This isn’t my usual type of post, and I am NOT an expert on the subject, but I have a friend who is getting his home painted, and it reminds me of the time I hired a painting contractor for my own apartment. I only learned afterward how little the workers (the actual painters) knew about painting – and how little they probably knew about the contractor they were working for.
Since working for a house painting company is a great way to bring in some extra money, I’m writing this to at least clue in anyone who is thinking about this kind of work for the first time. AND I hope that any contractor who reads this will just maybe think about his workers, and how to make the work sweeter for both of them!
What I learned from my painting contractor
My friend’s contractor was especially happy to get the job, since he says it means his workers will have extra money for the holidays. The contractor I hired a few years ago took most of the money himself!
The way he worked the deal, he charged me $25/hr (not all that unreasonable where I live for a good painter), and made it seem like he or a senior supervisor would be on the premises all the time. They weren’t.
He also made it seem like he had experienced painters. But he got the guys he sent me off of Craigslist – he didn’t even train them. And he gave them only $10/hr, pocketing the other $15/hr for himself, even though he pretty much left them on their own. He told me all this after the job was done – when I was making him give me back some money for the shoddy workmanship.
What a painter should probably know
I understand that when you need work, you worry that asking too many questions or seeming too pushy can lose you the job. And sometimes it can. But there are some basic things that can hopefully help improve the quality of the experience from all ends:
- If there is a way for you to ask directly or snoop around, knowing how much the contractor charges might help you negotiate your own portion – especially if you are really good at what you do or willing to take on some supervisory responsibilities. Always helps to know if there is wiggle room, or if he (or she) is cutting it close on their share.
- Make sure you find out exactly what the contractor promised the customer. If the customer thinks they are getting ALL cracks and holes repaired, and you were just told to just fix some of them and then start painting, that can cause a huge problem.
- Make sure you know how long the customer thinks the job should take, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Again, sometimes a promise is made that workers are unable to live up to – and they get to deal with yelling customers.
- Makes sure you have enough ventilation for yourself while working, even with non-toxic paint. And, since you are using your arm and other muscles in a repetitive manner, take short but frequent stretch breaks.
- That said, if you are scheduled to start at 9am each day, even without a supervisor, don’t take a whole hour to set up so that the customer walks in on you at 10am just hanging out and talking (each day) with the half-hour prep work still not done. Breaks are important, but remember how unsettling and costly this is to a customer.
- BEFORE you start painting, go over the repairs and make sure the customer is satisfied with the condition, so that you won’t have to keep going back and repairing once you’re in the painting stage.
- Ask the contractor for painting tips. Don’t be shy or worry about appearing stupid. If the person is experienced in the business, there are some basics that will help make you both look great.
- Direction of the paint brush stroke (depending on type of paint, I think, different-direction strokes can show)
- Evenness and smoothness of the roller and / or paint brush technique
- How to use painter’s tape the right way (you can also google some of this)
- Any other professional tricks & tips they can offer you
- Be aware of and smooth out any drips or thicker globs as you paint.
- Check for unpainted or sparsely-painted sections, especially when the base coat and top coat are almost the same color.
- Make sure that the trim is all the right color & finish, especially if you are dealing with similar shades.
- Check where paint got to places it shouldn’t be, including where walls meet meet ceiling and trim
- After it’s done, either you or the contractor should go over the paint job with the customer, for any last touches or to correct mistakes. Not only does this help spot things you might have missed, it helps involve the customer so they are part of the final “closing” phase.
- And remember that, in addition to the actual paint job, a careful clean-up leaves a great last impression.
For extra points, the contractor should offer the customer a chance to live with it a day or two, so they can discover anything that was not done well. Sometimes a customer is so happy it’s done, their brain doesn’t engage fully. A good contractor should make some room for that – without opening the door to forever repairs, of course!
A few closing thoughts
As I said, I’m not an expert. These are just my thoughts. I hope some of them help. And, despite my experience, there are really good contractors out there to work for. But I know there are also many like the one I had, who was a charming guy and even had some good Yelp reviews.
Taking this kind of work can be a good way to make extra money – or a decent living if you cut the right deal. Even better if you and your contractor discover the fine art of creating a mutually-enjoyable, working relationship with each other AND the customer.
Open, respectful communication at all levels can make your days feel more enjoyable, leave customers more satisfied, and get your boss more referrals, which are the heart of the business. You may even wind up starting your own painting contractor business one day – hopefully as one of the good guys!
Please feel free to add your own tips to help workers – and maybe even make for better painting contractors.
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