Choosing a Painter: a Stroke of Genius

Photo of paint cans and painting suppliesIf you’re like a lot of people, the thought of painting around the house elicits as much enthusiasm as stubbing your toe against a chair leg. Or, you may enjoy the idea of painting, but you’re not sure you have the skill and patience to get the job done right. What you’re left with is the daunting task of contracting a painter who can do it properly—at a reasonable price. Here are a few tips to help you through the process:

What are you looking for?

You may know a guy who knows a guy who does house painting on the cheap. But this isn’t necessarily the best route to take when talking about what is possibly your biggest investment—your home. So what is it you’re really looking for?

First of all, “cheap” is not the biggest factor in hiring any contractor, including a painter. Better questions to ask are:

  • Is the painter licensed?
  • Is the company insured?
  • Do I need or want a bonded contractor?
  • What’s this contractor’s reputation?
  • How soon can the painter start and finish?

Then perhaps you ask the question, “Is this painter affordable?” or “How does this painter’s pricing compare with other comparable painters?”

The guy who is known by a guy who knows a guy might be able to get the job done. But what if there are problems? Chances are, they’re your problems alone once the rollers are packed up.

Start with your realtor

If you’ve recently purchased your home or are preparing to sell, you have a ready resource right at your fingertips. Your real estate agent is an excellent resource when looking for a painter, plumber, electrician, general contractor, and the like.

Realtors work with contract professionals all the time. They have built a network of licensed contractors who do the job right and are reasonably priced. And of course, these contractors appreciate the business and referrals, so they are typically responsive to any issues that might come up on a project.

Seek word-of-mouth referrals

Not buying or selling a home? Don’t know a realtor? One of the best sources of information on contractors is word-of-mouth referrals. Ask friends, neighbors, family, coworkers…. Neighbors are often good starting points, because anyone they might recommend likely works in your area. Who have they used and what was their experience? Is their contractor licensed, insured, etc.? Once you have a starting list, you can dig a little further.

Look around

We often fail to see what’s around us in our whirlwind lives, but start keeping your eyes open. Are there paint contractor yard signs or contractor vehicles parked in front of homes in your neighborhood? Take note of the names and phone numbers. If licensed, that information should appear on both. If you see the same contractor at different homes in the neighborhood, that’s makes for a good candidate. You may even feel comfortable enough to knock on the door and ask for a business card.

Use online resources

Most of us tend to begin any search online. While an online search can be helpful—and fast—it may not be the best place to start looking for a painter. You will no doubt get lots of “hits,” but how relevant those hits are isn’t guaranteed, nor will they tell you much beyond superficial details. [hint: When searching for contractors online, be sure to include your county or city and state in your search terms to return better results.]

You may also opt to use an online rating and referral site (There are many, including homeadvisor.com and angieslist.com, to name two well known sites.).

Trim the list

With even a little effort, you can have an extensive list of paint contractors amassed in no time. But before you begin to feel overwhelmed, take just a few more minutes to pare down your list. Look for differences between the contractors, things that make one contractor more appealing to you than another. Your final list should have no more than three to five candidates on it.

Make the call

If you’ve done your homework, you’ve got a short-list of painters to contact. Give them a call. Ask them any open questions you may have, and if they answer to your satisfaction, set up an appointment to get an estimate.

Estimates in hand, you can make a sound decision about who will provide the best work for a price that works for you.

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