Seven Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Painter
Every decade or so, most homes need a new paint of coat. Painting your home helps protect it from the elements, keeps it looking good, and allows you to just enjoy it more. The thing is- painting a home by yourself can take a LONG time. Plus if you don’t live in a Ranch, you’ll need tall ladders to reach the second or third stories. This leads many people towards hiring a professional, which brings its own challenges. They’ll need to do research into house painters, find one that’s actually affordable, set up a few interviews, etc.
Sounds like a hassle, right?
Well it doesn’t have to be. This article will help you decide the best company for the job- period. You’ll be able to sleep better at night in your nice, freshly- painted home. Oh yeah- and you wouldn’t have paid with your first-born child. To start this off, let’s look at the most common question that people ask- is a pro really necessary?
1. I think I can do it by myself, why hire a professional? It’s just paint, right?
Painting can often be looked at as one of the easier home improvement tasks. You dip a roller or brush into the paint, and then apply it evenly to walls. Seems simple enough, right? Most people can paint their own home if they really want to. It’s a good way for them to save a few bucks and take pride in their work. But when you think about the process a little harder, you will see that hiring a professional has substantial advantages.
Here are a few of the big ones to consider:
Even though you might save a few bucks by doing it yourself, don’t forget about all of those hours you’ll be spending on this project. If you’re all by yourself, it can take you a few weeks, to a few months to paint your house! That’s working a few hours every day. You’d be surprised how long it can take to properly paint a home in your spare time.
Most people either work full time, or have a lot going on in their daily lives. Do you really want to spend your small amount of spare time painting?
Painters are experienced at handling the most difficult of painting tasks. They’re always on tall ladders, climbing on roofs, leaning out windows and often do some other crazy stuff to get the job done. Even though the majority of painting is relatively safe, it’s those special issues that keeps mothers up at night. Professional painters know what they’re doing- they do this every day. They know how to properly use a ladder and how to measure their level of fatigue. They won’t push their own limits because they realize what’s at stake.
It’s not rocket science to brush paint onto a wall…But can anyone make paint look good? Even more importantly, do you know how to always make the paint look good, how to get those hard-to-reach places, and the most critical parts of your home to paint? Truth is, most people don’t. Professionals know that certain areas of the home, such as the small gaps under side paneling or above a door, are extremely important. If you don’t paint those critical areas, your home is more susceptible to mold, critters or other types of damage.
So a pro will not only help the paint look better, they’ll also protect your home better.
Chances are, a professional painting company will have a full crew on the job at all times. Depending on the size of the job, most painting crews consist of 2-4 painters. Keep in mind, these are painters that are very efficient & maintain a very high level of quality. So instead of the job taking 1-2 months of doing it on your own in your valuable spare time, you’ll be sitting pretty in your freshly-painted home within a few weeks. This gives you peace of mind. You’ll know that this project is complete, so you can focus on other tasks- either around the house or at work.
Basically, what we’re saying is…
You can definitely save a few bucks doing everything yourself. But a professional will do everything better and faster, saving you precious time to focus on other things. But before you go out and hire the first professional house painter you find, let’s look at a few things you need to do.
2. Preparing for Professional Painting
Even though some professionals might do these things for you, remember that you’re primarily paying them to paint- not move stuff around and time is money! There are several things you can do as the homeowner that will save you additional costs and will help the company you hire to complete their job from start-to-finish with as little interruptions as possible.
Move Furniture / Clothing / Wall Decor
Your painters will cover up the furniture with plastic, but make sure it’s out of their way. If you can, move the furniture out of the room being painted. If you don’t have the available space, move it all to the center of the room. Paintings, pictures, quotes, clocks, mirrors, and anything else that you have hanging on the wall. We recommend taking pictures and also removing any nails or screws in the wall, these can be damaging to a painters roller and could set the job back. Clothing is also an area that most companies will not touch. Unlike moving furniture, clothing is very delicate and it’s something most painting companies will not personally touch or try to move. So, if closets or other clothing storage areas are in the project scope, make sure those are moved to a different location.
Remove Outlet Covers and Switch Plates
A lot of people forget about this little step. A painter can roll an entire wall if the switch plates and outlet covers are off. Most companies will remove them as part of their prep work, but you would be able to save them time if you could remove them yourself. It’s a small touch, but having fresh outlet covers and switch plates that are free from paint add an extra level of professionalism to the job.
Designate a “Staging Area” for Your Painters
Professional painters set up shop in one or 2 areas that allow them plenty of space to store their ladders, plastic sheets, paint, etc. Even though painters will bring in all of their own stuff, you may want to make room for them to keep all of this stuff. This is especially important if you have a lot of belongings in your home, as this can lead to a lot of clutter. This will also help in the prepping and cleanup processes. The more your painters can stay organized, the more efficient they will be and again minimizes any delay in production.
