Photo courtesy of Koleksifoto.com

You’ve made the decision.  It’s definitely time to paint.  Maybe you’ve bought your dream home, scored a great rental property, or found your favorite spot in all the world to be.  Or maybe things aren’t so perfect at your home of many years and you need to make a change.  You want your space to reflect who you are, your lifestyle and values.  You want to make your space your own.  Now that it’s time to paint, how do you find someone you can trust to help make your space?  How do you find a painting contractor who knows what he or she is doing?  You don’t want to cringe and avert your eyes every time you pass a certain room or hallway in your home.  You want to get it right the first time.

As a painting contractor, I have seen the look in many clients’ eyes as they gather estimates and begin the process of interviewing contractors.  They have barely started and they are already exhausted and wary.  They are making an investment in their homes and trusting a stranger to help them.  Finding the right painting contractor can be a daunting process.  There are so many details to oversee, so many choices have to be made, with each decision taking on seemingly monumental proportions.  Where do you begin?

In order to help you through this process, I have created a list of some important qualities to guide you.  If I were looking to hire a painting contractor, these are the six most important factors I would consider:

1. Trustworthiness

2. Expertise

3. Craft

4. Personality

5. Vision

6. Cost

I’ll start with Trustworthiness first.  Of course, you want a contractor you can trust.  That’s where it all starts right?  You want to be able to leave the crew at your house while you go to work, go on errands, deal with the computer tech, get the kids to swim practice, and basically get on with your life without worrying about what is happening at your home.

One of the best ways to find a trustworthy painting contractor is a personal referral from someone who has already worked with that contractor.  That’s right, old-fashioned word-of-mouth.  A good painting contractor has many personal references.  You want a contractor who knows how to handle difficult or sticky situations.  Don’t just get references where the job went smoothly.  You should also get references where some problems crept up, so be sure to ask for them.

A good and trustworthy painting contractor is a professional.  He or she can resolve problems in an efficient, respectful, responsible and satisfying way.  You want a contractor that hears and understands your concerns and can address them appropriately.  You want a contractor who can smooth out difficulties and handle unforeseen challenges.  Even when a big problem arises, a trustworthy painting contractor can respond in a way that gives you a wonderful experience.

Your painting contractor should be insured.  He or she should have liability insurance as well as worker’s compensation insurance.  Liability insurance protects your property should an accident occur.  Worker’s compensation insurance protects crew members if they are injured on the job in your home.  A professional painting contractor who cares for his workers and your property will have both types of insurance.  Insurance is a sign of the contractor’s responsibility, respect and care for your property, while worker’s compensation insurance is a sign that the contractor also cares for and respects his employees – the folks who will be working many hours in your home.

Next, Expertise.  You want a painting contractor who is knowledgeable in the craft.  He or she should have the most recent training and education about new products, safety regulations and painting techniques.  Your contractor should be familiar with different paint brands, and their specific products.  You should hire a contractor who knows and can provide you with information that will help you make the best decisions about your home.

Almost any new paint job is beautiful, but wall preparation is ninety percent of the painting job.  Walls have their own challenges-dare I say needs.  Some walls need a simple taping and sanding, while others need safe lead abatement or removal.  Your painting contractor is responsible for protecting your family from fumes, plaster dust, lead dust, and should know how to properly prepare your walls to receive paint.

Even though painting is more than just getting color up on the walls, you also want a contractor who is skillful.  The work should be neat and clean.  Your walls should not show streaks or uneven paint coverage.

And that takes us right into the next quality you should consider when hiring a painting contractor-Craft.   Your painting contractor and crew should take pride in their work. Despite the stereotype of the layabout painter, there are many painters who are craftsmen and women.  They take pride in their skill and in providing you with an excellent experience and product.

To that point, the painting contractor you hire should pay his or her crew appropriately.  To some, the wages the paint crew receives are irrelevant.  However, I like my painters to be paid a living wage.  They are an integral part of the team.  Painters who are paid properly tend to be true craftswomen and men.  They don’t track dirt and water into your home or leave sandwich wrappers strewn about the floor.  They don’t slop paint around or paint in a messy fashion.  They treat your property as if it were their own.  They are neat, clean, polite, and personable.  They are professionals and take special pride in their work and in providing our clients with an excellent experience and product.

The next quality you should look for in a painting contractor is Personality.  The process of searching for the right contractor can be tiring.  It’s enough to make you want to overlook this one quality.  How much could it matter after all?  Well, personality may not be a deal breaker for everyone.  However, this person and his or her painting crew will be in your house for a while.  Depending on the project, it may be a long while.  Pick a contractor who has personality, someone who is enjoyable to be around!  Why suffer with a gruff and cranky person who barks at his employees and maybe even you?  I know; you’re just getting your walls painted, but you are also investing money and time into getting them painted.  The experience should be an enjoyable one!

You also want your painting contractor to have Vision.  This may seem a little odd at first, but hear me out.  Your painting contractor should be an expert, and your contractor should also be able to listen to you, and understand your vision.  You don’t want him or her to just come into your home full of painting knowledge and expertise, declaring what will and what won’t be done.  It is your home and your vision.  Your contractor should first ask you good questions and understand your values, what is important to you, for your home.  The contractor should ask and understand how your home fits into and supports your lifestyle.  Your contractor should listen to you to find out what important things or aspects of your personality you want to express in your home.  The contractor is there to make your vision a reality.

Finally, there is the matter of Cost.  How much of your hard-earned money do you spend?  Of course, this is an important aspect in your decision making.  Sometimes people evaluate a contractor only by cost, without considering what product and experience they are receiving in exchange for their dollar.  In this economic environment, it is tempting to choose the cheapest painting contractor, to jump on the lowest bid.   Don’t go for the lowest cost.  There is a wide range of pricing in residential painting; you can always find a lower bid.  You might get lucky once in a while, but at some point, you will end up with the product and experience you paid for.  You are making an investment that you have to live with for a while.  It’s best to make it an investment you won’t regret every time you look at your walls.

When evaluating the cost, make sure your painting contractor gives you a detailed estimate.  Alarm bells should immediately go off in your head if a contractor writes a number on the back of a business card and say the job will cost “about this much”.  You need to know exactly what is going to cost “this much”.  You need to know what sort of preparation may be required, what materials are needed, their costs, how many crew members are required, etc.  You need to know how the contractor handles payment.  What happens if you want to add work to the contract or if new items spring up that weren’t foreseen?  And it all needs to be in writing so that you can refer to it in the future, not only to compare with other paint contractors’ estimates, but also for your records if you hire the contractor.

If a painting contractor is vague or has vague responses to your questions, you should look elsewhere.  If you ask a contractor a question he or she cannot answer on the spot and the contractor does not offer to research and get an answer for you, you should look elsewhere.  If a contractor is rude, disrespectful or even dismissive of your concerns or questions, you should look elsewhere.  Truly, your relationship with your painting contractor begins at the estimate phase.  You should feel comfortable asking questions and you should feel comfortable with the contractor’s answers.

I hope my advice has been helpful to you.  Whether you are undertaking a complete remodeling project or finally getting rid of that color in the kitchen that you can no longer abide, be sure to consult this guide when selecting a painting contractor.  I have discussed the highlights here, but if you have any questions, please contact me.  I can be reached by phone at (508) 740-6212 or email me at bill@larkinpainting.net.  You can also talk to me on Facebook by searching ‘The Larkin Painting Company’ or you can easily contact me on Twitter (BillLarkinPaint).

Happy Painting!