Painting is one of the tasks that many DIYers tend to take on when building or remodeling a house. Doing it yourself can save you thousands of dollars in labor costs, but it will also take you quite a bit a time. And unless you have significant painting experience, your results will probably be less attractive than the results that you would get from a professional painter.
Because paint affects the looks of just about every room of the house, I say, if you have it in your budget, leave the painting to the professionals. So, our mini lesson this week will give an overview of what to look for, ask for, and expect when hiring professional painters. If you’re absolutely determined to do at least some of your painting, join me next week for an episode filled with painting tips and tricks. Before we move to our lesson, let’s go over this week’s pro term...
Pro Term: Boxing
"Boxing" is not just the practice of fighting with padded gloves, boxing is also a painting term. Boxing is fancy industry talk for combining separate cans of paint and mixing them together. When buying several gallons of paint of the same color, there are sometimes very slight color variations between the different cans. That can happen when just a tiny little alteration is made when the paint is being tinted and mixed. That slight color variation becomes abundantly clear when paints from different cans are painted right next to each other, making the paint job look blotchy and irregular.
To alleviate color inconsistencies from can to can, open all of the cans of paint and combine them in a large container, like a 5 gallon bucket. Then, using a paint stick, stir all the paint together. That’s boxing. Boxing ensures color consistency when using multiple cans of paint. Once everything is mixed well, store the paint in the covered 5 gallon bucket, or you can be pour the paint back into the original containers.
So our pro term this week is boxing, combining and mixing different cans of paint together to avoid color inconsistencies.
Now, let’s talk about what you should to expect and ask for from professional painters.
Painters will come to a new construction site kind of late in the game— after the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems have been installed in the house, and after the insulation and drywall work have been completed. All of the drywall seams should be sealed and sanded by the drywallers before the painters arrive.
Ideally painters come in before any other installations have been put into the house. So flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, toilets, trim work, electrical receptacles, light switches, lighting fixtures, and closet rods and hangers should not be installed when painters start their work. That gives them full access to use paint sprayers without having to worry about getting paint on anything. Using paint sprayers, as opposed to using only rollers and brushes, is much faster and is the preferred method of many painters.
Painting should almost always begin with primer. Primer helps paint adhere better and last longer. Painters begin with applying one coat of primer to the ceilings and walls. Once the primer has dried, the painters should inspect the walls for any imperfections that may have been missed by your drywall subcontractors. The painters will patch and sand minor nicks and dings, but if they find major defects in the drywall, those defects should be brought to the attention of the drywallers, so the drywallers can make those major repairs.
After the drywall repairs are made, two coats of ceiling paint are applied. Painters will then cut-in any areas that aren’t appropriate for spray painting, or rollers. Cutting in means to use a paint brush to paint areas that are tight or awkward—like areas near the ceiling line and in corners. After cutting in, the wall surfaces are sprayed with the first coat of the paint.
After that, a second and final finish coat of paint is applied to just a few areas—areas that will be difficult to get to after fixtures and cabinets are in place—so on walls where cabinets will go and in bathrooms where the toilets or vanities will be installed. Otherwise, painters would need to cut in a second, finish coat around cabinets, toilets and other fixtures. Applying the second coat of paint before those cabinets and fixtures go in, is faster, easier and neater. A few paint touch ups may be necessary in those areas, but that’s to be expected.
Ok, so the primer and one coat of paint have been applied throughout. The ceilings have been primed and painted with 2 coats of paint, so the ceilings are finished. And a few walls have been painted with a second coat of paint. What’s next?
Now the other subcontractors will come onto the job site and do their installations of trim work, cabinetry, flooring, toilets and other fixtures.
Painters will then take the detached interior doors and spray them with paint within a clean, dust free area, like the garage, or a room inside the house. Doors should be sanded, primed and sprayed with two coats of paint. If you want your doors stained instead of painted, they would be stained and clear coated at this point.
