Spring is on its way, and that could mean you're starting to plan some home improvement projects, including updating your home's interior or exterior paint.
Hiring a professional painter for your home project could save you time and money in the long run. Professional painters have the tools, skills and safety equipment necessary to give you a beautiful result in a safe manner.
Despite the benefits of hiring a professional, quality work and good customer service aren't a guarantee. Be sure to consider the following before hiring a painting contractor:
Have clear expectations. Before you call a painter to get an estimate, think about your schedule and end goal. When estimating, painters want to know what colors you have in mind, what finishes you prefer and if you want a specific brand of paint. If you aren't sure, painters can make recommendations.
In addition, make schedule coordination easier by knowing when you will be available to let painters into your home and when they need to end work each day. If you have the entire interior of the house painted, it may make sense to move out for a few days, as they will be able to get it done more quickly.
Narrow your search. Check BBB.org for Better Business Bureau accredited businesses. Consider also asking friends and neighbors for recommendations and identify at least three reputable contractors to bid on the job. Be sure to check them out with BBB as well.
Get a comprehensive estimate. Professional painters provide clients with detailed estimates, including a complete breakdown of their costs and schedule. The estimate should incorporate specific costs for labor, materials, paint, travel time (if charged for) and the time frame in which the painter will complete the project.
If you have any questions or see anything missing from the estimate, discuss it with the painter before the project begins. It's much easier to fix an estimate than change your agreement halfway through the project.
Ask the right questions. Asking the right questions will help you understand the painter's experience and what is included in the cost. It will also help you make sure you are comparing similar quotes.
Some of the following questions might be helpful when you speak to a painting contractor:
-- How long have you been painting houses, and how experienced is your painting crew?
-- How long will it take to complete the project?
-- What kind of prep work is included in your service?
-- What kind of prep work, if any, will I need to do?
-- Does your estimate include pressure washing outer walls and caulking and filling cracks?
-- What kind of paint and grade would you use, and how many coats do you recommend?
-- Who will handle the cleanup after the project is complete?
-- What happens if paint gets on my carpet, roof tiles or concrete?
Confirm your painter's credentials. Before hiring, ensure the painter has all the necessary and up-to-date permits and licenses required by your state. There are nine counties in Tennessee that require painters to hold a Home Improvement License for jobs that fall between $3,000 and $24,999, which includes Hamilton, Bradley and Marion counties. Jobs in any location that are $25,000 or higher would trigger the need for the company to hold a General Contractors License. Companies earning these licenses are insured and bonded.
If your project is in another Tennessee county or in Georgia, you'll want to find out what insurance the painter carries to ensure it covers workers injured on the job or any damage to your personal property.
Be prepared to prep. Understand that there are certain things a painter might ask you to do to prepare for the project. For example, you may need to move furniture to the center of the room or completely out of the area. You'll also need to remove paintings and any other wall décor, as well as switch plates and outlet covers. Painters may ask you to clean the walls before they paint using a damp sponge. In addition, you'll want to keep any pets out of the way when paint day comes. Talk to your contractor about how much of this kind of prep work you'll be expected to complete versus what is included in their quote.
Watch out for lead. Homes built before 1978 may still be housing coats of lead paint. If this is the case, painters may need to take extra precautionary measures that could affect pricing and the length of the project. It's important for the health and safety of your family that this be done properly, so do not hire anyone who suggests they can take a shortcut around required lead paint removal procedures.
Confirm clean up details. Most professional painters keep a clean working environment and handle clean up at the end of each working day and at the end of the project. However, it's always a good idea to discuss this part of the project with the painter before they begin working. Make sure you clearly understand who is responsible for clean up during each phase of the project.
Make a payment plan. Never pay in full before the project begins. You may be asked to pay a portion of the fee to begin so the paint can be purchased, along with installments at certain milestones in the project. Always withhold the final payment until you are completely satisfied with the end result of your painting project and have received written confirmation that all subcontractors have been paid (subcontractors can put a lien on your home if the primary contractor fails to pay them).
For more information about hiring a contractor see the BBB Tip: Hiring a Contractor. BBB also offers tips in the article BBB Tip: Home Improvement Scams. You can reach your BBB at 423-266-6144 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.