After you take down those holiday decorations, clean up around the house and start looking for a professional painting contractor.

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Q: Is this a good time to get a jump on our painting project? And if so, what should we look for in a professional painter?

A: Once the commitments and chaos of this month’s holiday celebrations are over, January can be a perfect time to consider painting the inside of your home. After you take down those decorations, clean up around the house and start looking for a professional painting contractor.

Painting contractors are usually less busy during December, January and February, and a little more cost effective, and they haven’t yet filled up their schedules. Booking now also means you can paint in February, March or April — before spring has sprung and the yard work begins again.

If you are great at painting and love it, go ahead and do it yourself. But if you want to relax and let a professional handle it, here are some tips for making the right hire.

1. Choose the right contractor for your project

Selecting the right company is easy. Base your selection on years in business, size of the business and customer service. Have a budget in mind, and be sure to stay within that budget.

You can find reputable contractors by asking friends, colleagues, relatives, architects or design professionals, as well as inquiring at local paint-supply stores.

However, these sources will give you limited, general information. To make an educated decision, you need specific information. I suggest doing some Internet sleuthing: check websites and go to Facebook pages. And always verify that the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. Quality contracting companies will be only too happy to provide you with copies of their certificates of insurance, bonding information and licenses.  You can also go to the state Department of Labor & Industries website to verify this information.

2. Written bids and contracts are a must

Reputable contractors will provide you with a written bid and will insist on a written contract. Both should clearly explain the scope of the work to be performed. They should also cover such items as surfaces to be painted, methods and extent of surface preparation, and payment procedures.

Knowing the total scope of work enables you to carefully evaluate the different bids you may receive with proper information. It also keeps contractors on a level playing field, as a contract serves to protect both you and the contractor. I suggest getting at least three bids.

3. Talk to past customers

Obtain a list of references from the prospective contractor, including addresses and telephone numbers. Ask them if you can call your references — and actually do so. Ask the references questions that pertain to specific information, such as:

  • What did you like best about the contractor?
  • Was communication satisfactory before, during and after the project?
  • Was the contractor available to answer questions or concerns in a timely manner?
  • Did they clean up their work area each day?
  • Were they respectful and courteous?

Also find out if a prospective contractor belongs to any building associations. This means they are typically a professional business and have business references that you can check.

4. Ask about warranties or guarantees

All paints have a manufacturer’s warrantee on products. Ask about the products the contractor would use on your project. The use of high-quality products that are environmentally safe is just as important as the selection and performance of the contractor.

Good contractors are positive and eager for your business. They are proud of what they do and enjoy working with you on your project. Once you make your selection, step back and give the professional the opportunity to meet — and exceed — your expectations.


Darylene Dennon of Solid Energy, Inc., is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to