Referrals and References
Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues who have hired paint contractors in the past five years for referrals or recommendations based on their experiences. A personal recommendation may carry a bit more weight than comments found on random websites, because you can pose your potential concerns to people you know for answers to your specific questions. If you recall seeing any houses on your street painted in recent years, ask the neighbors living in those houses if they are happy with the work done, especially if at least a year has passed. Paint may look great when first applied, but the test of time is the true sign as to whether the work is a quality paint job. Once you have several referrals, check the companies out online for additional references, reviews and comments. Be prepared to call at least three paint contractors to get estimates.
Get an Onsite Estimate
Ask your narrowed pool of potential painters for an estimate. Be wary of any who offer estimates without visiting your home -- an experienced contractor must take measurements of the project space and inspect potentially problematic surfaces before estimating how much paint, time and repair work are needed to do the job correctly. Walk through the project area or show the contractor every area that requires painting so he can give an accurate estimate. If you fail to mention that the garage door also needs painting, for instance, the estimate will be incorrect and you'll end up paying extra for the work. Ask your potential contractors if they are insured or if they belong to any associations for painters -- each of these signify a professional contractor. Also ask if the work comes with a guarantee; if you're unhappy with any part of the project, the contractor should offer to correct the issue at no additional cost, within reason.
Spell Out the Specifics
Tell your potential painter as much as you can about your expectations ahead of time, including the color and sheen of the paint. Discuss the time frame for the entire project, as well as what hours and which days work will be done. If you want trim, window frames or details on porch railings painted in a contrasting color, spell this out as well -- it takes longer for a painter to cover minute details than to paint large, smooth surfaces, which creates the potential for added expense.
Get It in Writing
Once you've chosen a paint contractor, ask for a written contract spelling out everything you've agreed upon, including cost, time frame and cleanup details. For instance, scraping the exterior of a home results in errant paint chips that may make a mess of your or your neighbor's driveway; if you expect the contractor to take care of this, get it in writing. Read the agreement carefully to make sure it covers all of your concerns, as well as how potential complaints, paint omissions or issues should be handled once the project is complete.