Painting Estimates

July 23rd, 2010

You can buy a couch for $ 15,000.00.  You can also furnish a three bedroom house for the same price. What’s the difference? The materials used and who made the furniture. The same is true with a paint job. The type of firm you hire (large with high overhead, or a small painting company like Greg Mrakich Painting where the owner is the salesperson, color consultant and the primary or the only painter doing the work) and what materials they are using will affect the price.

If you have never hired a particular painting contractor or firm, ask for customer references and follow-up on them. Even if you’ve found the painter through a service such as Angie’s List, don’t be afraid to ask if they would hire the painting contractor again. It is also reasonable to ask if the final bill matched the estimate and if not, why? There are times that I have charged less than the estimate which is always a pleasant surprise for my customers. For instance, when quoting a job that includes wallpaper removal, I won’t know until I get started how easy or difficult the wallpaper removal will be, especially if it was hung directly on a surface that was never prepped (primed and finish coat).  My final bill will reflect the degree of ease or difficulty. That being said, I would never charge a customer more than my estimate without first talking it over with my client.

Paint manufacturers sell different quality levels of paint – from the low-end contractor grade to the high-end, top of the line quality paint. If you are getting multiple estimates, be sure to ask what grade of paint and manufacturer the painter has priced. You want to be sure you are comparing apples to apples.

When you choose a painter,  you are trusting someone with what is probably you biggest investment. If it is interior work,  you are more than likely trusting them to be in your home when you are not there. If it is exterior work, you are counting on them to provide a finish that will not only make your house look great, but also protect it over time.

A good painter will never try to cut corners with the prep work.  He (or she) will also not try to eek out a few more dollars for himself by using a lessor grade of paint.  When he says he is going to apply two coats,  he really is going to apply two coats – even if you are not there to watch him do it.

All these factors go into the price of the job.  I would rather give a prospective customer a realistic estimate that reflects a quality job, using the best materials, than do a low ball estimate using lower quality materials and taking shortcuts to get the work.

For more information about Greg Mrakich and Greg Mrakich Painting, click here. Or, if you live in the metropolitan Indianapolis area and would like to contact me, click here.

New Construction Painting is Not the Same as a Repaint

July 13th, 2010

The skills required to do a quality repaint are not the same skills required for new construction painting.  But with the slow down in new housing construction, many new home construction painters are bidding on interior repaint projects, and they may give you a price that is too good to be true to get the work.

New home painters are accustomed to working in empty homes. Their mind set is get in and out as fast as humanly possible, usually using a compressor to spray walls and trim (doors, moldings, window trim, etc). They are scheduled to paint before any flooring is installed. In new construction painting, there is no need to worry about furniture, carpet, flooring or the homeowners’ personal belongings. Nor are there any nail pops or settling cracks to repair. Not true for interior repaint projects. These are all things a top notch painter specializing in repaint projects is concerned about and makes sure to take care of.

Also new home construction painters usually work for the general contractor and don’t have to carry liability insurance.  Make sure anyone who works on your home carries liability insurance.

If your home was build before 1978, anyone you hire to do any renovation, repair work or painting in your home MUST be Lead-Safe Certified from the EPA to even bid on the job and they must  provide you with the proof of certification and the EPA pamphlet, “Renovate Right” before starting the job.

Look at the whole picture when you are given a painting estimate.  The too good to be true price may be exactly what it appears, too good to be true.

For more information about Greg Mrakich and Greg Mrakich Painting, click here. Or, if you live in the metropolitan Indianapolis area and would like to contact me, click here.

Why Paint Before Listing Your House?

July 7th, 2010

So you’ve found your dream home. It meets all the needs of your growing (or shrinking) family and even has that three car garage you have been wanting. Your next call is to your trusted Realtor® to come over and give you advice about what you need to do to get your house ready for sale. Painting your house BEFORE you put it on the market was not on your list of things to do. But it should be, and here is why…

A house on the market needs to be as neutral as possible to appeal to the greatest number of buyers. Chances are, you probably have a few rooms painted with bright, bold colors (thanks to all those great HGTV shows for giving you the inspiration to go BOLD). While the bold colors may look great with your furniture, window treatments, artwork, or even match your dog (you get the idea), the chances are that prospective buyers will not have your taste in furniture, artwork or window treatments. Truth be told, your typical house hunters do not have a lot of imagination to get past your color choices.  Walls (and ceilings too) painted in neutral colors will allow prospective buyers to envision themselves living in your old house.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the exterior – especially the front door. The last thing you want to do is scare away potential buyers if the first thing they see is faded or peeling paint. Prospective buyers are going to wonder before they even walk through your front door, what else in this house has not been maintained; and how much more is it going to cost me?

