The five questions to ask before your commercial painting project—but no one does

You probably already know how to evaluate a commercial painting contractor for your business or company. More than likely, someone in the office vets suppliers for everything from food to staplers. And that person knows to ask a painting company some obvious questions like:

  1. When can the painting project start and finish?
  2. Do you offer a free estimate?
  3. How many coats will it take?
  4. Are you insured, licensed, and bonded?
  5. Are your employees background checked?

The Internet is littered with suggestions to ask other questions, like, “Are you a member of any trade associations or the local chamber?” That’s not necessarily a lousy question, but it doesn’t add much to your project. It could just mean the commercial painter pays hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in dues to places they rarely interact with. 

Or asking commercial painters to provide references. That’s fine to ask, but are you really going to call the local high school to ask how they liked the locker room paint job? And asking about background checks is also a fine question, but hard to prove short of showing the paperwork to you, which is unlikely to happen.

Woodiwiss Painting has been a professional commercial painting company for nearly twenty years. And we’ve learned there are five far better questions people should ask before hiring a commercial painter.

(For the curious: the answers to questions 1-3 above are, “About as soon as you need it to”, “Yes”, “Probably two”, and “Yes, with comprehensive business liability”.)

Who is managing my paint job, and will they be on-site?

There’s the person you talk to on the phone, the person who manages the project, and the person who is holding the brush and rollers. A commercial building is often large enough to need more than one or two painters. So ask your sales agent—likely the first person you talk to—who is managing the project, who will be on-site at the job or is otherwise in charge of making decisions, and who has authority.

In all likelihood, nothing dramatic will happen. But what happens if you discover water damage when you’re moving appliances away from the wall? The crew shows up, and now you need help to repair the wall. A good painting contractor will fix some minor issues, but larger ones may require outside help. Experienced painters know who to call for drywall repair. 

In this hypothetical situation, the extra work might increase the project cost or be out of scope for your approved budget, and it might throw off the schedule while the repairs dry. Having someone on-site or a phone call away to resolve this, manage the schedule, and get updated estimates or call in help is the difference between quality service and creating more work for you to stress about.

Do you use subcontractors or a commercial painting contractor?

The nutty thing about some paint companies is they stick to residential and when a commercial paint job comes along, they want to do the job but don’t have the equipment to do it. They might lack the ladders, scaffolding, or prep work supplies to handle a large painting job in a commercial space. So they outsource the painting crew entirely to another company or hire a few more painting subcontractors.

This isn’t inherently bad, but it does add to the cost of your project. Those painters might lack general liability insurance, communication skills, or quality training.

What kind of company culture do you have?

Don’t let that new-age book on your colleague’s desk fool you into thinking this is a soft question. This isn’t about how we manage millennials or if there’s a ping pong table in our break room (there isn’t.). Most painting contractors—and probably most painting companies, period—lack a company culture.

Without a company culture, the crew is hired based on past projects or experiences, handed a brush and a bucket, and told to rock and roll. A professional painting company with a solid culture will have an operational standard which holds all employees accountable for high performance and self-betterment through their duties and relationships at work. This is another reason subcontractors can be problematic.


Woodiwiss Painting puts safety and training at the forefront for all employees, including our in-office staff. A properly trained team:

  • Makes fewer mistakes
  • Works on time and with purpose
  • Doesn’t cut corners
  • Knows the standards of the company from top to bottom and
  • Produces significantly better results in the long run

A good contractor—in any industry—can do the job. The right contractor can do the job right, the first time, with all your expectations met.

What kind of materials will you be using?

This differs from “What kind of materials do you use?” When you ask “do you use” you’re giving the painting contractor wiggle room to say things they’ve used for past customers. “What kind of materials will you be using” asks what they’re showing up with in the truck for your project and commercial space.

Not all paint is the same. Woodiwiss Painting only works with premium quality paints like Benjamin Moore. Ask your job manager for recommendations if you have special needs for low-VOC or unique blends. Medical facilities, schools, and other commercial property with safety needs have options.

The ultimate question: what sets you apart from other commercial painting contractors?

You can ask for references and photos of past project work and whether a company is part of the Better Business Bureau. You can ask about worker’s compensation insurance and all sorts of nuts-and-bolts stuff, but if you want to stump your paint contractor, ask them, “What sets you apart from other commercial painting contractors?”

If they have an answer, great. If not, it might be a sign that project quality isn’t a high priority or that your painting project is just another paint job.

For our part, Woodiwiss Painting is a cut above in four ways:

  1. We have a dedicated officer manager who can answer questions morning, noon, and night.
  2. We do what we say we will. You’ll get a detailed scope to know what we’re delivering.
  3. We’re going to get things done right the first time, all to your requests and specifications.
  4. We manage ourselves so you don’t have to. All of our crew is paid in-house, compensated well, and held accountable for their performance.

Get a free estimate for your commercial space or paint project online, call (925) 595-3081, or email Serving Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Danville, Alamo, San Ramon, Pleasanton, and the Dublin, California region.