The Story of an Unfortunate Status Quo
Most people, including homeowners and many painters, believe that getting your home painted comes with some unpleasant baggage. After all, you are dealing with an industry that is highly unpredictable, and your home, building or room is going to have a lingering odor for quite some time after a painting project. In reality, the latter is not only unnecessary, it is also dangerous. As for the other excess luggage….
Ken and Sue have owned a home for five years. They decided that it was time to add some color to their home, as they were expecting their first child. They were going to repaint the expecting's room and Ken's home office. Ken and Sue were excited, and looked online for color ideas and local painting companies. They needed some color samples, so they went to the big box store. Sue picked some colors from the big color display, and asked the clerk if they could recommend a good painter. The clerk gave them a business card of their most frequent customer, who recently bought them donuts.
Sue and Ken, after doing some online research, picked a couple more painters, based on their reviews online. They picked out two more companies, on top of the one recommended from the box store. They picked a few colors and had some ideas saved online. Ken and Sue scheduled “estimates" for the painters to come out and give them a price quote for the job. One painter did not show up, another was late on arriving, covered in paint and smelling of smoke.
They decided to go with the painter who was on time, before even receiving the “estimate" — Quality Painting & Decorating, owned and operated by George Pitcher, who has been painting for thirty-two years. Sue thought he had integrity, and Ken liked that he had a fishing sticker on his pickup truck. George seemed to have a good grasp on running a painting company. There wasn't a second guess about George being the right choice.
A few days later, George called Sue, asking if she got the “estimate" that he emailed to her. She had not seen it. “Check your spam folder," George commanded. There it was! Sue looked over the “estimate" which had three lines, with no details; Labor, Materials, and a Final Price. Sue asked if the cost of the final price would change. George said, it is pretty close, within $500. Sue had an immediate gut feeling that something was wrong. George said, “likely it will be lower." This made Sue feel better, and they scheduled the project.
The first day of the project George arrives with his crew of painters. They are earlier than Ken and Sue had expected; 7 am. George had had a canoe strapped to his pickup truck, and showed his crew the project. They setup their radio, turned it on and began moving furniture around. George talked to Sue and Ken about the timeline, saying it will be done in 2 days, depending on the prep work.
As the day progressed, the painting crew had turned the radio up. The smell of the paint fumes mixed with the second hand smoke made Sue feel ill. Her head was pounding from the loud rock music. At the end of the day, the crew went home — leaving dirt, soda bottles, and their tools scattered about the hallway and foyer. Sue looked into the baby's room, the smell of paint fumes was alarming, and the wall color was different than she had expected. This made her upset. When Ken came home, he said maybe it needs to set, and it will change to their desired color, not to worry.
The following day Sue called George, who was not around. His voicemail said “gone fishin" and she left a message saying she was not happy about the color. He called back hours later and said it would cost double the price to change the color, and that it was the color that she picked, it just looks different when the color is actually put on the wall. He also said that he doesn't have the time to change it now. “Give it some time, you will like it." He commanded. Sue's headache from the previous day had returned, and the fumes had now given her nausea as well. Thinking became difficult, and her blood pressure was rising. Sue approached the painters, asking if the paint they were using had “VOCs" in it. She had read about them online. The lead painter said that there were not VOCs in this paint, not knowing himself that there were VOCs in the pigments added to the paint when the color was made. He mentioned that the VOCs aren't really bad for you anyway, and that the smell goes away after a few weeks.
Finally, their first renovation was complete, 3 days after scheduled, and $225 over the estimated price. Sue's headache, caused by the “dust and worry" (George's words), had not subsided. Upon departure, the painting crew forgot a pile of candy wrappers, soda bottles and a trash bag filled with tape and plastic. They also forgot some paint remnants in the kitchen sink and cigarette butts on the back porch. George had promised a return visit to “punch-out" any touch ups that were needed, and that the “nitpicking, little stuff" is common from his guys, but they do great work!
