Cheaper Paint Bids and When To Not Go With The Lowest Price
You and I have one thing in common, we both don't want to pay more than we have to for a home improvement service. Correct? When I have someone do work on my home, I want to find a reliable and trustworthy company that will do the job right for a reasonable cost. Sometimes, I'll get just one bid and go with the company if I feel comfortable with the estimate and the overall company. If I am just not convinced, I'll get another bid or two to compare.
4 Possible Scenarios
Now, I can only speak for my company, in the painting industry, but this is one industry where it is almost impossible to compare painting bids. A cheaper paint bid, in many cases could be a red flag. What I mean is, the cheaper it cost to paint your home, if you were to get several bids, typically means the least expensive company is missing something. Let me explain a couple of the key things paint companies leave out of their bids in order to win more work.
Thorough preparation. Did you know that between 87-93% of a residential painting job is labor? That's right...7-13% of your job goes to pay for paint materials. If you are doing faux finishing, murals or using a specialty paint, the cost for paint could be higher. What this means is it is not all that hard to figure out if a paint company is going to do less prep on your home to get the job done in less time. I've lost jobs to competitors that offer cheap prices by doing less prep quite a few times over the years. In one particular instance, a competitor was awarded to paint an exterior where his price was half mine but did the job in half the time my estimate said. So I bid the job for 2 men 2 weeks and he did it in 1 week. I was awarded some interior work at the same home, so I was able to go and see the quality of the other paint company. Just as I figured, it was half the prep and painting I had figured on doing, and I guarantee the job will start to peel and deteriorate in no time. So when collecting paint bids, make sure you look at the time it will take to do the job. A lot of paint firms are just leaving that out of their bids altogether to avoid having to defend their decision to do less prep.
Avoiding Primers & Bidding 1 Coat: Paint on the market today, for the most part, is pretty high quality. Yet many paint manufacturers are boasting that their premium paints are self-priming. Some painters will then bid one "premium" coat of finish and saying it will self prime your painted surfaces. I've also seen proposals that left out how many coats of paint will be applied. In this case, the painter is hoping the homeowner won't ask about how manhy coats! This is actually a common practice. If you have stucco or wood siding that has not been painted in quite awhile, chances are those surfaces will be very chalky if you run your hand over it. If this is the case, the area need to be thoroughly cleaned and fully primed before applying a finish coat or two.
Missing The Details = Change Orders: Having a lack of details in a proposal is dangerous for you the homeowner and the contractor. Why for you? He can give you a low price and tell you how great of a job he will do. You like him and feel trusted by the estimator and commit to the job without really reading all the details (or lack there of). You may have walked around the home and verbally told him all the things you wanted to get done, and he responded with, "No problem. We'll take care of that." Maybe he really would have taken care of your concerns but forgot to write them down into his proposal and therefore, it never got done. Regardless, what tends to happen is halfway through the project, you find that the areas of concern that you talked to him about are not getting done, and so he then will bring out the change order book and tell you it will cost more to do that. Why does it hurt the contractor? For one, you may not use him again. Second, if he really screws up, you can take legal action. I've seen this happen before with homeowners who have hired the less expensive painter only to have a nightmare experience of quality and legal battles.
Using Subcontractors & No Insurance: By using subcontractors, a paint company typically can be very competitive. They can sell the job and ask a subcontractor to do the job for even less. This practice is not uncommon and is ethical. Yet sometimes a painting company can lose the quality or control over his/her work by relying on subcontractors.
Don't Get Too Scared! Lots of Quality Painters
This post is not to scare you into think that most painting companies are dishonest. On the contrary, I think most San Diego area painting contractors are trying to make an honest living and be trustworthy. Unfortunately, it is hard to compete out there in this economy. So some painters will lower their price using some of the scenarios listed above just to stay in business.
So this is a word of caution. Be aware that the lowest price when getting your home painted may save you money in the short term, but may cost you more money or headaches down the road. You will spend more time managing and possibly worrying with a paint company willing to paint your home for cheap. To do a job right, it takes practice, a knowledge of materials, good craftsmenship, quality people and more!