Is that Price to Paint my House too Good to be True?
With the high number of paint contractors in Vancouver and the lower mainland today, many are willing to underbid to get a job. Its part of what happens in a slow economy and over saturated market.
But there are certain costs that are essentially fixed in painting, including paint costs and quality labour. So when a contractor gives you a price that is that much lower than his competitors, you should ask him some questions.
The first question I would ask is “how come your price is that much lower?”
Put him on the spot and see what he says. Here are the areas that make up the price on a paint estimate. A good paint contractor should be able to break down his costs for you.
If you have been specific about the quality and brand of paint you want used, the paint component of the estimate should be pretty consistent between your estimates. If you haven’t, then the door is wide open for the paint contractor to choose a low grade paint. There is a wide range of paint products out there and you can spend anywhere from $12 to $75 a gallon, depending on brand and quality.
Make sure you are getting what you expect. A painter quoting a job using Benjamin Moore Aura is going to have a higher price than a painter quoting a job using a contractor grade of paint. You can read more about why it is so important that your estimate includes the paint products, here.
Prep, Prep and More Prep
This is the time-consuming part of the job. It involves protecting the your belongings, moving furniture, cleaning, scraping, patching, caulking, sanding, priming, sanding again.
Sound like a lot of work? Yup, but this is what makes the difference between a bad paint job and a good one.
When you get a low price, you should ask how much time is going into the prep work.
The Actual Painting
How many coats? Do they sand between coats? Is the paint rolled on, sprayed on, brushed on? Ask for some specifics on the application process. Most importantly, who is doing the painting? Quality labour costs money and this is definitely an area where you get what you pay for. If a contractor is underpaying his workers, I promise you it will be obvious in the final product. Absolutely nothing replaces skill and experience. A skilled, experienced painter knows what he is worth and will get it.
All the Other Stuff
Finally, there is the part of my industry that keeps rearing its ugly head – the guys that cut corners. Running a legitimate business costs money. Insurance, business licenses, Worksafe and paying taxes all cost money and add to overhead.
I have no problem with a guy running a tight, one-truck operation and keeping his costs down, but when he doesn’t pay into Worksafe or have a business license or charge GST because he works for cash, I get furious. Why? Mostly because as a taxpayer and a Canadian, I get to pick up his part of the tab (and so do you).
Did you know that it is your responsibility to ensure that any contractor you hire is in good standing with Worksafe? Also, it is your responsibility to make sure that there is a valid GST number on the invoice that matches the name you are asked to make the cheque out to. Have you been given a warranty? How much value is in a warranty from a guy you can’t find because he is hiding from Revenue Canada?
There are painting companies out there that have chosen the route of going after more volume at a lower price. As long as the bids are all based on the same scope of work, it is fair game.
But, there is a difference between having a low bid and underbidding. Underbidding skews the market. It sets unrealistic expectations for the consumer about what doing a paint job properly costs.
In the end, there is nothing I can do about the guy that will drastically underbid to get a job just to keep himself busy, regardless of the fact that he is working at a loss or essentially giving away his labour. I do wish that he understood the long-term ramifications of this within our industry and for himself. Under-charging for labour keeps our industry at a standstill for new talent and quality workers. And the guy who doesn’t value his own worth will never get out of the cycle of having to undercut to survive.