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How to Evaluate Painting Proposals

In shopping for paint jobs, a common mistake that I see homeowners make is to invite a bunch of painters over, point them to the project and, without providing any additional guidance, ask them for a quote.

Maybe those homeowners just didn’t want to offend contractors with excessive job descriptions or perhaps they thought that a professional would know best. It is true that professionals should know best but, modified by individual experience (or lack thereof), one painter’s approach to a job may be completely different from another. For example, one bidder may include an extra finish coat – maybe this is how their old boss always did it. Another bidder may entirely omit the prime coat – perhaps this is the only way they can outbid the competition. Yet, someone else may not include a light well – maybe they did not notice it or did not think it needs doing.

What will likely happen, with the aforementioned proposals, is that the scope of work, job specifications and price will be all over the place, which will make these proposals nearly impossible to compare. This can leave the homeowner with the need to redo the bidding process from scratch or, even worse, with the need to revisit the process, in the middle of the ongoing job, when it comes to light that something the homeowner wanted painted was not included in the “winning” proposal.

Homeowners can easily avoid such confusions by simply providing all bidders with a project description. This description does not have to be very complicated, just as long as it is exactly the same for every bidder. Here is an example of what I mean:

Paint exterior of 123 Main St.

Include the following: All work at front, back, east side light well, partial west side (above the neighbor’s roof).

  • Clean, crape and prepare all surfaces to be painted.
  • Use one complete coat of primer and one coat of finish paint.
  • The front will be three colors, the back and sides – two colors.
  • Material will be top grade of “XYZ Paint Company”.

Even with a project description in hand, you may find that some bidders will recommend something different than what was described. At this stage of the game, you should resist the temptation to stray from your project description and keep in mind your goal of getting comparable proposals. So, even if you like that recommendation of an extra finish coat for example, you should ask the recommending bidder to give it to you as an alternate – a separate price for only that extra coat. This way, when the time comes to compare your proposals, you will not end up trying to compare apples to oranges or to some other completely different type of fruit.

(Also read How to Select Best Painting Contractor.)

Yefim Skomorovsky
Painting Contractor in San Francisco Bay Area

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