5 Ways A Job Contract Can Save You From Evildoing House Painters

Jeremy Holderness

Scams and shoddy workmanship are major concerns for any homeowner looking to hire a contractor.  And according to the Better Business Bureau, the home improvement industry is consistently in the top five types of businesses that receive the most consumer complaints each year.


Sometimes it's all a homeowner can do to get contractors to even return their phone call so they feel like they have no choice but to accept the first guy who will give them a price over the phone.  Fortunately today there are some wonderful resources available to us such as the BBB and Angie's List that not only help us find great contractors but also help ensure we'll get our money's worth when hiring a tradesperson to work on our home.  But certainly, no one is going to look out for us, as consumers, the way that we will look out for ourselves.  So the burden of due diligence will always fall squarely on our shoulders if we want our experience to be a pleasant one.

When considering house painters, or any other type of contractors, it's always a given that you should have a written contract between the two of you that legally defines the nature of your agreement.  But what are the essential elements that every contract should have to protect you from harm?

Every contract is different but this article will help you to identify the items that no painting contract should be without.

1.) Scope of Work

A Scope of Work describes the details of the agreed-upon work that is to be performed.  Without a Scope of Work there is nothing that spells out the expectations of how the work will be done.  And leaving a contractor to their own devices is not advisable if you care what the job will look like when it's completed or how long it will last.  A Scope of Work might include things like:

  • Specific rooms and/or areas of the home to be painted
  • The extent of surface prep work to be performed prior to painting
  • Specific materials (including the quality level of those materials) to be used in performing the work
  • Color schedule that tells what colors will be used in what areas
  • Reference to the standards and practices that will be followed in performing the work

When it comes to standards and practices, unless you're an expert in the painting industry you'll need a good reference guide to hold your painter accountable to.  For decades, the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America's PDCA Standards have been the primary method used by general contractors, architects, and specifiers for benchmarking the performance of professional painters on construction projects.  Any painting company worth their salt will already be familiar with these standards and most likely be implementing them on their jobs.

2.) Contract Sum

Probably as fundamental as 'how the work will be performed' is 'how much it will cost.  Some contractors take the word "estimate" a little too literally when they give you a price for your job.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of shady contractors out there who will use the old bait-and-switch tactic of giving you a lowball price to get your business, only to hit you with all of the hidden costs to finish your project once the job has started.

The best way to protect your wallet is to put the job price right on the contract.  With that said, there are a couple of caveats when talking about contract pricing on home improvement work.  The first being in the event that you decide to add additional work after the contract has been signed.  And the second being when a potential contractor is inspecting your job to give you a bid price, even the best companies can only see what is visibly apparent during the inspection.  There are times when additional work that needs to be done is uncovered during the job that could not be foreseen beforehand.  

In either case, it is customary that a written Change Order be drawn up that describes the additional work to be performed as well as the additional price.  The work you did in researching your candidates prior to hiring one should reveal whether or not they have a history of needing to utilize change orders on their projects because of poor estimating skills or underhanded bidding practices.

One additional thing that should be incorporated is whether or not the cost of the materials is included in the Contract Sum so both parties know who is responsible for providing them.

3.) Payment Schedule

This follows along with the Contract Sum as it specifies how and when the money will be tendered.  Professional contractors will vary widely in the type of payment schedule they use but there are a few rules of thumb you should always observe.

  • The payment schedule should be a determining factor in choosing a contractor, not something you first find out when you're signing the contract.  
  • Some contractors require a deposit up-front when they begin -- with the balance being paid upon completion -- and some require progress payments along the way at specified intervals of completion (i.e. 25% complete, 50% complete, etc).  Even though these two practices are more commonly used with large jobs that take a long time to complete, they are both acceptable providing you trust the person you're giving your money to.
  • If you really want to safeguard yourself against losing any money, only choose a company that will accept the full contract amount upon completion.  
  • Never, ever pay more than 1/3 of the contract price up front.


4.) Date of Commencement & Completion

These are not alway necessary because they are based upon whether or not you have a hard deadline that has to be met for your project.  If you have a timeframe that you need the job to start and end by then it is advisable to specify that in the contract.  Although this clause tends to be more important when you're undergoing a remodel or building a new home as those types of projects often take months to complete as opposed to a painting project that may only take a few days.

Your biggest concern on a short-term project should be that the work gets performed in consecutive days -- weather permitting, of course -- so the project doesn't drag on indefinitely while your contractor is splitting time between your job and someone else's.

5.) Warranty or Guarantee

If your contractor stands behind his or her work then he should do so with a warranty.  A warranty is not only a gesture of good faith that the work will last, but it is legal protection for you in the event that it doesn't.  

Just as the Payment Schedule should be a determining factor in choosing your contractor, so too should the warranty or guarantee they include with their work.  A 1-year warranty is probably the most common coverage that you'll find in the industry, however, your good house painters will not shy away from offering extended coverage, even up-to as much as 3 years.

Warranties are not all-encompassing so be sure to inquire about the details of what the warranty covers before you sign on the dotted line.  Most painting warranties cover the homeowner in the event of a failure caused by defects in workmanship or materials.  However, many of them do not include horizontally painted surfaces like decks and window ledges, and almost none of them will apply when the issue is caused by an "Act of God" (i.e. storm damage, fire, etc).

If you follow these few simple guidelines you can surely save yourself time and headaches when signing the contract on your next painting project.  If you're located in the Greater Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania areas and you're looking for a reputable painting company to provide you with a quote please give us a call at 724-898-2446 or check out our Contact Us page if you'd like us to give you a call.

Feel free to visit our FAQ Page for more helpful tips you can use while choosing a contractor, or click on the button below to download our How To Choose A Painting Contractor guide.

Contact the Pros

Ready to get started with your next painting project but unsure if it is in your budget? Reach out to the expert painting team at ImageWorks Painting to schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at 724-898-2446, or request a visit online.