Five Things Your Painter Will not Tell You

If you're like most people looking for some curb appeal, the first and most valuable project that you undertake is painting. Whether inside or out, fresh paint provides excellent return on your investment of time and money. Many people find painting outside of their realm of expertise and hire professional painters, expecting them to be similar in quality and craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the spectrum of quality is broad and sometimes difficult to discern. You'll need to research a company before you hire anyone and unless you ask the right questions, you may be disappointed with the results. Here are five things your painter is not likely to tell you.

1. "I guesstimated the costs involved in painting your home. I hope I do not have to cut corners to complete the job." How much have you really saved if your paint job only lasts three years? With proper cleaning and maintenance, a good exterior paint job should last 7-10 years. I have found that even within circles of true professional companies, the most difficult aspect for them to perfect is the estimating. When a person makes the transition from painter to business owner, the details of estimating, cost accounting and general business operations are not generally taught, but learned … or not. If your painter is guesstimating, there is a real possibility that you will not get what you paid for. Unless it's an obviously sloppy job, you probably will not know it until your painter has already spent your money. You'll want to see a detailed estimate with everything in writing including the scope of work, warranty, payment terms, etc.

2. "I use the cheapest materials to help hold down the cost of the job." A quality job is never done with the cheapest material. Material costs generally run 12-15% of the total job with the bulk of the cost in labor. Outside, cheap materials may only last one or two years before they start to chalk and deteriorate. Cheap caulk is even worse since when it fails it allows moisture to intrude causing rot and paint peeling. Inside, cheap paint can take several coats to cover and may be difficult to touch up. You do not always need to use the most expensive materials, but certainly do not waste your money on the cheapest. You'll want to see in writing what materials will be used as well as the manufacturer's product information on the material so you do not get duped into buying the inferior products.

3. "We do mostly new construction, so we do not usually deal with the preparation needed for a repaint job." Very often in the painting trade, a company will only do new construction, or commercial work, or repaints, etc. With the significant slowdown in the new construction market here on the Outer Banks, many companies are searching for work outside their areas of expertise. You might think that the jobs are similar, but they are actually very different. From cleaning, to protecting landscaping, to product selection, the repaint segment has many steps that a new construction or commercial painter may have never performed. You'll want to see testimonials and check references to ensure that the company has successfully completed jobs like yours.

4. "My worker's comp and liability insurance only covers me, not the other five people working at your home." This is a big problem and if one of those guys gets hurt and requires medical attention, the homeowner is stuck with the liability. Many contractors will pay their people as subcontractors. In that circumstance the subcontractor is supposed to carry their own insurances, but very often does not. It's a great way to hold down overhead and job costs, but not so great for the homeowner if anything happens. Lots of things can happen too. From falling off a ladder, to paint spills, to oversprayed cars, the painting trade offers lots of opportunities for the gremlins to do their thing. You'll want to make sure the company and all its employees are covered by worker's comp and liability insurance.

5. "We never check an employee's background, but I do not think anyone has ever been jailed for theft or assault." Lots of unscrupulous people work in the trades, and so is the case with painters as well. Your home and its contents being the most valuable assets you own, you should have some peace of mind knowing that you do not have to hide the cookie jar when someone is working there. Enough said? You'll want to know that you are hiring a reputable company with good employees.

Even if your painter passes the test, there is still the question of craftsmanship. Testimonials are a great way to check a company's reputation and level of craftsmanship so ask to see some. If other clients have taken the time to give a testimonial, it's a good indicator that you will be treated in the same fashion.

Make sure that you're not surprised by what your painter will not tell you … hire a professional!