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This is really pedestrian level material, but everyone’s a painter now so why not? Besides, I admire those who stand athwart the degradation of language; I gladly count myself among them.

Especially when it comes to holding bandito painting contractors to account for the drubbing they’ve caused the reputation of my time-honored craft, not to mention the downright abuse of the written language. Without these fly-by-night fools I might have nothing to write about!

1. What is being painted?

The first, most important contract item, it’s not so simple as it sounds. For example: House exterior, detached garage, fence (sides facing house and/or street only); is more clear than: “exterior”.

How about this example: “Lacquer kitchen cabinets” Sounds ok, right? What about the interior of the cabinets?

How about closets in bedrooms, pantry or linen closets?

“Paint Bedroom” leaves a lot unsaid: walls, ceilings, trim, closet, what exactly is included?

2. How many coats & colors?

“Paint to cover” means 1 coat. Prime/2 coats means whatever the painter wants it to mean; may be primer plus 1 coat, maybe 2 topcoats but the language is unclear.

Paint &backroll means 1 coat – although I know painters who swear that once you backroll the paint, it somehow becomes 2 coats…they are truly remarkable and someday we may be that good.

How many colors? Paint bedroom: walls, ceilings, trim – 1 color. That means the whole bedroom goes 1 color. Paint exterior: house & garage; 2 colors (1 body, 1 trim) is a good start, but the word “Trim” should be unpacked a little bit.

3. Prep: what level of prep is included?

This should be very specific, it’s going to make a difference in how the project looks right when its finished, but how long it looks good, and ultimately, how long it lasts.

Surface prep is also a convenient step to short – to make the project cost less, and look comparatively attractive next to other bids.

The bandito painters will use very fuzzy verbiage like “prep” and “scrape”. What you’re looking for is descriptive terms such as: “remove buckled caulk seams” or “scrape loose paint, feather sand & fill”

4. What material is included? And how much?

Benjamin Moore is not a material, it is a paint manufacturer that makes dozens of different materials in many price ranges.

Ditto Sherwin Williams.

“Contractor grade” means cheap paint, the cheapest paint that can still be called paint.

And if it’s in quotes, like this: “paint”, then you have a bandito for a painter and you will be painting again within 20 minutes of completion because the paint will not even fall off, it will simply assimilate into the surrounding matter and be gone.

Gallons: this math is important because it determines if your painter is applying the right amount of paint.

The right amount of paint is necessary for the job to last beyond the limited manufacturer warranty, and hopefully beyond the contractor warranty.

Stretching paint (by applying too thin, or watering it down) is a bandito move.

5. Application method:

this is important. Each tool, from a chip brush to a 2-gun sprayer has an ideal use.

Your painting contract should have language such as: apply 2 coats Sherwin Williams Emerald satin by spray & back-brush method, applying 18 gallons total to the body.

3 gallons SW Emerald satin by brush & roller to trim.

This is just what needs to be in the contract. There’s much more than can be, for greater specificity. A good painting contractor wants a detailed contract to protect him from having to do work that is outside the contract, by inference or implication or osmosis, or whatever; but he also wants to protect his customer from being preyed on by bandito painters who promise greatness for a cheap price but whose contracts are loose enough to allow any interpretation.

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