Top 10 Things Your House Painter Won't Tell You
By jessicastaton on February 21, 2012
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1. I marked your material costs up by 25%.
It's common practice for painting contractors to charge home owners retail price for materials like paint and primer. Contractors may even produce receipts - but they pay at least 25% less than the price reflected on the receipt they provide you with. Paint stores reward contractors for their frequent business by cutting painters a hefty discount and then providing marked up receipts to show home owners. Insist on purchasing the paint yourself and buy the paint as needed, so you don't pay for gallons you don't need.
2. You may be held responsible for accidents.
Accidents happen. A ladder may destroy a window, a bucket of paint may spill on priceless art, a heater may cause a house fire, and people sometimes get hurt. Your painting contractor or his employees may cause damage that isn't covered by the contractor's insurance , or their insurance may be expired. Always confirm your contractor's insurance is up to date and ask if they are bonded - bonding gives you the right to make a claim to be compensated for any money lost if a contractor quits or abandons a project without completing the project.
3. I don't really work for the company you hired.
The website and online reviews you were impressed with? Odds are they belong to a company that sub-contracted your project out to the guy who showed up at your door. The references, before and after photos, and certifications on the website may have nothing to do with your actual painter - in fact, he may subcontract for several companies.
4. I didn't want to be a painter when I grew up.
While there are master craftsman who see each home they paint as a work of art and take a great deal of pride in their work, there are at least that many rogues with a paint can that are painting "just to get by" because they are laid off from their "real job." Confirm that the person who initially comes to your home for the estimate will be on site during the project. Ask to sample photos of the work they are most proud of. A true craftsman's pride will show in his face when he talks about his work.
5. The references I gave you are bogus.
At best, the references your painting contractor gave you are real satisfied clients the contractor has done work for. But does that really give you a clear picture? Is this the handful of people out of hundreds of disgruntled customers that aren't angry? At worst, the "references" are the painters family and friends masquerading as former customers.
A much better way to get real client feedback about a contractor is to check online reviews that screen and confirm the identity of reviewers, and don't allow anonymous reviews, like Angie's List.
6. My lack of lead removal certification could make you sick.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children."
Contractors can become EPA Lead Abatement Certified by taking an 8 hour course that teaches them how to safely contain the area, clean up afterward, minimize dust, and dispose of materials.
If your house was built before 1978, it's likely lead based paint is present and needs to be safely removed by an EPA certified professional. Renovations that release lead dust or flakes into your home could cause reproductive problems, birth defects, hearing problems, nerve disorders, and more. If you suspect your home may have lead paint, ask to see your contractors proof of EPA Lead Abatement Certification. The extra safety measures typically add up to higher labor costs, but ensuring your safety is worth it long term.
7. I may take your deposit and run.
You get what you pay for. If a fly by night handyman with no references, office, or credentials offers you an estimate far below the competitor's, beware! What's to stop this person from running off with your deposit, never to be seen again? Verified references, up to date insurance, and an office you can visit are good signs. Using a contractor a friend referred is your safest bet.
That said, asking for an up front deposit is reasonable. It's standard practice in the house painting industry to require a deposit of 30 -50% of the estimate to cover the cost of materials. This protects the contractor so they are not left paying for material that they do not need if you unexpectedly back out.
8. Your 5 year warranty is a joke.
If you can find your painter in 5 years and they return your calls, consider yourself lucky. In this economy, most small businesses fail within the first 5 years. According to Dun & Bradstreet reports, "Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have only a 37% chance of surviving four years (of business) and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years."
If the painter is still in business, they'll explain the fine print for you. Do you still have a copy of your warranty? If not, you're out of luck - and most people have lost their paperwork over the years. Most warranties only cover flaws in workmanship, the kind of thing you'd notice right away and demand to be fixed prior to final payment. In addition, it's common for house painting warranties to state that "if the product flakes, chips or peels, we will provide you with sufficient material to correct the problem area."
9. I may disappear for days at a time.
Many homeowners take time off work so they can be home to supervise painters and are unpleasantly surprised when the painters stop showing up half way through the project, only to pop back up again the next week while the homeowner is at work. Most subcontractors have multiple crews juggling several jobs at one time. If a higher priced job is getting close to a deadline, workers will be pulled from your project to meet the other job's deadline.
If it's important to you to be there to supervise the work and you need to schedule time off to be there, be sure to add "consecutive 8 hour work days until completion" to your contract. If that's not possible, ask your contractor to be up front with you. Before the crew leaves each day, have the head contractor give you a run down of when they will be back, and how many days they expect the project to take.
10. I could put a lien on your house.
A construction lien is a legal hold on a house which can be filed by a home improvement contractor who has not been paid for his or her work on that house. While the lien is in effect the owner cannot sell or transfer it. Liens are meant to ensure proper payment for labor and materials (see #1) as agreed upon by both parties by contract. If payment is not made, the property can potentially be sold to pay debts. Lien laws vary widely from state to state. You can find the lien laws in your state here.
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