While throwing a coat of paint on some old furniture or a garden shed is easy enough for most homeowners, painting a house is a bigger endeavor than most realize.

While throwing a coat of paint on some old furniture or a garden shed is easy enough for most homeowners, painting a house is a bigger endeavor than most realize.

Area painting contractors offer some advice on hiring a painter, getting a good deal and tips for die-hard do-it-yourselfers that yield better results.

Get Credentials

First and foremost, when hiring a painter — even for just a portion of the job — confirm that they are licensed and insured, says Robert Pendrey, owner of RP Painting in Central Point.

"Nowadays, you have to be licensed and bonded to be allowed to advertise, or the state will fine you $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for the second; not that that stops some people from advertising without a license."

To be sure a contractor is licensed, check the state Construction Contractor's Board website (www.oregon.gov/ccb/consumer_help.shtml) for license and insurance information to avoid liability, says Pendrey.

Compare Estimates

Once you check a painter's credentials, get at least three detailed estimates, says local painter Corey Robbins.

"You want to get at least three estimates, and be sure to really read over what they include and what they don't. It's best to stay in the middle ground. If one of the estimates is substantially lower than the others, you should ask why," says Robbins.

"Too low a price could be a warning sign that they're going to be cutting corners."

Check References and Read the Contract

After estimates are in hand, check references and ask detailed questions about the painter's professionalism, work ethic and how closely original estimates compared with final cost.

Once you select a painter, read the contract carefully before signing.

"Make sure the price is in writing and you know what you're getting for that amount," says Pendrey. "And never pay for an entire job up front. If they ask you to, that's a red flag."

On both product and craftsmanship, expect at least a limited guarantee.

"Materials come with a warranty, but material is a very small part of the job compared to labor," Robbins says.

"We have customers call us who have had out-of-town businesses who come in and try getting jobs, and the warranty work is hard to have done because the company isn't local."

Older homes and Lead

For homes built before 1978, make sure the contractor has special certification to deal with lead-paint containment, and expect a slightly higher cost if such work is necessary.

Cost Savings

If cost is an issue, ask the contractor for some options, such as having only the trim painted (if the entire house could go another few years before a complete paint job) or offer to do some pre-paint scraping or post-job cleanup for the contractor.

"You want to be careful. Even simple things like power-washing can be more than you bargained for, and you don't want to cause even more expense," Robbins says.

"But if somebody wanted to scrape old paint off, and there were no lead concerns, most contractors will work with you."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.