House Painting Tips

An outline of the important factors to consider when pricing a house-painting job.

| July/August 1974

House painting is such a monumental task that most people don't know where to begin ... or, if they do know, they don't want to hassle with getting paint all over themselves or spend their weekends or vacations perched on top of a ladder. And that's where I come in.

Last spring I placed an advertisement in a suburban news paper: "House Painting — reasonable and efficient, free estimate — call _____. " The notice cost me $1.60 a week and brought in about five weekly inquiries from prospective customers. This was the start of a profitable business.

When I receive a call, I make an appointment to visit the prospective client as soon as possible. My rule is to explain to the homeowner at our first meeting that I'm not a professional painter, but have experience and believe I can do a good job. It's always best to be up front with people ... they appreciate knowing that they'll have satisfactory work done at a price below the going rate.

My next move is to walk around the house and get a clear picture of what's needed. This survey includes some basic questions: Will there be a significant color change? Are there any areas in need of repair (broken leaders and gutter, rotten wood, etc.)? Will the owner take care of these problems, or will I? (I always state whether or not I'm qualified to do so.) Does the customer want one coat of paint, or two? (The first goes on slowly, the second more easily because the covered surface is smoother and less absorbent.)

I also ask at this point whether the homeowner can supply an extension ladder (either his own or one borrowed from a neighbor). Most often he can, but if not I arrange to borrow or rent one. A good ladder costs about $185, which is why I don't have my own even though I've painted over 25 houses.

When I'm making an estimate I carry a clipboard and pad with me and make notes about the job: approximate hours and cost, date to begin and any special instructions (remove storm windows, put up screens, paint both, clean gutters, etc.).

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