Choosing a Painting Contractor
By Owen Whetzel
Painting the outside of a house may involve a lot of preparation work, scaffolding, hard to reach areas, and other challenges. It can sometimes be a bigger project, than homeowners want to undertake and they turn to a licensed, qualified painting contractor—a professional individual or crew, who has extensive experience in his or her craft.
No matter how you make the selection, you should always make certain, that a contractor holds a valid license, is properly insured and is in good standing with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Let's assume you need to repaint an older 1,800 square foot stucco one-story house with wood trim and unpainted brick fascia, and a local real estate agent, your architect and a neighbor have each given you names of contractors, that they highly recommend. What do you do next?
Prepare a list of specifications, so each contractor you interview will be bidding on the same preparation work and materials. Here's an example based on a proposal given to me by Cleve Dayton, President of The Painting Pros., Inc., a Los Gatos CA painting contractor.
- Contact: Your name, address telephone number and e-mail
- Scope: This proposal is for providing the labor, materials and professional quality workmanship, to prepare and paint the exterior of the house.
- Protect landscaping from damage during the painting project.
- Where there is access, trench to bottom of stucco, to allow painting below grade level.
- Brush scrub all surfaces, with the exception of any new wood, with an organic-growth (e.g., mildew)-killing or chlorine bleach solution.
- Powerwash entire exterior to remove dirt, cobwebs, chalk, loose paint and to thoroughly remove organic-growth killing or bleach residue.
- Hand-scrape all loose and peeling paint. Sand out and feather any rough areas.
- Patch any holes or depressions. All wood, other than new, should be sanded.
- Plastic or other tarps, to be placed beneath work area, to catch as much scraping and sanding debris as possible.
- Debris to be disposed of off-site.
- Prime all wood and stucco with (specify the primer you want applied).
- Prime bare metal on gutters and downspouts, using a high-quality metal primer,that is formulated for (galvanized) (aluminum) metal and is compatible with (the primer you have chosen). Then prime all gutters and downspouts.
- Fill any cracked wood with "smooth" exterior filler.
- Fill any stucco cracks with "textured" filler.
- Brush-out repairs, to blend repair and minimize the chances of a "spider web" appearance.
- Completely mask windows, fixtures, bricks, concrete, chimney, meter glass, etc.
- Sand doors & all trim, wipe sanding dust off using a tack cloth and prime.
- Caulk gaps, cracks, open trim joints and stucco to wood or brick.
- Use only premium quality spackling compounds and caulking materials.
Use: Specify the paint you want applied. Apply 2 coats on all primed surfaces according to the paint manufacturer's specifications.
- Main color: Light green (flat finish) on stucco (spray & backroll), eaves, downspouts, pipes, garage door & cable TV wires on walls.
- Trim color: Cream (eggshell) on wood trim and gutters.
- Accent color: Forest green (eggshell) on front door. Save excess primer and paint for future touch-up and store in garage.
Interview each contractor, to determine his or her interest in and availability for your project. Ask them for references of prior clients. Most contractors are very proud of their work and won't hesitate to share their successes with you. If a contractor tells you that he or she doesn't give out references, this is a potential red flag. I would avoid entering into an agreement with a contractor, who doesn't share his or her references. Here's some good advice on what to ask references, when you contact them. It comes from "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor," a CSLB publication:
- When speaking to the contractor's, customers ask such questions as:
- Did the contractor keep to the schedule and the contract terms?
- Were you pleased with the work and the way it was done?
- Did the contractor listen to you when you had a problem, and seem concerned about resolving it?
- Did the contractor willingly make any necessary corrections?"
Get a written estimate, that not only specifies work to be performed and materials to be provided, but also has a window of time, when the job will be done. You should also check each individual or company for a valid contractor's license with the CSLB. You can do this by using the CSLB Web site, http://www.cslb.ca.gov/, or by phoning (800) 321-2752.
It may also be informative to check with a building code official in the building code enforcement department (part of your town, city or county government), who oversees the property, where you are having work done. The official may be familiar with the contractor or refer you to someone who is.
Another good resource is the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area (you can find a local BBB by choosing "Locate a Bureau" on the BBB Web site, http://www.bbb.org/). For large projects it is usually wise to talk with a contractor's subcontractors, material suppliers, even the contractor's bank, and obtain a credit report on the contractor.
Protect yourself by always asking a contractor, if he or she has workers' compensation (not required for an individual operating alone), liability and property damage insurance. Ask the contractor to see his or her certificates of insurance or get the name of the insurance carriers to verify coverage. Without the contractor having proper insurance, you could be held liable for property damage and/or personal injury.
Reliable contractors will back up their work. Get a copy of the contractor's warranty from each bidder and consider them, when making your final decision on who will do the job.
Additional advice to keep in mind, which also comes from "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor:" "Don't be fooled or pressured by a smooth-talking salesperson. Take the time and effort to make sure that the person or business doing your home improvement is going to perform in a professional manner."
Projects go well, when professionals are involved. You, as a consumer, should also deal with your contractor in a professional manner. A bumper sticker worth remembering: "Contractors Are People Too!" Establishing good communications early in the process, doing your homework and working closely with your contractor will usually insure the best results.
Best wishes for the success of your project.
If you are a California resident and decide to have the work done by a contractor, before entering into a contract you should request a free copy of "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor," from the State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board (CSLB). For the booklet to be mailed to you, phone 1 800 321 2752 (24-hours a day) and record your request, along with your full name and address. You may also read the booklet or download it from the Board's Web site, select:
- "Services & Publications,"
- "Guides & Pamphlets,"
- "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor."
It is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
You can also download other Board publications.