How To Select and Hire a Painting Contractor in California

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When selecting and hiring a painting contractor in California there are a number of pitfalls you should be aware of. The following guidelines will help you, the home-owner, or business-owner to be aware of the potential traps and to know what to expect and how to protect yourself from unscrupulous contractors.

  1. First off, make sure your contractor is licensed by the California Contractors State License Board. We provide a link at the end of this check list for you to look up the information you will need.
  2. Be sure to check their ID. Fraudulent use of licenses by contractors masquerading as someone else is rife, so make sure that the person offering their services is in fact the name of the person on the license. If he/she is a sales representative for the contractor, then they must also be registered as a sales person under the same contractor’s license number. Look them up on line.
  3. Is your contractor planning to bring one or more workers on-site to complete your project? When checking a contractor’s permit on-line, scroll down and click on the link next Workers’ Compensation. If the contractor does not have up-to-date Workers’ Compensation or you see the words “Exempt”, then they cannot bring ANY workers onto your property without exposing you and your family to significant financial risk. Painting can be high-risk and in the event that a worker is injured while on your property, you could be sued.
  4. Most unlicensed individuals don’t have bonding or workers' compensation insurance. The quality of their work usually doesn't compare to that of a licensed contractor. Don't take the risk in order to save a few dollars. You'll probably end up paying more in the long run.
  5. Be aware of the up front deposits a painting contractor is allowed to collect before they commence work. Legally they cannot collect more than 10% or the value of the job or $500 (whichever is the lesser of the two) up front, regardless of what materials they may have to buy for you. Don’t pay out too much, too early in the way of progress payments until work is complete and you are satisfied with contractors performance according to what was agreed.
  6. Ensure your contractor is bonded. This also ensures a level of protection in case they walk off half way through the job, leaving you out of pocket.
  7. You should also ensure your contractor has adequate liability insurance. Ask them to prove this to you. If their equipment or paint should damage any aspect of your home or contents, then their liability insurance will be able to pay you out. If no insurance is carried, you’ll most likely be the looser.
  8. Determine and negotiate how your painting contractor will complete your project. A common complaint is that contractors come and go between your and other people’s projects, leaving you high and dry while they put out fires elsewhere. Typically this happens when they promise unrealistic timeframes or take on new projects when their resources are already stretched to the max.
  9. If you’re letting workers into your home, ensure they can be trusted and at the very least you are covered by liability insurance. Get verbal references from the contractor’s most recent customers. Are the workers recent hires or is there a pattern of permanence within the crew. This should tell you something about the quality of work you can expect.

You can look up your contractor by license number here.

You can also look up by contractor business name here.

Or if you want to check on a contractor's sales person or owner by personnel name (Check against their ID if necessary) you can check their name is listed here.

Written Contracts are a Must

Reputable contractors will usually provide a written contract. This contract should clearly lay out the scope of the work to be performed. It include surfaces to be painted, application methods and surface preparation, timelines and payment. The contract also serves to protect both you and the contractor.

Verify References

Ask for references. Follow up with phone calls. Ask references if they know of other work the contractor performed. Find out if contractor and employees were respectful and whether they felt secure if inside work was done. The references you select should have been engaged in projects of a similar size and scope to what you are planning.

Guarantees

Discuss any guarantee or warranties. Even the best coatings have a finite lifetime so beware of the "Lifetime Guarantee". Usually the contractor is betting they won't be around that long. Do ask about the manufacturer's warranty on the coatings to be used on your project. Remember you are looking for long-term durability from the paint job. High quality products are just as critical as the performance of the contractor.