Am I being OCD/too demanding, or is the painter lazy?
Hi everyone! First post to this forum; my husband and I recently bought a 1950's ranch. It's in pretty good condition, but we are having the entire interior painted: walls, trim, the works. We chose to go with professionals because it's a 2,000+ SF house, plus we aren't very good painters and I don't want to spend the next 10 years staring at my mistakes. We did our research in choosing a painting company: got several quotes, didn't choose the lowest one, looked at BBB ratings, etc. They've gotten started on the trim and I have some concerns.
Stuff I've noticed with their trim work:
1. Not painting the top edge of any window or door frames. I've read in some places that this is standard and others that this is lazy. It's a one-story ranch so nobody sees that area, but it's rough and hard to clean when it's not painted. Am I being unreasonable in wanting them to paint it?! My contract states "all trim to be prepped and painted", not "all trim except the top edge that nobody sees".
2. Inconsistent caulking. Some windows and doors all edges (besides the aforementioned neglected top edge) are caulked (sometimes badly, with lumps) and some windows and doors are caulked on most edges except ones that are harder to see…like the edge of a door or window frame that has a perpendicular wall running close by. My contract states that they will "caulk woodwork and window frames to drywall in needed areas".
3. Suboptimal surface prep. The contract states all areas to be painted will receive a light sanding and filling of nail holes or minor imperfections. When I've been here while they're working, I haven't seen anyone sand anything. I've seen several nail holes just painted over with no filling at all. In some areas the old paint is peeling and it looks like it was just painted right over.
Now the most awkward part I'm having trouble navigating: the company owner. He's on site a decent amount of the time and has done some of the painting himself…and his painting is the work that's the worst! The guys he has working for him are actually doing a pretty good job. I actually like the guys working for him much more than the owner himself. When he came by this morning I told him I had some concerns about the trim and he assured me that we'll do a walk through at project completion. I'm concerned that if we wait until then, it'll be harder for them to fix the trim issues once the walls have been painted, and I'd be more comfortable doing a walk through of the trim and getting those issues fixed before color goes on the walls. Is that unreasonable? He seemed to balk at the idea.
He also told me that it might be a problem to match some of my colors because they're tints…for example, in most of the house I want to use Benjamin Moore's Gray Owl at 150%. I made this clear to him when I hired him, and he said matching them would be no problem (he's using PPG). This morning he asked me if I could either pick "real" colors (NO! It took me FOREVER to settle on what I chose!) or provide color samples of the two tints I want (Gray Owl at 150% and at 200%). Luckily I had samples painted on some poster board to give him, but now I'm nervous they won't match correctly, and I'm annoyed that he's known my colors for weeks and this concern is just now being communicated to me. I was about ready to tell him that if his PPG people can't match that (why wouldn't they be able to?!), then he's gonna have to just go to the Benjamin Moore store and get it done right.
Sorry this post is so long. Just hoping to hear from people with experience with professional painters, or professional painters themselves…"You're being reasonable and these concerns are valid" or "You're being an OCD freak and we hate working with people like you". I don't want to be "THAT customer"…I've never worked with professional painters before so I'm just not sure what's expected.
Speaking of, do professional painters want you to get out of the house while they're here? I've been trying to do that, but I'm a nurse and am off work 4 days per week, so leaving all day every day is getting a little cumbersome. I'm trying to just stay out of their way, but is it weird for the homeowner to stay while a project is going on?
Thanks in advance for your input!
Yup. Many "Pros" do sloppy work because it is money in their pocket if they they don't get called on it. You are right on every point you raise. Tell this "Pro" he is working for you and will do as he promised. Exception, sanding all the walls? Wall prep dose not require a general sanding. They need to have imperfections repaired then be cleaned. Repaired areas will need minor sanding perhaps.
It's my understanding that trim should be sanded prior to a repaint though right? Especially if there's peeling/chipped paint involved?
Yes sanding the trim, and often the walls is standard prep. On a 1950's house, lead testing should be done before any sanding/scraping. Fairly high chances of lead paint in houses of that age. Hope your guy is RRP certified as required.
As to your other concerns, I don't see them as unreasonable. You may be being a little OCD about it, but all the things you mentioned are valid concerns IMO.
Sanding should always be done as you sometimes don't know an area really needed it until you see what the sandpaper took off. All nail holes should be filled and sanded unless previously agreed on like if a painting is going right back up.
Caulking is hard to judge without seeing their work. If something on the wall or trim is causing the caulk to have lumps it should have been sanded. Caulking the edge of a door or window frame that has a perpendicular wall running close by depends on if you can get the caulk tip in at the angle you need. Sometimes it's better to leave it be rather than try and glob it in there and then using your finger to push it where you want it.
