You may be a keen DIY’er (Do-It-Yourselfer), but perhaps that steeply pitched roof is a little beyond your reach. After all, painting may be fun, but preparing the surface can be a very time consuming process, not to mention dangerous if roofs or double story buildings are involved. If time is more important to you than money, hiring a professional painter may be a smart investment.
Hiring a professional painter to paint your home is not a decision to take lightly. While anybody can slap paint onto your walls, it takes considerable expertise and experience to get a truly high quality finish. It may take you some searching to find the right person for the job.
The best way to find a good painter is through word of mouth. Ask friends, family and neighbors who have had some similar work done recently for personal recommendations – find out why they would and wouldn’t recommend different painters. This will give you guidelines on important questions to ask your shortlist of painters. A good recommendation from a trusted source is worth its weight in gold.
The relevant trade association can also provide recommendations. While membership of a trade association does not guarantee good quality work, the association will have a process to resolve problems should things go wrong. Local painters can also be easily located in local community newspapers and directories like the Yellow Pages.
Always check painters are qualified to do the work. Ask for the names of satisfied customers or for references and make sure you check them out. If possible, visit completed jobs so that you can see the quality of the work for yourself. Ask the references was the job completed in a timely manner? Was the result satisfactory? Did the painter charge the amount that had been agreed? How much did the painter disrupt the household? Would they hire the painter again? Once you have a shortlist of 3-4 contractors who seem suitable, ask them to visit your home and provide a quote. Meeting someone face to face and discussing the project will help narrow your choices.
Make sure everyone who needs to be there is present at the initial meeting with the painter to ensure that all ideas and expectations are tabled before the work starts. Put one person in charge of the project on the household’s behalf so that the painter has one person to refer to should they need any questions answered. This will minimize confusion when perhaps one partner asks for work to be done that is contrary to what the other partner has already requested.
If you are planning to have exterior painting done, the initial meeting should be scheduled during daylight so you can show the painter what work is required and they can assess the state of the existing paint finish. The condition of the existing paintwork will have a bearing on the scope of work they are required to do.
For a large job prepare a written specification of your requirements, outlining the scope of the work, the time-frame and who will be responsible for cleaning up and disposing of paint debris. Where possible, follow the same process for smaller jobs – while it may seem unnecessary to write a specification for small jobs, it may save you arguments later.
Be specific and concise – clear specification will help prospective contractors prepare better quotes. The more information you give them, the more confidence they will have that they understand the requirements of the job, and the more likely they will be able to achieve the desired outcome.
When you are planning a large project, ask three painters for written quotes. A quote is a fixed price that won’t vary unless you agree to pay for extra costs that were unforeseen at the time of quoting. The quote should include:
Once agreed to, the quote should be signed and dated by both yourself and the painter.
Never select a painter on price alone – the cheapest quote will seldom be the best value in the long run. If there is a wide variation in the quotes you receive, ask each painter to itemize the main expenses so that you can compare how the money is being spent. This will also give you an idea of the extra work that some painters are preparing to do that you may not have thought about.
First impressions count! Assess the initial service you get from each painter and how efficient and effective it seems – this will be a guide to the service you receive once you hire the painter. The most important thing to remember when hiring contractors, typically you will get what you pay for – negotiating a low rate may be a false economy if the painter cuts corners to get the job done quickly.
For a small job, an estimate of costs may be sufficient. This is more elastic than a quote and usually more attractive as the contractor doesn’t have to budget for the absolute worst case scenario. Ensure you make it clear to the contractor that you must be consulted and agree in writing before any extra costs are incurred. The final charge should be within 10 – 15% of the original estimate.
With all quotes and estimates check that all extra charges, such as travel allowances, and GST have been included.
If you get a job done and no price was agreed, the Consumer Guarantees Act offers you some protection, stating that the price charged must be ‘reasonable’ – i.e. the price must be similar to that that would be charged by other competent painters undertaking the same job. You are not obliged to pay more than is ‘reasonable’.
Agree on Payment Terms and Get it in Writing
While it is common for the customer to pay an initial deposit for materials and/or installments as the work progresses, never pay for the entire job in advance. Agree on a schedule of payments as key work is completed. The final payment should not be made until the entire job is complete and has been carefully inspected. Any extra work that arises once the project is underway must be specified, priced and agreed in writing before the work is undertaken and any costs are incurred. Only make payments by check, not cash so that there is a paper trial should disputes over payment occur.
Be realistic about the amount your have budgeted – good painters are in demand and will therefore usually charge more than the market average.
Draw up a clear agreement and establish your ground rules on the project scope and payment schedule. It is essential to get everything in writing before the job starts, otherwise it may end up costing you far more than expected.
Choosing color is a critical part of the finish, so don’t rush this part of the process. Many painters will help you select colors if you request this service, however, remember they are experts at painting not color consultants, so if you are looking for a complicated color scheme, it may be better to hire a color consultant for this part of the work.
Always test your color choices using testpots. These will also provide a useful color check for the painter to ensure they applying the correct color. New color scheme tools, such as virtual painting software are also a useful way of visualizing the final finish and enable you to print out your color scheme and give it to your painter as a guide of what you want to achieve.
If you are planning to have paint effects or textured coatings applied, ask your painter to prepare a sample panel. A myriad of paint and textured effects can be created depending on the style of application. If planning such an effect always agree on a sample panel before the contractor starts the work, otherwise the finished result may be vastly different from what was desired.
The number of coats required may vary depending on the colors you choose.
Make sure the painter uses the paint and color specified – don’t accept less expensive color ‘matches’. It is easy for a painter to try to substitute a cheaper paint, but this will result in a poorer finish. Check that the brand stated on the paint cans they bring to the job match the brand stated on the quote. Colors can be checked in the same way. Testpots are also useful as standard color references.
Remember, the painter has quoted on using a specific product – don’t let them substitute a cheaper product as you are paying for them to use the more expensive product. While two products may initially look identical, higher quality paint is more durable and will last longer. You will regret a moment of weakness in a few years’ time when the inferior paint breaks down faster.
These are suggestions to assist you in having a positive experience with your painter.