Over the past nine years, I have worked with many MIBOR (Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of REALTORS) Realtors® to neutralize their listings. My Realtor® clients have often told me that after I have gone through and neutralized a home, it increases buyer interest and more importantly, the neutral paint job helps sell the house.

So, what are you waiting for? The sooner you neutralize those bright, bold colors in your house, and take care of any exterior painting needs, the sooner you can get out from under it and move into your dream house.

Be advised, if your house was built before 1978, and you hire a painting firm to neutralize your house or put a fresh coat of paint on its exterior, they must be certified by the EPA as a Lead Safe Firm. It’s not just painting firms that are required to be certified. All contractors that work in homes built before 1978 must be certified in lead safety by the EPA or face stiff fines.

For more information about Greg Mrakich and Greg Mrakich Painting, click here. Or, if you live in the metropolitan Indianapolis area and would like to contact me, click here.

Greg Mrakich Painting: Tips to Maintain Your Wood Windows (and Save Money on Window Replacements)

June 25th, 2010

I have received more and more calls lately to re-paint or touch up the interior of wood windows. Windows are subjected to the extremes of weather causing them to expand and contract every day. When you consider the ‘oven effect’ of heavy blinds, curtains, drapes and shutters, it’s a lot for the wood and the paint and/or stain and varnish to endure. In most cases, windows will need attention before the trim (base boards and doors). There are a few things you can do to slow down the deterioration process:

  1. Open your window treatments (blinds, curtains, shutters, drapes) from time to time. The heat from the sun will bake the paint right off the wood, leaving the wood raw and exposed to damage.  If you have blinds or plantation shutters, crack them open just a little bit to let air circulate.
  2. During winter, make sure the weather stripping and window sweeps are working correctly and forming an air tight seal. If cold air is sucked in from the outside, condensation will build up on the interior side of the glass, and the moisture will destroy the paint that is protecting the wood (leaving the wood vulnerable to deterioration).
  3. If your windows are subjected to strong sun every day, check the paint every year for signs of deterioration.

I just finished a project for a client with this problem. I had to re-paint 22 windows, window sills, and mullions on a custom-build home that is less than 10 years old. Some of the wood had slight damage, but with sanding and a little TLC, the windows all responded nicely to the paint and the client is thrilled she didn’t have to replace 22 windows. Since this home was built after 1978, there was no need for me to follow the EPA rule for lead safety. If your home was built before 1978 and you plan on hiring a painting contractor to do the work, make sure the contractor has received lead safety training and the contractor’s firm is an EPA lead-safety certified firm. If you plan on tackling the project yourself, you as the homeowner, are exempt from following the EPA rule, but it is strongly recommended for your and your family’s protection. Click here to download the EPA’s Steps to Lead Safe Repair, Renovation and Paint guide.

Re-painting or re-varnishing your windows about every five years will keep them looking good,  and keep the wood from being damaged. You will also delay the cost of expensive window replacements.

To learn more about Greg Mrakich Painting, click here

Blue Tape: the Professional Painters’ Choice for Clean Edges

June 15th, 2010

I got a call the other day to do a paint estimate on a rental property. Although I don’t work on a lot of rental properties, this was close to home — in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis, so I thought I’d check it out. As it turns out, the prior renters went nuts (unbeknownst to the landlord until they moved out) and painted almost every wall a different bright color in semi gloss…it was a nightmare. They never even bothered  to remove the tape from the walls. There was blue tape, beige tape and even duct tape still on the walls. Why would anyone think duct tape was a good idea? We will never know.

So, what’s the difference between beige and blue tape?

While beige tape is by far the cheapest, it has limitations. For a repaint, a professional painter might use beige tape for masking baseboards along carpets. The issue with beige tape is that it will become very hard to remove without pulling the paint and/or finish off of anything it has stuck to for more than a few hours. Carpets are the only exception.

Professional painters prefer blue tape (sometimes it’s green) because it has less ‘stick’. Blue tape will give you the clean, straight line you want without harming the surface it is stuck to (unless left on too long). Some blue tape is rated “delicate”.  It can be used on newly painted surfaces (within 24 hours of being painted) and even on wallpaper.

So when do you pull up the tape? I will paint a wall and remove the tape as soon as the wall is done. If you wait until the paint is dry, you might not get a clean edge when the tape is removed. Plus, any paint that has dried to the tape could pull some of the paint off the wall where the tape and wall meet. So be very careful when you remove the tape from the wall.

Yes, blue tape costs more,  but is well worth the extra few dollars you will spend.

