To choose the house painter who is best for you, ask candidates these important questions…

Who will be doing the actual painting? Anyone coming into your home should have had a criminal background check. Ask what company the painter uses to do background checks—if he/she says he’s not sure, it’s likely he hasn’t done the checks.

Which paints do you use, and why? Because the same manufacturer can produce both high- and low-grade paints, it’s not enough to find out simply who the manufacturer is. How detailed a response you receive—not just on cost but also on such details as durability, opacity and washability—can help you gauge the painter’s knowledge of the business.

How much time will it take? Ask when the work will start, how many people will be doing it and whether they will be handling other jobs at the same time. You want them to put in a full day for you so that the job gets completed in a timely fashion.

How much will it cost? Be sure to ask specifically what is and is not included. Repairing surface imperfections? Primer? Two coats of paint? Moving furniture out of the way and then putting it back? You need detailed information in writing so that you can compare apples to apples when reviewing estimates from different painters.

What is the payment schedule? Certain jurisdictions regulate the size of a down payment on house-painting work. For example, painters and other contractors in California cannot ask for deposits of more than $1,000 or 10% of the total cost, whichever is less. In places where payment schedules are not regulated, clients often pay one-third upon signing, one-third midway through the job and the final third after the work and the final walk-through have been completed.

What sort of warranty do you provide? You want a written warranty on the work itself, not just on the paint. Find out what is excluded—moisture damage, settling, etc.—and whether the warranty is transferable to a subsequent owner of your home. A warranty of two years is acceptable (most problems crop up within the first few years). Lifetime warranties are not worth much more than, say, five-year warranties because the painter may no longer be in business or the records may have gone astray.

What insurance do you carry? Whomever you choose should have both liability insurance (with at least $1 million in coverage) and workers’ compensation insurance. Ask to see the certificates of insurance—and make sure that the insurance hasn’t expired.

How will you protect the floors and furniture? Best is covering furniture with plastic sheeting and using a heavy drop cloth on floors.

What references can you provide? You can get reviews for many painters on the website Yelp, but it’s best also to ask a potential painter for references from jobs completed within the last year or two and of a scope comparable to yours. He undoubtedly will give you his best references, but ask him also to include a reference where he had to make good on a warranty issue to get an idea of how he handles problems.