Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Be Careful Hiring your Painter!

As many of you know, I’ve been in the painting and home repair business for more than 15 years, actually closer to 20. I learned from the beginning that if you do the job right at a fair price, the good word will spread. For the most part, that’s still true. There are quite a few good, reliable painters out there.

We also know that these “tough times” have been especially hard on the construction sector of the economy. People can’t afford to buy new homes; builders can’t sell them and can’t build more, subcontractors and suppliers also take a hit as well. What do these subcontractors do? They start their own company!

I have seen more new “painting companies” trucks, signs advertisements this year than I ever have before. Where do they come from? Who knows?!? The important question should be: “Where will they be next year?” Unfortunately there is no licensing requirement to be a painting contractor. There are no hard and fast rules on how to do the work and how long you should stand behind your work. There are companies out there who weren’t in business last year, at least under their current name, that are offering 5-year warranties on their work. That’s all good and fine if you can find them when there is a problem.

Yes, I actually saw THIS truck in front of a home! I'm sure he does a great job and I'll bet he's cheap!

How can you protect yourself from these fly by night companies?

1: Do a little research! Check them out with the Better Business Bureau. They keep track of many companies, whether they are members or not. Google them! Not only the company name, but the owner’s name as well. Did you know there is a local painting contractor who is a registered sex offender right here in Johnson County? Do they have a website? How about a physical address?

2: Read their warranty. I’m not talking about the paint warranty, but the warranty on their workmanship. What will they do for you in the event of a claim? Will there be any additional charges involved?

3: Get a comprehensive proposal from them. A number written on a photocopied piece of paper doesn’t tell you squat! A good proposal should be tailored to your specific project. What process do they go through to paint your home? Power washing, scraping, caulking, priming? Make sure they specify what materials they are using including caulk, primer and paint. You can never get too much information!

4: Demand references! They should offer them with every bid, but sometimes you need to ask for them. No only should you call some of them, drive by and check out the work. Sometimes a customer is happy with the work while the work is substandard. Of course they won’t put people on their reference list that aren’t happy! Just check for yourself.

5: Make sure they are INSURED!!!! Demand a copy of their insurance proof. Not only should they carry liability insurance, but they should also carry worker’s compensation insurance. If they don’t have work comp, a person can sue you or your insurance company if they are injured on your property. Make sure their liability insurance limits are high enough to replace your home and your contents. If you have a $300,000 home and they accidentally burn it to the ground, their measly $100,000 policy is not going to help you.

6: Make sure they are using EMPLOYEES and not subcontractors. Employees are covered under the contractor’s work comp insurance, subs are not. If they insist on using subcontractors, make sure the subcontractor has work comp insurance. Do not hesitate to call their agent to verify the information. It is your responsibility to cover yourself here.

7: Ask your friends and family who they used. Ask someone you trust and whose opinion you respect. If your friends are picky and they are happy with their painter, you have a much better chance of getting the right contractor for the job.

8: Do NOT give them any money up front! A reputable painter had accounts at their suppliers and keeps money around for payroll. When I paint most homes, I don’t receive a dime until the job is done. I won’t even get the paint bill until after the job is done. If you feel compelled to pay a deposit, only do so on the day they start the job. Taking a deposit to “guarantee a spot on the schedule” is a total crock of excrement!

SPREAD THE WORD! If you have a company that you are happy with, don’t hesitate to tell your friends. Save them from hiring one of these fly by night companies! If you are looking for a reliable painter who does top notch work for a fair price, please visit my website at: http://www.paintproinc.net/

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