Hiring a house painter
May 3, 2018 5:00 AM   Subscribe

Our little house needs to be painted. We will get quotes from each of several painters that have come with personal recommendations from neighbors on our street. What questions or parameters should we ask or provide?

We will repaint the same colors on the siding and trim and doors. I’m not sure whether there’s rot anywhere.

The windows are Pella and are currently painted with a Pella paint—a fact that doesn’t mean anything to me, but I mention for completeness. We have cans of the different colors—all too old to use, but the labels could be used for matching purposes.

I’ve never had a house painted. What should I be mindful of in this process? Anything you wish you had known or done differently? Thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
May I see your insurance?

Can you provide the address of a couple of houses this crew has done recently, so I can check out your work? (This is a litmus test: if they shy away immediately it's a bad sign; if they say they need to get a client's permission, that's probably better. If you can actually see paint smeared on windows or missed areas or other mistakes from the curb, then flee!) (I wish the previous owners of my house had been even this diligent, but they were not. *sigh*)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:52 AM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Right up front, get proof of the painters being bonded and insured. It may just be painting, but mistakes and accidents can happen.

Get a solid timeline established for the project.

Definitely find out up-front what the painters' plan is for dealing with any damage or rot. Some painters will do small repairs themselves, whereas others will bring in a subcontractor to do a proper repair. The former contingency will probably be cheaper, but maybe not as thorough, but the later will be more expensive but probably a more complete repair.

Is the plan to remove old paint first, or just paint over what's there? Most painters these days will power-spray the old paint off (instead of tedious and expensive hand-scraping)

Do you have a metal or vinyl-faced garage door? What's the plan for painting it?

How is the paint being applied? A lot of painting crews actually spray the paint on now, at least for the main body of the house. While that's quicker, it can sometimes result in a thinner (i.e. less durable) coat of paint.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:54 AM on May 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ask about touch-ups you might discover later; what brand paint they're using (since your current paint is from your window manufacturer, and may have warranty implications); and get a WRITTEN quote.

(Thorzdad has had his house painted, I think. I can see him twitching.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:09 AM on May 3, 2018

Oh, and, as much as I hate to say it, you probably should avoid any crew with a name like Student Painters. I like the idea of giving college/high school kids summer work, but I've rarely heard glowing reviews about them. Cheap-and-quick is about the best you can say about them, from what I've heard from neighbors.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:33 AM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

To Thorzdad's point above, many (most?) of the college painter companies are MLM pyramid schemes for dudes. Avoid.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:51 AM on May 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

You have to see the insurance. Insurance. Insurance. Insurance.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 AM on May 3, 2018

- I've always found it easier to handle the supplies. Take the old paint to a store to color match, get a pint to sample with and do a little test paint yourself to see (1) if you like the color (2) how much priming/coats it takes to get the color you like (3) what's the cost going to be to get the coverage. You may have to make adjustments and spend more than you estimate, but at least you'll understand it and be in the ballpark.

- You may want to make calls to local painting co's and even put out a CL add in addition to your recommendation from friends. I found significant (2-3x) differences between pricing by big shops (high) and others and ended up with an independent guy who did some commercial work on the side who was great to work with.

- To add to the recommendation about schedule. Decide if you want to do a price-fixed vs per/hour arrangement. If you're going to be around and can understand how to track their progress, hourly is usually better. This is especially useful if you get started and find out you picked the wrong guy. You can just end the arrangement and move on before too much damage is done (another reason to do supplies yourself).
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 8:31 AM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Depending on the age of the home, I would plan on having at least some trim boards replaced. You should do your own inventory of what needs to be fixed... either get out a ladder and inspect all the trim up close, or use binoculars. Also, I would make sure they use quality name brand exterior paint.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 9:25 AM on May 3, 2018

Full disclosure: I have been a painting contractor for over 25 years.

Admiral Haddock, having your house painted should be a relatively comfortable and perhaps exciting process. Our approach is to help educate the homeowner on how we go about our projects and why. I had a 20 minute call today with a homeowner that asked us to bid on her project. Explaining the steps, the products we use and specifically why her current paint job was failing.

Your friends recommendations should have some weight but so should your feeling when you speak to the person representing the company. Insurance and Bonding are items that are important to protect you as a homeowner from problems, but they have nothing to do with the competence and credibility as painters.

Ask questions about how they do their work. They should be able to give you examples of other work that may share similarities to yours and in the case of your Pella Windows will be able to offer advice on if they need to be re-painted or perhaps touched-up. Factory applied paints last much longer than field applied.

The old cans may be useful to help match you are correct. They may need to be fine tuned and the company you decide on should offer to apply a couple samples to ensure your cans were the one used.

With regards to how the paint is applied keep in mind that they are looking to provide a high quality finish you will be happy with for may years. We do use sprayers in some cases but not all. Paint delivery to a surface can take many forms: spray, brushes, rollers, pads et cetera. In the case of rough shingles we would spray the product on and back brush to get the product into the wood. If you had aluminum siding spraying without brushing will give you a factory finish. Spraying should provide a thicker end coat.

You should receive a written quote for sure that will explain responsibilities of both the contractor and homeowner. If bushes need to be trimmed to allow access to siding, access to bathroom while on site, a place to leave tools overnight, electrical supply or even parking can fall on the homeowner but should be discussed.

If you have any questions please send me a direct message and good luck!
posted by ashtray elvis at 3:41 PM on May 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

Find out who will do the actual painting. Don't hire someone who turns around and hires somebody else. Talk to the person who will be doing the painting (it's important the the person doing the work speaks a language you understand so you can communicate well - you will need to). Make a drawing of your house and indicate what paint you want where. Use small one or two person companies with lots of experience and for sure licenses. I've had numerous "contractors" try to use someone else's license. Finally, you get what you pay for, don't scrimp.
posted by charlesminus at 4:56 PM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

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