Comparing Interior Paint Estimates, confused

Old 11-23-07, 07:59 PM
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Comparing Interior Paint Estimates, confused

this forum has been so helpful to me over the years, hope someone can shed some light on whats going on with some paint estimates I just got. I've normally painted my house myself, but no longer have the time.

Scenario: 2 year old house, just bought. 3000 square feet. Pregnant wife wants entire interior (except ceiling) painted. Trim (floor and ceilings). Holes in walls from anchors from previous owner. Not too many nail pops, some cracking at trim that will need caulking (overall prep not terrible). built-ins in living room paited same color as trim. Trim is in VERY good shape, smooth, will only require very light sand (glossly now), minor prep and paint.

1) 2 painter crew. Will provide paint, supplies, everything. Says it will take him 7 working days to paint. Prime 1 room that is red. 2 coats of paint on everything. Using BM paint.
Cost: $7900 ($6200 labor per him)

2) 3 Painter Crew. Says it will take him 2 weeks (10 working days). Same as above, prep, prime, etc. Will use SW Cashmere paint. $5600 Labor. Probably $1200-$1500 materials. Toptal cost $6800-$7100

3) 2 Painter Crew. Says it will take him 7 working days. Prep/prime, etc. I buy supplies. His Labor $2800, I think materials/paint will cost $1200 or so, total cost $4000

All three painters come with references.

I am totally confused with whats going on. I was shocked when I got the 1st quote. It was about $2000-$3000 more than I thought it should be.

Got more confused when the next bid was #3, at $2800. A third painter showed up that we called a few weeks before, and gave quote #2, at around $7000.

Do you think that painter #1, #2 are high on their labor cost. I calculated the following:
#1) 2 painters, 7 days, 10-12 hour day = $36-$44 per hour, per painter.

#2) 3 Painters, 10 days, 8-10 hour days = $22-$18 per hour

#3) 2 painters, 7 days, 10 hour days = $18 per hour

I've read tons here on estimating/etc....Whats the going rate for a decent interior painter with good references? Why such a large price difference?
Old 11-23-07, 09:08 PM
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There is no "going rate"
That's a myth
It sort of assumes that all sizes, types, and qualities, of painting businesses look in a big book of prices to charge and go by that
Some charge more than the book to "rip off" people, and some charge less to "save people money"

The fact is, every business is different
With different expenses, different quality technicians that cost different, different overhead and operating expenses, different insurance rates, workman's comp rates.....vehicle expenses...material costs...sundry costs...

And the fact is, they are all estimating how long (man hours) it's going to take, and they all could come up with different figures, and padding them accordingly (sorry, they MUST be padded properly to include possible problems and delays and expenses)
And off course there needs to be some profit in there too
Profit is not a bad word
How many banks will loan your business money if your business plan does not include profit?
How will you sell your business?
Profit can vary also

So, your actual "man hour/cost" formulas are actually off a bit
But there's more to it than that

Paycheck collectors sometimes have a tough time grasping how much it actually costs their employers to pay them
If someone sells widgets, and gets paid $20 an hour, most people will say it costs the employer 23-27 dollars an hour for the employee...if they even remember the state and federal taxes, unemployment taxes, etc...which they often don't

So yes, there's the unemployment insurance, the workman's comp., the liability ins....

Now what else?
Well, to start there's the parking lot where the salesperson parks, the lock on the door to the building where they work, the rent on the building, the water for the bathroom, the electricity for the lights, the desk and chair, the phone line the phone...

And the phone hasn't even rung yet
Advertising to get the phone to ring....
The receptionist to fwd the call, the pen and paper to write the order...the bookeeper to put it in the right spot on the ledger, the shipping guys to pack it and send it off... the bookeeper to mail off a bill...and to write a check to pay the salesperson...
The salesperson also gets breaks...sick

At this point it may be clear it costs waaaaay more than $23-27 an hour to pay our widget salesperson $20 an hour

Painters are not much different
There's still offices, receptionists, shops with slop sinks and bathrooms...parking lots...bookeepers...
There's the salesperson (even if it's the owner), the customer service person (for your complaints)... the job foreman...
The training, the special tools, the vehicles
Then the vacations, sick days...etc...etc...

