It is not a secret that painting your cabinets, at least in Denver, has become a very hot commodity. If you have not done it already, my guess is that you have some questions. I get questions about painting cabinets from all over the country; from designers, homeowners, and even from other painting contractors. So, let’s talk about some of the most common questions, when it comes to painting cabinets.
- Is painting cabinets just a fad? Will I want my stained wood cabinets back in a few years?
I get this question a lot, especially when we paint cabinets white. My answer is that white cabinets are just like a little black dress. They are classic. Yes, they may be what’s hot right now, but since I have been an adult, white kitchen cabinets have been hot at least three times. Also, if you decide you want to change the color in a few years, once you’ve had your cabinets painted the first, it is much less expensive to change the color…about half the cost. A white kitchen is classic though, and will be in style for quite a while. Besides, a majority of the cabinets we paint are oak…I can almost guarantee you that oak cabinets, unpainted, will never come back as a HOT style trend (and I’m not sure they were ever on trend to begin with).
- Will painting my cabinets last? Will they chip and peel?
This is a very valid question, and one that should make you do your research before you jump in. A painted cabinet can last a long time, if it is done correctly. The problem is a lot of painters and homeowners do not know the right way to paint cabinets. How do I know this? I’m in painter chat rooms, I see lots of cabinets that have been painted and fail almost immediately, and I’ve walked through houses that have just been placed on the market with half-assed painted cabinet jobs. Yes, it is EASY to paint them the wrong way, but takes much more time and energy to do the research and paint them the proper way. We give our customers a LIFETIME warranty on all of our painted cabinets…and we do free touch-ups for as long as our customers live in their home. So the answer is, yes, they can chip and you can have failure. BUT, the good news is, if you do the proper steps (and I will get into that in a bit), they will stand up quite well to everyday life.
- Do I need to clear coat over the paint to protect them?
Please do not do this! If you select the right finish paint, you will have a hard surface that will not easily yellow. I was called out to see a set of cabinets last year that had yellowed almost immediately after another company painted them. The homeowner showed me the color she had selected (a very clean and bright white), but her cabinets we a dingy off-white yellow. She was so disgusted. I told her we could repaint them, but it was going to be more than she paid previously for the other job that didn’t work out. So do it right the first time.
- How long does it take to paint our cabinets?
That depends on the process. The typical painting contractor will do one of two things. They will either take over your garage to paint in, or they will take your doors and drawers to their shop. In either case, you can expect the average kitchen to take about two weeks. At Walls by Design, our average kitchen takes about a week. The reason is because we bring a mobile spray booth (a 20-foot trailer) to your house and spray all the doors and drawer inside it. This system has enabled us to be super-efficient and provide a superior end product.
- Can I keep using my kitchen during the process?
Again, that depends. If the company you hire is spraying your boxes they will have to tent off the area; they will cover everything in your kitchen completely with plastic. Often times, you will not be able to use it for 3 to 4 days. If they are spraying a lacquer, you will want to leave your home for 3 to 4 days. With the process we use at Walls by Design, you can continue to use your kitchen throughout the process, minus the time we are actually in it prepping and painting…you just won’t have your doors and drawers for 4-5 days.
- Can you paint the end panels that have laminate on them?
It’s not real wood but yes. We have painted hundreds of kitchens now, and have not had one failure to report. If your painting contractor uses the wrong type of primer though, you will have more problems other than just the end caps.
- How do you prep the cabinets so they last?
Surface preparation is the most important aspect of any cabinet painting project. It is the foundation. If the foundation is not solid, nothing on top will last. This is the biggest area of failure we see with other painting contractors. They try to skip steps, or simply do not know what the correct steps need to be. When we started getting a lot of requests for painting cabinets, we did our homework to figure out what was the best way to prep cabinets. This is our process:
- Dismantle everything. We mark and take everything apart. I saw a kitchen once that was getting sprayed. They opened all the doors, taped off the hinges, and let the paint fly. As you can imagine, it was not a pretty site.
