It doesn’t matter if you’re tackling one room or your entire home—painting is a big job. That’s why many people choose to forgo painting their house with their own two hands and hire professional painters.
But assigning this task to a pro doesn’t guarantee that things will go off without a hitch. There can be breakdowns in communication that result in mistakes—very expensive mistakes.
Before you let anyone take a paintbrush or roller to your walls, make sure you’re 100% clear on the following details.
1. The paint company’s work history and reputation
When hiring a painter, it’s your money and your home, so you have the right to ask as many questions as necessary to make sure they have a reputable work history.
“Ask the painter how many years they have been in business and how large their crew is,” says Nathan Outlaw, president of Onvico, a design, engineering, and construction company in Thomasville, GA. “It will help determine if this is a fly-by-night painter or someone who is planning on working for years to come.”
Also ask for references. The painters should be able to provide a list of references, but Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, recommends checking online for reviews and social media comments to get a sense of the contractor’s standings.
“If there have been previous complaints or issues, they will likely be listed online,” he says.
2. If the cost of paint is included in the estimate
Your estimate might sound good—too good, in fact. The likely reason? The quote doesn’t include the cost of the paint.
“It’s important for homeowners to know whether they’ll be expected to pay for the paint separately, or if it’s included in the quote they receive for the paint job,” says Mike Mundwiller, field development manager at Benjamin Moore.
3. What type of paint the contractor plans on using
Another reason that an estimate might sound too good to be true: The contractor plans on using a cheap paint.
However, cost isn’t the only reason you should ask what type of paint is being used. You need to be sure the contractor is using a paint specifically designed for the surface being painted.
“Paint suitable for high-moisture spaces is completely different than what a contractor would use in a dining room,” Mundwiller says.
For example, high-gloss paints don’t absorb moisture and are easy to wipe down, so they are often used in bathrooms and kitchens. But few people like the look of shiny walls in more public parts of the house, so high-gloss paint is rarely used in living rooms or bedrooms.
4. How much your painter knows about paint
Your painter should be able to answer your painting questions knowledgeably, easily, and confidently.
“A reputable painter will be able to explain the different paint types and answer any questions you may have about painting the exterior or interior of your home,” Kunz says.
For example, the pro should be able to recall the types of paint sheens (flat, eggshell, satin, semigloss, and high-gloss) and where each of these sheens should be used.
He should also be able to explain washability and how to maintain the color, Kunz adds.
5. How many coats will be applied
This may seem like far too specific a question to ask, but failing to inquire about the number of coats could lead to problems with your paint job down the road. This could be an area where a shady painting contractor might try to pull a fast one.
“Some painters may submit a quote that doesn’t include the cost of more than one coat of paint,” says Jody Costello, founder of the website Contractors From Hell. After the first coat has been applied, the contractor may try to charge you more for additional coats.
If you’re repainting a wall in the same color, you need only one coat of paint. But if you’re changing color or painting a brand-new wall, experts recommend you apply one coat of primer and two coats of paint.
6. How long the job is expected to take
A quality paint job takes time. However, you need to know in advance how much time you should allot to this project.
“You want to plan to avoid the areas being painted both during painting and while the paint is drying,” Mundwiller says.
Depending on the number of rooms being painted, you may need to leave the home for a few hours—or a few days.
7. The payment process
One of the biggest red flags homeowners encounter is painters asking for payment upfront.
“A company that is secure and confident in its abilities will not ask for a full payment until the final job is complete and up to your full satisfaction,” Kunz says.
In fact, Costello advises against ever paying more than 30% to start a project: “You should never hand over a large amount of money at the beginning, because the contractor may be slow to start or finish the painting project.”
And that’s the best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, she says the contractor may take the money and run.