Knowing the questions to ask your painter — can make a profound difference difference in the result

It's easier to see the wisdom of these questions in action — let me tell you a true story.

With Wendy Interiors, photography by Peter Braune

With Wendy Interiors, photography by Peter Braun

One of my longtime customers (I've painted every room in her home...a few times) reached out to me several months ago with an opportunity. She lives in a condominium, and the building wanted to paint the hallways as part of a whole building face lift. She invited me to come in, meet the Board, tour the building and provide a bid for the work. Which I did.

Another painter was invited to provide a bid, and ended up offered the same price. He was friends with someone on the Board; he got the job. Hey, you win some & you lose some. When the decision was announced, I thanked them for the opportunity to bid, and I mentioned that I had noticed that the all the base trims were painted with oil paint. I suggested that the Board make sure that the other painter was going to prepare those surfaces properly, to get proper paint adhesion. I hoped that my customer's building would get a good quality result--and that my hint might have helped highlight a problem spot.

Just this past week, my customer asked me to come paint a few rooms for her. As I was back in the building, walking through the halls, the paint job was....just... The oil painted base trims had not been properly prepared--and the result? The new paint was peeling off--blue underneath, tan on top. And there had been wallpaper on the upper walls, which was removed with this renovation. But the glue had not been removed, so the newly painted walls have bumps & ridges. This big project looks awful--and if they want it to look appealing, they'll have to spend the money all over again.

This is a very expensive example of why it's so important to ask your painter the right questions during the initial interview. You should notice whether there is a quick response to your initial request, do they meet you and provide an estimate within a few days, and can they book a project date with you. Many people complain about contractors not being responsive, not providing an estimate, not showing up at all -- all indications that they're not going to be dependable.

Storm Sandy Renovation, with Wendy Interiors, photography by Peter Braune

These are some of the most important questions:

  • How long have you been painting professionally?

  • Do you have any other customers I can speak with?

  • What should I expect? You'll hope to hear that they will

  • Cover all your furniture with plastic

  • Cover the doorways with plastic

  • Vacuum before the project & Vacuum after

  • Have multiple painters on site to complete the project quickly

  • Preparation--what will that be like?

  • Spackle pre-work should be 3 coats of spackle, sanded smooth before painting

  • Includes moldings with nail heads & cracks

  • Includes old sheet rock repair

  • Includes old plaster repair--skim coat

  • How many projects do you work on at a time?

  • You want to hear that they'll focus on your project until it's completed

With these questions, and your eyes wide open, you'll have a great experience with your painter. You'll select a professional with integrity and old-fashioned dedication to service. And you'll enjoy a beautiful, high quality painted home for many years to come.