Why Do Painting Contractor’s Prices Vary So Much?At Brooks Painting we do a lot of estimates for paint jobs in a year. At least 1,500 a year. Yes, we look at a lot of homes and businesses each day. We do see a lot of the same things, but each project is unique in its own way. They have different prep work, different scopes, different colors, and different schedules. Price is something that inevitably comes into the discussions we have. It’s often difficult for customers to discern the differences between the various estimates they get. What makes this even harder is that there can be huge differences in the prices from one contractor to another. Hopefully we can shed some light on that.
The first reason we see big differences in pricing, is what is included in the bid. One company includes 2 coats of paint, another includes 1 coat. A lot of times you need 2 coats because of color changes, or because the surface is so dry it requires it. If they don’t spell out how many coats make sure you have them retype it, never take their word for it. Next is the level of prep work. Prep work is the base for all good paint jobs, and varies greatly. Make sure all the prep work is spelled out, step by step in writing. Again, they might verbalize it, but unless it is in writing they don’t have to do it. Next is the grade of paint. Paint prices can vary from $15 per gallon, up to $50 per gallon. There is a lot that goes into the price of paint, and that is a whole different topic. The bottom line is making sure you are comparing apple to apple on paints; it can literally add hundreds of dollars to the price difference. When you sit down to compare the bids and make your decision, it is critical to compare all areas and make sure everything you were told is in writing.
The second reason for price differences we see a lot is lack of knowledge by the contractor. They may be a new company and not have a good process for estimating a project. They may have lots of experience as a painter, and remember how long that last house took them to paint. The problem is they don’t measure and figure out each item they will do, they just guess. Sometimes they make money, sometimes they lose money. They may not really know what their costs are. Many painters become painting contractors, and think “I made $20/hour working for this guy, I’ll charge $30 and make more money.” They don’t realize all the taxes and extra costs that they will now incur. A real good gage for a client to know if they are getting an accurate estimate is what the company does during the estimate. Do they ask lots of questions and write them down? How much time do they spend with you? At Brooks Painting we spend on average an hour per estimate at the client’s home. Do they actually measure the job, or do they just eyeball it? The more questions, the more time spent, is directly related to the detail of the written estimate.
When it comes time to choose your painting contractor for your next project, take the time and compare your estimates. Look at them side by side, compare the level of detail, make sure everything thing they told you is written down, compare they paints they are specifying. Above all else make sure you are comfortable with them, like them, trust them, and check their references.