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How to Hire a Professional Painter…by a 30-Year Pro

I’m an old pro. Here is what you should talk to your prospective painters about during an estimate, and how to size them up.

In this first of three articles, I’m going to tell you how to be wise when you hire a painter.

In this second article, I tell you the inside story of what the painter is thinking while he or she is calculating your price and doing your work.

In this third article, I discuss whether or not you should hire a painter at all.

Your checklist before meeting the painter:

The estimate:

  1. Only interview older painters. Young painters make mistakes, and try to cover them up. they don’t like prep and don’t care about a repuation However some older painters don’t see so well! Anyone who has been doing it for over 20 years is best.
  2. Don’t automatically take the low price. Listen to their plans and the care they will give the job. Do they love painting? That’s a good thing. Do they ask detailed questions about what you want included? That would be very good. Are they in a hurry to leave?
  3. Painters don’t need to be licensed or bonded in most places. Don’t ask about ‘bonding’, do ask about insurance. You should get them to make a statement in an email that if they do cause an accident they are covered. You do pay extra for this, but for big jobs, it’s worth it. For a couple of indoor rooms, you can fly under the radar.
  4. References? Meh. Anybody can put you in touch with a happy customer.
  5. Look at the BBB and Yelp, and if the painter is not listed, ask some friends for recommendations. Were they neat? Were they just kids?
  6. Paint stores will provide a list of recommended contractors, but they are usually larger companies. Small guys like me would leave some business cards on the paint store bulletin board.
  7. Get the schedule in writing. Painters are notorious for not showing up. Sometimes they do have to deviate and jump onto some other job, but let them know you are serious about the timetable. Come up with a reason it must be done by your drop-dead-date.
  8. I never made a dime selling paint. I bought the paint with my discount (15%, like if you pay no tax) and gave the cost to the owner for reimbursement.
  9. For multi-week jobs, do they ask for weekly payments? They should.

How long has s/he been in business? What company or companies did s/he work for?

If you have a painter show up and s/he’s wearing blue jeans with paint all over it, politely tell them that you’ve changed your mind or Quickly get him out of your house because s/he’s not the one for you. Professional painters wear white pants just like a doctor wears a white coat.

Whenever I was called to give a price I would always wear my white painter pants, unless I was going somewhere in the middle of the day and had my work clothes on. I want people to see that I am in fact painter.

2. Does s/he have a website?

3. References? The Painter will easily give you the names of customers, satisfied customers, of course, but there’s some leverage there for you. When you speak to these customers, they have agreed to talk to you on their behalf. They will tell you the real story. Did s/he smell bad,? Does s/he smoke, take breaks and not come home not come back to the job site for hours on end,? Customer will say to you they would not necessarily have said to the painter.

Painters should be able to show you photographs of their work and if you want to go that far go and see the work and make sure the lines are straight. Did they caulk between the trim and the wall?

Did they clean up well?

One recommendation I would have is that you hire someone you think you can trust to do a small job and if it goes well, you hire him again and again. I would not hire an unknown painter to do a 4000-square-foot home inside and out. That would be a huge mistake.

A painter who uses only the top-quality paints available is what you’re looking for. A painter who uses low quality paint is going to do sloppy work because the paint is thin and has fewer solids therefore, it does not cover as well. Using the best paint from Benjamin Moore and other top companies is always the best.

How I did it

I always told my customers that they would pay me only for the labor and that I would buy the paint at my discount and give them the receipt for reimbursement. I always asked for 1/3 of the total cost of the labor upfront because that is almost always the amount of paint cost. These days paint has gotten so expensive!

You can pay half of the entire bill for the materials.
I never charged for sundries such as caulk and spackle and so on. Those that create too much confusion.

Get 3 quotes

It’s good to get three quotes if you can arrange the time to do that. By the end of the third quote, you will know exactly what you want which you may not have known in the beginning. Before the first painter comes try to know exactly what you want. Let the painter tell you how many coats of paint but other than that you should know your colors and the exact areas that you want to paint.

Finally, ask the painter if he or she will move furniture and cover furniture and how they will protect the floors. Ask them if can they guarantee there will be no paint on the floor at the end of the job.

Good luck. Let me know of any questions.

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