Next, the painters go back around the house and fill and sand the nail holes in the newly installed trim work. They also caulk the joints and seams of the trim work, including areas all along the length of the trim work where the trim pieces meet the wall. Now remember, if you decide to do all your painting, you’ll have to do all of this.
Finally, the painters add the second, final finish coat to the walls. Then they paint the trim. Again, it’s best if all cabinetry, toilets and other fixtures have been installed before the final coat of paint is applied. Otherwise the finish coat may get damaged by other tradespeople. Scheduling the painters for the final finish coat after the other subs have made their installations is ideal.
When the painting is complete and the paint is dry, the interior doors can be installed and light switches and outlet covers can be put in place. By the way, it’s not your painters that you want to install your doors. Leave that job to the finish carpenter.
So, that’s the usual order of things. But be aware that that could vary some, depending on your painters and how well you’re able to schedule your other subs around your painters.
Now that you know what to expect from the professionals, let’s talk about how to select a reliable painter.
Get written estimates from no less than 3 painting contractors— ideally contractors that have been in business for at least 2 years. The estimates, and subsequent contracts, should include every detail that you can think of, including a breakdown of labor and material costs and the number of coats of primer and paint that you expect.
Remember, the industry standard is one coat of primer and 2 coats of paint. The estimates and contracts should also include the brand of paint and the names and specific catalogue numbers of the colors you want in each room, plus a detailed description of the amount of surface preparation and clean up that you want done.
Let each painter know that you’re getting other proposals. This will encourage them to offer competitive pricing. If you’re comparing bids and you have a good feeling about a more expensive painter, don’t hesitate to ask if he can match or come closer to your lower bids. They usually won’t be offended. They know you’re trying to get the best deal that you can.
Painters should need only a week or so to complete estimates. When comparing bids, make sure you comparing apples to apples. Each estimate should include the same exact line items. If something is missing, add it to the estimate and get the adjusted price.
Get a copy of the painter’s liability and workers’ compensation insurance certificates. The insurance protects the homeowner from damage done by the painters. And don’t just take their word that they have insurance, get an actual copy of the insurance certificates and verify that the policies have not expired. Just say “May I have a copy of your insurance certificates for my files?” Although it’s important to trust your subs, it’s equally important to verify their information. Trust, but verify.
If your painter says he needs a down payment for materials, tell him that you will buy the paint on your own, or that you will accompany him to the paint store so that you can pay for the paint at that time. But truth be told, most professional painters should not need a downpayment. Most pros that have been in business for a while have accounts with their suppliers that allow them to get materials and pay for them 30 days later. So, if a painter insists on a downpayment, find another painter.
Ok, back to the contract… other than every painting detail that you can think of, what else should be included in the contract?
You should also include a statement that “work will be continuous.” Some contractors start off really well, with several crew members on site for the first couple of days. Then, there may be several days with when no one shows up. This usually happens because the painters are trying to squeeze in other jobs. Minimize these delays by specifying in your contract how many painters will be on the job site each day, for example 2 to 4 painters, and that work will be “continuous, if weather permits”.
Make material disposal and clean up a part of the contract. Some counties charge substantial fees for waste disposal and have strict regulations and recycling rules about construction waste, especially when it comes to paints and solvents, so make clean-up your painter’s responsibility. Standard contracts should include the phrase: “The work area should be left broom clean.” That phrase works for painters and other subcontractors.
Request a firm start date and an estimate of the completion date. And add the phrase “Starting and completion dates are of the essence of the contract.” This statement will give you greater protection if a dispute arises. Again, that statement is “Starting and completion dates are of the essence of the contract.”
