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Seven Questions to Ask when Choosing a Quality Interior Painter

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Qualifing an interior painter before making an appointment can save time in the long run and make sure that you get the job and service you deserve and expect.  Here are seven suggested areas to ask about when deciding whether to devote time to setting an appointment with a prospective Interior Painter.  

  1. The first and most important question to ask when you are choosing an interior painter is whether they are you licensed and insured.  If the answer is no, then you are running a risk and if you are in a condo, you may not even be able to get the contractor in the door.  We recommend that you only consider fully insured interior painters.  If the answer is yes, you should be able to see copies of both workers compensation and liability insurance and once a contract is signed, you should be able to get these insurance certificates made out in your name.   A contractor’s license should also be available if you live in one of the counties that require them.  If there is an accident or any issues the license and insurance can protect both you and the painter.
  2. Ask if the contractor is EPA RRP certified.   If you live in a house built before 1978, you will want to ensure that the contractor is Certified by the EPA to check for the presence of lead paint and to properly protect your family and future building occupants.  Contractors who are not certified cannot legally check for the presence of lead let alone deal with it properly.  If your house is built after 1978 then this is not strictly required, however having this certification is a good indication that the contractor you are dealing with is a professional and keeps up with their education.
  3. Ask about services and techniques that are important to you like skim coating, wallpaper hanging, paint stripping, plaster repair, fine oil trim painting, floor finishing etc.   Does the company perform all the tasks you will need?  How often?  Sometimes or only once in a while? Will any of the tasks be subcontracted?  Subcontracting specialists is not necessarily a bad thing if the company will take full responsibility for the schedule and outcome.  Not all companies do all things equally well but some interior painters have a broader offering than others.  Some will take on the coordination of prep and scheduling for you some will not.  Compare their answer to how involved you want to be and how many contractors you want to manage yourself.  In general, if you have a complicated project, having a full service company will eliminate finger pointing and result in a project that runs smoother.  Plus, you will have a single point of contact.
  4. What kinds of industry and business recognition and awards have you received?  Are you BBB accredited etc.?  Recognition of a business by their peers, suppliers and outside independent rating services are another indication of a company’s dedication to customer service and continuing education.  Every year new Eco-friendly products are coming out.  To understand your full range of options, you want a contractor who is up on all the changes. Here are some seals to look for (there are others):
  5. To determine whether a contractor will listen to your needs and concerns, ask about the level of prep and schedule.  Be clear about your budget and time requirements.  Ask them if they will give you a firm price.  What is the contractors reaction?  The schedule and what level of prep work is acceptable are important things to come to an agreement about before the contractor starts the job.   Some high end painters will not want to do rental paints, some contractors representing themselves as full service may not be capable of the highest quality work.  What about timing, how long will you want the painters around, do you have a deadline?  Without seeing the job the contractor will not be able to make firm commitments but some things like a specific completion date may disqualify some companies if they are too busy or too small to make it happen.  If you are clear about what you want on the phone, you can disqualify some contractors before devoting time on a walk-through, in fact good contractors who know they are not a fit will disqualify themselves.
  6. Who will actually work on my house?  The person who you meet with to get the estimate will probably not be the same person unless it is a very small company.   If it is a small company, ask what happens if the owner operator gets sick.  Do all the jobs get pushed out?  This may not be an issue for you but if you have a deadline it may be.  Ask about the crew leader as well as the employees who will actually be working on your project. You should also ask what kind of training the company provides for new hires as well as whether they do background checks before hiring. There can be a lot of turnover at painting companies.  How long the staff has been around is a good indication of stability and good management.  
  7. Will you provide me references?  How many?  You may be able to find feedback - good and bad- on the web.  How did the contractor respond to the negative feedback if any?  Things may not always go 100% smoothly, but did the contractor make a sincerely effort to put things right if they didn’t?  Some contractors are posting customer feedback right on their website but most will not provide phone numbers until the proposal is presented.  Either way, you want a commitment that you can speak to satisfied customers - even if you never call them.

A good estimate isn’t something that can be done over the phone.  A good estimate will require a site visit and time to discuss and agree on exactly what is to be done.  Using these questions to help when choosing interior painters will save you time meeting with contractors who in the end will not be a good match.  Once you have your bids, the contractor’s answers and reactions will help you determine who you are most comfortable communicating with and letting into your home.

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“Thank you for the excellent work in the apartment. It looks wonderful. The men were easy to get along with, courteous, meticulous, and very good craftsmen!” Anne L. , New York, NY
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