- Buff sand all surfaces. Not a heavy sand, just a light scuff to break down the finish a little.
- Wipe down all surfaces with a de-glosser. This is simply a very strong cleaning agent, and does two things for us: Gets rid of all the dust we created with sanding, and further etches into the finish. Paint does not like shiny surfaces. If it doesn’t have anything to hold onto, it will release. Most painters only like to wipe down with the de-glosser, and not sand, but we feel these are two very important steps done together that cannot be missed.
- Prime with a bonding primer. This is one of the biggest area of failure by most painting contractors. They simply do not understand what a bonding primer is compared to any other primer. We see Kilz used a lot, but typically not the Kilz bonding primer. We like a product called Stix. It is made by Benjamin Moore, and will literally stick to glass.
- Then, if we have an oak cabinet or a dark stained cabinet we use another primer called Fresh Start, also by Benjamin Moore. This helps seal the grain of the oak and/or block any stains. We apply a heave rolled coat onto the oak cabinets, then spray two more coats to get the best coverage.
- Can you get rid of the grain I see on my oak cabinets?
Yes and no. Yes, it is possible. They make some putties and fillers that will do the job, but it is very costly. We find that most people want to paint their cabinets because it cost WAY less than replacing them. If you try to fill the grain and make them smooth, it will cost you as much as if you replaced the doors. Almost anything is possible, but some things are just not practical.
These are some of the most common questions we get about painting cabinets in Denver. If you have additional questions, we would love to answer them. Contact us via our website, call in, or message us on our Facebook page. Some of our customers want to see finished cabinets prior, and we gladly invite you to come visit us at our office where we have actual cabinets we have painted. Unfortunately, we cannot bring you into other clients’ homes to see their cabinets…that would be weird. We have both smooth doors, as well as oak doors that we have painted using the same process we would use in your home If you would like to see additional pictures please check out our Facebook page, as most of our projects get uploaded there.
Painting Accent walls
Have you ever wondered how to pick the right color and which wall to feature as an accent wall? I get this question a lot. In fact, on occasion, customers will have us come out to give them an estimate just to paint some “accent walls.” I think we have all gone to a model home or seen a featured home in a magazine with a dining room, or hallway with a stunning accent wall. The problem is, you are only seeing part of the picture. You may be seeing a well-staged room, but you have to remember you live in your home, and you need to think of the space as a whole.
I realize that cost can be a driving factor for people to want accent walls. People want to decorate, they want to have a home that is on trend, but they don’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars. Accent walls can be a great addition to a project, but they need to be executed the right way, or they will just stand out and feel off.
Just accent walls?
I have had several customers over the years call me with the typical, “builder white” walls: all the ceilings and walls are the same color and are all flat. When I have been called about this, I am often asked to “just paint a few accent walls.” I will almost always talk them out of this for a few reasons. Firstly, the finished product will look unfinished. The home will look like you have done exactly what you asked, “just painted a few walls” and like you didn’t have the money to paint the entire house in full. If you saw a home in a magazine or a model home, all the colors would be designed to work together along with the décor. Adding a few “pops of color” will not get you to your intended look. If you don’t believe me, have you ever gone shopping wearing your “normal clothes,” picked up a scarf or hat you liked, added it to your outfit in order to add a “pop of color,” and it magically just worked? My guess is no, of course not. Instead, you would put together a whole outfit involving that accessory so that everything matched. In order to achieve a certain look, all of the colors and the décor in a space must be considered.
When simply choosing to paint a few accent walls, you are ignoring the other walls that most likely need attention. Most homes I enter, unless it is a brand new home, have wear and tear. Walls get grimy. My wife and I bought a house two years ago, painted all the walls, and already our upstairs hall looks horrible due to the two teenage monsters that inhabit the end of the hall. Unless you and your spouse are empty-nesters or require your children to wear gloves in the house, your walls will also take a beating on a regular basis.
Besides the topic of “just painting accent walls,” I often get asked how to select the right wall as an accent wall. I have a few rules of thumb. Most accent walls should only be done for two specific reasons:
- The wall is symmetrical.
