How to Choose a Painting Contractor

Where do I start?

Okay so you need to hire a painting contractor, but who do you hire? Do you thumb through the yellow pages, and find the painter with the prettiest ad. Ya, right! You being the tech savvy genius of the inter web, search for local painters on your favorite search engine and come up with a handful of terrible web sites (hey give us a break, we are painters, not web designers). One painter’s website looks far nicer than all the other ones though and it is clear at the top of your search results. So you have that guy come out and paint your house right?  Well maybe, but the fact is that these initial grabs for your attention are just that. So again I ask the question how do you know which contractor to hire? This is a complicated question and there is no single cut and dry way to approach this, but in this article I am going to give you some tips as a professional painting contractor on how I would look for a company to come and paint my home.

A recommendation is your most powerful tool.

Do you have friends? Most of us do, and now would be an excellent time to use that relationship to your benefit. The single most powerful tool you have on your side when deciding which contractor to pick is the almighty referral. No this is not always a fool proof plan, but in my experience this is the single best way to choose someone to come and work on your home or business. Say your friend just used an awesome painting contractor called Trimline Painting Inc. (okay I’m a little biased). Not only will your friend be able to convey to you how Trimline conducted business, they will be able to show you a real life example of some of the work that this company has done. Even if your friend knows nothing about painting, you still have the option to look at the job yourself! If your friend says that the business transaction went smoothly, and you like the way the job turned out, this is a pretty convincing argument that you will have a similar experience should you use your friends recommendation.

Life is not always perfect.

Unfortunately in real life our friends don’t always have a contractor to recommend. So now what? Enter the interview process. That’s right you just became the boss and now it’s your job to go and find an employee (or do the work yourself. Yes, that last line was a shameless plug for our tutorial videos). Now this is the part where you might go and pick the most appealing website, business card, yellow page ad, etc. you can find. Choose two or three different contractors and let the interviews begin. Choosing two or three contractors is usually enough to find someone you like and feel comfortable with and is also enough to give you a good feel for what your project is going to cost you (more on this later). Very rarely will you need to have more than two or three contractors come and look at your project and most times when I see more than this, the person looking to have the work done is wasting a lot of people’s time. Theirs included!

The quality of the business card is rarely an indication of the painters ability.

I have been around my fair share of painting contractors. I have seen great painters with no website and terrible business cards. I have seen terrible painters with flashy webpages highly ranked on search engines. I have seen great painters with fantastic webpages and stylish business cards. My point? To reiterate nothing beats the referral and when you don’t have that you will have few clues as to whether a contractor is good until you meet them, but there ARE a few things you CAN look for before you invite a painter over to give you a price.

Check the status of the contractor’s license!!!

Note: The information in this section is for the state of California only. Consult your local laws on this issue before your take action!

In California we have state issued contractors licenses. Never hire someone who hasn’t first been recommend to to you AND does not have a valid contractors license! Hiring someone you know nothing about who is also not licensed is a recipe for disaster. In fact in California it is illegal to hire someone to come and perform work on your house that isn’t licensed IF the amount of the job is over $500.00. I highly recommend that you check the status of all contractors licenses BEFORE you invite them over to give you a price. To check a California state contractors license status click here. by checking the license you protect yourself. The information in the link above will tell you whether or not the contractors license is active and whether or not they are bonded and or insured. This is important should something go wrong on the job and you need a form of recourse. If you look up a contractor and they do not have a license, a bond, or insurance DO NOT HIRE THEM! Hiring a licensed, bonded and insured contractor protects you in case something goes wrong, however, just because a contractor has all of those things does not make him a good craftsman! Instead make all of those things mandatory requirements for anyone you are considering having work for you.

Is the BBB, Diamond Certified or other quality rating organizations good ways to gauge the quality of a contractor?

The answer is not really, however, these organizations do have some minor redeeming qualities. I have seen many painting contractors that aren’t members of these organizations that I would recommend above painters that are part of those organizations, and vice versa.

Let me give you some facts about these organizations. Did you know contractors have to pay to be members of these organizations? I had a customer not long ago that needed some roof repairs done on her home. She told me that she decided to go with a contractor because he was diamond certified over the roofer I recommended to her. She seemed rather surprised when I told her that companies pay to become certified or members of such organizations! To these “organizations” defense, they do say that they monitor complaints against companies belonging to their organizations (as well as companies that do not) and rank them accordingly. With that said though, is a contractor of a higher caliber because he pays for a membership to show off these certifications. That’s ridicules. That is like me recommending someone to you only because they paid me to.

I believe that you will slowly begin to see these organizations fade away in the future with the advent of online social rating sites such as Yelp or Google. I would rather see people look to social rating sites such as these to gauge a contractors reputation rather than look to a company that contractors pay to belong to.

So in closing with regard to rating organizations, let such certifications or memberships carry little, if any weight in your decision to hire a contractor. True they are an indication that a contractor may have few complaints against them, but the membership or certification makes them no better of a craftsman than many contractors that don’t belong to these organizations at all.

Ask Questions!

So now you have a couple of contractors that you have screened, coming over to look at your project. How can you determine which one is right for you? The simple answer is to ask a lot of questions. Good contractors will be more than happy to educate you on the best way to handle your particular project, and be very forthcoming with information you ask for. Use your instincts and choose someone you feel comfortable with.

Also remember that there is usually more than one way to do something. Ask how each contractor plans to tackle your project. Often times I will go to look at a job where a different painting contractor gave the customer a price for a lower quality job than I was planing on giving a price for. Don’t fall into the trap of just looking at the final price on the bid. I know price is a very important and often deciding factor for most people, but make sure you compare bids apples to apples. If Pete the Painter, gives you a lower price than Trimline Painting Inc. why is that? Is Pete the Painter planning to cut corners while Trimline Painting Inc. is planning to do more work or provide a better system? In other words are the two companies bidding the job to do the same thing? Ask questions, educate yourself, and let the price be one of many determining factors when choosing your contractor. Always remember paying to have a job done wrong will cost you more when/if it prematurely fails, or when you have to pay someone else to come out to correct a failed job.

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