Can I verify that you are licensed, bonded and insured?
Painters should have a proper business license; this gives them access to wholesale pricing and lines of credit at a paint supply store. It's also important that your painter is bonded and insured. Bonding means that a third party company has reviewed the professional and has granted him or her a certain amount of surety bonding. The bond helps protect the homeowner from financial damage if the contractor refuses to complete work or doesn't pay subcontractors. Insurance protects both the painter and the homeowner in the event of an accident, injury or damage to the property. Ask to see all of these pieces of information and verify the dollar amounts.
May I speak to your past clients?
Three referrals should be enough to assess the quality of work as well as the communication skills of the painter. Ask about the overall quality of the work, the work style of the painter, how the work has held up over time, and if they would hire him or her again. Be wary of any professional that refuses to give you references; a quality painter should be happy to have to speak to past clients.
Can I get a free in-home estimate?
It's okay to receive ballpark figures over the phone however, insist upon an in-home estimate. A quality painter will help point out why certain parts of the project might be more expensive and can even talk through the repair process if it's necessary. A painter should also ask questions regarding access to the painting site, where they should park and if any HOA rules prohibit hours of work.
What can I expect from you and what do you expect from me?
Nothing is more frustrating that not being on the same page as your professional. During your in-home meeting, clarify your expectations of the job and have the painter set appropriate expectations on his or her end as well. If you want the painter to show up at an exact time every day, or if you need them to leave at a certain time, see how your schedule might impact the completion time. Additionally, ask the painter about their expectations for the job like requiring a staging area for supplies, needing to use the driveway, or having access to running water. Don't forget to ask about the clean up and disposal expectations and find out if they need access to your garbage receptacle or if they plan on leaving extra paint with you.
What, exactly, is included in your estimate?
The expression 'you get what you pay for' can be applied to nearly every profession. Of course you need to hire the painter that suits your budget however, the cheapest painting estimate may not include everything and you may end up paying more in the end. Painters usually bid their projects based on an hourly rate and they need to account for prep time, supplies, type of paint, ceiling height, difficult access points, and number of people working. When receiving a price estimate, ask the painter to break down the cost as specifically as possible so you understand where your money is going and ask about any required deposits or schedule of payments. Ask the painter to talk through potential unexpected costs that may throw off your budget. It's best to clarify all projected costs in the beginning before the work begins.