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brucem 08-13-2013 04:14 PM

Hiring a contractor
I hate painting! So I need to hire a contractor. What questions should I be asking when I get estimates? I have a den with 16'. Cathedral ceiling and 3 walks to be done. A flat ceiling in the kitchen, the LR 4 walls and up the steps and a small hallway. I have always done the painting, but NO MORE

user1007 08-13-2013 04:30 PM

Make sure you know more or less what you want when getting bids from two or three contractors. Nothing worse than having everybody ending up bidding a different job. You can tweak changes before you contract but at least start with everybody singing from the same page.

Decide what prep you expect, whether repairs are needed, what kind of primer is required (if any might be needed), and the quality of the two coats of paint finish you want. Don't make a real painter using quality material bid against a hack using Behr.

Request estimates in writing; it saves you from having to remember what each painter said about the job. The estimate can serve as the contract basis if accepted and in my state I believe anything costing more than $1K---including painting---still requires a written contract.

Also check for important things like bonding and insurance. In most places, for better or worse, painting contractors do not have to be licensed but finding one that is should make you feel a bit more comfortable. Anybody working on your home should at least have some sort of insurance. And heaven forbid the painter spills a gallon of semi-gloss on an antique Persian rug, you have some recourse for fixing or replacing it with insurance.

Make sure you set forth your expectations as far as when you want or need the work finished and how long you are willing to live with it in progress. Make sure everybody knows the hours acceptable to do the work. Set forth payment terms upfront as well.

Ask for and check references especially if working with totally unknown contractors that did not come referred to you.

Gymschu 08-13-2013 04:49 PM

Sdsester pretty much covered it all.

Let me emphasize what he said about insurance, bonding, and certification. If a painter has NO INSURANCE on himself, his workers, and YOUR PROPERTY (should any damage occur to your home) dismiss him right away.......I don't care how low their estimate is......the guy that is not properly insured is your ticket to disaster. My insurance co. requires that I carry a 3 million dollar rider to do residential repaints.

If your area requires painters to be bonded and/or certified, make sure that they are. Make the necessary calls to double check. After all of that, when you decide on a painting company, check their work and references.

brucem609 08-13-2013 07:36 PM

Sdester, couple of follow ups if you don't mind.
What prep should I expect? Walls are in good shape, and have eggshell finish on them. Additionally I will be using eggshell finish for the new colors.
Should I request primer, or will the new paints with primer be sufficient and 2 coats?
The wife has selected Glidden and Benjamin more colors-we have been thru every paint manufacturer and these are the colors we (she) has selected. Are these paints good paints? Can I get the colors I want all in 1 brand, or will they not know the formulas?
Is there a way to paint off hours so,I can get a cheaper quote? Or do they only work like 8-5? I know that is relative but....
As far as references go, I will ask, but don't you think they will only give me GOOD references, where they will get good feedback?

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housepaintingny 08-13-2013 07:36 PM

Some great info has been mentioned already, regarding hiring of a house painting contractor. We have several articles written on this subject and other relevant subjects that can be found at our blog

SPS-1 08-13-2013 08:46 PM

Ask for them to staple a copy of their insurance binder to their quote. It would be from their insurance company and would state effective dates, type of insurance, liability limits, etc.

Gymschu 08-14-2013 07:03 AM

If the walls are already painted with eggshell and you plan on using eggshell again, there is no need to prime the walls. A light sanding to remove any "boogers" and scuff up the surface for a new coat of paint is about all they need to do before a repaint, unless you have holes to fill, etc. Once sanded, the walls need wiped down.

As for colors, it doesn't matter which mfr. you used to find the colors you like. Most REAL paint stores will color match with ease. Go to Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams and stay away from big box store paints like Glidden. Will they work off hours? Sure they will if they want the job, but I would not use it as a bargaining chip to get a better quote. The quote may actually be HIGHER because now the crew has to work an odd shift, the paintstore is not open, and, overall, it's just more of a hassle.

References? If you don't think you're getting the straight scoop out of their references, just ask where they are currently working and go check out their work.

oh'mike 08-14-2013 07:20 AM


Originally Posted by brucem609 (Post 1228982)
Is there a way to paint off hours so,I can get a cheaper quote? Or do they only work like 8-5? I know that is relative but....

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If you want a lower quote----Do not mention working off hours---that's called 'over time'---

The best way to get a fair price is to make it clear to the contractor that he will be able to work efficiently and get paid on time---and that you will pay for a good quality job.

If I hear 'cheap' 'save money' or other signs of a skinflint I become concerned that this 'prospect' is not looking for a quality job, only a 'bargain'----so I do not bid---or add on extra,figuring the 'prospect' might turn into a royal pain----

Just my personal experience speaking----Mike-----

user1007 08-14-2013 09:43 AM

Not much to add to any of this about checking references and work. Of course a painter will only give you good references but if the person has none? Or if the best photos or real examples for you to look at look like a three year old did the work?

As for paint. You need to zero in on the specific product quality you want. You probably do not want Glidden box store paint. Here they have pro paint stores with higher quality one supposes. I never used it. Even Benjamin Moore has a full product line though ranging from lower end consumer paint like Ben (their box store type stuff), through contractor grades that are fine for what they are but with less acrylic on up to the top of the line paints like Regal, and ultimately Aura. The price points are quite different.

Any company can mix any chip. Many paint stores have translation tables and quite a few have scanners where they can scan any color for an exact color match. Real paint stores will probably have staff that have been mixing color in for ages and they may start with a color close in their collection and tweak it. You can always scan the chip you like in yourself, get its RGB code with a pixel grabber, go to and put in that code and pick a paint collection. The system will kick out the four closest matches.

spraygunn 08-15-2013 07:58 PM

sedsesder makes an excellent point about the contract and written estimate. If he uses his business card to write his price on the back, scratch him off the list.

user1007 08-15-2013 08:11 PM

The standard and basic contract in Illinois is very straight forward. I worked with my contract attorney to strip most of the legalize out of it for my clients and printed it out in 14pt Avant Garde type so they could read and understand it and nobody could ever accuse me of hiding things in fine print.

The only clause I ever changed was about remedy and wanting your firstborn children as alternative payment. "If you don't want them, I do not either" was my logic.

So I substituted a clause suggesting I might take well behaved cats, dogs, goldfish, and gerbils hostage instead if not paid according to schedule. That got them thinking they better not screw me I think. First lawyer to actually read the whole contract with that clause in was said to near bust a gut and have a heart attack on the floor. He signed and praised my attorney for being clever.

In all the years, in many different professions, I have only had to suit against a contract violation once. And of course I won.

jeffnc 08-16-2013 10:44 PM

Why this is true, I don't know, but it is true. When people buy a car, they do a lot of research, read Consumer Reports, compare EPA figures, etc etc. So when they buy a car, they are very specific down to knowing the dealership's actual destination charges and profit.

When they buy home improvement, they don't. They compare the cost of "the job" from one company with another company. One estimate is $800, and the next is $1,100, so obviously they go with the $800.

This would be equivalent to going to dealer A, asking how much "a car" costs, and being told "$20,000". Then going to dealer B, where "a car" costs "$40,000". So of course they buy from dealer A.

I don't think so.

Moral of the story: educate yourself and get specific with the details, so you know exactly what you're getting for a price quote. At that point, you might be able to bargain by getting 1 contractor to add or subtract something you never even knew was part of the deal to begin with. Of course you can't "add or subtract" basic quality labor or reliability.

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