Clean the Walls
Most people think because they’re getting their walls painted, having them washed down doesn’t make sense. It actually makes more sense to clean them because they’re about to get painted. Here is why:
Paint tends to bring out any physical differences in a wall. Things like dust or dirt are especially more visible after painting, as the paint basically sticks these substances to the wall permanently. Cleaning the walls are easy. Just make a mixed solution of water and a mild detergent, and then apply it to the wall with a sponge. Don’t soak the walls! You’re not fully washing them, just trying to remove the surface dirt and dust. Make sure that you leave plenty of time for the walls to dry before your painters come in to start! We recommend at least 24 hours just to ensure everything is dry. Using fans are also a good way to speed up the drying process.
Keeping Pets Away From Painting Areas
We love animals just as much as you, and surprisingly this gets overlooked quite a bit, but having pets in the home during painting can be a very frustrating situation. The problem with this- especially when painting doors or the corners of walls- is that sometimes the animal rubs up against the fresh coat of paint. If you aren’t comfortable keeping your animals in a closed off room or unoccupied portion of the house while your painters are in your home, we strongly recommend boarding them up, have a loved one take them for a few days, or take the risk of having a painted animal to clean!
3. Where to Start Looking for a Reputable House Painter
There are generally 3 main places to look for a good professional painter. Let’s start with the most time-tested and proven method… friends and family.
Word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful form of marketing out there. If someone you know and trust recommends a service or product to you, you’re more likely to buy it. That’s all there is to it, so ask around! Anyone that’s had work done to their home, even if it was years ago will more than likely be willing to share their experience and offer a quick recommendation. Keep in mind, this is also a good way to weed out the companies that aren’t so reliable. Is every company perfect? Absolutely not. You will always have situations arise where the customer won’t be happy. Red flag warning: If a company tells you they’ve been in business for 20 years and have a 100% customer satisfaction rating, they’re lying to you. Every person is different, and every job is different. Sometimes things happen, and it leaves a bad taste in a customers mouth. The only thing you can do, as a professional is handle it to the best of your ability and take the proper steps in doing everything you can to change your customers mind.
Keep in mind that you’ll probably have to talk to a lot of people just to get a few referrals. Most people don’t have their home painted very often, so you should plan on asking neighbors, family, co-workers, friends, etc. The more people you ask, the better your chances of finding a good painter.
Google / Facebook
Clearly there are more than just Google and Facebook out there, but these 2 are by far the most dominant and trusted search engine and social media platform there is. Search engines are the greatest research tools ever invented. They allow you to quickly find just about any information you want, from local contractors to cooking recipes. Simply type in “painting companies”, or “painting companies near me” into the search box and see what comes up. You’ll get a lot of results, along with a lot of advertisements on the top and sides. The downside is that you don’t know much about these companies, but that is where the wonderful world of social media comes in. Facebook is a great tool for finding reputable contractors. The ability to “ask for recommendations” to your Facebook friends is a big help. Also, we recommend joining your township, city or county pages if you haven’t done so. Everyday people are asking for recommendations on products and services, and painting is no exception. Plus, you get the benefit of letting your friends tag the companies in reference, giving you a direct link to their page where you can see company history, information, reviews, and several methods to get directly in touch with them.
The third option is kind of a mix between the first two…
Websites such as Angie’s List, Yelp and Google Reviews have exploded over the last few years. They’re a great way to see what other people think about contractors, doctors, and just about any other local service. The best thing about them is that you can easily find the best-rated painter in your area. The downside is that you might have to pay a membership fee to join (Angie’s for example), so it might not be quite as cost-effective as asking for recommendations or using a search engine.
Now that you know where to look, let’s start talking about what to look for in a good professional painter.
4. Things You Should Expect from a House Painter
A professional should arrive on time, not take extended breaks, and close up shop before it gets too late at night. This lets them complete the job quickly and reduce inconvenience to you.
This is one of the most important parts to a professional painting company. This most likely their first direct interaction with you. They’ll do a complete walk-through to see what is being painted. They’ll take measurements, ask a lot of questions, and will likely take pictures or notes. They want to gather as much information as possible on the scope of your project so they can get you an accurate quote.
Colors, Finishes, and End Goal
A professional house painter wants to make sure that you’re happy. They’ll ask about what colors you’d like, any specific finishes, etc. If you haven’t selected a specific brand yet, they can also give a good recommendation regarding their favorite paint brands. This is nice because most consumers have no idea what’s considered a quality paint. Seeing an ad on TV for a certain product doesn’t mean it’s a quality product. Companies that have been in business a long time know exactly what the best products are, and will offer you their personal recommendation, along with other quality materials that fit into your budget.
Insurance & Licenses
A professional painter should have insurance and proper licenses. This will help you feel secure about hiring this company, as it adds a layer of protection for both yourself and them in case of an accident. The painter should provide this information to you for your records.
If you see a number just scribbled onto a napkin, you’re in trouble. If the proposal is poorly written, lacks clarity and throws a red flag for lack of professionalism, run away some more! A professional painter will have a complete breakdown of their costs and schedule. It gives you a peace of mind because it you see what their process is, and how important a structured schedule is to the functionality of their business.
Painters know that their service is not a cheap investment. Having several questions or hesitations about hiring a painter is completely normal, and quite common. Painters realize that they’d be working on your largest asset and that you’d be worried about damage or something going wrong. That’s why a professional will be more than happy to answer any questions you have.
