Choosing a Painter

Picking a contractor can be a tough task. Is the contractor insured, how long have they been in business, do they do the work or does someone else, what products do they use, and how do they accept payment.  These are all questions you should ask but, all these questions have questions within themselves!

1. Contacting your Prospects. What do you ask on the initial contact?  First, explain to the contractor your project details.  Make sure you ask if they do that type of work.  No reason you should waste your time and/or theirs if they do not do the required work.  Where do they work? In Kansas City their are a lot of different areas of town. Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee, and leawood are all located in Kansas.  Liberty, Raytown, Lees Summit, Belton, and Gladstone are all located in Missouri.  So make sure your contractor works in your area of town.  Schedule a time that you will be home or on the job site to meet the contractor.  Most companies that come out and give a quick bid without meeting with the business or homeowner are going to subcontract the job.  Subcontract usually means they sell the job to a painting crew which usually consists of an uninsured illegally working, painting crew.  So make sure your there for your own benefit!  Last, ask if they can have a bid for you while they are there.  70% of all contractors will print out or make a bid for you at a later date and fax, mail, or email it to you.  This can be a problem when trying to get the job underway.  Also, this will tell you how long you will have to meet with the contractor.  A quick bid and mail later should take 15-20 minutes.  A good contractor with a printed or written bid will take 20 minutes to a hour.

2. The Meeting.  When you meet with the contractor show them all the areas of your project.  When explaining your job make sure you tell them the details of exactly what you want done.  After you explain the details see if they have questions or comments.  These questions or comments could cost you money later once they have started.  A lot of contractors state, “That wasn’t included” or “You never mentioned that so it extra”.  Please always state the complete job and make sure you both are on the same page so the proposal is priced for the completion of the job, not for the start of the job.  Most contractors get their foot in the door, then start charging.  A good contractor will most likely ask questions about the specifics of the job.

3. The Bid!  When you get the bid, see if it is written or printed.  Written bids can have hidden,  misspelled words that mean two different things. Painter will commonly write coat instead of coats for the amount of paint on a wall.  This can costs hundreds, even thousands when 2 or more coats of paint are required and they usually are required.  Make sure every thing is explained in detail.  What specific materials are used?  Painters usually put “Paint used is Sherwin Williams”.  Sherwin Williams makes the best paint!  They also make the worst paint.  So painters can state this and use a $10.00 a gallon paint from Sherwin Williams.  You think Sherwin Williams only makes great paint, when in reality your getting a new construction non wipeable paint that will wash off the wall the first time you try to get off a mark.  Is the job broken down in the areas of the job?  A good contractor will always show their clients where your money is being spent on the different areas of the job.  Is money required up front?  Never fully pay the job in advance. It is acceptable to give 1/3 or 1/2 at the start of the job when the job is 5 or more days or a big cost in materials is required.  Only give this at the start of the job, not before.  If there is a deposit required for materials, you put it down directly!  Do not give money to a contractor that can take your money from you.  Are they insured?  Workman’s Comp and Liability Insurance is required in most states.  Ask for an insurance statement.  The statement will state what is covered and the dollar amounts covered. Look also at the employee count. Some contractors will only cover themselves. This means all the workers aren’t insured on your job site.  Your homeowners insurance or business insurance will be liable for any and all accidents!  Last but most important, WILL THE CONTRACTOR SELLING YOU THE JOB BE ON THE JOB OR WILL SOMEONE ELSE BE RESPONSIBLE OR THE WORK TO BE COMPLETED?

4. How long have you been in business?  Most contractors will state “years”.  Ask for proof or an insurance statement which will state how long they have been insured.  A lot of painting contractors that have been in business for a  while will have this proof on hand or get it to you in a timely manor.  Be careful for those who state they don’t hove proof or keep saying they forgot.  Chances are they are not telling the truth.  Insurance forms and the Better Business Bureau is a great source for finding out how long a contractor has been in business.

5. Warranty.  Most companies have the same warranties.  Construction is usually 1 year.  Painting companies is 3-5 years.  What does the warranty protect (Peeling, cracking, chipping, fading, settling, and is labor and materials included)?  If labor isn’t included, pick another company.  Warranties also state that if any problems arise your contractor will handle your problems even if they require the product companies to get involved in the coverage of the materials.  You shouldn’t have to do the foot work yourself.  If they are pro’s, they should know how to handle any and all problems that are covered under the warranty.  Make sure the company has been in business longer than the warranty.  Warranty are only as good as the company.

6. References and previous projects.  Today you can go through the “Better Business Bureau” or a company like “Angies List”. Some companies my have a good rating but also may have resolved complaints against them. Resolved complaints means they didn’t solve a customers problem. The customer had to go to the “BBB” or another rating company and file a complaint to get a warranty issue solved. This can be a long process and a lot of work for a business or homeowner.

7. Signing the Contract and Scheduling.  When signing the contract make sure nothing has changed in writing from your original proposal.  Have the insurance and contract state who is working on the job.  How many workers are dedicated to the project?  Make sure the start date and completion date are on the contract.  These dates may very a little because of weather or other projects the company is completing before yours. Make sure the contractor is going to start your job and complete it before they go on to the next.  A lot of contractors will go where the money is not where your project is!  So state in the contract this project will be completed by a certain end date.  If any stipulations are on the contract about future problems or materials used, make sure are all spelled out completely.

8. On the Job.  When the contractor arrives, go over all the areas and check out the materials they are using.  Are they the same as the contract states?  Are the workers the same as they stated would be there.  If any questions come up DON’T HESITATE TO ASK!!!!  Make sure you are getting exactly what your paying contract states.  A good contractor will ask if you have any questions or concerns during the process.  Never think you are in the way or bugging them.  You are the customer and in this business of contracting anything, crooks are everywhere!  Last is the punch list or walk through.  Alway make sure your punch list or walk through is complete before you give the final payment. When paying make sure you get a written receipt and a warranty statement.  You may ask for a “lien release”.  A lien release, releases you from any money owned on the materials used on or in your property.  Some contractors will put materials on their charge accounts with supply houses and/or painting stores.  If these accounts go bad, the store that supplied the materials can come after you!  A simple Lien Release will release you from any liability for materials that you already paid the contractor for in your final payment.

We hope this will help you in choosing your next contractor.  Please remember it never hurts to ask.  Finding out the difference in materials, workers, warranty, price, and all other areas of your project will give you the knowledge to see who is the best pick for your particular project.

Thank you and good luck with your future project!

Christopher Knight (Owner) A Stroke of Color