Cost of living can vary greatly by area, but I'd be shocked if a quality painting business could provide good service and products by charging less than $37 a man hour, and still keep and grow the matter where you live
More likely it would be 40-60

So, as you can see...the numbers are a little off, and can't quite be divvied up and analyzed in the manner you set forth

According to the Reality Check, #2 and #3 are headed for Brokesville really, really fast, or have paperboys, ex-cons, or crackheads doing the painting at super discount rates for them
I'm not sure which, if any, is correct
Possibly none
They may have things well under control
Maybe they simply padded the time estimate to include some of the many things that could go wrong, and they really think it's a 4 or 5 day job max (ideally)

But if we take my reality check to your figures, #1, the 'high" one, is the only one who knows what he's doing with regard to operating a business
..and he's not actually all that high
Old 11-24-07, 04:39 AM
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Be sure to follow up on the references!!

As slick noted there can be different overhead costs associated with different companies. Also some companies may just work too cheap or too expensive. That doesn't neccesarily mean one does better work than the other. If the quality of work and materials is equal - go with the cheapest estimate.

Be sure to check the references!!
Old 11-24-07, 08:36 AM
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I consider myself a good salesman. Even as a contractor, you have to sell yourself on that estimate. Which contractor gave you the most information? Talked up the possibilities?
I do many of these jobs. The union painters are walking out the front door and at the same time we are walking in through the back door. If this place is two years old then it most likely has CBF (Crap Builders Paint) paint on all the walls and ceilings. I tell people that stuff is blown on dust. Very porous surface. I also recommend primer on all ceilings and walls to seal in that CBF paint. Then two finish coats. You should do the ceilings as that is the time when everything is covered up. As clean as they look, you would be surprised how much better they would look. How is the company going to cover your house? Filthy drop cloths or all fresh heavy plastic precision taped right to the baseboard/baseshoe of each room? What about all hardware. Did anyone say if all the vent covers, outlet/switch plates, fire detectors, light fixtures, door locks, window treatments, closet organizers, etc are going to be painted around or taken off! The person that talked to you at the estimate....IS HE/SHE DOING THE WORK WITH THE HELP? Or is he/she just there to sell for the business. That brings up another question. WHO ARE THE HELP? How well do you know them? How long have they been doing this and for how long with your business?

Then the references! Anyone can give you three references! The three should always be as follows:

1. The job you are on now.
2. The job you just completed.
3. This one can be anything like one of your bread and butter accounts.

ortho_resident....My bid most likely would be the highest but with more thorough work. But I would give you all the facts and then bid on what you wanted.

Old 11-24-07, 08:48 PM
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such great responses. My initial post was done late at night, without much thought...except the original shock at the price of painting. I didnt consider the points that were VERY well illustrated in the responses, I really appreciate the effort.

When it comes down to it, I have to look at the time it would take me to do the job (which I NO LONGER HAVE), and that the job is done right. If I pay a less expensive painter that doesn't do a good job, I'll wind up spending more in the long run with more hassle in between.

Turns out the overhead is likely a large factor. The two higher bidders are larger companies, one with a store front/design center and the other doing lots of commercial work, VERY NICE commercial vehicles. Both references checked out great.

The less expensive painter provided 3 references, and I was able to go into a house in the neighborhood he was just finishing painting. Outstanding work, showed me the 2 rooms left to paint and the amount of prep work and detail to attention was what I was looking for. All nail pops fixed (ours has very few), corners of trim caulked neatly, ding/divots patched nicely....He has workmans comp...all seems too good to be true. He's been a painter for 25 years, paints with his brother and has so for a long time. I was surprised at his quote, and asked are you sure you covered everything we talked about (two coats, prime in certain rooms, all trim, built in in living room). He got a bit defensive and tried to explain his costs, and said he could not go down on his price, he thought his price was already the best in town (he thought I was trying to bargain him down.) Wound up signing a contract with him, details:
I provide the paint and supplies through Sherwin Williams (I pay for it, he picks it up). 50% down of total labor ($1250) the day of starting the work, and the remaining 50% when the job is finished and we are happy. Signed a contract with a estimated time frame of 7-10 working days to completion, no more than 14 total days to completion.

thanks again everyone. The key points I took from this:
- Quotes will be all over the place, there are a LOT more things to consider than price per painter per hour.
-References are really key. Being able to actually see completed work sealed the deal for me.
-Shop around. In getting a bunch of things done to this house, I have realized there can be a huge discrepency in quotes, but as mentioned: be clear whats really included, and have it outlined in a contract.
-I am compulsive about the way I paint, but no longer have the time. I've come to the realization that no one can do it better than me , but I'm glad there are people in the world that can come close!

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