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What Should You Look for in a Painting Contract?

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated November 4, 2021
A white house exterior

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Having the right things in your contract will protect you from the unexpected during your painting project

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A painting contract is a legally binding agreement between a customer and a painting contractor concerning a specific painting job. Both parties should sign and date the contract before work begins.

Many professional painters and independent contractors have standard contracts ready to go, but other times, you’ll need to prepare one yourself. Either way, make sure your contract outlines specifics like the scope of work, cost, and timeline. With a proper contract, communication between you and your contractor will be a breeze, and you can rest easy knowing everyone is on the same page.

What Is a Painting Contract?

A painter painting a white wall

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A painting contract is a legal agreement between a customer and a painting contractor that outlines a specific painting job. Both parties—you and your contractor—should sign a painting contract before getting started.

The document should outline all the specifics involved in the project, whether it’s an interior or exterior paint job. Include as many details as possible to protect yourself in the event of an accident during the project or to eliminate the risk of unexpected costs or damages.

Before You Sign a Painting Contract

Do your due diligence to find a quality painter near you to work with on your painting project. Make sure to shop around and talk to at least three contractors before committing to one. There are several things you can do to properly vet your painting contractor, including:

  • Check references

  • Verify credentials

  • Meet the contractor

  • Clarify expectations

  • Ask about subcontractors

  • Get a cost estimate

What Should a Painting Contract Include?

Once you’ve found a contractor you mesh well with and are ready to move forward with your painting project, it’s time to draw up a contract. Your contract should be as detailed as possible to ensure the work plays out exactly how you want it and everyone is on the same page.

Cost and Payment Terms

Always include the total cost of the painting project in your contract. Having a set cost that you and your contractor both agree to will ensure that you won’t have to face any unexpected fees along the way.

If you don’t include the cost in your contract, you may get a shockingly high bill at the end of the work. And without proper signed documentation, you won’t have any legal recourse to object.

You should also lay out specific payment terms in your contract. Some contractors prefer an upfront deposit, while others may ask for regular payments throughout the entirety of the project. Talk to your painter to determine what they prefer and include that in the contract so you both know what to expect.

Description of Work

In your contract, give an overview of the project and outline your expectations for what’s needed. If you want your trim painted in addition to your siding, explain this in the contract. That way, the contractor can’t go back on their word in the middle of the project. Including a description of the work in your contract will make communication between you and your contractor much more straightforward.

You can also outline specifics here, like adding two coats of paint on each wall or painting a primer coater first. Or, you may require them to come back to touch up any missed spots.

Use of Premises

After a long day at work, coming home to find a painting crew’s truck in your parking space is not a welcomed sight. Avoid these issues by outlining them in your contract to make sure everyone understands where they are supposed to be. State whether or not they’re allowed inside the house, and under which circumstances (like only when you’re present). And if they aren’t allowed inside, whether you will provide a portapotty and other necessities or if that’s their responsibility.

Also, state how they must maintain their space. Make sure that they don’t leave open paint cans and tools out in the open for you to trip over or your dog to get into. Instead, outline a specific workspace to keep their materials in for the project’s duration and let them know your cleaning requirements during the job and after it’s complete.

Materials

If you have specific materials in mind for your painting project, make sure to list them in your contract. Be as specific as possible. If you want paint with a certain finish, you can even include the paint’s product number in the contract. Specify whether you will buy the supplies or the contractor will.

Your contract should also outline whether or not you will require painters to use drop cloths and take safety measures. Drop cloths ensure that stray paint doesn’t accidentally get onto any furniture or structures unfit for painting.

Timeline

Home improvement projects are notorious for dragging on longer than expected. To avoid having painters in and around your house for longer than you’d like, detail the painting project’s timeline in your contract and go over it with your contractor. Have a hard date where the project must wrap up and consider adding benchmark dates along the way.

The time it takes to paint a house varies. If you have a small and simple-shaped house and you’re hiring a contractor to paint its exterior, the job will likely only take three or four days. However, larger projects for more complex homes or buildings may take weeks to complete.

Insurance Requirements

Outline requirements for insurance and other regulations (like a license) in your contract. State that the contractor must follow all codes and local regulations. This protects you if a contractor or subcontractor gets injured or incorrectly completes the job.

Damage Control

Most contractors are considerate of their clients and take every precaution to prevent property damage in any way, shape, or form. But there’s always a chance that your contractor gets lazy (or the subcontractors they hire do). They could accidentally spill a can of paint onto your beautiful deck or muddy up your pristine lawn while trudging through the project site.

Even if your contractor is responsible and diligent, accidents happen. Make sure you outline the course of action in the event of property damage during the project. If damage does occur, this will prevent you from being on the hook for unnecessary repairs.

Exit Clause

Having an exit clause is crucial in any contract. An exit clause lays out the course of action to take if one party has to back out of the project for whatever reason. Your exit clause could require the contractor to refund you your money if they don’t complete the job, which is useful if you have already paid them a deposit upfront.

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