How to Evaluate Painting Proposals

A common mistake that I see homeowners make, in shopping for a painting job, is to just invite a bunch of painters over, point them to the project and, without much preamble, ask them for a painting quote.

Perhaps those homeowners simply did not want to offend contractors with excessive descriptions or maybe they thought that professionals will know best. It is true that professionals should know the best way to go about a job; however, modified by individual experience (or lack thereof), one painter's approach to a job may be completely different from another's.

What will likely happen with these submitted proposals is that the price, job specifications, and even the scope of work will be all over the place. This will make such proposals nearly impossible to compare.

For example, one bidder may include an extra finish coat - maybe this is how his old boss always used to do it. Another bidder may entirely omit the prime coat - perhaps this is the only way he 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.

Such job specification inconsistencies would make those proposals very difficult to compare, possibly leaving the homeowner with the need of completely redoing the bidding process. Or even worse, this can leave the homeowner with the need to revisit the bidding process again in the middle of the job, when it comes to light that something that the home owner wanted done 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 and it can even be verbal, just as long as it is exactly the same to 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).

  • Prepare all surfaces to be painted.
  • Use one complete prime coat and one coat of finish paint.
  • The front will be three colors, the back and sides - two colors.
  • Material used will be "XYZ Paint Company" of top grade.

During the bidding process, 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 a game, you must resist the temptation to stray from your project description and keep in mind your goal - get comparable paint proposals. So even if you like that recommendation of an extra finish coat for example, you should ask the recommending bidder to give you an alternate price - price only for that extra coat.

This way, when the time comes to compare 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 the Best Painting Contractor.)

Yefim Skomorovsky
Painting Contractor in San Francisco Bay Area

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