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How Accurate are Painting Estimates?

One of the biggest misconceptions for homeowners getting painting estimates for their home is that every painter and every project is essentially the same. Here’s some common myths about painters and the facts to help you navigate these murky waters.

Painter myth #1: Since I know the square footage of the space I want painted, a painter should be able to give me an accurate price over the phone.

Fact: While you can get general “ballpark” estimates based upon square footage at websites such as (either interior or exterior), there are numerous variables when it comes to painting. Every space, like every person, is unique. Will the surface you’re planning to paint need one, two or three coats? Are there imperfections such as nail pops, water stains, cracks or holes that will need to be repaired prior to painting? What other details should be taken into account?

All these questions help add accuracy to a painting estimate. Painting contractors don’t want to give you a quote that’s completely inaccurate and overpriced. And as the consumer, you want to make sure that what the contractor is promising to deliver is what you are expecting to pay for.

Here are some things to think about when getting a painting estimate:

    • Products – What paint products is the painter recommending and what quantity of products are included in the quote. The quality and quantity of the paint can make a huge impact on the price – and the end product!
    • Scope of Work – Is every painter you’re talking to quoting the exact same scope of work? In other words, does a contractor’s quote include the same level of preparation and painting of the same surfaces, where another contractor’s doesn’t? You will need to determine if all the estimates you’re looking at are “apples-to-apples” in comparison.
    • Deadlines – How long will it take to complete the project? The size of the painting crew will affect your deadline. If your project is larger, and there’s only one person working on it, it could take much longer to complete and cause your home to be in disarray for much longer than necessary. This could also affect the cost of the job.
    • Budget – Is your budget in the same ballpark? You will need to do a bit of research so you know what your budget is. The last thing anyone wants (including the painting contractor) is to be blindsided with a price that’s substantially more than what was expected.

Painter myth #2: All painting companies are comparable as long as they have a valid license.

Fact: You should never hire a contractor that does not have a valid license as verified through the Department of Labor and Industries. However, even if a contractor is properly registered, that still doesn’t guarantee that they have the same standards as everyone else. How are you supposed to know that you can trust the painters that show up to paint your home? What protections are there if something goes wrong?

Here are some things to consider when choosing a painting company for your project:

    • Reliability – How reliable is the company? Are their employees given background checks and drug tests before they’re hired? Your home is your sanctuary and safe haven – it matters who has access to it.
    • Training – What kind of training do they provide their team of painters? Formal training helps ensure the best products, techniques and safety measures will be used on your project.
    • Payment – How much do you have to pay upfront? If they contractor requires you to pay more than 50% of the contract amount upfront, beware! The contractor license bond only covers up to $6,000.
    • Insurance – Does the painting contractor have adequate coverage? General liability and workman’s comp insurance protects you and the painters on your project from bodily injury and property damage claims. If your painting contractor is not properly insured, and if an accident happens – injuring anyone or damaging any of your property – you may be on the hook.
    • Associations or memberships – Are they members of any business associations? This will help show involvement in the trade overall and that they employ the association’s standards.
    • Reviews – Are there any recent reviews from previous customers? Check on Yelp, Google or Facebook. This can give you a good feel for what type of experience you can expect if you hire the same company.

Painter myth #3: All painters are properly trained and will paint my home to the same quality standard.

Fact: Most painters learn to paint on-the-job. Ideally, this should be part of a formal training program that includes extensive study of fundamental painting techniques such as those contained in the Painting & Decorating Craftsman’s Manual. There should also be established industry standards that are communicated up front, so that they are very clear to both you and the contractor.

These standards should include:

    • A measure by which the quality of painting work can be evaluated.
    • Established limits on the extent and verifiable uniformity of a project.
    • Guarantees requiring work that is free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations of coating applications.

These standards cover a range of issues that commonly become the subject of misunderstandings, or in extreme cases, contract disputes. They provide guidance for both you and the contractor concerning how such differences can best be avoided, and save time and money when used and referenced in painting quotes and contracts.

Painter myth #4: All estimators should know how to accurately estimate my project and give me an idea how long it will take and how much it will cost.

Fact: Every painting company will have its own estimation process, and any estimator should have a general idea of what to charge for a typical paint job and a rough idea how long their crew will take to get your project done. But, can they tell you exactly how many hours of labor and how many gallons of paint it take for your project? This will allow you to see what their hourly rate is, and how much they are charging you for paint and sundries.

One of the oddities of the painting industry is that projects are typically quoted as a fixed bid, which means that the total price is determined up front despite how much time and materials the job actually takes. This tends to lead painting contractors to do estimates that are NOT broken down into hourly rate and materials cost, which can make it very difficult to understand how they determined the price that they are quoting you.

Any professional estimator should be happy to discuss with you exactly how they came up with their price. They should want to provide the best value to their customers. But, they also don’t want to lose their shirts because of something that got overlooked in the estimation process either. That typically leads to both parties being unhappy in the end. So, it’s always a good idea to be as transparent as possible and go over the estimate and scope of work together, so that it is very clear what you will actually be paying for if you decide to choose a painting company to do your project.

If you’d like to see how Arclight Painting could help you through the estimation process for your project, contact us now for a free estimate.


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