Exterior House Painting-What to Ask Potential Contractors?

I am starting the process of getting estimates from contractors for painting the exterior of my home this spring.
Can you kind folks give me some tips on what to ask the contractors and things to watch out for? (I am female and a first-time home owner.)
Thanks so much.
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We were surprised, on a rental house we have, to discover that we could have it vinyl sided for not much more than it cost to have it painted. It was two young fellows that quoted around $3000. They did a great job ..and in winter (but only on days above 32 deg). It's on a sloping lot, and it's 2-1/2 stories high on the back ...so a lot of siding for a small 3 bedroom ranch. We also had siding quotes as high as $7000, so you have to shop carefully, check references, etc. But at least we'll not be painting again. MB

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ELL wrote:

If you have a neighbor who has used a good contractor, with success, decent price, etc., get his name and get a bid. o/w, go to a good paint store and get names of a couple of contractors who use their paint. Hire a pro, not a handyperson with no local references. Whilst at the paint store, ask what is available for your kind of surface (stucco, wood, etc.) and price it.
Are there any problems? Rotted siding, cracks, peeling, heavy chalking? Read up on how to treat them in advance, then get a couple more bids. Get the bid in writing, stating products (by brand/type), prep to be done, warranty.
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What will be done in preparation for the paintin Around my area, power washing, scraping, and palm sanders are used to remove mildew, and loose paint. I typically have one side of he house preped and painted to reduce the chance of mold and mildew spores under the paint.
What paint will be used? Labor is the same without regard for the quality of the paint.
How many coats?
Do they paint during a rain or before the wood has dried?
TB
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