Not painting above door and window frames isn't lazy. If you can't see it most people don't care if it's painted or not.
I'm RRP certified. I'll clean before painting old houses, but sanding (compliance) bumps the cost up and gives only an incremental improvement in the final job - I avoid it.
Chips in the underlying trim paint shouldn't be noticeable - they should have been feathered or filled.
Tops of window / door trim should be caulked and painted.
Seems like all these problems/potential problems could be alleviated by ONE thing: Communication.
very good work for a agreed upon price
I have been in business over 25 years and I have seen and heard it ALL. I constantly fix other contractor mistakes and shoddy work. And home owners bad work or failed attempts, too. First off, painting is not a trade that takes a college education or a degree. Anyone can claim to be a painter and go in business easily. Many laid off factory workers become instant painters and go on Craigslist the next day. Many teenage kids looking for a fast buck work as cheap labor for painters. Then you have the "HEY, I'm a great painter and will work for almost free." "I'll do your entire house for $99.00, etc."
Now I am not knocking painters regarding education, some have a higher education than myself. I am a painter and many other trades are under my belt. And I have made a lot of money being one. But the trade is full of less than desirables and unscrupulous kinds. I hope you get my drift here.
Look, a good company, One-man or otherwise, earns their reputation by doing very good work for a agreed upon price.
Expensive or not, it does not matter. Price should not be relevant to good work. It can be an indication of it, but let the buyer beware. What is relevant to finding a great painter or company is reputation, word of mouth, references from people you know and trust.
To address your issues by number...
1. Not painting the top edge of any window or door frames.
*** Every area in that contract should be to specification. That includes the tops of all doors and windows. It is very easy to do and only takes a minute to do the job right. That should have been a tip off to you that those painters are less than honest. Even if it seems to be difficult to get at some areas, a true and good painter knows how, and it's very easy.
(you can contact me privately and I'll tell you how to do it, I'm not giving away my business secrets publically for the shoddy painters who may be reading this)
The same with tight door frames close to walls.
2. Inconsistent caulking.
*** Same as above basically. Caulking is fairly hard to do when you don't know what you are doing. It can become very messy, very quickly. And the end result can become horrible looking. Lots of practice here is the key to a good job. I don't put most of my young guys on caulking a customers home until I am positive they are good enough at it.
Insist on every nook and cranny being caulked properly. No lumps, no bumps, no missed spots and consistent width. A proper caulking can make or break a fine job.
You are paying them your hard earned money to do the job the right way. Make them earn their money the hard way, as you do. If it's not right, make them rip it out and start over.
3. Suboptimal surface prep.
*** Per the contract, all areas to be lightly sanded. The key word is "all", that includes the walls. It might just be a light sanding to knock down tiny imperfections or it may take some real effort. Every job is different here and it depends on what you are applying, over what.
If you want real perfection for your walls, speaking drywall, you need a Level 5 drywall job done first, usually done by a drywall guy. But I myself do Level 5. It adds a lot to your cost but makes for a beautiful finished job. And it requires a degree of skill, the mud needs to be the right mix/consistency. Experience really counts here. And using the right mud. Trade secrets not talked about much, father to son stuff.
If you can tell they didn't sand your walls, stand up for yourself and demand to the owner that he go over every wall again, AFTER light sanding them.
If you wind up with a free coat of paint, too bad for him. Maybe he will learn a valuable lesson.
And do NOT pay until you are satisfied with the job, totally and in every way.
You are in control of your situation, you might just not know it. Money talks. If he has to wait and sweat it out because you refuse to pay until it is done right, he will be forced to fix things as soon as he realizes you are serious. He has a payroll to meet, he has supplier bills to pay. He will get the picture soon enough.
Don't feel bad about doing this, you are paying him. He wants your MONEY.
<> then he's gonna have to just go to the Benny Moore store and get it done right.
**** Exactly, force him to do just that, and check the paint cans to make sure.
Save a empty can, too. For color match later. If there is any paint left over, get it from him.
<> and I'd be more comfortable doing a walk through of the trim and getting those issues fixed before color goes on the walls. Is that unreasonable? He seemed to balk at the idea.
**** You are correct, the trim should be perfect before the wall coating gets applied.
However, you can't force this one. The final walkthrough will have to suffice. Then hold him to it, again, do not pay until you are happy.
I wish you much luck, and next time, do some research. Ask for references and SPEAK to the references. Get at least 3. State that you are going to ask the references if you can actually see the work. This is not crazy talk, it eliminates friends and brother-in-laws and drug addicts from being references.