- The wall has an architectural detail you want to highlight, like an art niche, a fireplace detail, or special moldings.
When you paint an accent wall, you are trying to grab attention. You are saying: “Hey, look at me!” You don’t want friends and guests in your home to then think: “Why am I looking at that wall?” If the wall is odd shaped or just ordinary, you should not accent it. I had a customer insist on painting a HUGE wall that stretched over her kitchen and into her entryway in a deep red. I told her not to paint it, she insisted, and boy did it stand out…and not in a good way. And no, I don’t think the customer is always right. She was definitely wrong on this one.
Picking the right color for and accent wall.
Customers always want to know how to pick the right color for an accent wall. Now I am no color expert, but I have selected a TON of colors for customers over the years. In fact, I used to do all the color selection for our customers and was even named as one of the best resources for color design in Denver by a major home décor magazine. When selecting an accent color, I usually look for colors that are already present in the space. For inspiration, I will usually look at pillows, pictures, rugs, drapes, or bedding. Often times, I would recommend a color that we would use in another part of the home for an accent color. For example, the living room and dining room might be one color while the main space or family room is another. I would use the living room/dining room color as an accent in the family room, whichThis works well to bring unity and cohesion in the space, without letting it get too busy.
One big mistake I often see other “color designers” do is make an accent color two or three shades off the main color. As a painter, it drives me crazy, as you can barely see the color change due to shadows and different light directions. If you want to accent something, go big or go home I always say. The worst is when we are asked to use one color number off of the main number. You would look straight at the walls and not notice anything. My feeling is that some color designers feel the need to select a lot of different colors to justify their fees. I believe less is more and to keep it simple. I like using multiple colors, but you need to be thoughtful and be sensible. If you can hold two color cards out with straight arms, separate them (not hold them right next to each other), and are unable to tell a color difference, you need to select one of them and terminate the other.
Accent walls can be tricky to select, but if done right, they can add interest and excitement to a space with little additional money. I would suggest not to over think it and not to force it. If you want an accent wall, go back to my two rules of thumb: Is the wall symmetrical? and/or does it have an architectural detail you would like to highlight? I have literally had to tell customers that they have NO good walls to accent. It’s okay. Just make sure to use other types of décor in order to spice up the space.
If you are looking to paint accent walls in Denver, and would like some assistance, please reach out to us, we would love to help.
How to Properly Remove Wallpaper
As a kid, I can remember my parents hiring a painting contractor team for our new house. They did everything, and one of the things they did for my parents was to hang rolls and rolls of wallpaper. There was a big patterned wallpaper in the entryway (which helped to hide a hole I later created as a teenager), a grass cloth in the family room (which I later painted over), a small print in the powder bathroom, and many other patterns throughout the house. So, when I think of wallpaper, I think of the 80’s. Lots of browns and flowers. Maybe you also have visions of wallpaper from the 80’s.
Different methods to remove wallpaper.
As a paint contractor, I have learned how to remove wallpaper the hard way…by trying every way under the sun. While Walls by Design strictly focuses on painting and no longer removes wallpaper, there are lots of techniques that I have tried and heard of, and I would like to share my comments and experience on a few of them with you.
The Paper Tiger. You may have seen this. It looks like an over-sized computer mouse that you roll over the wallpaper, and it creates a scoring pattern in the paper. The thought behind this tool is that it helps to penetrate the wallpaper’s top layer, which allows water to get into the paper, to release the glue. The problem with this method is that I found that it damages the drywall too much. There is a balance between getting aggressive with removing the wallpaper and leaving the drywall intact. It is very difficult to avoid drywall damage with any of the methods, but it has been my experience that the Paper Tiger causes a bit too much damage when trying to remove wallpaper.
Wallpaper remover solution. There are different brands that make solutions that are supposed to break down the glue and make it easier to remove the paper from the wall. One I have used in the past is called Dif. I have always found this method to be too tedious and not very effective. If you want to use something, I would suggest trying liquid fabric softener. I have heard this provides very similar results.