To learn more about Greg Mrakich Painting click here.

Selecting the Best Paint Finish for Walls and Trim

June 9th, 2010

It used to be that walls were always done in a flat finish paint and the trim, and by trim I mean all woodwork, was painted with a gloss finish paint.  The only exceptions were kitchens and bathrooms where everything was done using gloss paint. Times have changed. Today, when a house is built, the standard is all walls and ceilings are painted with a flat finish; and trim with a semi gloss finish. The paint job that comes with the new house is like the tires on a new car….good, but by no means the best.

How do you know what paint finish to use, and where to use it?

Now,  a homeowner has many options – they can chose flat,  eggshell,  satin, semi gloss and gloss for walls; and satin, semi gloss and gloss for trim.  I’ve been a custom, residential painting contractor for over 20 years; of which, the last nine in Indianapolis, IN and before that in the Pasadena and Los Angeles, CA  area  (where I became very good at repairing cracks in walls thanks to the many earthquakes in the region). Here is my advice:

  • Kitchens and baths –  because of the humidity in these rooms, I always recommend using a satin or higher finish (sheen).  It gives you the ability to wipe down the walls when an accident happens. Spaghetti sauce on a kitchen wall painted with a flat finish will be there forever!
  • Hallways – there are two schools of thought….a satin or higher finish lets you  wipe  off dirt, mud in most cases, but a satin or higher sheen can be difficult to touch up if marred.  A high quality flat paint will have a certain scrub durability,  but, if necessary,  is very easy for a homeowner to touch up.
  • Living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms are usually painted flat or eggshell. The reason may not be what you think. A paint with a sheen will show off any imperfections in the walls like cracks, nail pops, bumps (wavy walls) due to uneven framing and a host of other issues. Even if all of the issues are addressed before painting, many of them will resurface in a year or so, usually in the same place. I know from past experience that these imperfections can drive some people nuts, even when everything is explained to them upfront. I’d say about 90% of the walls I paint are flat,  and that is the safe way to go.
  • Trim – I like to use oil based paint here. Oil is harder than water based paint, and wears much, much better. Recently the trend is toward satin and semigloss. High gloss looks too industrial for most people.  A satin or semigloss finish will highlight the woodwork without being overpowering.

So, if you have great walls or don’t mind the glaring wall imperfections,  a semi gloss or gloss finish can be dramatic and set off a room. Just remember that your walls will need extra prep work to make them as perfect as possible. This is when a highly skilled painter becomes your best friend.

Greg Mrakich’s Tips for Painting Wood Paneling

June 1st, 2010

Many homes built in the 1950s through early 1980 have wood paneling in at least one room. Some of the paneling is very high end – solid wood tongue and groove and is a great addition to the look of the home. When I lived in Los Angeles, one of my customers had me paint the philippine mahogany wood paneling in her dining room – it nearly killed me to paint over such beautiful (and expensive) wood. Other paneling is mass produced 4 foot by eight foot sheets of thin plywood that is stained on one side. This type of paneling can (and does) date the look of a home. It will also hurt a home’s resale value. So what do you do with the paneling?

There are two options. The first option would be to remove the paneling and replace it with drywall. This is expensive, and with the EPA rule requiring the use of lead safety practices for homes built before 1978, also makes it very time consuming.

The other option is to paint the paneling. It is easy to do if you follow the steps necessary to prepare the paneling for paint:

  1. Lightly sand the paneling with 120 grit sandpaper.  Use a sanding pole and this will go quickly.  You are just sanding enough to take the shine off.  If you are creating dust or removing stain,  you are sanding too hard. When the sanding is done, wash down walls with a de-glosser, such as TSP.  Let the paneling dry over night.
  2. Paint the wood paneling with an oil based, stain blocking primer. Paint first coat and let dry.  Now all the nail holes, cracks and gaps should be visible. These should all be caulked and/or filled. When caulk is dry and nail holes filled, sand the filled nail holes. Then apply a second coat of the stain blocking primer.
  3. Now you are ready to paint the walls and trim as you would any other room.  I have painted many paneled rooms and the change from dark wood to a lighter shade makes a huge difference.

A word of caution. If your home was built before 1978 and you plan to hire a contractor to do the work, he or she must be certified by the EPA, and must follow the specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Greg Mrakich Painting, based in Indianapolis, Indiana; is an EPA certified firm. Homeowners doing the work themselves are exempt from the law, but that being said, please take the time to review the EPA guidelines and follow the specific safe work practices for lead containment. It’s about keeping you and your family safe.