The finished lines where the walls met with the ceilings were a bit uneven, but as the painters pointed out, they do not need to use tape, as they are professionals, and that taping is for “amateurs". George never showed up for this punch-out, saying he would get there when he could, then he stopped communications with them. The odor from the paint had left a lingering that gave Sue a headache and nausea for over a month, while Ken experienced impaired cognitive function, becoming frustrated at working in the freshly painted home office. These “normalities" have been a standard in the industry for far too long. To put a newly born baby in this environment is beyond dangerous and absolutely unnecessary.
We should clarify that George was an honest, well to-do human being. He has grown a successful painting business, based on hard work, pride and luck. Doing the job the way it has always been done, the way his father taught him, and down the line for generations. In recent years, he has put Quality Painting & Decorating on autopilot, while he focuses on fishing and retirement. Unfortunately, his complacency has let many things “fall through the cracks", like attention to detail and maintaining a clean work environment. George knows painting and fishing, but he does not know systems and structure. George has only used his good will, kind heart, and luck to get his business to where it is today. There was little attention paid to the quality of work and the time of production, it was as if there was no way to control them. There should have been daily systems in place, and communication between contractor and client — contractor taking the initiative and clarifying the days' tasks. The lack of communication only worsened the outcome, not to mention Sue's headache! Sue and Ken's expectations should have been the key topic during the “estimate", leading in importance. George should have made time in advance to come back to the project upon closing, making sure the crew cleaned up after themselves. George should have warranted his responsibilities and clarified the systems in place to reach Ken and Sue's expectations.
The Ethical Paint Job
These unpredictable results and common, subtle, yet harmful side-effects are what make the painting industry a burden to work with. It’s the little things that make a big impact, good or bad. Our promise at Brush & Color is to make you feel at ease, at home, productive and inspired, in a safe and healthy environment. To us this means:
Honesty — in price, in expectations and in the timeline.
For this reason, we do not do “estimates", we make promises.
- The only way the work changes, or the cost changes, is if you, our client, decides to change something, and we have it in writing.
- Before beginning a project, we will send an itinerary of the day-to-day, adding “cushion" time, in case ideas or decisions change.
Clarity and Communication
- Your Project Manager will call you the day before a job is to begin, check in the morning-of an hour before arriving, as well as during any break periods or emergencies.
- All details of the project will be submitted in writing to you in the proposal, as we believe there should be complete transparency in the way business is conducted.
- We will gladly show you before hand what you are to expect from a paint and a color. We will put in writing before the project begins that you are satisfied with a color choice and paint.
- Our workers do not smoke in or near your home.
- We will clean up our work area before leaving everyday, and make sure it is out of your way and off your mind.
- We do not play music in your home. We believe your environment is your most sacred place, and we will not put any influence on your lifestyle.
Rendering Top Quality Service
- We have systems in place that ensure your expectations are met. Upon meeting, we will go over your project in great detail, assuring that we both know the outcome and your expectations.
- We do use painters’ tape, because no matter how much experience a painter has, you cannot paint a straight line.
- We would love to show you how we work! Just ask and we can explain any part of the project.
Health & Safety
- We use products that are safe for your family and our workers.
- Some, not all, of the leading paint brands’ products are very dangerous and show evidence of being a threat to health, especially in children and newborns. We used certified health-promoting products that create a clean safe environment in your home, and safe for our planet!
- It is known that throughout history paint has been toxic, and even possibly driven painters mad (for example, Vincent Van Gogh) — but not the paints we use! They do no “off-gassing", which, through years of exposure, has left this industry filled with cuckoos.
A Reasonable Profit at a Fair Price to You.
- We will gladly share our numbers with you and show you where the money goes. Again, at Brush & Color transparency is the only way to conduct business.
To get these results, we have begun an evolution of a culture in our business — a culture that thrives on a systematized approach to production, and a promise from our suppliers to give us the best products possible, with health and safety always in mind. We have written standards and warranties, as well as checklists for each day and each action to each project. When we come to measure your building, we have a checklist of all the repairs that need to be made.
I believe that systems and ethics play a vastly important role in running operations smoothly. I also believe that health and safety comes first and foremost. Most people, painters included, are unaware of the threat the products in this industry pose on our health and longevity. Your home looking good does not have to come at a dangerous cost to you and our industry. Thank you for helping us raise the standards of an industry seemingly lost in the dark ages!
– Nicholas Painter