Painting Contractors – Performing A Thorough Due Diligence When Hiring
I am amazed at how many highly intelligent, well oft, responsible homeowners do not perform due diligence when evaluating painting contractors. I know it’s a matter of time, but when you think about how much time it may take to re-earn income lost for paying a “sub-standard contractor” – and having to hire another contractor to redo a project that was not done right the first time – it is indeed worth the time to perform a thorough due diligence.
Here is a composite list of due diligence points for evaluating painting contractors in today’s marketplace:
- Website: Do they have one, and is it content rich? Is there communication for email and phone on the site, and is it current?
- Online Reviews – Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Google, Houzz, Facebook, Yelp: Check all of these locations for reviews. However, beware! Many painting contractors pay their family and friends to post reviews. The only way to trust online reviews is cross-referencing and aggregate – the more reviews the contractor has, the more likely you can trust reviews.
- References/Referrals: Ask for and check references or referrals. Ask the referrals not just about the positive, but also ask what was the one thing the referral did NOT like about “Joe Contractor”?
- Scheduling An Estimate: If it’s hard to get service before you give a contractor money, what do you think it will be like after you give a contractor money. If a contractor is truly professional and worthy of your business, he will schedule the estimate ASAP, and to your convenience.
- Job Site Visits: Visit present job sites to see how the proposed painting contractors run their business. Is it organized, clean, and running efficiently? Are the workers happy while working? And ‘interview’ the other homeowner if they are at the job site. Frankly, a good selling contractor will offer to you to visit job sites.
- com: In a worse case scenario, I would perform a beenverified.com background check on a company’s principal and maybe even personnel. Been Verified is a criminal and financial background check service. Know this – good people with money problems will do bad things.
- Pennsylvania State Attorney Generals’ Office: In PA, painting contractors MUST register with the PA State Attorney General’s Office, as required by the PA Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. Checkout – www.attorneygeneral.gov
- Google Search: Search the company, principals of the company, and maybe even the workers. You might be amazed at what you just might find.
- Copy of General Commercial Liability Insurance: Request an insurance certificate with your name and address listed as an additional insured and/or certificate holder.
- Call Your Local Government: Call your township, borough, or city and inquire if they know the contractor or know anything about the contractor.
- Evaluate Level of Professionalism & Service: From the first phone-call, to all follow-up communications, and especially in the first interview (project review). Do they show consistency in messaging, market visuals, and most importantly – service.
- Analyze the Estimate: Did the contractor itemize projects and separate labor costs from materials costs? In PA, contractors must separate labor and materials in the quotation.
- Project Setup and Cleanup: Is this written in the quotation? If not, demand that it is.
- Communications: Does the contractor have policies and procedures for communicating with you? Be sure to have clear expectations for communicating DAILY – about job details, job progress, etc. – and set these expectations upfront before the work starts.
- Written Approvals: Is there a set process for you to sign-off and approve everything – colors, special order products, products being used in your home, etc. We use forms for color schedule approval, for moulding approval, for specification approvals, and definitely for a final inspection.
- Periodic Walk-throughs and Final Inspection: Demand periodic walk-through inspections – and definitely demand a Final Inspection Walk-through. And if the final inspection does not meet your approval, request a punch list if the project list is more than 2 or 3 items.
- Power of the Purse: Do not make any progress payments, yet alone a final payment, unless you are completely happy with the work and the service. It’s your hard-earned money… Speak your mind!
- Warranty/Guaranty: What is the warranty? Is it in writing? In PA, the PA Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act requires a 2-year minimum guaranty on labor. At TJ’s, we have a Lifetime Warranty – because we believe our expertise should hold-up in the products and processes we choose to complete your project.
- Final Invoice: If a contractor requests the final payment before performing a final inspection or asking you if you are completely satisfied with the work, then hide your checkbook. An honorable contractor will inform you that you will not receive a final invoice until everything is completed, and you are satisfied with the work (or have signed-off on a final inspection form).
- The Agreement/Contract: Remember, an agreement between a contractor and a homeowner is technically “co-written.” You can request to have additions, deletions, or addendums made to the contract – albeit that such modifications are not against the law of the state or code ordinances.
- Spying: I do not even like saying this, but if necessary you can “spy” on your painting contractors, by using voice activated devices, home monitoring systems – or have a friend or family member pop-in if you’re away or if you’re at work. If you’re around, you could also leave and say you’ll be gone from 8am to 2pm – and then come home suddenly at 8:30 or 9am. Hopefully you will only discover that your paranoia has gotten the best of you. Otherwise, the trust is gone. When the trust is gone, make sure the contractor is gone.
In closing, what I have learned in serving homeowners and working for the general public that has been most valuable to me is this – – – Self value. Notably, I have come to learn – and now know – that “self value is self stated.”
If you want to state your value and control how you are treated when hiring a contractor, then perform at least a half-dozen of the due diligence points above.
And remember, it’s your money and it’s your home. And also remember, you indeed are The Boss!