Wallpaper steamer. This is the tool I have found to have the best and most consistent results. Wallpaper steamers are not expensive, and if you have a lot to remove, you might considering renting a commercial grade steamer, as most local rental stores will rent them for $20 – $40 per day. A lightweight residential version by Wagner can be purchased at Walmart for about $50. These have worked well for us in the past, but can crap out after a dozen projects or so.
I like using a wallpaper steamer because it is predictable. It does take patience, and can still damage the wallboard, but once you get a feel for it, it is easy to work…boring, but easy. Wallpaper removal is not rocket science, and I think most people just get impatient with it. What makes it hard is working on large walls or above your head. Wrestling with the machine hoses can also be frustrating. Tight spaces between trim or walls and cabinets can be difficult as well, but usually, wallpaper installed in these areas do not receive as much glue, and can usually be removed without too much problem.
After the wallpaper is removed.
- You can keep washing or steaming the walls, and try to scrape all the wallpaper glue off. This is usually a ridiculously laborious task, one that I would avoid like the plague.
- The better option is to seal the glue in. Because the glue is typically water based, it would reactivate if you seal it with a water-based product. My recommendation is to seal the walls with an oil based primer like Alkyd Fresh Start by Benjamin Moore. This will seal the glue in and provide a good solid foundation for whatever you need to do from here.
Problems that will occur if you DO NOT seal or remove all the glue.
A friend of mine who lives on the east coast emailed me a few weeks ago with a question. She wanted to know why her walls were bubbling in places after they had removed wallpaper. To which I told her she needed to seal her walls. What most people do after wallpaper removal is repair any drywall damage. Drywall compound is also water based and will reactivate the glue. This causes the bubbles. I once walked onto a project where a drywall contractor had skimmed most of the house after removing wallpaper. Bubbles were created throughout the entire house. I had to tell the homeowner the best way to proceed was to oil prime the walls, then fix any of the bubbles. A costly mistake. Once the oil prime and drywall repair are done, a latex drywall primer can be used, and then a finish coat or coats can be applied.
So to recap, here are the proper steps for wallpaper removal:
- Remove the wallpaper.
- Clean off all the glue OR seal with an oil based primer.
- Repair drywall damage.
- Prime new drywall with a drywall primer.
- Top coat.
With anything, people will try to skip steps and cut corners…that is where problems occur. Can you remove wallpaper, get lucky and skip to painting with no problems? Sure, I bet, 1 out of 10 times you try it, you will escape with no problems, but it is usually because the glue that was used was either very lightly applied, or the project is so old that a different kind of glue was used. In that case though, there are other problems that can occur.
Removing wallpaper can be a huge task. When we did it, we always gave an estimated range of the cost but never could give an exact number. The reason is, we never knew how easy it would be to remove. I have had wallpaper tear down in big sheets in minutes, and I have spent hours on just one wall. You can never know how it will go. Everyone always says: “I think they did a really good job during installation, so it should come down easy.” Well, we will see. And even if one wall comes down easy, it does not mean all the wallpaper removal will go easy. I once worked in a dining room that started great – sheets were coming down with ease. Then we hit the second wall, and they installed the wallpaper right over raw drywall and we spent 4 hours on a 6 ft. wall. So, you never know.
How this Denver Painter built systems to be a better painter
In our industry, the barrier to entry is pretty small. I recently wrote a blog post on titled: Are all Denver Painters Idiots? Now, I know that may be offensive to some, but in reality that is the perception that most people hold about our profession. To be a Denver painter is a difficult business, and to grow into something larger than just one guy, a truck and a few helpers/painters, you need to have systems.
I started my Denver painting business like many…in college. I first worked for a company that “hired” all college students, and “taught” us to paint, sell, manage, and market all in one week. And of course, since I was 18 years old, I was naive enough to believe that I could be successful, and that was plenty of training. Working my way through college, I made good money, but I was simply flying by the seat of my pants. Through it all, my dad would tell me, “Now Nick, remember…you are going to school so you don’t have to paint for the rest of your life.” Well, 26 years later, boy have I shown him!
