How do I select the right painter for my project?
Get a couple estimates
Most painters offer free estimates. When you’re describing the project to the painter be very specific about what you want done and be consistent between contractors. Every painting contractor will have slightly different ideas about how to complete the work. It’s important to communicate what level of quality you expect. A good painter can go anywhere from pulling out all the stops to produce a near perfect paint job to taking the right shortcuts to save the customer money but still offer quality work. It helps if you can give the painter a budget. Everybody says they want a nice paint job; do you want Toyota nice or Ferrari nice?
Check their legitimacy
Don’t hire a painter who is not Licensed, Bonded and Insured. Check at Labor and Industries website. https://fortress.wa.gov//lni/bbip/search.aspx. Falls from ladders and falls from roofs both make L&I’s top five list for on the job fatalities. Contractors are required to carry insurance to protect you. When you hire an unlicensed contractor he will be relying on your homeowner’s insurance to pay his bills in the event of an accident.
Compare the products
All paint companies offer several different models of paint. Sherwin William’s exterior paint comes in four models for example. Weather Clad is their least expensive, A100 is a step up, Superpaint is a notch above that and their Duration is their top of the line. A painter claiming to use a top quality Sherwin Williams 100% Acrylic product is not really claiming much. I personally tend to favor paints a step down from most companies’ top model. Sherwin William’s Super Paint or Miller’s Acri-Lite for example seem to offer 95% of the goodness for 30-40% less money. If you as the customer want top of the line products by all means ask for them they are a pleasure to apply.
I’m building a new house should I paint the interior myself to save money?
If spending a week with a roller and brush warms your soul then by all means go right ahead. A professional painter with the right equipment will go in a day or two after the walls are textured and complete the job in a day for a little more than you will spend on paint. Painting contractors that do new construction have gas powered paint pumps and can spray and backroll whole houses in a matter of hours per coat. Combine this with the discounts they get on paint and it’s hardly worth doing yourself. I was once talking with a small builder while painting the exterior of his home. He asked me how much I would have charged him to paint the inside. He informed me that it took him a week to do the painting himself and all he saved was $200.
Why does is cost so much to paint my trim, millwork or cabinets?
Painting trim, base, door frames, window frames, cabinets and other millwork is one of the most technical things an architectural painter can do. It’s not as simple as just grabbing a foam roller and rolling away no matter what you see on home improvement shows! It’s a long complicated process with dozens of tricks of the trade involved.
Pick your Product
Let’s start with choosing the right paint. It needs to be an enamel specifically designed for millwork like Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo, Sherwin Williams ProClassic or Miller’s Acrinamel. Regular wall paint doesn’t dry hard like these enamels do. Cabinet’s doors will stick to cabinets if painted with normal wall paint. Millwork enamel is also hard enough to allow a person to simply scrub off scuff marks left from a vacuum cleaner on base.
In the old days millwork was always painted with“slow dry oil”. As the name implies slow dry oil paints smell bad (oil) and take a long time to dry (24+ hours). This allows kids, dogs, cats, and carpenters plenty of time to lean up against wet trim. Oil based paints also yellow over time, so your nice white millwork will eventually get a yellow hue. Why would you ever use oil based millwork? Oil base trim paint is easy to spray, easy to brush, can be tinted to dark colors and was all they had 30 years ago. It also leaves a great finish.
In the last 15 years or so water based enamels have become more and more popular on trim. I personally love using them; they leave a finish that is 99.9% as nice as oil without the bad smell or thinners. They also dry to the touch in about an hour and don’t yellow over time. The only real downside of the water based paint is that it needs to be sprayed and takes a fairly talented spray man to give that glass smooth finish.
Now that I’ve blathered on about paint for a few paragraphs I’ll let you know why it costs what it does to paint trim and cabinets properly. It’s a complicated process so I’ll walk you through it with pictures!
Throw some plastic over that Chihuly boys
Actually I’ll ask you to move anything really valuable before we come over to start painting. The general idea is that we want to protect everything you don’t want paint on or to get dusty. We’re going to be pulling out an airless sprayer in a day or two and before we do that there is going to be all kinds of sanding, caulking and spackling. This means we cover the carpet, mask the hardwood floors, windows and ceiling lights. We remove or mask switches and move any furniture or tools into the middle of the room and seal it away for the duration of the project. Below is a room all masked up and ready for the next step.
Break out the Caulk
Most painters use their fingers to push the caulk into the crevice and make it smooth. Leaving a neat, smooth, finished caulk line is one of those skills that professional paint contractors spend lots of time honing. It’s easy to make a big mess of your trim if you aren’t careful.
All those nice tight gaps the millwork that your expert carpenter worked so hard tomake perfect will stick out like a sore thumb if we don’t fill them with something. Spackle doesn’t flex and will eventually crack out so we use caulking.
Fill those nail holes
I think every painter on the planet has something different he likes to fill nail holes in trim with. I’m using lightweight spackle here. I like it because it’s easy to sand and dries quickly. Some people love Crawford’s Vinyl Spackle or even wood putty. It’s important at this step to catch and reset any nails that the finish carpenters didn’t completely drive into the millwork.
After the caulk and spackle have dried you need to sand everything. Be sure and sand the base. I know climbing around on your hands and knees with a sanding sponge is no fun but it’s the only way to make that base nice and smooth. Now is also the time you will find out how many nail holes you missed with the spackle and where you made a big mess during the caulking process. I like to go over the top of the sanded spackle with red lacquer putty and then another round of sanding. Some painting contractors hate to add that extra step but I think the finished results are worth the work.
Now that we have made all that spackle dust we need to get this place clean! Dust vacuum, sweep and do everything in your power to keep dust out of the paint we are soon to apply. Some painters go as far as to use a tack cloth to wipe down the trim. I’ve found that being thorough with a duster and vacuum works well.
Apply your paint! I like to use and airless sprayer and a fine finish tip. Some painting contractors use CAP sprayers or HVLPs. You could also brush it out or use a roller although it would be a shame to go through all that work and have brush marks or roller stipple!
I heard that the painting contractor who painted my neighbors house put water in the paint to save money. Do painters really do that?
I truly believe that thinning exterior or interior paint down with water is an urban legend. If a paint contractor thinned the paint enough to save any significant amount of money he would leave really obvious chop marks and stripes in what he was painting. The truth is on the exterior of your average 2500sf house the difference between a really heavy coat of paint and a really light coat of paint is probably less than two gallons. To risk repainting the whole house to save $50 on a $2500-$3000 job just doesn’t make much sense to me.
If you witnessed a painter putting water into a 5 gallon paint bucket there was a good chance he was washing the bucket, cleaning his brushes or preparing to clean the airless sprayer. It’s fairly common to put the intake tube of the airless sprayer into water and continue spraying paint on the house. We have about 100 feet of hose on our pumps which means there is a little less than a gallon of paint in the line. 1 gallon is enough paint to put a thick coat of paint on 1 side of a 50 ft fence.
My house is 90 years old and the paint is peeling off, what do I do?
Congratulations on owning what I lovingly refer to as a “peeler”. Hopefully it’s a beautiful Victorian or Craftsman in North Tacoma with a view of Commencement Bay! In my dream world you would call a sider and have him install some nice cementious siding then have me paint your nice new siding!
The first thing we do is pressure wash the house. We take our time and try to peel as much paint off as we can with the washer. After it dries it’s time to get up close and personal with our paint scrapers. Once we get as much of the loose paint off as we can we prime the newly uncovered bare wood with XIM’s Peelbond. Peelbond is a really thick glue like primer that glues down the edges of the loose paint and soaks into the flaking cracks. Now we can paint the house just like any other house.