How to Pick a House Painter

How to Pick a House Painter

As a decorative painter I like the art part of my job, but not the basecoat painting part. A long time ago I decided to only do what I do best, and trust me, when you don't like to do something you don't do it well. So I leave the regular house painting to the professional painter. I have worked with tons of painters over the years and like all professions there are good ones and then the not so good ones. Needless to say we try to use only the best! I get asked to refer painters all the time. If you live in Houston I can give you great people. If you live out of town I can’t give you a name, but read on for tips on finding a good one.

Before you start contacting random strangers, you need to make a few decisions.

  1. What is the scope of the job? Interior or exterior? Walls or trim or both?
  2. Do you want to use a certain brand of paint? Do you want to use contractors' grade paint or the top of the line paint? (Remember the paint is the cheap part of the job. If you spend a few more dollars on the paint (per gallon) you won’t have to repaint as often. It's the labor and skill that is the expensive part of the job! Penny wise, pound foolish!
  3. How quickly do you need the job completed?
  4. Have you chosen a color? (Painters don’t pick colors)
  5. Are there special needs involved? For example, is someone in the house allergic to paint? Or do twenty cats live in the house?
  6. Is this new construction or a remodel, or just some rooms needing paint?

Okay, you have a starting point. If you refer to a source like Angie's List listing service (subscription required) or the Better Business Bureau, you can greatly shorten the search but you will still have to interview at least 3 painters. If you don't use one of these resources, then you need to start finding names to interview using more traditional methods. Do you have a local paint store (not the "big box" kind)? Locally-owned paint stores usually know their painting contractors. You can start with suggestions there and also check your local newspaper (print or web) or your homeowners' association. Google comes in especially handy for compiling lists of local painters or just researching the ones already on your list. Just remember: companies pay to get high rankings on search engines like Google, which doesn't always mean they are the best qualified. Once you have a short list of names, it's time to ask questions!

Call your candidates. This is when you talk about the 6 items on our list. You also need to ask if he/she is insured/bonded or licensed (this varies from state to state). Let them know you are getting more than one bid. Do they charge for estimates? Gather as much information as possible before they come out to do an estimate!

You always want references. Don't hesitate to call them. After a few moments on the phone you may know more about your painter than you anticipated.

  1. Were they on time?
  2. Did they give a beginning and end date? Did they stick to it?
  3. How was the quality of work?
  4. Were they tidy? Did they clean up at the end of each day?
  5. Was their behavior appropriate?
  6. Were they left alone in the house?
  7. Did you have any problems with them?

If you don't get their best friend but a real client, you should have a better idea about your potential painter.

Once you have your 3 bids and have called their references, you should have a good idea of who you would like to do the work. Keep in mind that isn't always about the money. The cheapest guy isn't necessarily the best. If you have a question about pricing, call and ask them about it. Sometimes it's not always an apples to apples comparison. Let them explain it to you. You want the right person for the job...Happy painting!

Janie's Signature

Janie Ellis, RID, ASID-IP, CF,
Master Artisan