Why Writing what’s Going on the Wall Matters – How to get a Good Painting Estimate

 In Straight Lines: How to Hire the Right Painter

I keep wondering when I am going to stop being surprised by what other paint contractors try and get away with.

We just finished an exterior painting estimate for a small multi-family strata complex in Cloverdale. The strata council member that we did the on site walk around with, called back with some questions regarding our estimate. After couple of softball questions, he asked his real question – “why was our price was 40% higher than the other estimate he received?”

That’s tough to answer without knowing what is in the other estimate but he offered to show us the other estimate so we could compare the two. Now before you take issue with this customer showing me the other contractor’s estimate, read my article on when sharing bids with other contractors can be a good thing.

It took one quick glance at the other paint contractor’s estimate to see exactly why our prices were so different.

For one, our scope of work included applying one coat of alkyd primer followed by two coats of paint and his estimate was for the application of one coat of paint. Apparently this painter told the customer that one coat was all that was necessary because he would use a really great paint that would do the job in one coat. Really? I couldn’t wait to see what paint that was. Which leads me to the other big difference in between our estimates – he didn’t provide any details on what products he would be using.

If you get an estimate that doesn’t clearly outline the brand of paint being used as well as the specific products, I would toss the estimate in the trash and call another painter. 

Sound harsh? Maybe, but here is why I think it’s the smart thing to do.

A gallon of paint costs anywhere from $10 to $75. Depending on the size of the job and the amount of paint required, the product specs could greatly increase or decrease the cost of the job. When a contractor gives you an estimate without providing the detailed product specs, it leaves the product he uses to his own discretion. That might end up being a decision that is made in his best interest and not yours.

If you have hired a painter without agreeing on what products are to be used and he is standing in the paint store ordering your paint, do you think he is going to pick the expensive paint or the cheap paint?

Consider this scenario:

You have hired a painter without agreeing on what products are to be used and he is standing in the paint store ordering your paint, do you think he is going to pick the expensive paint or the cheap paint?

Even if it is a budget job, there is no reason why the product information shouldn’t be included in a written painting estimate. And not just the brand but the actual paint because within every brand of paint are varying levels of quality paint at different price points.

A good painter will always include product specs.

Why? Because it shows that he is thorough and has provided a complete breakdown of the job. He also knows that it is information a customer needs to accurately compare estimates.

At Warline, we include detailed product specs on every estimate. If a customer requests it, we will provide a lower cost alternative by using different, but comparable products by another supplier.

So back to our customer and his two estimates with a 40% price difference. Once we took a look at the two estimates, it became pretty clear that the other estimate wasn’t at all cheaper when you take into account that it was for only one coat of paint and ours was for a total of three coats.

And as far as this super, one-coat paint, there’s not much I can say since he conveniently left that information off the estimate. No good painter I know would only apply one coat of paint. Especially considering the effect weather has on homes in Vancouver and the surrounding areas.

So, if you are comparing painting estimates and one doesn’t include the product information, ask yourself why. Maybe you can come up with a different answer than the one I keep coming up with. If you do, share it with me. I’d love to hear a good reason why a painter would leave this information out. Same if you find out what that one-coat wonder paint is.

Heidi Nyline
Wonder woman at Warline Painting, an exceptional painting company. Loves colour, food, wine, dark rum, beaches, dogs and family. Not in that order.
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