I did get out of painting for about four years. After getting my degree in marketing, and working for a few different companies, I realized that I was pretty unhappy working for other people. In 1999, I started my Denver painting business. But this time, I wasn’t going to be un business just for 4 months in the summer…this time it was for real. Up until this point, I had only really known how to paint exteriors. I had done a few interior jobs, but boy, did those not go well. So, I knew the best thing I could do was to hire someone that had interior painting experience. From there, I just kept hiring people. Today as a Denver painter, I have a staff of 17 painters, two office gals, two sales/project managers, and two logistics guys (one is very part-time), and me, the CMO, or Chief Marketing Officer. A lot has happened in the last 17 years, but it all changed when I started to build systems for my paint contracting business.
I believe what separates the mediocre Denver painting contractors from the truly exceptional ones is systems. Any Denver painter can have the skills it takes to paint a room…we are not talking brain surgery here. To deliver on a promise of showing up, and getting the job done day in and day out, takes systems. If a painter is reliant on just himself, or maybe him and one other really good guy, the system will break down. He will over promise, get sick, or his back-up will let him down.
About five years ago, my wife and I were up in Breckenridge, CO for the weekend with friends. One of the evenings, we were playing cards, and our friend Jaime told us she wanted to start a business building systems for small companies. She had a background (when she was younger) working on logistics and systems for a large company, and thought there might be a need with smaller companies. I jumped on it, and said, “Well, you can start with me!” I had read Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth TWELVE times, and still could not figure out how to do it myself. We had even written an employee manual, and had attempted writing down systems SO many times. But you know how it is, you have to RUN the business. Who has time to write about the business? Well, today, I have time, but we will get to that.
The process took us about 8 months. We would meet regularly, but the great part was Jaime documenting our processes from an outsider’s perspective. She would sit with me, sit with my painters, my office staff, AND she even met with some of our customers. She did not just want to get my ideas on how things should be done, but how things were BEING done in the field, AND how is all of that impacting the customer. She helped me identify not only the things that were not working in my painting business, but also helped me see things and problems that I wasn’t even aware of. To this day, we still try to identify problems and document any new changes to our procedures. At first, it is a bit daunting, but once you start down the road, see some of the affects, and get control of your painting business, you soon realize (or at least I did), how valuable these systems are.
Jaime mainly helped us document and systematize our production procedures, but once she showed us how, we were able to document and record our systems for most of the areas in my Denver painting business. Here are some of the areas you will need to consider:
- Project management
- Office/admin tasks
How has this changed my Denver painting business?
From a business owner’s perspective, it has changed everything. My wife and I were able to take two weeks off last summer to go to Italy (and my project manager at the time had just quit). I took three vacations this summer for a total of four weeks (and we had the biggest sales month ever in August), we have doubled in size this year, and will have our biggest sales and production year in company history, and personally, I get to focus on what I love to do…and be out of some of the day to day business management tasks that I dislike.
You might be wondering, why does this matter to me, the homeowner? All I care about is you do a great job painting my house. But I want to assure you, it has everything to do with why you should choose Walls by Design to be your Denver painter, and why you should not settle.
Setting an Appointment
Every homeowner knows what it is like to get bids from a Denver painter or any other contractor. I am experiencing it right now for a patio. You first search around for who to call, and then you have to make the calls. If you are anything like me, I just cringe when I have to start this process, because I know I will be waiting a long time on most of the steps in the process.
Once you start making phone calls, you have to wait to talk to someone. On my first contractor, I called and waited three days to get a call back, and I sent an email through his website as well. Granted, I did call on a Friday, but it felt like eternity. It would have been nice to at least get an email letting me that they would get back to me.
