. The key is taking it one step at a time and using common sense. Since a contractor’s work can add considerable value to your home, it’s worth investing time and thought to find the best in the business.