Greg’s Exterior Painting Tips – When Selecting Colors, Consider Your Roof

May 17th, 2010

On April 14, 2006,  a hail storm in Indianapolis caused 1.3 billion dollars in losses and generated 282,500 insurance claims for roofs and car damage. I remember the sound and fury of the hail hitting my roof and bouncing across my yard and driveway. Luckily, my vehicles were in the garage so I did not sustain any damage to my cars. Most of the roofs in my neighborhood, Westlane Terrace, and Delaware Trails, the adjacent subdivision just south of my house, were ‘toast’ after the storm passed through.

It was quickly evident as soon as new roofs started going on houses that some homeowners did not give much thought to roof color and how it needs to work with the color of the house,  not fight it.   There are a few odd color combinations around my neighborhood.  Most of my neighbors did get it right, but others did not make the connection between the color of the roof being a key element,  along with color of paint,  in how a house looks…the “curb appeal”.

The same thing works in reverse   The color of your roof should be taken into account in the color selection of the exterior paint for your home.   The colors should complement one another.   Contrast is a good thing but the roof color and the primary paint color should be in the same color pallet.  It’s also important to recognize that very dark colors do not hold up as well as lighter colors.   The tint necessary to get the darker colors takes away from the life of the paint,  not to mention the premature fade you get with dark colors. Ever notice how quickly a house painted blue tends to fade? So, if you don’t mind needing to repaint your house every two years due to noticeable fading, go with that shade of blue you really love!

If you are unsure about the color you’ve selected, get a test quart of the color and paint a small area and see how it looks with the roof color……or if you live in Indianapolis, Indiana (or the surrounding communities), call Greg Mrakich Painting (me)  to help you select the right color.

EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule for Pre-1978 Houses

May 10th, 2010

I just completed the EPA certification class and test for working in houses that were built prior to 1978.  Kudos to Sherwin Williams for sponsoring the certification class.  This RRP rule is a real game changer in as far as what it will cost to paint and remodel these homes.  If there are cracks to be repaired or any sanding to be done,  the steps that MUST, BY LAW be taken to control the dust will easily add 10% to 20% to every job.    This is for painting.   The added costs to do a room addition or remodel will be closer t0 30%.   All materials in the house such as walls,  painted wood and flooring  must be treated now as hazardous waste when remodeling,  and the time and supplies involved in the special handling will be paid for by you,  the home owner.    Most of these new rules make sense,  but some seem to be overkill.  The rules are in place to protect the home owners and their children from lead poisoning.  The government rating system for contamination in easy to understand terms is that 1 gram of lead dust will contaminate 25,000 square feet of living space…..or ten 2,500 square foot houses.  A pink packet of Sweet and Low contains one gram.

Lead poisoning is real and these new regulations are here to stay.   There is no  “Opt Out” provision for the homeowner. The fines to the contractor are stiff……$37,500 per infraction and the regulations are to be enforced by state,  local and federal agencies.   In Indianapolis, Indiana (where Greg Mrakich Painting is based) and across the country there is a backlog of contractors waiting to take the certification class and test.   If you live in a house build prior to 1978, and are in the process of hiring a contractor, be sure to ask to see proof of certification. I’m afraid that some contractors are not taking this rule seriously, but you as the homeowner, must take this seriously. It’s in place to protect you and your loved ones.

It is “Business as usual” for houses built after 1978.

Greg Mrakich Painting: Tips to Reduce the Cost of Your Interior Painting Project

May 3rd, 2010

When a painting contractor gives you a price for your interior painting project,  it is based on materials,  time and overhead. You never want to go cheap on materials,  and you really can’t do anything about your contractor’s overhead (other than hire  a small company like Greg Mrakich Painting, Indianapolis, IN). Since I have no employees, my overhead is much, much less than a large painting company that has an office staff, project estimators and paint crews. When I estimate a painting project,  I think about the time it will take me to complete the job more than anything else.  If my estimate is off, I will either price myself too high and not get the job, or price myself too low, get the job and not make any money.  I tell my prospective customers that if they are looking to reduce the cost of an interior painting project, there are several things they can do:

  • Take down the pictures, mirrors, drapes, curtain rods etc.
  • Put away the breakables (figurines, knickknacks and other chotskies)
  • Remove outlet and light plate covers

Just doing these things can save you money and the painting contractor can spend his/her time prepping, painting and cleaning up after completing your interior painting project.

One other thing, it amazes me that there are painting companies that charge for estimates. In my 20 plus years as a professional painting contractor, both in the Pasadena and Los Angeles, California markets (where overhead and materials are much more expensive) and in the metropolitan Indianapolis, Indiana market, I have never charged for a painting estimate. In my opinion, estimates are part of the cost of doing business.