Hiring a Professional Painter

While hiring a professional painter is a good idea if you lack the skills, time, or tools to paint by yourself, it's imperative that you do your homework before investing your hard-earned dollars on a pro. Here is what you need to know about hiring a professional painter.

Finding a Professional Painter

The following resources can assist you in your search:

•- Local yellow pages

•- Local hardware or home improvement store

•- Friend/family recommendations

•- Painting contractor organizations

•- Local real estate agent

Interviewing and Reference Checking

It's imperative to hire a painter who you trust, as much of the work may occur when you're not home and since you want assurances that the work will be of the highest caliber. Knowing what questions to ask can mean the difference between a topnotch job and an under-par paint job. Here are some points to guide you:

•- Do not rely solely on references the painter supplies; contact your local Better Business Bureau to check him/her out

•- Do not rely on photographs from recent paint jobs offered as testimony, since the true test of a paint job is how well it holds up over time (ask to inspect a job that was completed at least three years prior)

•- If possible, visit/inspect previous work sites yourself (looking for signs of peeling/flaking, consistent surfaces, cracked glazing), and ask homeowners if they were satisfied with the painting contractor and if they would hire him/her again

•- Insist on documented evidence that the painting contractor is licensed and insured

Obtaining Quotes

Shop around, comparing quotes from at least three professional painting contractors. Remember, the lowest quote is not necessarily the best choice if you sacrifice on quality. Consider also the type of warranty the professional painter offers you; those who stand behind their work are more trustworthy than someone who won't offer a guarantee in writing. Finally, take into account the time frame offered by the pro to get the job done. If it does not meet your needs or seems unreasonable, shop for a better offer.

Contract Signing

If you're hiring a pro, signing a contract is more than just a formality. Your contract should stipulate what specific prep and application methods will be used (you can insist on using only top quality materials), and that your property will be protected and cleaned up upon job completion. A painting contract should also include details of the agreed-upon payment schedule.

Application Methods

The more specific your contract, the better! Here are some of the nitty-gritty a contract can specify:

•- How the paint will be applied (brush, spray, roller)

•- Minimum drying times (insist on at least one day between paint coats to deter painters from doing a rush job and applying second coats before the first has dried)

•- Be sure latex-based paint is not being used over oil-based paint (which leads to peeling)

Property Protection and Cleanup

Your contract should also require your professional to protect and cover all surfaces that you don't want painted with drop cloths or masking tape and paper. When painting is complete, your property should be returned to its pre-job condition and all debris and paint spills cleaned up.

Payment Schedule

You should never dish out more than 10 percent of the total payment amount at the contract signing, nor should you dispense the final payment until after you have fully approved the paint job and cleanup. A typical payment schedule might divide payments into thirds (i.e. after prep, after first coat, and after job completion).