It's hard to escape the commercials. In just 30 seconds, two average homeowners pick a shade, move some furniture, pull out the rollers and, voila!, a new room.
Painting a room isn't as easy as it looks on TV. Any painter worth his brush will tell you that there are a lot of factors that come together to make a worthy paint job, like prep work, for instance. They also will tell you which jobs homeowners can tackle on their own and which ones are best left to the pros.
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Perry Nesselroad of ImageWorks Painting in suburban Pittsburgh thinks that the main factors homeowners should consider in making the DIY-vs.-professional decision are the money savings, available time and variance in the quality of the job.
"Most people in today's society struggle to find the time to fulfill family obligations," he says. A good experienced painter, he says, could take five to six hours to a couple of days to complete a room, depending on the amount of prep work, walls, trim, windows and doors that need to be finished.
"Homeowners need to ask themselves what is more valuable: Spending a few weekends of your time painting or the cost of having a reputable painter complete it for you."
Exterior painting is much more involved and carries more risks. Harsh weather, working on ladders, setting up scaffolding and dealing with old lead-based paints that are common on older homes are all causes for consideration.
Brian Mohring of Kosta Contactors of suburban Pittsburgh said that he and his partner specialize in exterior paint, spending about 70 percent of their time working on grand old houses.
"I tell all our customers upon meeting them, 'If you just want us to slap on a quick coat of paint, we are not the company for you.' "
He says that a good exterior painter must protect your landscape, know what products to apply on the surfaces and substrates (i.e., wood, vinyl siding) and follow the proper lead-abatement removal and disposal procedures outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities.
Nesselroad's painting blog (www.imageworkspainting.com/blog) breaks down the numbers and advises customers to calculate the cost of a good paint job by the years of service you derive from it. A quality paint job that costs $8,000 and lasts 10 years costs $800 a year. Meanwhile, a bad paint job that cost $5,000 may need to be redone every three years.
How do you know whom to hire? Nesselroad makes no bones about what to look for:
"Do your homework. Check references," he said, adding that the most important step is to get a physical copy of a contractor's liability insurance and make sure it's current. And ask for workers' compensation insurance, he said.
"Sadly, very few workers carry workers' compensation. (It's very expensive.) Liability protects your carpet if the painter tracks paint across your house. It does nothing if he falls off a ladder or slips on your stairs. If a worker in your home gets hurt for any reason, you can be held liable in a lawsuit if he does not carry workers' compensation insurance."
He says a reputable contractor will provide this certificate, and if they can't, "get them out of your house."
Mohring advises calling the contractor's references, getting the address and actually driving to the location to check the exterior paint job. He also advises checking the Better Business Bureau's website (www.bbb.org).
Scripps Howard News Service