In our Denver painting business, we have a system for answering the phones. We have two gals in the office to answer the phones. So most calls get answered, but if they do go into voice mail, a call back happens usually within a few hours, if not a few minutes. If a request comes through our email or through Facebook, we have an automated system that responds to each homeowner. My staff also watches the emails that come in as well, and we personally respond to all calls and emails that come in late on Friday and on Saturday, letting homeowners know that we are thankful they reached out to us, and that someone will call them to set up an appointment on Monday.
In addition to all of this, we also have a backup answering service that answers our phones from 4 to 6 pm each night so homeowners have a live person to talk to. In the near future, we will also be offering an online appointment option. We find that more and more of our customers are busy and hard to connect with directly on the phone, so allowing people to book their own appointment times will really expedite the process for some people. I truly believe to offer good customer service, a Denver painting contractor needs to listen to their customers, and sometimes, that means watching behaviors and reacting to what might best serve all parties involved.
Once you have finally gotten an appointment with your Denver painter, now you are hopeful that they just show up. In my instance, all of the three contractors I set appointments with did show up, two were right on time, and one was late. I have heard from customers that Denver painters are often times either way too early, or routinely late. Being early for an estimate is great, but if you are an hour early, and do not call, I find that just rude. What happens most of the time, however, is Denver painters showing up late. Things happen, I understand that, and most homeowners do too, but all one needs to do is call, and the appropriate time to do this is 30 minutes or so prior to the appointment, when you know you are going to be late.
Once the Denver painter is there, how does he or she show up? Are they covered in paint, or do they smell like they just got out of a smoke filled bar? Many times when I show up to an estimate for a new home purchase, I will find myself estimating the house right alongside of another Denver painter or two, and most of the time, they look as though they literally just came off a ladder. Not only is this uncomfortable for the homeowner, but it communicates that they are the chief cook, bottle washer, and sales guy.
Another interesting dynamic that I see often is the tag team sales appointment. Not sure what else to call it, but you may have experienced this in the past. You are expecting to meet with one person to come and give you an estimate, and when you open the door, there is Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. I’m sorry, but I have always found this to be the most ridiculous thing ever. Two guys show up, usually one super big guy, and one super skinny guy. Typically, only one of them talks to you, but neither one really knows what they are doing. They may know how to paint, but they often times, completely disorganized and just trying to score their next paycheck. If you don’t believe me, the next time you run into this, make sure to walk them out to their truck on the way out. I would put money that the dash board is full of receipts, and trash, the floorboards and back seat are littered with tools, empty food wrappers, and trash. Run from this contractor like the wind, especially when they offer you the “cash discount” which inevitably comes.
When it comes to sales, a system that helps gather information and solve problems is the only way to start a relationship. At Walls by Design, we teach our estimators a process that not only shows our customers that we respect their time, but we do our best to gather all the appropriate information on the front end which builds trust. First of all, our office staff will confirm each appointment the day prior to any estimate to make sure schedules are still in sync. Next, we teach our guys to arrive early to every appointment and to wait down the street until about 10 min prior to the appointment. Then, and only then, is it appropriate to ring the bell.
On opening the door, you will see an appropriately dressed estimator with a logoed Walls by Design shirt and an iPad. We use technology as often as we can to ensure accuracy and to speed up the estimating process. Our team member will ask you about what you are considering for your project, and they will make suggestions and help find solutions to any problems. We believe highly in educating customers not only on “what” to do, but also “why” something should be done a certain way.
As for our estimators, they are not just sales guys, they also project manage their own projects. We found out the hard way that homeowners appreciate dealing with one person from start to finish on their projects. When we handed a homeowner off from the sales rep to a completely different project manager once we had built a trust with someone made things hard. Once we shifted to our current system, we found that our customers were consistently happier and more confident in us as an organization.
Waiting for an estimate to arrive can be frustrating. For my patio project, I received the first estimate a week and a half later, after I had to follow up with the contractor. One estimate was returned within a day, just as planned. I am still waiting on the last estimate more than two weeks later. Who do you think I am more inclined to sign with?
