An Honest Conversation About Interior Painting
As we write this piece, we have completed almost the entire first floor, second floor hallway and guest bedroom of a massive house in West Chester, PA. Just so you get an idea, the walls on the great room are as high as 20 feet tall and the square footage of the place is 4,601 in total! Can you guess how many days it took us to complete it all? With 4 painters, it took us only 3 days!
A year ago, we were doing a similar project in Lansdale, PA. Rather than taking us 3 days, it took us nearly 3 weeks to get it completed. Rather than having 4 painters at a time everyday, we had only 2 who were just starting with us and were mostly unprepared to take on such a massive project by themselves.
Truth is interior painting is the most daunting of all painting services, especially if it’s residential. There are so many factors to consider: expensive furniture, hardwood floors, high ceilings, preparing the surfaces, attention to detail, etc. If you don’t choose the right contractor, it will become a nightmare. This is why we have decided to answer some of the most important questions you should be asking when taking on an interior painting by yourself or deciding to hire the right contractor for it.
For a House Investment, Hire Prioritizing Experience Not Money
We were extremely blessed to have met the loveliest elderly couple for the project we completed in Lansdale, PA about a year ago. Though we took almost 3 weeks to complete the project, they felt so appreciated and respected by the crew that, by the end of the project, they even gifted a $500 wine bottle to the crew leader in place (keep in mind that there were only 2 most of the time there).
We say blessed because even when we didn’t deliver on time, they left us a five-star review from the care they received. On the other side, we had lost money, time and had grown tired after seeing the same house for almost a month. To top it all off, the work van broke down after leaving the customer house the last day, and we had to wait almost 4 hours until it could get towed.
Any interior project creates discomfort. Furniture is all over the place, the house gets dirtier from all the dust from spackling, and you have strangers all over your house invading your space for a full working day multiple days a week.
If you can minimize the discomfort while a project is under way at your place, you will do yourself a favor mentally and spatially speaking. Most people don’t think of it this way, but it’s true. When most people consider hiring a contractor, they think about choosing the least expensive of all–a decision that will prove costlier most of the time.
Most contractors who don’t charge the right amount for a project, especially for interiors, display inexperience in calculating the time it’ll take them to complete the project. They are also unprepared to know the adequate number of well-trained, well-paid people they need to complete the project. Once they realize they are losing money and have their schedule for other jobs disbalanced from their mistake, most will grow impatient, and will want to finish the project as soon as possible compromising the quality and stellar customer service they should always be offering.
As a customer, you should always ask questions about the level of experience a contractor has in dealing with your type of project. These would be some good ones to ask:
- How many days do you plan on completing a project like mine?
- How many people will you have at my place working on this project?
- Do you have the right equipment for this type of work (i.e., scaffolding or ladders for a high ceiling room)?
- Have you completed similar projects in the past? Do you have photos or testimonials of it?
- How many coats of paint do you apply to the surface? What type of paint do you use?
Asking these simple but important questions will help you determine what contractor is the best fit for you. For the project we completed this week, the customer asked some of these questions, and she was impressed by how confident we answered them. During the visit, one competing contractor looked at the 20 ft ceiling great room, looked back at the customer in puzzlement, and then said, ‘I’ll have to bring my buddy to help.’ It immediately disqualified him for the job, as the customer herself mentioned to us once we were almost done with the project.
Professionalism and experience are of the essence in any project, especially for interior painting projects comprising multiple rooms. This leads us to our last point of this article: the actual estimate.
Value a Detailed Quote Over a Quick Number
The rundown of how we calculate pricing is a story for another post–we promise it’ll come sooner rather than later. But the essence of this last point is crucial when hiring somebody. Contractors tend to be overconfident about their abilities to quote a job from a simple look, giving the customer as little information for the project as possible.
Think about this: when you go to a restaurant, do you like the bill to break down the cost of everything you and your companions consume or do you prefer a bill with the final cost only? We can dare to say that most people like knowing what they are paying for, especially when they eat out with a group of friends and everybody needs to know how much each ordered in order to pay their fair part.
It works similarly in the painting industry. People love having control of what they are paying for in a service. Most customers will have done their research by the time the contractor gets there.
On one occasion, we encountered a customer who had a trusted painter for years, but the person was now busier and couldn’t take on more jobs. She wanted to get it completed as soon as possible, so she decided to take a few bids before deciding who to hire for the project. When we visited her place, she looked puzzled at the fact that we were going room by room, taking measurements and notes, and quoting her based on each space. She asked why we broke down the estimate this way, since her previous painter could tell her the total right away without having to take so many measurements and notes.
We mentioned how much easier it was to work with an estimate she had full control over. She knew exactly how much she was being charged per room and what exact work was being done in the space. We left the estimate and got a call from her 2 days later. She was thankful that we had broken down the estimate this way. Though the original work was quoted at almost $7,000 and she had a budget of up to $5,000, she could now decide what areas she could prioritize that could help her get to the number she had in mind.
She was so impressed by the professionalism and detail in the quote, she immediately decided to hire us without considering 4 other bids she had received that same week.
A detailed quote reflects the commitment a company has with the customer in being transparent with its pricing and the scope of work. Vagueness to understand the scope of work and the reason behind the contractor’s pricing leads to problems at the time of working with the customer.
Take your time to review those estimates that seem lengthy and burdensome. Don’t just scroll to the bottom of the estimate to see if the price is within the range you were expecting. Just as you wouldn’t sign a document without at least skimming through it, don’t commit to working with a painter who will make the project more difficult to accomplish than if leaving the project unpainted.
Hiring somebody means building a relationship with them. You want to make sure the painters you contract excel at all facets of the jobs. Hopefully, they’ll become your day one contractors at the time of considering another project or recommending the business to family and friends.