A good paint job is worth every dollar spent #653

#653 in a series of true experiences in real estate

Once at a listing the painters threw out all of the hardware. All the curtain rods and ends that had been up before they started the job, all the switch plate covers, cupboard knobs, doorstops. Smoke detectors and covers that fit the doorbell and furnace thermostat – all were gone.

We couldn’t believe it. Some could be replaced but others we really needed. “Why did you throw everything away?” we asked. No one seemed to have an answer. It just hadn’t occurred to the guys working on the job that they were expected to do anything but remove items before they painted.

From then on before a job started we walked through each room with the head painter and we noted every item we wanted to keep. We marked things with blue painters tape: Save. We brought cardboard boxes, one for each room, and asked that all loose items be put in the boxes. What worked even better was when we removed as much hardware as possible ourselves. We then brought it home, threw out what we didn’t want to reuse and cleaned the rest to be reinstalled later.

We also changed painters. Good painters are a treasure, skilled professionals who perform visual miracles. They make lumpy and missing plaster look good and right and smooth ugly, full-of-holes surfaces. They expertly prepare first, then apply paint, a craft that may sound simple but in fact takes great know-how.

Plus, good painters show up as scheduled, keep a clean workplace, don’t get paint on surfaces not intended to have paint on them, climb ladders to high places with aplomb, and generally, are efficient and hard working.

We’ve definitely experienced the painters who were not good at their jobs. There was one who didn’t lose the hardware, he just never took it off. He painted right over switch plates and knobs. Awful. But the worst paint crew ever was hired by one of our sellers.

These sellers insisted that they would need several bids and asked who we would recommend. We sent our favorite, tried-and-very-true painter who bid $15,000 to paint the inside and outside of a medium-size house. Two coats everywhere, Benjamin Moore paints, our colors, ceilings white, walls and trim as we wanted. Finishes as we wanted, some flat, some eggshell and so forth. Thorough prep. Two weeks with full crew.

The sellers got bids from several other companies, none of whom they had any experience with. The lowest was exactly half of our painter’s bid: $7,500 and he’d do the job in 1 week he said.

We had our reactions: “Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?” we asked our sellers. They were hooked on that lower bid. But was the bid for the same work our man had bid on? They said they thought so and signed up.

There were bad signs from the first. Their painter, it turned out, needed more money to use Benjamin Moore paints. When he got that ok, we found out he intended all-white ceilings, walls and trim inside and one color only on the exterior. One coat, not two.

When we arrived at the house on the first day he waited till we were apart from the sellers and complained that he was not being paid enough for this job. He’d planned to spray out the whole house but now they were wanting brushes, rollers, colors and finishes. We told him to talk to the sellers who had hired him.

It was bad. Holes weren’t filled. Surface repairs were obvious. Paint didn’t cover. Colors we’d specified for exterior body and trim were reversed. By this time the painter had gotten the sellers to agree to pay $10,000. Three weeks went by and still they were not done. Some days no one showed up to paint at all.  One day a madman with a spray gun arrived “to do the outside,” he said, then sprayed paint everywhere including on window glass and on the edges of the driveway and front path.

We could hardly wait for them to leave. A neighbor came by to ask if we would recommend these painters as he wanted painting done at his house. “No, definitely not,” we said.

Anyone can paint? Not the case. You get what you pay for? Often, in our experience, it’s true. The difference between the job that skilled professional painters do and all others: huge.

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