Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Smarter Painting Estimates

As professional painting contractors who know what it takes to do our work properly, Roger and I often find it frustrating that many people think all painters are created equal, and can't see beyond finding the lowest bid. We understand that getting good value for your investment is important, and it is to us too, but we want you to know that a low bid may wind up being a bad bargain.

Many states, including North and South Carolina, have no licensing requirements, or proficiency standards. As a result, there will be significant differences in knowledge, skills and professional work practices among those who bid your project. Today people seeking work as painters often include students who need a summer job, and others who are painting because they can't find employment in their regular occupation. Most have no training and don't particularly like to paint, so what kind of work can you expect from them, especially when they've given you a low bid? Not only that, it's highly likely that each person who gives you an estimate will see the work differently, or not understand it, and you'll wind up trying to compare proposals, not knowing which approach makes the most sense.

We'd like you to consider a new way to get painting estimates. It involves more work, but it will help ensure that the job that gets done is the right one, and it will give you an objective way to compare estimates.
  • Take pictures of what you want to have painted and print them with your color printer (plain paper is fine).
  • Bring the pictures to the expert at your local paint store and discuss your project, including details about the condition of your house, and any plans you have for color changes.
  • Ask for guidance on:
    • preparation needed
    • number of coats to be applied
    • best method of application
    • recommended materials for the job.
  • If feasible, plan to buy your own materials and major supplies and get an estimate of quantity and cost. 
  • Get contractor recommendations from people you trust, and schedule appointments to do an estimate. Keep in mind that painting the interior of an occupied home requires much greater skill and care than exterior painting.
  • At the time of the estimate, pay attention to how the contractor presents himself, and look at his vehicle. You'll learn a great deal about his work habits...
  • Pay attention to how carefully the contractor inspects the job. Is he thorough? Does he take notes, measure, examine the condition of the surfaces, take pictures or sketch, ask questions?
  • Give your scope of work to each bidder, along with a form on which to submit their bid. 
  • The form should include a payment schedule, plus insurance, clean-up and any other requirements you have.  It also should include the stipulation that by submitting a bid they agree to complete the scope of work to your satisfaction, and comply with the other requirements.
  • If the contractor will have employees on the job, require evidence that he carries workers' compensation insurance, and that coverage is in effect.
  • Tell each bidder to bid the basic job per the scope of work, and to price any options or recommendations separately.
  • Instruct them to include only equipment charges (such as for pressure-washing), incidental supplies and labor in their basic estimate.
Now you have a sensible way to compare the estimates, and you have control over payment.

Even if it's not feasible for you to follow all the steps that I've outlined, particularly for smaller jobs, at least take the time to develop a better idea of what you want to accomplish. If you can discuss the work knowledgeably and in detail, bidders can prepare estimates on the same basis. This step alone can help you avoid some of the common pitfalls when comparing painting estimates, so that you're likely to have fewer problems and results that meet your expectations.

Beware of an unusually low bid because it normally means the bidder:
  • didn't understand the scope of work
  • intended to take shortcuts, usually in the preparation phase
  • uses unskilled or temporary labor and pays them cash
  • plans to use lower grade materials
Painting done well can have a significant, positive effect on the value and enjoyment of your house, far beyond what the work costs, so it's worth hiring the right people and doing things the way they should be done.

If you would like to have your painting done by a professional you can rely on, call me to schedule an estimate at 828-692-4355.  

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