I understand that with a deck project there are a lot of different factors that go into an estimate. What baffles me is how it could possibly take a Denver painter 3 days or a week to return a paint estimate. Painting is primarily straight forward. I once worked on an estimate for a 30,000 square foot project. It did take me several weeks to put that bid together, but I put together a whole packet of information on each room, a spreadsheet that broke all areas out, and had to consult with three different people for the estimate. But this is not typical.
For most Denver painters, I believe estimating is an afterthought, and there is no rhyme or reason to how they put together their estimates on a consistent basis. The biggest factors being how busy are they, and what part of town is the customer. As to why it takes so long…it comes down to organization. They have too many things on their plate, and sitting down on a computer at the end of the day is the last thing they want to do. I believe most contractors in this scenario would be better off hand-writing their painting estimates, and leaving them with the homeowner on the spot. But often times they do not have time to do this. They only allocate 15 min to walk each project, as they either have to get back to their current project or they have too many fires to put out.
I understand as a homeowner, if you have called looking for an estimate on something, you are ready to buy. Maybe not all the time, but at least 75% of the time. Sometimes you just don’t know if you can afford a certain service. I know I have been there. I had no idea how expensive a porch and patio cover would be. I know now that stamped concrete runs about $15/sq. foot, and a covered 14’ X 14’ roof is about $8000. I learned a lot about the process, but I had to ask questions, and gather information. You as a homeowner are in the same situation when you bring Denver painters out to your house. You have no idea what it takes to paint the walls in your 18’ X 20’ family room with vaulted ceilings, or how much it costs to paint your kitchen cabinets.
Because we have set questions to ask when we arrive at your home, we will help flesh out a lot of issues most homeowners never think to ask. Where will we clean equipment? Will we be the only contractors in your home when we come to paint? What will you do with the dog while we are painting? What bathroom would you like us to use? All great questions that most homeowners never think about and most painting contractors never ask…even after you have signed a contract.
Next, because our estimators use an iPad to collect project details, we are able to return all estimates back within 24 hours, but usually within the same day. Most homeowners are shocked actually, but it makes sense. When the project is fresh in our mind, we can give a much better estimate of what it will take to complete a project; items are not missed and pertinent details are included. To be honest, most estimates only take us about 10 minutes to type up once we have met with a homeowner, so it only makes sense to send it to you as soon as possible. And because we have a system for estimating we can follow through on this on a consistent basis.
Follow up is Key.
Unfortunately, most contractors will never call you or follow up with you, unless you have called at a time when they have no work; in which case you will most likely hear from them daily. At Walls by Design, we have a system for follow up. After your estimate has been sent out, our office will call you to ensure that you have received your estimate. It has been our experience that email addresses can get transposed, and spam folders are alive and working overtime. We want to make sure you know we sent you your estimate, and if you have not, our office staff can re-send your proposal. I cannot tell you how appreciative our customers have been for this over the years.
This might be where my knowledge of other Denver Painters weakens. I am not privy to what happens next for most contractors. I do know that many Denver painters, as well as painting contractors from across the country run their business with subcontractors. The danger of this is that you are removed from knowing if the team you have on your project is covered for liability and workman’s compensation insurance. Even if you receive proof of insurance from the Denver painter who give you a bid, it does not mean that the workers on your house are actually covered. I am not an insurance guy nor am I a lawyer, but you may want to ask your insurance provider to find out what types of coverage you should see to insure that the company is properly insured.
Often times, Denver painters will promise a completion date, only to completely miss the deadline and to tie up a homeowner’s house for weeks. These delays are usually caused by lack of staff or working on multiple projects at any given time. To avoid this problem, it is best to put in a guaranteed completion date with a penalty for each day the project misses the deadline. A $50 or $100 penalty is usually sufficient. Allowing the painting contractor to set the completion date is fine. You are not looking to speed them up on the front end, just guarantee the one or two week project does not go three or four weeks.