Painting is messy, but it doesn’t have to be. A professional knows how to keep the home as clean as possible during this time. And in case they do make a mess, they should quickly clean it up at their own time and expense. This goes for cleaning up at the end of the day as well.
The Final Touch
Are you happy with the paint job? Maybe you see spots that don’t match the rest of the wall? Or perhaps the trim has a few paint drips. Whatever the case is, you’re paying the painter to make you happy. Period. This does not mean that you can ask them to perform extra, unpaid work just because you changed your mind halfway through a project. But it does mean that if they mess up, they should fix it. Sometimes that’s a simple touch-up, sometimes its repainting an entire wall.
Now, let’s look at the different types of painters that are out there.
5. “Types” of Painters?
Even though there are definitely different types of paint and finishes- it’s not quite as cut-and-dry when it comes to painting companies.
That said, there are a few different types of painters you can use for your home:
Mom-and-Pop’s Painting Company
Some painters are very small businesses that involve 1-5 people. Depending on how long they’ve been in business, they may or may not have all of the tools and equipment they need to paint an entire house. Large ladders and insurance aren’t cheap! And even if they do have all of the tools necessary, they may not have the highest quality tools to use. Generally these will be your least expensive option. The job might take a bit longer and the quality may not be as good, but at least you’re saving a few bucks and might feel better for helping out a small business.
Small Commercial Companies
Some companies are a bit larger than the Mom-and-Pop companies, but still aren’t very big. They tend to do both commercial and residential jobs and have a lot of experience. These companies take things a bit more seriously than the one-man-shows. They have valid insurance, customer testimonials/references, and pictures of some of the homes they’ve painted over the years. Generally these are a safe bet as they won’t be extremely expensive, but you’re still getting a professional company.
Specialty / Decoration Painting
Some painters specialize in different styles or finishes. For example, doing a mural or a faux finish on a wall or special area in your home. That’s really about it. There are other types of companies out there, but they’re generally commercial companies that only serve businesses and office buildings.
Moving on. Let’s get to the estimate and break down the cost so you aren’t overwhelmed and can understand the cost of hiring a professional company.
6. Understanding the Estimate and Pricing
Painters have two main types of costs- direct and indirect. Knowing the difference is the first step in understanding a price on a estimate.
These are the costs that aren’t directly tied to your painting project. For example, indirect costs include the monthly payment on the equipment, work truck, overhead and benefits for the crew. Indirect costs also include things like the utilities and rent of the contractor’s headquarters (if they have one). Part of the salary for support staff, such as a secretary, is also included. Customers often forget about these types of costs until they first receive the estimate. When it turns out higher than they may have expected, it’s usually because of the indirect costs.
Direct costs are generally just paint, labor and gas (especially if you live out of town from the painter’s main region). These are the costs that people usually think of when coming up with their own budget. These costs can vary widely depending on where you live and what kind of paint you want. For example, areas with a higher cost of living can expect to pay more in labor costs.
Besides just breaking up costs by direct/indirect, let’s look at what you should expect to see on the estimate.
7. What to Expect on the Estimate
Labor, Time Frame, Materials, Paint, Travel (if any charged). Some of these things may be lumped together. See if the painter can break the numbers out, just because it gives you a better idea of where your money is going. Make sure that the final estimate is crystal-clear. You want it to say exactly what you’re paying for and how long it’s expected to take. Don’t let the project get halfway done and then realize that something is missing on the estimate, or that it’s unclear. It’s ALWAYS easier to fix the estimate upfront than to make changes to your agreement later.
Other Important Questions to Ask a House Painter
There are a lot of really good questions you should ask your house painter. These will not only help you get to know their personality, but also their expertise.
Even though this isn’t a complete list, it will definitely help get you started:
- How Long Have You Been Painting Houses?
- How Experienced is Most of Your Crew?
- How Long will the Project Take to Complete?
- What do You Need Me to Do Before You Could Start?
- Do You Recommend Multiple Coats?
- What Kind of Prep Work is Included in Your Quotes?
- Do You Caulk and Fill Cracks?
- Do You Pick Up All of Your Trash at the End?
- Do You Power Wash When You Paint Exteriors?
- Are There any Homes Nearby You’ve Recently Finished that I Could See?
- Do You Have a Warranty or Guarantee?
- Do You Spray, Roll or Brush on Outside Walls? What about the Inside?
- Which Paints do You Recommend for this Job?
- Do I Need Any Major Repairs Before You Can Start?
- Do You Apply Primer Before the Paint?
- What Happens if Paint Gets in the Carpet or on the Concrete or Roof Tiles?
Again, this is just a short list to help you get started! There are no silly questions, and your professional will be glad to answer as detailed as possible.
Hiring a professional painter will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. The key is to make sure that you do your due diligence while researching different house painters. There will always be a balance of cost, schedule and quality, so consider which is the most important to you.
If you have any other questions or concerns about hiring a house painter, please let us know- we’d be happy to help.
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