Painting your house? Here are 7 questions to ask the crew before they start the job

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Primping your home for sale, or just trying to freshen it up a bit? Sometimes the only thing your house needs is a new coat of paint, in which case you have two options: Do the painting yourself, or hire a pro.

Taking the do-it-yourself approach can help you save money, but it’s not right for everyone — especially for people who are looking to paint more than one room, says Katie Wethman, a Washington, DC-based real estate agent and founder of the Wethman Group.

Hiring a home painter also means you’ll wind up with a professional-looking finished product, which may be difficult to achieve on your own.

Of course, you want to hire the right painter — someone who will get the job done on time, charge a fair rate, and leave your home looking beautiful. To help you with your search, we’ve provided seven great questions you may not think to ask a home painter but totally should before you hire one.

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1. Are you licensed and insured?

Conceivably, anyone who can pick up a paintbrush can paint a wall, says Frank Campanelli, a home painter in Farmington, Conn. Professional painters, however, have a state-issued license. Though licensing laws vary by state, a licensed painter is held to higher standards and can be fined or sued by the state if he does a shoddy job.

Finding a home painter who has a comprehensive liability insurance policy, including workers’ compensation coverage, is also a must. This provides you with protection in the unfortunate event that your house gets damaged during the project or a worker gets injured on the premises.

2. What personal protection equipment do you use?

Even if painters have workers’ compensation insurance — which, once again, they absolutely should — the last thing you want is to have a painter get injured on your property. To mitigate that risk, professional painters are expected to wear safety equipment such as goggles, gloves, coveralls, and other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection.

3. Do you use subcontractors?

Many painting companies hire subcontractors (also called day laborers) instead of having their own full-time staff. Allowing subcontractors into your home, though, creates a number of risks. Background checks are often not performed on subcontractors. Many subcontracted painters work on flat — not hourly — wages, meaning they may not be as committed to doing the work efficiently as a full-time crew would. And, if any subcontractors go unpaid (say, by a careless or dishonest painting company), they can file a mechanic’s lien against your property, potentially require you to shell out extra money to pay for their services.

4. What kind of prep work is included in your quotes?

Generally, one-third of a high-quality paint job is spent on prep work — such as removing stains, caulking cracks, sanding rough wall surfaces, or repairing drywall, says Ryan Benson of Benson Painting Services, in Apple Valley, Minn.

Some home painters, however, offer more intensive prep work than others — and some don’t offer any prep work at all. So, it’s important to find out what a painter will and won’t do to get your walls ready to be painted. And, if the painter does offer these services, do they cost extra?

Of course, tackling these tasks yourself can help you save money by cutting down on labor costs, since most painters charge an hourly rate — about $25 to $100 an hour on average — though some painters charge per room, says Reba Haas, a real estate agent with Team Reba of Re/Max Metro Realty, in Seattle.

5. Do you provide all of the supplies?

Generally, you’re responsible for purchasing your own paint, and the painter handles the rest of the operation. But, not always! Some home painters, particularly those who charge significantly lower rates to beat out their competitors, don’t provide basic supplies such as dropcloths, tape, or even brushes and rollers — and these expenses can add up if they’re coming out of your pocket. Painter’s tape — a must for masking off areas that should not be painted, like crown molding — alone costs about $7 to $10 for a roll of 60 yards.


6. Do you offer a warranty for your work?

Most paint manufacturers offer warranties, meaning they’ll fix any problems that were caused by their paint job, such as blistering, peeling, or flaking paint. Therefore, you want to select a painter who will guarantee his work. Painter’s guarantees typically last one to three years.

7. How will my furniture, fixtures, and floors be protected during painting?

News flash: Paint spills. Obviously, furniture should be covered and moved away from walls before painting begins—but what you want is a painter who's going to take extra measures to protect your furniture, fixtures (e.g., chandeliers), and floors from spatters.

Simply placing newspapers on the floors isn’t enough, especially considering that heavy paint can seep through the paper. Thus, a good painter will use dropcloths, which will absorb any paint spills — giving you peace of mind.

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