You don't need to go see the work really, especially interior work, but just mention it to the contractor.
Shakey contractors will fall apart right away when you tell them you are going to call and ask to actually see the quality work they do.
Bottom line, it's your money. Spend it wisely. Any honest painter worth his salt will be happy to comply with your requests.
Look, we do a lot of work, and I mean a LOT.
90% of our customers are return customers or have been referred by our customers. We do it all, residential, commercial and industrial. We have never had a call back or dis-satisfied customer. Never in over 20 years. It is due to the way we conduct business and treat our customer. It doesn't make a difference to us whether you spend $500.00 or $500,000.00 with us. We give you exactly what you paid for. And sometimes a little more.:)
By the way, I am NOT stating all this looking for work, I have way too much now. This is NOT advertising in any way. Don't call me, please. I don't need the work and I am serious.
I just plopped this together to give you an idea of what you should be looking for in a quality paint company.
References, references...references. Get them.
Designers and specifiers are encouraged to
consult the following reference documents:
ASTM C11,Standard Terminology Relating to
Gypsum and Related Building Materials and Systems
ASTM International,West Conshohocken, PA.
ASTM C 840,Standard Specification for
Application and Finish of Gypsum Board
ASTM International,West Conshohocken, PA.
GA-216,Application and Finishing of Gypsum
Panel Products, 2010. Gypsum Association,
Master Painters Glossary, Painting and Decorating
Contractors of America, St.Louis,MO.
Contact one of the following associations for
Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry
513 West Broad Street, Suite 210
Falls Church, VA 22046-3257
Telephone: (703) 538-1600
Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction
405 Illinois Avenue, Unit 2B
St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Telephone: (630) 584-1919
Drywall Finishing Council
6525 Belcrest Road, Suite 480
Hyattsville, Maryland 20782
Telephone: (301) 277-8686
Painting and Decorating Contractors of
1801 Park 270 Drive, Suite 220
St. Louis, MO 63146
Telephone: (314) 514-7322
The only thing I see is when you say you haven't seen them sand. They could have sanded when you weren't there, a light sanding is usually just to take boogers off and may not really be visible.
As far as the paint colors go I would stop him and demand he use the Ben Moore you selected.
Definitely make him re-caulk a poor job will take a lot away from a great paint job.
They should paint the top of the trim if you want them to, for the reason you mentioned (cleaning).
Surface prep is lacking, but then again I'm just going by what you're saying - if it should be done and it's not being done, then it should be done :)
Personally I haven't gone up in color percentage, only down. e.g. I've done 50% or 75% colors. Assuming you can go up (I assume you can) it should be no problem at all for those color matches. If he hasn't given you a specific reason (such as the tint amount for 200% in that color is beyond the maximum tint they will put in that base), then he's just being difficult. Obviously you should not be expected to provide color samples to him if he's already said he can do it. The major paint companies can usually match each other's colors anyway, without computer matching. I don't use PPG, but I'm pretty sure Sherwin Williams will already have Gray Owl in their database, and of course doing 150% is a no-brainer from there (assuming what I said above).
If I were working in your home and you asked me to do something reasonable like fix the trim now, I would certainly try to keep you happy. The guy sounds kind of like a goof to me. But then the industry is full of them.
It's normal for the homeowner to stay at home, although please do stay out of their way.
Sit down with the owner of the co. and your contract tell him everything you told us. Show him what you mean. If he starts arguing then it is time to find a new painter.
Thanks for all the advice guys. This whole situation is so stressful, especially since I haven't used a professional painter before.
He never did the trim walk-through with me, and they've gone on to painting the walls. One room they painted the wrong color (despite a very clear e-mail specifying exactly which colors in which rooms). In a lot of places the line between trim and wall isn't as clean as I'd like; i.e. there's paint coming up onto the window frames and such. It's not awful, but it's not much better than what I could do myself. I'm paying for a pro because I want perfect results, and I'm disappointed. I've also noticed that the caulk they've used is cracking on almost every window (almost looks like little black hairs in the caulk)…it's TopGun 140. Not sure if it's a product issue or an application issue.
I don't know where to go from here. I've already paid him 50% of the job cost. Of course I'll withhold the rest until I'm satisfied, but what should I do in the meantime? Just wait for the final walk-through to point out the multitude of things that are wrong, since he brushed me off when I tried to do one with him earlier? I'm not really comfortable with that. I won't be here when they return Monday (I'm working); should I just tell him to come on Tuesday so we can talk? Or e-mail him today?
It's frustrating how hard it is to find a good painter.
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