July 17, 2023

Selecting a painting contractor

There are significant differences among painting contractors. Several variables can account for this difference, including a focus on quality and service, experience and expertise, employee commitment, leadership of the owner, and company philosophy. A good painting company will offer a professionally managed project, resulting in a paint job that will look great for many years. Weakness in any area will likely produce a less-desirable outcome.

Selecting a painting contractor

Finding the right contractor

Hiring the right contractor is essential for any home remodeling project, though most challenging. With the internet full of company listings, you may wonder, “Who should I call?” Maybe a better question is, “What company has the right expertise, and can I trust them to do a good job on my project?”

Your primary concern is your prospective bidders’ ability and trustworthiness at the initial stage of the contractor selection process. Unfortunately, an internet listing will provide few clues to those two crucial qualifications. Get referrals from friends, relatives, or anyone else whose judgment you trust. Ask your prospective bidders a few pre-qualifying questions before inviting them to view your project. And find out if they are appropriately licensed and insured.

By law, contractors who make home improvements must have a valid contractor’s license. To get this license, applicants must verify their experience and pass an exam testing their trade knowledge. If a company does not have a contractor’s license, it may lack expertise.

State License Boards are consumer protection agencies that license and regulate contractors. Use only licensed contractors. Resolving your complaint may be more difficult if you use an unlicensed contractor and have an issue. Your sole remedy may be in civil court, and you may be liable for damages arising from injuries to the unlicensed contractor or the unlicensed contractor’s employees.

Proper insurance coverage can’t be fully appreciated until something goes wrong. The law requires that all contractors carry General Liability insurance and have Worker’s Compensation coverage for their employees.

Incidentally, this also brings us to our other important point— trustworthiness. If the contractor must be licensed and insured, can they be trusted to do what is needed on your project if they do not have a license?

You can quickly check the status of a contractor’s license. Still, when insurance is concerned, the only way to verify the current insurance policy is to require certificates of insurance—for both General Liability and Worker’s Compensation.These can be sent to you directly by the contractor’s insurance broker. The broker will typically do so at no additional cost to you or your contractor.

A contractor’s license and insurance do not guarantee that your contractor will perform. Still, with this knowledge early in the process, you can avoid spending time with someone perhaps wholly unqualified.

A good question to ask your painting contractor is the length of time they have been in business. Please don’t ask how long they have been painting. The right question is, “How long have you been in business as a licensed painting contractor?” Once again, the length of time in business doesn’t guarantee good performance. Still, it can give you a clue as to the company’s stability, and more importantly, it would be a sign of the contractor’s track record.

You should also assess the contractors themselves. There will be telltale signs. Did this contractor return your phone calls and emails promptly? Were they on time for meetings? Are they easy to communicate with? There are horror stories of disappearing contractors who become impossible to reach, so decide whether this is someone you trust. After the proposal is received, there will be even more signs. Did the proposal arrive in a timely fashion? Does it reflect your job description and clearly state what the contractor will do?

With all proposals in hand, now it’s time to compare them. Carefully review all bids and your notes on every contractor.

At this point, you may have a clear winner and are ready to award the contract. However, I recommend that you take it further and investigate their track record. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have a history of complaints. Ask to speak to a couple of their recent clients. If this is an exterior paint project, you should ask for a list of homes painted in the neighborhood.

From your short interaction with a contractor, determining if this company has the capability you seek may be challenging. Finished projects, past client testimonials, and personal recommendations may be your only accurate indication that they have the right stuff.

Here is the summary of the contractor selection process:

  •  Put together a list of contractors.
  • Pre-qualify all contractors on your list.
  • If licensed, insured, and experienced, proceed to the next step.
  • Get comparable proposals.
  • Investigate the winning contractor for their previous job performance and customer satisfaction.
  • If the track record checks out, award the project.

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