Now, the advice that I am about to give is contrary to what I’ve heard before, but this new advice kind of makes sense. What I’ve heard before is to give subs bonuses for finishing earlier than the stated end date and to impose penalties if they finish later than the stated end date. But, in preparing for this episode, I read that it doesn’t make much sense to add a bonus clause for finishing early, or a penalty clause for finishing late. That’s because you don’t want the workers to cut corners to earn a bonus. And if penalties mount for continued lateness, the sub will have less and less incentive to finish the work at all. The better thing to do might be to simply add to the contract those starting and completion dates statements that we just talked about.
Pay your painter in thirds, if possible, making your first payment only after the first third of his work is done. And hold on to the final third of his payment until you are fully satisfied with the job, including final touch ups. The more you can withhold until the end, the more leverage you’ll have to make sure the that the job will done well and will be completed according to your contract.
Ask your painter for a guarantee. It’s fairly standard for painters to agree to correct any chipping, peeling, blistering, flaking, excessive fading or chalking that occurs within two years after the job is complete. These corrections should be done at no, or little, cost to the homeowner. If the painter tells you that the paint itself has a warranty, tell him that that doesn’t include labor, and you would like a warranty on the labor. To protect against an obviously substandard job, include a catchall phrase to the effect that the contractor will “complete the project in a professional manner”.
The PDCA, which stands for the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America, has established clear standards of 1. accepted production rates, 2. appropriate materials, and 3. application techniques. These objective standards make it easy for the homeowner and painter to agree upon what a properly painted surface is.
According to the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, a properly painted surface is a surface with uniform appearance, color, texture, coverage and sheen. That surface should also be free of foreign material, lumps, drips, insufficient coverage, spatters, and spills.
Not all good painters are necessarily members of the PDCA, but membership does indicate a an extra level of professional commitment. Even if the painter that you hire is not a member of the PDCA, you can add to your contract that his work will meet the standards of a properly painted surface as defined by the PDCA.
At the end of the job, at the same time that you give the final payment to the painter, you should get from him an Unconditional Waiver of Mechanic’s Lien Rights. This Unconditional final lien waiver frees the homeowner from the responsibility of making future payments to the painter and from having to pay the painter’s unpaid bills. So, if you have an unconditional lien waiver, you, as the homeowner, cannot be sued by the painter or paint store for outstanding bills for paint and supplies used for your project.
It’s pretty safe to assume that an experienced painter will produce better results than an average DIYer, plus finish the work faster. But doing the painting yourself means you won’t have to pay for labor, which typically represents 80 to 85 percent of painting costs. That’s enough to motivate many homeowners to put on overalls and grab a paint sprayer and brush and do the painting themselves. Next week, you won’t have a full-on painting tutorial, but our mini lesson will give you some advice for doing your own painting and choosing the best colors and paint sheens for your house
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OK, Ready for your quiz?
1. Which statement is false?
A. Boxing is a painting term that means combining and mixing different cans of paint together to avoid color inconsistencies.
B. Painters should initially show up on the job site only after all cabinets, toilets, and trim have been installed.
C. One coat of primer and 2 coats of paint is the industry standard.
D. Almost all paint jobs should include primer, which makes paint adhere better and last longer.
The answer is B. B is false. Painters come to a new construction site after the plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems, insulation and drywall work have been completed.
But painters come in before any other installations have been put into the house. So flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, toilets, trim work, electrical receptacles, light switches, lighting fixtures, and closet rods and hangers should not be installed when painters start their work. That gives the painters full access to use the paint sprayer without having to worry about getting paint on anything.
2. True or False. You should make clean up and material disposal the responsibility of the painters and add that to your contract.
That’s true. Some counties charge substantial fees and have strict regulations and recycling rules about construction waste, especially when it comes to paints and solvents. So, it’s best to leave the responsibility of cleaning up and materials disposal to the painters.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thank you for stopping by this week. I hope you learned as much as I did. If you know someone who needs this information, you can share this episode with them by tapping the share icon, which is at the bottom left of the screen in itunes.
Come on back next week for another episode of Build Your House Yourself University—BYHYU. Talk to you later.