Choose a Painter

How to Choose the Right Painter - While many homeowners are quite comfortable handling interior paint jobs on their own, a professional painter is usually enlisted for painting the home’s exterior.

Since painting your home is critical to your home’s appearance and value, finding the best possible painter is essential. Consumer Reports offers the following tips for making the right choice:

Don’t agree to let the painter assess the condition of your home’s exterior without you. Note how long they take to conduct the assessment. The more time spent, the more realistic the estimate will be. Ask about the size and experience of the crew.

Be clear about expectations. It’s not just the number of coats that are applied that determines quality and price—preparing the surface prior to painting is key. If you want a surface that’s free of unevenness from prior paint jobs, you’ll need to say so, and be prepared to pay extra. But if you can live with some imperfections showing through, point out what level of prep is acceptable and what isn’t.

Check references and work. Call references and go see jobs that were done several years ago to see how the painter’s work is holding up. A history of positive references is a good sign. Use recent projects to check the skill of a contractor’s current crew. Ask how surprises or problems were resolved.

Consider credentials. Membership in a trade or local business group isn’t a guarantee of quality, but it shows a level of commitment and reliability. For licensing information in your state, check Also check with the Better Business Bureau (, your state’s attorney general’s office, or a local consumer-affairs agency to learn whether the contractor has a history of unresolved complaints.

Get estimates. Always seek three written estimates. Each should include a breakdown of labor, material costs, the number of coats of primer and paint, the brand and model of materials, and a detailed description of the amount of surface preparation that will be done.

Check for lead. If your home was built before 1978, older coats of paint could contain lead. So extra precautions might be needed.

Get a complete contract. It should include all the contractor’s key information: name, address, office and cellphone numbers, and license number, plus whatever details were in the estimate. Make sure it’s clear what is and is not included in the job. Avoid a large down payment and withhold the final payment, typically 10 to 15 percent, until you are satisfied with the job. Get a copy of each painter’s liability and workers compensation insurance certificates. Otherwise, if someone gets hurt while on the job, you could be on the hook.

Ask for a guarantee. The painter should promise to correct any chipping, peeling, blistering, flaking, or excessive fading or chalking that occurs within two years after the job is done at no or little cost. If he tells you the paint itself has a warranty, remember that doesn’t include labor, which is a far more costly proposition than material.

Source: Consumer Reports