Questions to ask when Hiring a Painting Contractor

Are you in the process of getting painting estimates for a project at your home? Is this the first time hiring a professional painting service? Here are some important questions you should ask the estimator.

Is your company licensed and insured?

Some states require particular trades to be licensed. If a company is not trade licensed, the company may not be able to be insured. Building inspectors can also stop work if the contractor is not properly licensed.

It is very important that the contractor you hire is insured. There are two types of insurance, liability insurance and workers compensation.  A homeowner can be held responsible if an employee is injured on the job. Howeverapartment-architecture-blur-735319, if the contractor you hire is insured, their workers compensation insurance will pay for the workers injuries and their liability insurance covers any damage done to a home while completing the job.

Do you use sub-contractors?

Not knowing who is working on your home can lead to poor quality and even put homeowners in danger. If a company is using sub-contractors to complete work, you are rolling the dice on the quality of work. You might get lucky and a seasoned painter arrives to do the work or the company might send someone hired for the day that has never held a paint brush.

Often sub-contractors rush through the work because they were given a flat fee to complete the job. Speed is more important to them than the quality of work. Also, customer service dramatically drops off when you don’t know who to contact if a problem with the job arises. Using subcontractors can jeopardize homeowner safety as well. Are the sub-contracted workers background checked and drug tested? It’s something worth taking the time to ask.

What preparation will take place before applying paint?

This is huge! Preparation is a key element to a lasting paint job and proper preparation is the difference between success and failure. Preparation and product selection move the needle for a successful paint job lasting many years. Painting over peeling paint, dirt, or gloss finish without sanding or removing mildew is only a temporarily fix. Eventually the paint will fail sooner rather than later.

Another aspect of preparation is repairing minor wall imperfections. Will the preparation include repairing nail pops, dry wall lines, etc? It’s a good question to ask because not all companies will include it in their bid, or they will rush, spending little effort on this critical step.

Will I have a dedicated foreman on my paint project?

This can be tied into the second question about sub-contracting. It’s important to know who is in charge of the job. Most companies will have a field lead, or foreman to interact with the homeowner on site and walk them through the job, answering any questions they have. The foreman wears a lot of hats. He or she is responsible for quality control, safety of everyone on site including the customer, and customer service. If the customer has concerns, the foreman will most likely be the person that works with the homeowner to resolve the issues.

What type of paint are you planning to use?

Not all paints are the same. The estimator should always take into account surface material and its’ current condition to determine type of paint, primer, stain, etc. Paint often fails prematurely due to the wrong product type being used.

An estimator might plan to use low end commercial grade paint to save money. The low grade paint will reduce the quality of the job and increase the likelihood of the paint failing.

Higher end paints tend to cover better, are self priming and produce low volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Better coverage can result in fewer coats needed (and less money you have to spend) with a superior finish. Low VOC paints are nice to use for interior painting, especially in the winter when there is less circulation of indoor air. These paints also have fewer odors and are environmentally friendly, which homeowners, as well as painters, prefer to use. (Trust us; we dislike the smell as much as you.)

Products are also constantly changing. Professional painters must stay in contact with paint technicians and sales representatives to ensure they are using the proper product and following the right course of action for a unique job. At O’Connor’s Painting Service, we constantly communicate with our representatives from all the major paint and stain manufacturers such as Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, and McCormick Paints. The representatives are well informed of new products, conditions required to apply a product, and the proper steps needed to apply a product properly.

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Choosing the right paint for a busy veterinary office

Last Fall, the Laytonsville Veterinary Practice contracted O’Connor’s Painting to re-paint the interior of their offices and exam rooms. Off I went in search to find the best paint product to use for the project. I needed something that offered durability, good coverage, was easy to wash and had a low odor.  What I found was was Sherwin Williams Pro Industrial Zero VOC Catalyzed Epoxy commercial coating which had all the benefits I was looking for in a paint product for the veterinary practice.

  1. Zero VOC’s

    Commercial Interior Painting by O'Connor's Painting Service
    Interior rooms painted by O’Connor’s Painting Service
  2. Extremely Durable
  3. Created a hard, tough coating that is super washable
  4. Superior resistance to abrasion, corrosion, chemicals, stains… all things that can occur in a heavily used exam room that has high maintenance
  5. Flowed and leveled to a smooth finish
  6. Comes in egg-shell and semi-gloss sheens

When applying the first coat, it was dry to the touch after one hour. However we did not apply a second coat immediately. According to Sherwin Williams we waited the required 8 hours before applying the second coat. In a busy vets office with animals that can scratch the walls, you definitely want the product to cure properly which takes between 5-7 days before the rooms are put into heavy use.

The only problem I found with this product is that if you let it dry longer than 72 hours before re-coating, you have to sand the surface again.

More sanding, less dust

This past month I made the decision to upgrade our sanding system here at O’Connor’s Removing old paint from home exteriorPainting Service. It was a major investment, but I think a wise one that will help my painting customers and employees. After researching for months and asking all my fellow painting contractors what they recommended, I settled on purchasing a dustless sanding system made by Festool. If you own a house that was built prior to 1978, there is a chance that your exterior paint might be lead-based. Before I purchased the new Festool Hepa dust extracting sanding system, my guys would have to wet sand by hand. Now with the Hepa dust extractor, the dust created by sanding is instantaneously sucked up by the attached vacuum that collects the dust. This system meets EPA Lead Safe guidelines. In areas we can use this new tool, the wood turns out better and our customers and employees are protected. If your looking to get the exterior of your home painted in the future and you are concerned about lead paint removal, know that O’Connor’s Painting Service an EPA Lead Safe Certified company and with our new Festool dustless sanding system, you can’t go wrong.