At Walls by Design, we do several things to ensure that a project goes smoothly, and it all starts with our project review meeting. We usually schedule these about three days to a week prior to the start date of the project. Prior to this meeting, our homeowners work with our color designers to help select the colors for their project. We find that most of our homeowners appreciate the assistance on color selection, not that they always need the help, but they comment that it is nice to have the reassurance from someone that works with color selection on a regular basis.
After the color selection is done, our homeowners meet with their project manager (also their estimator) to review the project scope, discuss the colors and where they go, and adjust any additions or subtractions that have occurred since the initial estimate appointment. I believe that we have changes to our project about 70% of the time, and it is good to make sure we are all on the same page.
To ensure that all information is transferred to our team of painters, we have several checklists that spell out where things are to be cleaned, what room is to be started first, and where accent colors go. To further ensure that all information is available to our teams, we have created a digital system that does not rely on papers that can get lost. Again, we have found that technology, even for a Denver painter, can help create a better experience for homeowners.
As for scheduling and timeframes, we know that our teams of two can produce about $3000 worth of production in a week, and have found that a team of two is the most efficient way to execute on most painting projects. More than two crews causes confusion in the average home. We have a system for accountability, and unless forced out by other factors, our teams start and complete each project before going on to their next.
As for schedule guarantees, we have provided this on an as needed basis, but have always met the deadline. We have a good track record of completing all projects on time, and we actually had an upset homeowner (only temporarily though) when we finished two days early on his project. We try to stress that our guideline is an average ($600/day), as we have some painters that are faster than others. Our biggest focus is to make sure quality never suffers, and that we are not taking too long.
I will not go into our system for training our team in detail, but I will say we hire all our painters with little to no experience and teach them our system. It is one of the biggest strategies that gives us a competitive advantage over any other Denver painter. Most painting contractors do not know how to train people, and thus always complain that their painters are idiots. We start guys prepping, cleaning, and moving drop cloths, and let them prove to us that they want to learn, and that they are trainable. We have built a system with four levels of prep painters, and four levels of lead painters, so we always know what each team member is capable of doing, and we set them up for success. So know that if you have a new painter on your project, we will not let them do any task they are not capable of doing correctly. It’s all about checks and balances.
Follow up after the project.
This may be the worst area where the average Denver painter fails. Once a paint contractor leaves your home, how will you get them to come back if you find something? If the Denver painter you hired has only a few painters or helpers, they are most likely so focused on their next project, bids, or a million other things, and it will be next to impossible to get them to come back. If you had a small project (under $2000), there should be little to no issues, especially if you were around to do a proper walk-thru prior to the team leaving. If the Denver painter you hired hires sub-contractors, and is not present working on the project, wrapping up the project can be very difficult, as subs will have a tendency to run out as soon as possible.
When I started my Denver painting business, I never wanted to be a solo painter working by myself. I knew there was power in building a team. My last job I held in corporate America I had the opportunity to volunteer on a training team that was designed to help people in the company to understand their roll in the bigger organization, and I loved being a part of that. The larger we are, the easier it becomes to move, shift, and serve our painting customers. Because we have over 9 teams of painters and two project managers, we are able to service our customers far better than the average Denver painter. If we missed something on the walk through, our project manager can easily come back and take care of the issues. If our customers move into a new home and the movers or carpet installers ding up the walls and trim, we can have a painter easily come back a week later to do a few touch-ups.
About 5 years ago, I realized that we had a few customers that would consistently ask us to come back to do touch-ups year after year. In response to this, we now offer a free touch-up program that allows a homeowner to schedule us year after year, to touch-up anything we have painted for them. Our customers, especially our customers with small children really appreciate this service. This along with our Lifetime Warranty truly helps differentiate our Denver painting business from other Denver painters.
The Value in Systems
With all that said, do you now see the difference between an average Denver painter and a painting business in Denver with systems? I can explain it until I am blue in the face, but if you would like to SEE the difference, I recommend you grabbing a few estimates from some of the best paint contractors in Denver that I spoke about in a previous blog post, then call our office, and see for yourself. We would love to show you, and not just tell you.
See you soon.