It’s tempting to simply go for the lowest bid, especially when it comes to getting your house painted by a professional painting contractor, but there are several important elements to consider that may affect the project outcome significantly, and the lowest bid may, in fact, cost you more in the end. Consider these factors before you decide:
Sometimes the paint purchase is included in the bid, while other providers prefer to keep it separate, leaving it out as an item to be purchased directly by you, the home owner. Keeping it separate is, in my view, a preferable way to go because you have complete control over the exact paint type and paint brand, even though you worked with the painting contractor to make the decision around those factors. You don’t want to go around mistrusting everyone who works on your home, but it’s no harm for you the home owner to pick up and pay for the paint a few days before the work begins. So, if possible, do go ahead and work with your painting contractor to decide which paint to use, but you should then make that purchase yourself, keeping that ‘line item’ separate from the labor part of the bid. If you don’t have control over the paint type and brand choice, there’s a risk a contractor might use cheaper – lower quality – choices for the job.
Most painting projects require two complete coats of paint. In some cases, a third coat might be required, but it’s rare that you will get away with a single coat. You might not notice it immediately, but two coats will fully cover what was under them. In some cases, such as when an apartment landlord is repainting an apartment after only two years, a single coat might be enough, but you should at least be aware of how many coats are included in a bid. There’s little point in opting for a lower bid to save money, only to see after the job that you need a second coat, bringing the cost of the project to become the most expensive of all the bids. Ask and be aware of how many coats are included.
You might think, oh house painting must be the safest thing a person could be doing, so why bother with that, but all it takes is for a worker to fall off a ladder and not be able to work again for you to be in the hole. If they are not insured, you the home owner might be liable, should they decide to pursue their interests in court. Being fully bonded, licensed and insured means your property is safe from direct liability. It’s also simply good practice, and not having insurance is a way for sketchy contractors to come in with a lower bid simply because they have eliminated costs at great risk to you.
It’s also worth it to do a search on the Web using their license number. In the State of Washington, every such contractor must expose his or her license number on their paperwork, including a bid for a project. That unique number can be searched for and examined for any past disappointed customers, liens or other problems.
Some people like to give a project to a person who is starting out. Even the most experienced painters, once upon a time, served their very first customer. Sometimes such a beginner will work extra hard because they know they need those precious first customers in order to begin to build a track record and references, but there’s no substitute for experience. Many people jump into a new business only to fall out of it months later when they realize how difficult it is. And that’s one advantage of opting for the contractor with a decade or more of experience.
An experienced painting contractor will have many, many references for you to call upon. Still, you can expect to be given a list of only the happy ones, of course, but it’s a good thing to call a few anyway.
Yelp can be brutal, which is why they are so useful. A vendor cannot pay Yelp to, for example, remove a bad review from their site. This means that is an unhappy customer posts a negative – or even damning – review of a painting contractor’s business, Yelp will leave it there. But, be aware that even the best vendor, sooner or later, will receive a bad review simply because not even the best provider, so look for a spread of reviews. If your painting contractor has, for example, twenty reviews, and only one or two of them are 1 and/or 2-star reviews, but the rest are 4 and 5-star reviews, I would say that is perfectly acceptable.
Google reviews are not as strictly managed by Google as Yelp reviews are managed by Yelp. People trust both, but most people also know that Yelp is in the review business itself and might be used more for that reason. Still, Google reviews should also be considered because many people trust Google as being the dominant search engine, and it’s another great source for you to get a good picture.
I tend not to call references, but I do like to know that they are available. In an earlier life, whenever I handed a prospective employer a list of resumes to call to ask about me, I only ever gave them names of people who I absolutely knew would give me excellent references. Those references were briefed beforehand, and were often closely trusted friends. In a way, I defeated the reference system by staging it with friendly people. So, I always assume when I get references to call, those references are going to heap praise on the vendor. Still, I like to know they are there.
Most modern business now have a website gallery of work they have previously done. If you are looking for, for example, a vendor to do a big staining project, look for those pictures of staining they have done in the past.
For each vendor who has offered a bid, check each of the points, above. In fact, you might narrow down your bid requests in the first place by only asking one from the vendors who have good history, are insured, have good Yelp reviews and come highly recommended.
More next week!