How to hire the right painter: A general contractor's guide
Reaching for the Yellow Pages to find a painter is fine if all you want is the cheapest bid or someone to do mass production. But for most quality contractors, that is just too risky.
August 21, 2013 by Steve Payne
By Bruce MacKinnon
You’re a busy contractor and everything is going smoothly until you discover your most trusted painter is indisposed for the foreseeable future or worse, has retired and now you have to find a new paint contractor.
If you are only going by the cheapest bid or if mass production is all that matters, reach for the Yellow Pages and find a guy. But for most of us, that simply isn’t an option. As unappreciated as they are, painters are absolutely vital to making your customer happy with all of your work.
After all, only carpentry, electrical of plumbing done wrong really shows. But a paint job can make or break a top-notch job. The finishing coat is the crowning touch to your renovation or construction project.
“If I can’t get a personal recommendation…”
For Ron Beaudry, owner of Paul Davis Systems in Timmins, Ont, finding a painter was easy. He is a former painter who got into fire and water damage restoration services.
“In a small town like this, we know who all the painting contractors are and most of them have worked for us in the past,” Beaudry says. “I won’t hire cash guys, only above-board tradesmen with all of their paperwork in order.”
Large-scale high-end subdivision homebuilder Scott Block of Scott Wend Homes in Abbotsford, B.C. always asks other builders who they are using and gets some feedback about the painter first.
“If I can’t get a personal recommendation, then there is very little chance I will hire them,” Block says. In the case of his current painter, Block’s initial contact was through his former painter who recommended the men he has now.
“It takes time to train a trade…”
But we all know the hiring process doesn’t end when you agree to terms on the first job with a new painter. After the personal introductions are made and the gut checks are done, the trial period begins. Often you have to go through lots of manpower to find the gems that will get your work done on a regular basis.
“If I like their previous work, it begins a good working relationship,” Scott Block says. “Obviously there will be minor mistakes initially but it takes time and patience to train a trade in how you want things done.”
With the crushing workload in the insurance industry, there is no training period for Ron Beaudry. His trades have to produce good work and get in and out of the job quickly. They have to interact well with the project manager and deal with the deficiencies quickly and without complaint.
For Jeff Pauletto, project manager for Monarch Corp., a prestigious homebuilder in Toronto, his main criteria is commitment to schedules. Yes, pricing is a big thing, but after that is agreed on, after care service is crucial.
“We know anything can happen, but we count on our trades to address every deficiency quickly and work well with the client,” Pauletto says. “Our leverage is that ‘You are working for Monarch, and we have a reputation of the highest quality.’ So we keep a really sharp eye on them on the first job, especially in the first two weeks.”
“Reputation is paramount…”
Once Warner Arempin, owner of Pageantry Homes in Winnipeg, identifies a possible painting contractor, he goes through a few houses they have done in the city and checks out their work personally.
“It’s obvious to me how well they do the priming, spray lacquering of woodwork, and the finish painting, in the subdivision house project they are on,” Arempin says. The hiring process continues after he agrees to allow them to do a job for him.
“I can easily see how long it takes them to do the job right and how serious they are about quality work.”
“My reputation is paramount as one of elite custom builders in Winnipeg. Not many builders have dinner with their clients after they have moved into their new homes, but we do. I’m certainly not afraid to drive by one of my homes, there’s no lemons hanging in the windows.”
The first meeting is all-important to the contractor when it comes to meeting a prospective painter, says Jeff Unrau, site supervisor at J&S Homes in Winnipeg.
“We meet at the office to have a conversation to define our roles and agree to standards of conduct by both of us before we hammer out a price,” Unrau says. “We are looking for overall professionalism, appearance, how they talk, demeanor, and their expectations.
“Then we will put them on a home and monitor them closely and if we like what we see, then give them more homes to do as we develop a relationship.”
Rick Jondreau Project manager with Team Industrial Services in Brooks Ab (SE of Calgary) contracts out the painting of massive oil storage tanks in Alberta.
Jondreau wants contractors who can take on the large contracts without maxing out their resources. He wants the crews on site to be able to commit to finishing the project without getting pulled off to satisfy a different customer.
Jondreau wants each project resurfaced in the minimum time, since every minute the tank is down, money is being lost and the entire storage system is affected.
“The big guys have three to five good crews and we look for the best foreman to get the best result, so we research the foremen too,” Jondreau says. “We want guys who are passionate about the quality of their work.”
Bruce MacKinnon is the editor of Pro Painter magazine. To get your own personal free subscription to Pro Painter, click here. Or email Subscribe@professionalpainter.ca with “I want Pro Painter” in the subject line.