A Trick for Priming PVC

Sherwin Williams makes an exterior/interior bonding primer that I used the other day at mpaint_template-1y own home in Laytonsville, Maryland to prime PVC. Being a very slick surface, PVC can be tricky to paint and have last a long time without peeling. As I was working with the Sherwin Williams bonding primer, I got a little on my hands. What a time I had trying to wash it off my hands after I had completed the work. Good thing I didn’t have the primer on my hands all day or it would have never come off! One thing this taught me is that this product is a superior bonding primer and since then I’ve used that same product at O’Connor’s Painting Service to not only prime PVC boards but also aluminum siding and any other slick surfaces.

Old paint cans hanging about that you want to get rid of in a responsible manner?

Whenever O’Connor’s Painting Service completes a job, any unused paint we leave with the customer with a description of where the paint was used in the house written on the can. These paints come in handy if there is ever a need for the homeowner to touch up a spot here or there years later. A quick tip, be sure to store your paint in a warm area like your basement or laundry room to make sure the paint remains stable.

After awhile, you might want to eventually dispose of old cans of paint you no longer need. You just can’t throw them in your garbage “as is”. To dispose of paint in a environmentally responsible manner. There are a few steps you should follow.

First, I recommend keeping a log of the paint brand (Sherwin Williams/Behr), type (interior/exterior), sheen (flat/satin), color name, color number and the formula if a custom blend.  You never know when you might need to reference this information later.

Second, check with our local county waste authority for there rules on disposing of paint waste. For example in Montgomery County, Maryland if you are a resident, you can go to the dump and they have a special area set up to accept your old paint along with other household hazardous waste.

Finally, dry your waste paint with a product such as Krud Kutter Waste Paint/Colorant Hardener. It’s great for latex and oil-based paints.  You can find the product at most home improvement stores. Add the crystals to the paint can. Stir paint til it thickens, then let dry hard. You can now dispose of your old paint. Some municipalities will let you dispose of this hardened paint right in you garbage can but call first to make sure.

Painting Cabinets

Often a stain on older cabinets can start to look dirty and grungy. In an attempt to freshen older cabinetry, customers often ask me what it would take to paint over the existing surface. Here is a step by step explanation of the process O’Connor’s Painting Service uses to paint cabinetry.

  1. Remove old hardware. Note: if customer wants to replace the old hardware with new, be sure to choose hardware that matches the existing screw holes to avoid a lot of putty work to fill existing holes.

    Painting Cabinets for a Fresh Look
  2. Sand cabinets well with very sandpaper to remove old varnish or polyurethane.
  3. Wipe the surface with mineral spirits then follow by also wiping the cabinets down with a cleaning solution such as 50% water and 50% ammonia.
  4. Apply one coat primer of Zinsser Cover Stain Oil. We normally paint the exterior of the cabinetry then both sides any doors.
  5. Apply two top coats of latex or oil semi-gloss paint, whichever color a homeowner picks. We suggest picking a Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore product that has a oil base finish for a harder surface.

The real key to success in painting cabinets is in the preparation. Sand extremely well with sandpaper and clean all surfaces using a clean cloth saturated with mineral spirits in order to remove all surface dirt, greasy spots and contamination. If the surface is excessively dirty, you may have to go over the areas multiple times with the mineral spirits and the 50/50 ammonia water mixture.

Deck Finish – Clear, Solid or Semi-Transparent Stain?

When I get a call to bid a deck staining job, often the homeowner asks me my expert opinion on whether to use a clear, solid or a clear semi-transparent stain. It all depends on the level of maintenance and investment you are prepared to commit to over the years.

Clear finish deck stains only last up to two years. In most cases your deck will look the same after power washing when you apply a clear finish. Some clear sealers may have a hint of color. The advantage of a clear stain is that after several years the sealer will be gone so prep and re-application is simple. Just power wash and apply clear again.

Semi-transparent deck stain can last about three years. When the semi-transparent stain wears off you must apply a stripper, then a cleaner before power washing the deck clean to prepare the surface. In most cases, a semi-transparent stain will give the wood deck color. This option is more costly to keep up due to the extra prep work needed.

Solid stain deck finishes will give you a solid color just like paint but with much less sheen. Solid stains last around five years. To re-do a deck with solid stain, manufacturers always recommend you completely remove or strip all stain first. If the solid is peeling, you will need a professional painter to determine the correct application process. Some times you may be able to avoid stripping the deck by power washing and re-coating with the solid stain. But in some cases for example, the deck floor may be peeling profusely so you will need to strip and apply penetrating oil, then re-coat with the solid stain. Decks stained with a solid experience more peeling than semi-transparent or clear stained decks thus requiring additional maintenance.

At O’Connor’s Painting Service we recommend products such as Cabots, Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr or McCormick stains. Your deck stain will last longer with a professional application with a top rated product.