This article with comments was terrific - it was so informative. I found the advice useful. It addressed specifics like the condition of the dry wall surfaces, any additional repairs such. pin holes, chalking, smoothing of wall surfaces, absorption of paint and number of coats that may be needed. It should also include insurance coverage, and reflect the clean-up afterwards. Having a written contract with the company's letterhead is a must.
Painters with bad reputations can avoid the problem of reference checks by giving their customers lists of relatives and friends.  The people will say great things, and the customer won’t be the wiser.  The best way to avoid this smoke and mirror trick is to ask specific questions about the project. If the reference seems hesitant, doesn’t know the details, or gives sketchy responses, be skeptical. 
You are right on with this - why do people leave switch plates on when it's just so easy to take them off? Another thing that happened to us - we had the popcorn ceiling taken off and the ceiling painted white. When the job was done and I later went to change out all the fixtures/fans, they had left every fixture in place, so there was a large patch of popcorn and unpainted ceiling left behind - it just didn't dawn on me to specify that they take those down before scraping and painting. It was kind of a mess.
With that said, here's the reality of that particular scenario. Painters do put water in the paint, but not for reasons you would think. Some materials need to have their viscosity manipulated in order to slow drying time, allowing gravity to 'smooth' out the product for a better finish. It also prevents 'drags' and 'sausages'. I personally try not to do it too often, but from time to time I have to. I want my client to have a proper finish.
Payment. Every client is different. Every job has it's own unique set of circumstances. I always start off the discussion with my clients saying that I'm flexible on how they would like to proceed with payments but that I prefer half down. I refuse to change order. Change orders are my last resort. Instead I ask questions at our initial meeting and try to be sure to cover all bases before I submit my estimate. 

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Thorough preparation is essential to ensure a good finish. Contractors might have to fill cracks or holes and remove old paint if it is badly worn, peeling or flaking. They remove all paint and apply a suitable primer to the bare surface. If the existing paint is in reasonable condition, they clean it and rub it with abrasive material to provide a key for the new paint. On new surfaces, such as bare wood or fresh plaster, they apply a suitable seal, followed by a primer coat.
This all comes down to the rules.....1. references....does the contractor have them??? I ALWAYS furnish all my prospective customers them....no excuses...2. insurance....again, I always furnish proof....3. Read the proposal carefully...I ALWAYS list materials down to tape used, the brand, the grit of sandpaper, the manufacturer, etc....its INEXCUSABLE to not list all of these items....I am a member of the PDCA, the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, the foremost authority in the coatings industry and they also approve of what I listed....if you do not follow these guidelines, you will NOT get a job reflective of "professional". Look for the PDCA where any painting contractors are, if they are not a member, RUN!
I totally agree with this as well. I think every time I have read Angie's List reports, they are inaccurate and not researched enough. I had COMPLETE faith in Angie but lately I am hesitate on reports. I would check your local hardware store or even your neighbors to get a recommendation for painters. If you liked what you saw, you can be stress free with your results. I live in Texas and I have borrowed my hardware store opinion bc that seems to be the place most of the contractors or painters come to buy stuff for the jobs. If your neighbors painters, contractors, electricians and plumbers have shown good results, stress free you. I have been stress free with results, glad I asked for other opinions.Don't forget, the Hardware Store knows if that person is trustworthy and honest, their accounts would be shut down.

Recently I had the outside of my home painted. The contractor wrote a good contract, but I failed to realize that some things were not in it. It reminds me of the car dealer who offered a good price on a new car but failed to mention that it did not include tires. My contractor failed to specify that lattice under a porch was included. So the painters did not paint it. To his credit, he did instruct them to paint it when I brought it to his attention. If I had the job to do over again I would look for an individual who came with referrals from happy customers rather than a franchise owner..
To industrial and institutional. I also own and operate a professional painting company of elite painters ONLY 5 ELITE PAINTERS, and pay them good money for being elite. Less is better in my opinion.The fact is this a homeowner and a painting company owner can both be taken advantage of by hustlers and liars and amateurs posing as pros. I have had many laborers tell me they can paint. " Oh yes sir I can paint, I'm a painter of 8 years. Yes sir I can cut a straight line." Some people will say and do anything to get a buck. If yoir on the job to see their rookie mistakes you may have time to save your reputation before disaster ensues and fire them on the spot. As a painting Company owner if your not on the job with your crew at least 3 out of 6 days every week your taking a huge risk of damaging your reputation and losing the respect of your team. Homeowners want to deal with you or the crew boss (jobs site supervisor) not "the painter". Many things I have read are right on. Painters for the most part will milk a clock for all they can and still do a good job. But amateurs will leave your projects in shambles and the only ones to pay for it is the contractor and the homeowners. But an elite painter and crew will try to complete a project as quickly as possible and move on to the next one. They understand bonuses, incentives, and promotions. My company provides the opportunity for a homeowner to meet each member of the crew and shake there hand on day one. There is also a differentiation between the crew boss and the crew by the uniforms they wear. Should the homeowners have any issue at all they know exactly who to go to to get results. This eliminates the age old problem of who screwed up? I have found that by me putting on my whites and giving my crew the opportunity to out do themselves on each project it ignites competition, pride in skill, and excellent commraderie amongst the team. We all hold each other accountable. Choose your contractor by the crew not the owner. The crew is a direct reflection of the Company owner. No room for rookies on fine finish painting. Go pro for painting and you won't regret it. With that being said homeowners should always remember that you get what you pay for. With paint and services. In most cases it will be well worth a few extra bucks to get elite results. Never go with the cheapest bid there is always a reason why it's so low.
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