How to Hire a Professional Painter


Nobody pays a painter to do a bad job. You want a professional, someone who will deliver a quality experience from start to finish. Most of all, you want the kind of results you can feel proud to show off.

A painter for hire can be a company of one or a professional employed by a large painting firm. Most painters and painting companies prefer to work in a particular area, or local surroundings. Keep in mind these professionals are what they paint, so a good painter and painting company will understand the value of a good reputation.

Following are a few tips to help you get the beautiful results you envision.


Getting Started

Before you reach for the phone directory, or redeem the coupon that came in the local sales flyer, think about your unique requirements. How much painting will you need to have done? How difficult is the task—are there vaulted ceilings, will it include multi-level exteriors, is the painting job part of a complex home remodeling project?

When to consider a general contractor.

Some jobs are just too big to do yourself. If the painting to be done is part of a large remodeling effort that will also require plumbing, electrical and drywall work, you may need a general contractor. If you're thinking of tackling the remodeling project yourself, you should be aware that even if you perform a project management role in your own profession, you may not be prepared to handle the challenges and demands that come with a large home improvement project.

If, however, the project only consists of painting, you should be able to oversee it without too much trouble. Hiring a professional painter who knows what they are doing can save you any unwanted headaches.

Before you start any home project, check your area for permit requirements. Your municipality may have rules or regulations for various construction projects and may issue penalties if you don't follow them. If you don't know what the requirements are in your area, contact your municipality and/or an area contractor.

Do you need a licensed painter? What about a union painter?

In some areas it is normal —perhaps essential —to use a licensed or union painter. This is especially true on commercial property projects. Painters who work on residential properties may or may not be required to obtain a license or be part of a union. A union painter goes through a training process. You may want to check with your municipality first for local customs and/or state requirements. Also, check the references your painter provides for you.


Word of Mouth Carries the Day

Word of mouth is golden in a service business like residential or commercial painting. It may be a key factor in how you choose a professional for your job. If you have had good luck with a painter in the past, you may want to hire him or her again for your new project.

If you are just beginning the search, consider asking neighbors, friends or family who have worked with someone recently. There is nothing more valuable than a reference when you have seen the good work close up.


Interview in Person

A reputable firm will come to visit the property before delivering a price. In some firms, the owner of the business does the project estimating and will therefore make the trip; other firms may choose to send one of their professional estimators.

Learn everything you can about the painter and his or her business.

How long have they been in the painting business? This is not the same question as "How long have you been painting?" You should ask both questions and know the answers. Someone who used to be an estimator may not have picked up a brush until recently. How did they learn how to paint? What is the quality level of their results? Someone who is self-taught likely does not approach the work in the same way as someone with 10 years in a painter's union.

Don't forget to verify insurance.

If someone is hurt on your property, your insurance will have to cover any expenses; if they become disabled, it can become very expensive. What if an inexperienced individual uses a heat gun and starts a fire? Always request a copy of their insurance certificate and be sure to review it. This is best done at the interviewing stage.

Check out their transportation.

Make it a point to see their transportation. Is it a company truck, clean and well maintained? This will tell you the company takes pride in their reputation.

Can they help you make the right decisions?

Find out what skills they bring to the table and what other help they could offer. For example, can they recommend colors? If you have employed a decorator, this step isn't necessary.

Questions or concerns of a legal nature should also be addressed.

For instance, what are their business practices if the relationship ends? Have they been part of any litigation associated with the business? Have they ever placed a lien on a customer's home? Why?


Ask for Referrals

If the painter you are considering hasn't come to you by way of word of mouth, ask them for personal referrals. The key question is: "Would you hire this person again?" You will also want to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Referrals that are five years old, or older. Ask for a reference from the last job they completed or the job they are currently working on.
  • Questions that don't get at what matters most to you. If you are a stickler for details, like sharp lines and spit-spot clean-up each evening, ask questions that will get at the painter's approach to them. Some referrals may be willing to have you visit the job site and look for yourself.
  • Going with one positive report. A good painter should be able to deliver at least two or three referrals.
  • Asking close ended questions. If the person volunteered to be a referral, they are unlikely to say anything negative. If you ask questions that need a "yes" or "no" answer, know that may be all you will get. Ask open ended questions like, "What can you tell me about the end result?" or "When you came home at the end of the day, describe the room. "If you anticipate needing surfaces sanded, ask the reference if they had sanding done and if the area was sealed off before they started sanding.
  • Not asking about the money. Some people may feel uncomfortable asking about money, or what someone else paid, but you don't have to ask "How much did you pay?" to get the information you need. Ask if they paid the price that was listed on the original bid. The answer may be "yes" or "no" but the important information comes from asking "Why was it different?"
  • Only asking about the money. As important as cost is in your decision making, time should also be a major consideration. How long did the project take? How did the time or number of days of actual painting compare to the original estimate?

The Internet can be a tremendous resource for you as you search and compare your options. Find out what you can about the firm before you ask for a bid. Perhaps you may want to join a word-of-mouth reference site like, or check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints; maybe a general search on a popular Internet search engine would yield some helpful information.

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