Pain-Free Home Improvement: What You Need to Know before Hiring a Contractor

Homeowners have come to accept the fact that hiring a painting contractor often brings surprises—and sometimes not the good kind.

“The timeline can last weeks longer than originally agreed upon; the price can escalate faster than the blink of an eye; and the finished quality can leave much to be desired. But this isn’t how it has to be,” says Jeff Hester, vice president of Hester Painting & Decorating, a painting, faux-finishing and wall covering company.

The experts at Hester Painting & Decorating share these tips and urge homeowners to do the necessary reconnaissance work before choosing a painting contractor.

    • Apples to apples: Make it easy on yourself and have each painting contractor give you an estimate for the same services (size of area to be painted, type of paint, number of coats, preparation details, etc.).
    • hester2bPrepare, prepare, prepare: Surface preparation is key to a long-lasting paint job—just as important as the actual paint.  Ask each painting contractor about his or her preparation process.  Probe with follow-up questions about scraping, patching, sanding, caulking and priming.
    • Protect yourself: Establish the details of the warranty before hiring anyone, and make sure it’s in writing.  Some warranties cover labor and materials, while some warranties only cover materials, despite the fact that labor fees can make up to 90 percent of the total cost.  Plus, make sure the contractor is fully insured to cover your home, furniture, artwork, etc.—not just the room or rooms being worked on.  While damage to a home can be as simple as a nick in the door frame from the contractor’s ladder, there’s always the chance of something much more significant happening, like a fire or water damage, which put the entire home at risk.  For example, the contractor’s insurance may cover up to $250,000, but your home and valuables may be worth much more.  Ask to see the contractor’s certificate of insurance.
    • Get proof of good work: Ask for the names of previous customers—those who hired the contractor for a job of similar scope—and check out the finished product firsthand.  Contractors will tell you how high quality their work is, but make sure you see it for yourself.  Questions to ask the previous customer: Did the contractor live up to your expectations regarding the quality of work, cleanliness of the workplace and timeline?
    • Set the tone: Make sure the painting contractor is aware of your expectations and knows you won’t be lenient.  Set your time parameters in advance, especially for larger jobs, because if the contractor has a small team of painters, a large job could take several months to complete.  Establish guidelines you’re comfortable with and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
    • Accessibility: Pay attention to each contractor’s accessibility when choosing between contractors.  If it takes a contractor 4 days to call back about an estimate, take this as an omen and don’t expect things will be different once you sign a contract.
    • Get everything in writing: Obtain quotes in writing.  Once you’ve chosen a painting contractor, make sure everything you’ve agreed upon is in the contract including the surfaces to be painted, methods and extent of surface preparation, payment procedures and the warranty.


Written in proud partnership with our sponsor Hester Painting & Decorating.

Founded 40 years ago by Tom Hester, Hester Painting & Decorating provides homes and high-profile commercial establishments with high-end decorating services.  Widely regarded as a leader in the fields of painting, faux finishing, and exterior and interior maintenance, Hester Painting & Decorating utilizes an enormous repertoire of finishes and wall covering techniques to create unique environments for its clients.  More information about franchising opportunities and other services offered by Hester Painting & Decorating is available at 847-677-5130 or