You want to paint your house. You hire the guy with the van your neighbor used 15 years ago. You pick the colors. Done. …Not so fast. Before signing a contract (and by the way, a contract is a must; it’s for your protection too), be sure to ask these 5 questions:

1. Do you have Worker’s Comp coverage?

We would be flirting with disaster – and so would a customer if something were to happen to a crewmember on a job. If a painter tells you your homeowner’s insurance is enough, it means the company doesn’t take itself – or your interests – seriously. If a worker falls, you could be facing a monster of a lawsuit. Real businesses carry this coverage.

2. Do you run a “real” business?

I am NOT just a “guy with a van.” I am not putting myself through college or making ends meet until the real-estate biz picks up again. Odell Painting has been operating since 1987. We are a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), and we are state-registered as a Home Improvement Contractor, HIC#PA044685. This registration should be renewed every two years, and this is a number you should ask for in addition to the price.

3. Who have you worked for in my area?

The Odell Painting logo, on the side of all our trucks, has been spotted throughout Bucks, Philadelphia, and Montgomery counties, as well as Hunterdon County in New Jersey. Depending on your painting “needs,” I will refer you to a similar job we completed in your neighborhood.

4. Who are your employees?

Every member of my crew has years of experience with both interior and exterior work in some of the finest homes around. We all operate with a strong work ethic, which I call the three “Odell Painting P’s”: We are polite, precise, and prompt.

5. What do you do to protect floors and furniture?

What customers don’t know is if their home was built prior to 1978, a new law (the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule) mandates that we protect the indoor and outdoor environment during any work that requires disturbing lead-based paint. We are certified in lead-safe practices, which means thoroughly covering both your indoor and outdoor areas during any washing and sanding. Generally, you can ask my wife, who’s “clean crazy” and the arbiter of all things tidy, if we are neat. We put in a lot of prep time (moving/taping/covering), and cleaning up with a HEPA-filtered vacuum each day before leaving.

Next topic: What items should be covered in a painting contract?

A Ken Odell factoid: “Houses are often ‘characters’ in my dreams. I can feel their personalities. This is sort of like ‘night training’ because I can walk into a house and almost hear what it wants. So I’d be happy to guide you in your decision-making.”