It’s always important to be prepared. We see way too often that people are so concerned with “how much” the painting project will cost they forget about everything else. Paying less doesn’t mean you’re getting a better deal. Here are some things to consider when hiring and some factors to consider on why some companies might be charging significantly more for their services.
1. Is your business registered and do you have insurance?
The truth is there are many companies out there that operate without carrying any insurance at all. This leaves the homeowner open to all kinds of liability.
There are two types of insurance your painting contract in Ottawa should have:
- Comprehensive Business Liability, which protects your property from being damaged by the contractor. We recommend that residential painting contractors should carry a minimum of $2,000,0000 in liability coverage.
- Workers compensations (WSIB), which protects the workers and potentially you from liability if someone is injured on your property while working. Workers compensation is very costly and it’s common for painting contractors to work without it.
As a homeowner it is your money and property and you should never consider working with a contractor unless they carry some insurance. If you’re unsure about the validity of the contractor, call the insurance company or WSIB and confirm that they have a current and active policy.
2. Are your workers subcontractors or employees?
This is a big one and don’t be afraid to ask. It is common for painting contractors to use subcontractors since they are usually paid a fixed fee and hiring employees in Ottawa for painting can be expensive. When using subcontractors the company isn’t required to pay insurance, taxes, and other employee benefits like they would with employees. There are certain risks you should be aware of when hiring painting companies that use subcontractors in Ottawa.
- Painting contractors usually work on thin margins and can be tempted to find the lowest possible subcontractor for the job which can translate into low quality work.
- Subcontractors are usually paid “by the job” which means the subcontractor might be tempted to cut corners to finish the job faster.
- Painting contractors often think that by subcontracting their work it prevents them from needing insurance.
- The painting contractor you hired might not know all the crew members working for the subcontractor they hire so it increases the likelihood of having people in your home that haven’t had background checks.
All of this increases your risk and can impact the overall quality of the work being performed. There are some exceptions to this with top tier general contracting companies who put an emphasis on vetting their subcontractors properly and conducting regular audits with their subcontractors. Unless working with a very reputable builder or general contracting company we recommend hiring reliable painting contractors who hire their workers as true employees.
3. What kind of materials do you use?
This might not seem that important but knowing if your painting contractor invests in their materials should give you an idea of the type of quality they wish to output.
A gallon of paint can range from $15 to $100 or more. There is a very real tangible difference in the ingredients used in these products. Higher priced paint will have superior quality ingredients such as binders, resins, titanium, and proven technology that provides a better and longer lasting coating.
Besides the paint and stain there other materials matter too. Good quality tape prevents leaks, good quality caulking will last longer. Your contractor should know why it’s important to invest in using quality materials
Make sure the contractor specific in detail the quality of materials they will be using for your project in their quote.
4. Will you personally be doing the work?
It’s very common that your initial experience with a painting contractor in Ottawa will be with the estimator or owner but they will not actually be performing the work. There is nothing wrong with this but it’s important that the company has systems and processes in place to make sure your project is properly managed.
Having excellent project management capabilities is paramount to any successful project. It involves the planning, execution, and follow up of the services and items you may have purchased. A company that follows good project management methodologies will ensure your project runs smoothly while staying on budget and ensuring a quality finish.
Signs of good project management practices includes:
- A thorough and professional proposal that encompasses the entire scope of work being performed while efficiently coordinating the crew
- A system for each stage of the project ( i.e prep, paint application, quality assurance check)
- A documented system for tracking change requests, communication between all parties and signed documentation.
- A process for the staff to efficiently track their tasks and ensure quality work
- A final walkthrough with the project manager to conduct their quality assurance checks
Having a project manager for your project is important because it reduces the chances of problems. Setting expectations and execution are the most important factors to ensure a job gets done properly and both parties are happy.
5. What kind of training do your employees receive? How often?
This is just another good reason why it’s a good idea to hire painting companies that hire their own employees and don’t use subcontractors. The Company that hires subcontractors has no control over the subcontractors tools, employee training, and employee background checks.
Even if companies hire their own employees there’s a good chance they don’t continually invest in training. The reality is most people think you just get better in time. Although there is some merit in that statement, if you practice the same sub-optimal techniques over and over again it doesn’t matter how good you get at it, it will never compete with fully optimized techniques that are being reinvested into.
Continuous training is important for painters because:
- It reduces the potential for errors
- It promotes consists high quality output
- It allows projects to get done faster
If a company has a training system and is willing to show you how they invest into their employees training you can be that much safer in knowing this contractor you might hire is taking the necessary steps to give you the best experience possible. Companies can use things like weekly standups, infield training, classroom training, product manufacture certification courses, and even trade associations like the PDCA (painting and decorating contractors of America) to help stay up to date with the latest products and techniques.
6. What is your estimating process and how do I know I’m getting a fair price?
This has to be one of the most important things to look out for. This is your initial impression of how the company operates. You would be surprised at how many painting contractors don’t have a single clue on what their costs are and just use numbers that they find online or that they hear from other contractors.
Never trust an estimate that was given by floor area. These are great for providing a quick range and to make sure you and the contractor are on the same page for price expectations before proceeding with an on-site estimate but that’s about it. These types of estimates are never conclusive and usually result in either the contractor cutting corners to save time or asking for more money to complete the project.
It’s important for an estimate to be comprehensive and outline the entire scope of work being performed and broken down into each piece so you know exactly what you are paying for.
Here are some things that should be included with your estimate.
- It should include bid proposal (job details, references, etc)
- Each area ( bedroom, kitchen, living room) should be broken down into each component being serviced (walls, ceilings, baseboards, doors, etc)
- Each component should show the labour time and costs
- All materials and additional services should be clearly identified.
- Timeline, any additional expectations and additional requirements need to be clearly defined.
- If necessary the deposit and milestone schedule
At the end of the day this is the first impression the company is giving you of how much they invest into their processes and their systems. It’s okay if they don’t have it completely figured out as it’s a continuous process of improvement but if you get a chicken scratch quote you can expect to see that same level of craftsmanship.
7. What is your warranty policy?
Almost every contractor will tell you they warranty their work but what does that really mean? How does their warranty work? Contractors know how important it is to offer a warranty so you’ll often hear “we offer 10 or 20 year warranties”. The fact is most companies will not be around in 20 years.
Here are some things that would tell you this is a good warranty:
- 1 year warranties are the most common. Any paint defect and failures will manifest before then. Usually after this point there was some external cause for the failure so it wouldn’t be covered under the painters warranty anyways. 2-3 year warranties are also reasonable.
- The warranty should clearly define who is responsible for the costs. The contractor should bare the labour and material costs for failures resulting from application
- Paint manufactures also provide a separate warranty but it will only cover the costs of materials as the failure was not a result in the painter application
- Warranties always have exclusion so that some points are made very clear on what is not covered by the warranty.
- Warranties should be offered in a bid proposal or be easily accessible to you anytime (typically on the website)
Warranty call backs will happen. It happens to even the best painting contractors. What’s important is the systems the companies have created in order to make sure a warrant is fair, realistic, and always easily accessible.
See what contractors say when you ask them these questions you’ll be shocked by some of the answers you get.
Pretty much anyone with a paint brush and a roller is calling themselves a painting company. Most of these “companies” have little in the form of protection for you and have nothing to lose if anything goes wrong. It’s homeowners whose primary concern is price that typically get subjected to these types of “painting contractors” since they can offer lower rates.
If your potential painting contract can’t confidently answer these questions and any other concerns you might have then we advise that you proceed with caution.
Hopefully you found this article informative in some way.