Ten Questions to Ask Before Hiring House Painters

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So, my house painting is done! (I think, tbh they never told me if they were done…) As you saw in the reveal post, I love love love the new color and am having a great time restyling my porch and deck to play off the dark teal siding. I did NOT love the process of getting the house painted. Instead of dwelling on all the weird/bad/annoying things that happened, I thought I’d pull together a list of questions to ask before hiring house painters, to help you all avoid some of my frustration.

I learned A LOT about how professional house painting works during my house painting project, but unfortunately, my experience wasn’t as seamless as it could have been. My issues could have been because I bought this package at a charity auction and didn’t have a contract, or because I didn’t know the right questions to ask when starting this project, or maybe this was all part of Textbook Painting’s process. I don’t want any of you to be surprised by any of the crazy stuff I saw while my house was getting painted, so here are ten questions to ask before hiring house painters.

1. What is the typical timeline for a project of this size?

My house painting project took about a month from when they started power washing to the last time I saw the crew. Some of the delays were caused by the weather, but I was later told my house should have taken about a week to paint.

2. What prep work needs to be done before painting? And who is responsible for it?

My garage was falling apart in some areas (remember my updates here?) and I was initially told that someone from Textbook Painting would handle replacing a few boards. I asked a few of the painters about it, and they knew nothing about replacing boards, so I did it myself the night before they were scheduled to start painting.

3. Which areas of the house will be painted? Siding, trim, soffit, doors, window trim, porch floor, railings, etc.

The cost for painting your house will vary based on how much of your house you want to be painted. This was one of my biggest frustrations because I assumed that all of the trim would be painted white. The trim was originally white, but next to fresh siding paint, the existing “white” trim definitely looked dingy and old. My painters, however, were never planning on painting the trim. When I heard about this, I was VERY ANNOYED. I later learned this choice was because the value of my charity auction item was supposed to be capped at $5,000 and painting the trim would bump this number up to $7,000-8,000. I wish I had known this at the start of the project.

Additionally, I think the painters needed to pay closer attention to their goal of not painting the trim. They got blue paint on just about every piece of white trim and had the intention of just touching up those areas to cover up their mistakes. Anyone who has painted anything knows that you can’t touch up a spot in the middle of a wall without it being obvious, so they ultimately had to paint all of the trim white. The painters also got some paint on my driveway, bricks, screens, and on my porch floor and back deck. After they stopped painting the house, I refinished the deck, so that was less of a problem. But I had no plans to repaint the front porch floor, so I think they could have been more careful and used painters tape to help protect the surfaces they didn’t plan on painting. I did see in this post on sarahfortune that some house painters cover the windows and doors with plastic and use protective paper to cover bricks, so see if that is an option when your painters start the job.

4. Which colors will go where? Focus on where your siding meets a trim piece and get this information confirmed before painting starts.

Every house will be different, but I’m sure you’ll have some areas where your siding will meet a trim piece. Be sure to specify what you want to happen at that intersection. My siding tucked under a corner trim piece on every corner of the house, and this required some precise painting to keep it clean. I had to remind every painter about this several times in order to get it finished correctly. So stay on it. And maybe get your plan in writing?

5. Will they be spraying or brushing/rolling on the paint? Will this choice be consistent throughout the job?

The initial start delay was because we were waiting for an experienced painter to handle the sprayer and spray my siding. But when the project started, there were two guys hand brushing and rolling the paint onto the siding. This process was. so. slow. After hand painting for several days, they brought the sprayer on and you can definitely tell where something was brushed vs. sprayed. If you are told your house will be sprayed, tell them to wait for the sprayer. Or at least stick with one application method so you get an even finish.

6. What sheen will each color be? And how will this be verified during the job?

Typically, siding is done in a flat paint and trim might be a satin or semi-gloss finish. Somewhere during my painting project, two gallons of semi-gloss paint got mixed in with the flat siding color and this mixture was applied on every side of the house. They then had to paint over every section to cover up the sheen inconsistencies, but this should never have happened. Now, the finish mix-up was the fault of the paint supplier, not the painting crew, but the crew should have caught it before the wrong paint went up.

