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A fresh coat of paint is one of the best ways to change the look of your home.

It can completely alter the way you see your house and leave a strong impression with visitors.

Unfortunately, a terrible paint job will do the opposite. Uneven lines, streaks, drips and color inconsistencies will ruin the look of your home. That's where many inexperienced do-it-yourselfers go wrong.

Sometimes, if you want a job done right, it is better to call a pro.

PREVIOUS WORK

When looking for a painting contractor, one of the first things to consider is their previous work. It will give you a good indication of the quality you can expect.

For exterior paint jobs, ask the contractor for a list of buildings he has painted in the past. You can easily inspect his work yourself by visiting the location. A quality paint job should last for several years without showing signs of deterioration.

Samples of interior work can be more difficult to review. Paint contractors may offer photos of their previous jobs, but it is usually better to ask your friends and family who painted the interiors of their homes.

When you see work you like, try to get contact information for the contractor. You may also get references from Realtors or builders in your area, since they have relationships with contractors.

DESIGN HELP

The best painting contractors will help you avoid the costly mistake of choosing wrong colors for your home. A shade that is too light, dark or just "off" can ruin an otherwise good paint job.

True professionals will be patient with you. They will put several options on the wall so you can decide the best color and sheen. They will develop good relationships with you and an interior designer, if you've hired one.

Some painters are as good at design as they are at applying the paint, so it helps to find one with these extra skills as you plan your project.

DETAILS

Consider all the details before signing a contract.

You should have all the specifications in writing. This contract should include deadlines, along with specifying costs and materials to be used.

When you have narrowed your choices down to one or two contractors, ask plenty of questions. Inquire about what kind of insurance policy they carry, who will be doing the work at your home and what kind of preparations need to be made. If they are working on the interior of your home, you will likely need to move or protect your furniture before they arrive for the job.

After these questions have been answered satisfactorily, you can be confident you've chosen the right painting contractor. Then you can relax while your home gets an updated, fresh new look.

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