Home & Garden

Ask Angie: When should I pay a house painter?

Don’t paint yourself into a corner with a home project. Make sure you have a detailed, written contract that specifies payment terms and other protections.
Don’t paint yourself into a corner with a home project. Make sure you have a detailed, written contract that specifies payment terms and other protections. Angie’s List member Andrew E.

Q: We’re having an interior paint job done, and I’m wondering whether to pay when the work is done or as it proceeds.

Sherry S., Crystal Lake, Ill.

A: It’s not uncommon for painters to request a down payment of 20 to 30 percent of a job’s total cost. Local or state regulations may limit the amount allowed for a down payment, so check the rules before starting contract work.

Typically, after you’ve made the down payment, you won’t pay again until the job is done. However, a project that is large in scope — either because of the area to be painted or the amount of prep work required — may feature scheduled payments along the way. If that’s the case, plan to hold back at least 10 percent until the work is completed to your satisfaction. Avoid any painting contractor who requires full payment up front.

All payment terms should be fully detailed in a written contract. There are two types of home project contracts: fixed-price, which spells out the exact cost, including materials and labor; and time-and-materials, which bills you by the hour for labor and materials.

Keep in mind that a fixed-price contract is the most common — and generally most preferred — type of home-remodeling contract. In fact, time-and-materials contracts for home projects are not legal in California.

Whichever kind of contract you encounter, carefully read through the details and compare multiple bids side by side. Some painters will bid separately for paint and materials, while others include those in the overall price. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, as far as type of paint and materials to be used.

Painters price their jobs one of two ways: by square footage or the amount of time the job takes. New construction often warrants a price by square footage because there are fewer variables — no furniture to move and walls that don’t require repairs. If the home is occupied, the price will most likely be determined by the time estimated to complete the work.

On average, painters charge from $250 to $400 to paint a typical 15-foot-by-12-foot bedroom.

When hiring, consider painters who have good reviews on a trusted site and who can show proof of appropriate licensing, insurance and bonding. Consider the added step of contacting recent references. Ask painting contractors about post-job services, such as what happens if you discover an area that was painted poorly or missed.

Angie Hicks is founder of www.AngiesList.com, provider of consumer reviews and services. Send questions to askangie@angieslist.com.

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