In the television show Portlandia, there’s a sketch where a couple is sitting down at a restaurant, and pepper their server with a never-ending stream of questions about the background of the chicken they’re considering ordering.
The satire of the specificity of the foodie scene is a hilarious, but telling moment: some people seek greater background information on their food than they do their contractors.
As a home painter, my staff and I are entrusted with access to people’s homes, but often we face fewer questions than the servers at restaurants. Usually, the questions consist only of, “What will it cost and how long will it take?”
While price and timelines are certainly the top-of-mind issues for most homeowners, there are many other questions they should ask, not just of home painters but any contractor working in or around their home.
With that in mind I’ve prepared a list of questions homeowners should pose to anyone bidding on work at their home:
1: Are you licensed and insured?
Sure- you found a guy on Craigslist who says he’s got experience and can do the work cheaper than anyone else. But if he’s not licensed and insured you could be asking for trouble. A reputable contractor will be licensed in order to make sure they comply with all the relevant laws and rules of the industry, and to make sure there’s oversight. Being members of the Better Business Bureau or a Chamber of Commerce is a good sign.
In addition, contractors should keep both general liability insurance and Workmen’s Compensation insurance for his or her employees. The latter actually leads into the next question…
2: Do you have employees or use subcontractors?
This is an important distinction. While companies that use subcontractors might have their bid come in cheaper, companies with employees tend to be the better way to go. For one, employees will be covered by the business’s insurance, whereas subcontractors are not.
Furthermore, when a company hires someone as an employee, they should go through a full vetting process and background check to make sure they’re reputable. Subcontractors might simply be a friend of a friend who will work for cheap. Employees tend to be highly-trained and continually adding new skills. With subcontractors, they might possess only a basic working knowledge of the job.
3: What kind of safety measures do you take?
Painters will often be up high up on ladders or scaffolding for long periods of time. It’s important that the company have a written safety plan in place, and follow the latest guidelines. They should be able to tell you in detail what kind of safety measures they take.
4: What kind of paint will you be using?
This is an important question to ask during the process. You’ll want to make sure painters are using a high-quality grade paint that will have a long lifespan. It’s particularly important in our area where the weather can veer from 100-degree summer days to winter ice storms. Your house will take a battering from the elements, so make sure you work with your painter to use a product that will stand the test of time.
5: Do you have references?
Any reputable painter or contractor should have a list of references readily available – after all, who doesn’t like showing off their good work? If they provide you with references, contact a few of the people on the list to get an idea of what their experience was like. Ideally, there will be a mixture of old and new projects, showing a longer timeframe of having done quality work.
6: What is the payment process?
Make sure you and the contractor are up front with each other on the payment schedule for the work. Often, there will be a down payment so the painter can gather the necessary materials to begin the job, and then payments during and after the job. But different companies might do it different ways. Make sure the payment process works for both you and the contractor so that it mitigates any possible disputes later on.
7: How long will the job take?
Along the same lines as the payment question, the contractor should give you a timeline on how long the job will take to complete. It’s not unusual for them to start the job and realize it may take a bit longer than expected, but make sure you have those conversations as early as possible so both sides understand what’s happening every day they’re on the job.
8: What measures to do you take to keep a clean workplace?
Dirty paint brushes, buckets, cigarette butts - we know that as a homeowner, the last thing you want to do every day is come home and see that the workers have made a mess at your home. Ask the contractor what steps they take to ensure a clean workplace.
At Pro Paint NW, we work closely with you every step of the way to make sure the process is as seamless as possible. If you’re looking for a new paint job, contact us to get started and find out how we make things as easy as possible for you!