Painting your home is a big decision and an even bigger investment. We all want that kind of project to go smoothly, so most of us will choose to hire professionals and forgo the messy risks of winging it ourselves.
Of course, choosing a company to do the work will require some forward planning, depending on your resources and where you live. This week we’re focusing on the Main Line area, so we asked some expert house painters from around there what you should be looking out for.
Start searching online before you search in real life
You might be tempted to simply find a house of which you like the paint job, find out who did it, and go to that person or company. It’s also quite tempting (and perfectly okay) to get a recommendation from a friend or neighbor and then go with that name. But hold your horses for just a bit. Different houses behave differently, just like a painting canvas would have different reactions to different people’s way of work! The painters who did great with your friend’s residence might inadvertently be a disastrous choice for your own.
Therefore, before you take anybody’s word for anything, do some independent research. What type of home does this business specialize in? Vintage or modern? Do they even have a specialization? If not, beware! “A Jack of all trades is a Master of none”, as the saying goes.
Look at the reviews, but be critical of them
What do the good “netizens “say? Look up the reviews and feedback left by previous patrons of the businesses you are considering (yes, businesses, plural – you should always have a few backup options just in case!). Do they share the enthusiasm of whoever gave you the recommendation? You can get an idea of where to look for this info at this page.
Now, we are aware that online reviews can be rigged, like being faked, automated, or bought. To keep safe from such fraudulent nonsense, we have some tips for you. Pay attention to the following things when you go browsing the web-based opinions.
Is the feedback all vague and generalized, or does it actually contain relevant details? The more details there are, the higher the chance of it being genuine. It’s a person’s natural instinct to provide specialized information on a topic in which they have experience.
Real customers will nearly always say something about the processes and interactions. Fakers and bots will be as vague as possible, and typically post short, useless stuff like “Horrible! Don’t buy!!!” or “Perfect business, great people” and little else.
Also, look for reviews of the same businesses across multiple pages. If they vary a lot, there’s a high probability that someone has messed with them. Inconsistency for no apparent reason is always a red flag. So is total absence of the company from review sites. You can find some handy pointers on how to spot a fake review in this article: https://theconversation.com/how-to-spot-a-fake-review-youre-probably-worse-at-it-than-you-realise-121043
Finally, look for replies from a manager or business owner. Especially pay attention to how they handle negative feedback and customers that vent. What went wrong? Did they acknowledge their error (supposing it was their fault)? How did they fix the problem?
Conversely, do they take the time to thank people who leave good and detailed reviews of their experience? Things like this will give you insight into how much they care about their customers and people’s perception of them.
Pay attention to what their website is like
No legitimate business can survive today without a quality online presence. So when you go check out a painters’ site, here are some essential elements you should always pay attention to.
First, look up their basic information. How long have they been in this business? Look at the “team” or “crew” page, and be suspicious if they don’t provide the work biographies, or at least photos of their painters on sites. You want to know who’ll be knocking on your door! See what awards this company has claimed and what info they provide on lead paint safety (we’ll cover that a bit further down).
Pay attention to the content on their blog and in the portfolio. You want original posts about their own work, not generic how-to’s and promotions. You want progress pictures and close-ups. What equipment do you see? Do they look like they honor all the safety measures? Finally, make sure they have successfully completed a variety of projects. Even if they specialize in one or two things, you don’t want someone whose practical experience is limited and stale.
Can you find their founders and owners on the web?
Well, obviously, you won’t be in direct touch with these people unless something goes absolutely sour. What you want to know is whether they have been sued for something, who are they affiliated with, and whether they appear in their local media. If a newspaper or trade-centric magazine has featured them, see what they said – and read between the lines, too!
Are they legally competent to work with lead paint?
We mentioned lead paint a bit before. Lead is a potentially toxic heavy metal and must be handled with caution. Homes built prior to 1978 tend to have lead paint jobs. To be safe, refer to the official website of the Environmental Protection Agency. Inform yourself about the Renovation, Repair and Paint programs and their accompanying legislature.
You want to be certain that your chosen contractors will do everything up to code and respect all hazard regulations from start to finish. Painter companies have to have a valid legal certification that they are able and allowed to handle lead paints. If it turns out you need some carpeting, plumbing, or electric work done along the way, know that those trades require it too. You can search their names on the EPA’s site to see whether they’re certified or not.