Is your painter guessing?

Published on 05/30/2023 by PCS Painters. 

   If you are meeting a painting contractor for the first time, we are here to help you look for signs that they may only be guessing. The reason looking for these signs is so crucial is because a painter who is not precise can lead to future issues once contracted. Your painter should not only be confident, but accurate. Accuracy is important when preparing any estimate or quotation, which is paramount in creating a pleasurable experience for all involved. Accuracy starts with the painter paying attention to the area(s) and substrate(s) you want painted. This ensures that all items of service and materials will be listed on your quote. Keep in mind that unlike remodeling TV shows that have contractors doing fast walk throughs and winging fast numbers is not the way it works. In the TV world there is only a small amount of time any typical show airs for. During that small window of air time most shows fast track the estimating process so they can concentrate on the make over and/or sale of a property, or whatever the basis of the show is. If your painter walks through your home and wings you a dollar amount, he or she is guessing. You may hear “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I just know what things cost”.

That type of fast track estimating is called guesstimating. Guesstimating is dangerous, primarily because it is inaccurate. Inaccuracy leads to two roads. Either your painter is over charging you, or you’re being under charged. The issue with under charging is that at some point the painter will figure out that he/she is loosing money. Maybe they will keep the loss to themselves out of fear of looking incompetent, but with that can come corners getting cut to save them money. 

For example, you may of signed off on a contract that promises two coats, and now you may only get one coat. You may of been promised a certain grade of paint and now part of your home is being downgraded to a lower grade of paint. Patching and sanding of certain substrates may be skimped out on. This is what makes the process not pleasurable, and it’s due to guessing. All painting estimators should be measuring each area. They should have and disclose each item of service along with the quantity of each item of service, and include the material they are using for every item. Keep this in mind – you would never go to a retail store or even a drive thru and receive a receipt with a total that does need not list how many shirts or cheese burgers you are buying. 

You are most likely spending more money with a painting contractor than you are at a drive thru or a retail store, and your quote doesn’t really reflect your purchase. Always make sure your painter is taking the estimate serious by taking the time to measure each area. Another thing to ask your painter even if he/she is taking the time to measure everything is how do you figure out your quote from a measurement? Some will say that they have unit rates, and an established painter will tell you we have production speeds based off of our teams historically tracked time per item of service. Having production timing documented per item of service now paves the way for a truly accurate quote. On the other hand, if your painter says we have unit rates and that’s why I measure all areas. That’s okay, now ask him/her how their unit rates populate an accurate bid, being they are selling labor. 

How do unit rates translate into how much time it will take to complete a job? Hopefully they say they have production rates or speeds. If they do not, they are most likely referring to a national average book for their pricing. The use of national averages can help, but in reality is like having one foot on hot coals and the other on a block of ice. The biggest flaws with using unit rates from a book of averages is it doesn’t always reflect an area(s) that needs to be painted with the correct time to mobilize and demobilize. A unit rate to paint a small area can be more than triple the same item of service to paint a large area. This is due to an array of factors starting with product waste, confined areas, wide open spaces, and different material costs. Your painters materials cost could fare better or worse than a national average. Another way to know if your painter is competent is to ask product questions. Ask which grades of paint touch up better, and which grades of paint are scrubbable? Which is the best sheen for each surface? If you have to, take notes during the estimate. The most important thing you should do during the whole process is take time out to pause, and let your painter talk. The more your painters talk, the more he or she is helping you to make your decision.

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