Example of sheen inconsistencies when gloss and flat paint are mixed and applied to aluminum siding.

7. Who should you contact with questions during the job?

I know the owner of Textbook Painting, so I contacted him directly. For the past week though, he has been out of town and I was never told who to contact with my questions. I’m assuming if I had a contract, there would be some contact information in it? So ask these questions before hiring house painters: is there a site manager for your job? Who do they want you contacting?

8. Where will they store their supplies overnight while working on the job?

Will they be storing their ladders, paint, and tools on your property for the duration of the job? If so, is this part of the contract, and where will they be placed? The ladders were stored in my backyard and later behind my garage, and the paint was stored IN my garage. My garage doesn’t have a keypad opener, so I had to tape the opener to the garage or be home to open the garage every morning. This would have been fine if the project was completed in a week, but on week three it became a real issue to not have full access to my yard or garage.

9. What is their clean-up procedure? What happens if paint ends up somewhere it shouldn’t? Driveway, screens, decking, porch floors, trim that wasn’t going to be painted, etc.

Where will the team wash their brushes or tools every night? What happens with the paint remnants in the cans? For my project, my hoses were used (and are now covered in paint) and the paint/water mix was dumped behind my garage where I was planning on planting a vegetable garden. I was never asked about this location, nor would I have approved it. At one point, a large clump of half-dried paint was dumped behind the garage too. The clump was taken care of quickly when I complained that this was a huge safety risk for my dog, but the paint/water was still thrown behind the garage and on a few bushes for the remainder of the project. I don’t know how much flexibility you will have with your painters, but I would have preferred if all cleanup was handled off site so that no potentially dangerous paint items were left in the yard.

10. What is the finishing procedure? Is there a final walkthrough? Will you be notified when they are done painting?

How will you be informed that the project is done? When can you expect all the tools to be removed from your property? As of now, it has been two weeks since someone has been out painting the house, I’ve heard from no one, there are ladders behind my garage, and I have no idea if they think they are done or not. I’m going to wait it out to see what the finishing procedure is like so I can report back here. For you though, ask if you’ll have a final walkthrough and what that process looks like. Two weeks ago, they seemed like they might be done (they put white paint on a lot of the trim to do touch ups), so I marked the house with painters tape on any area that needed attention. Is this the right process? Who knows, no one told me anything. Since I bought my house painting package at a charity auction, I paid up front, so maybe Textbook Painting has a different finishing procedure if they are collecting a check from a client at the end.

I did my own “final walkthrough” and marked areas with painters tape.

All in all, I’m happy with my paint color and I’m glad my house isn’t yellow. But I wish I would have painted the house myself, or known the right questions to ask before hiring house painters.

I learned that I am not good at hiring out jobs because I have no control over the process and I quickly lose all sense of routine. Apparently, I like routines now. My porch furniture was stored in the garage, so I didn’t have easy access to my lawn mower, so my lawn was a mess. My porch cushions were stored in the living room, so that room felt messy and chaotic, so I lost all interest in keeping the rest of the house clean. I’m talking piles of stuff everywhere. Plus, I’ve been working on that daybed, so I had shipping boxes all over the house from various parts of that project, and the cushions and pillows were taking over my parents’ house while my mom sewed everything together! My schedule was all moved around since I wanted to be home to talk to the painters to beg for updates on the project, so I worked from home a lot, and never cooked dinner. At the end of the project, the inside of my house was a trainwreck and I didn’t have any food, but at least my house wasn’t lemon yellow anymore.

Basically, I wasn’t given an accurate estimate of what this project would entail, and everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. If I had known to ask some of these questions beforehand, maybe my experience with this would have been a little smoother.

Let’s end on a high note: the color looks great! You can see more reveal photos here.

Have you had any frustrating experiences when hiring out a job? How do you handle it? I’m trying to find a way to relinquish control since I know I can’t do everything by myself forever. Or maybe I CAN? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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