Living through renovation work, house painting or other large projects is not for the faint hearted! Most of us have done it, or at least had friends who have done it. And nearly all have some degree of dissatisfaction with the process (even if the final result is often quite good).
The horror stories that abound are occasionally about rip-offs or dodgy work, but more more often they're about mis-communication, mess, chaos, unforeseen extra work, missed deadlines and broken budgets. In fact Kevin McLeod has made a very successful career televising just these events in Grand Designs. He and his team can be sure every build will contain these exciting elements. Reality TV with guaranteed drama! No wonder the series has lasted decades.
So it's surprising that when we talk to builders, painters, and other trades about a big job, we forget to cover 'possible dramas'. Nearly all pre-work discussions centre around price. When we first phone a tradesman we ask for a 'quote' before anything else.
Of course price is an essential part of every job. But maybe we should be asking other questions before we even bother with the quote.
Until fairly recently my wife and I always started with 'money'. But we are older and wiser now.
From personal experience here are some questions we should have asked before we talked money.
1. To a paver - Who can recommend your work? We didn't and now have paving that sends rainwater the wrong way. We hired a nice guy who was just not great at his job.
2. To a fencer - How likely is it that we will have to pay extra? We didn't and when the fence-post-hole-digger hit sandstone (almost inevitably in the Lower north Shore) we had to pay a lot more money for this 'extra', written in mice type at the bottom of the quote.
3. To a painter (supplied by a real estate agent for our rental property) - When you say you can paint the gutters, does that mean you'll clean/sand/prime before the paint goes on? We didn't and our El Cheapo painter just went over rust and dirt. Now the gutters are peeling and in a worse state than before.
4. To a kitchen installer - Will you finish our kitchen before you start the next project? We didn't and cooked in the lounge room for 6 weeks while out new kitchen sat 90% finished but unusable.
A lot of this comes down to experience. My wife and I now know not to take anything for granted. But, looking back our obsession with the 'best price' (read cheapest price) seemed to end in frustration nearly every time. I'm sure we could have found good value AND professional tradesmen by asking more questions than 'How much?'
Other questions might include:
How long will this take?
When are you free to start?
What disruption can I expect?
What are your working hours?
Can you work around our schedule?
How else will my home be affected?
Will my neighbours be affected?
Do you clean up off site or at my home?
Do you do the work or sub-contract?
What materials do you use?
What preparation do you do?
How will you protect my home?
Who helps you?
How many people can I expect?
Who holds the key?
Have you done much of this before?
What problems can you foresee?
Do you live nearby or 100kms away?
Will you tell me as soon as 'extras' arise?
Can you show me pictures of similar work you've done?
What else do I need to be aware of?
What past clients can I speak to?
Do you feel confident doing this work?
Do you really want this job?
... you get the idea ...
My clients are smarter than me because they ask these sorts of questions all the time. And I've worked hard to provide an interior painting service that can answer these questions, online and in person.
There really are hundreds of guys who will give you the lowest price and the highest stress, if thats what you want. But there are also many, many tradesmen who are professional and realise theres so much more to the job than 'the job'.
You just have to ask.
You have a couple of rooms to get painted. And its just paint on the walls right? I mean, how hard can it be? You get 3 quotes and go with the cheapest. Because each of the 3 painters are essentially going to do the same work, aren't they?
There are basically two scams that very cheap painters use to turn low bids into gold for them and garbage for you.
The first way is to simply skimp - on labour, preparation and materials.
Cheap paint is lot cheaper than good paint. It looks fine going on but will literally rub off on your hand when dry.
Watered down paint could start out as quality paint but by adding water it magically becomes half price paint. It too is hard to spot until its too late. Its also thin and transparent and may need extra coats (and extra money from you - see below).
Another way to skimp is to rush through the job. Sure paint goes on the wall but it also splashes onto your floor, furniture and dog.
And rushed paint work is usually laid over improperly prepared surfaces. So it peels or flakes off later.
The second way is Bait and Switch. But in the trade it's simply called 'Extras'. You find out after the job starts that what you thought were included are actually extras - very expensive extras.
Usually the painter comes to you with the sad news that, now he's started and taken your deposit, things are harder than first thought. Maybe the walls or ceiling need patching, that wasn't included in the quote. Or the colour you chose needs a special under coat that wasn't included in the quote. Or the kitchen walls need to be scrubbed of oil, that wasn't included in the quote.
Any of these Extras should have been recognised at quoting stage, talked about and included in the quote.
The way to avoid most scams is to demand a fixed, detailed, written quote agreed BEFORE the painter starts. The quote should outline what is going to happen to every surface, what paint will be used, how many coats etc. Beware of micro type disclaimers about unforeseen issues. (The fencing industry are very good at finding expensive unforeseen rock to dig up at your expense!)
You shouldn't need to pay a deposit either. Any business that is that short of cash, should be avoided.
And finally, you really do get what you pay for. Most tradie horror stories or total rip offs come from a guy who is pretty obviously dodgy but we go with because he was ... cheap.
Asking “How much does it cost to paint a House or Unit interior in Sydney?” Is a fair question. But it’s a hard one to answer.
Many ‘cost factors’ apply to the final price.
NUMBER OF ROOMS?
Obviously the bigger the home the more surfaces to paint. Most bedrooms are pretty standard sizes. But what about, say, the family or lounge room? I’ve seen tiny ones and ones that (in paint terms) are the equivalent of 3 or 4 rooms!
A unit or house built after about 1960 is usually quite a simple affair. The windows might be aluminium and not need painting. The doors are usually flat and therefore quicker to paint. The skirting boards are usually small and simple too. The ceiling height is usually about 8 feet/2.4 metres, meaning less area, less ladder work, less paint, less labour etc.
Compare that to a Federation or Art Deco style home or unit. These design styles are very popular on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Built between 1900 to 1940, there is much more architectural detail.
The skirting boards are bigger and more intricate. The doors will be 4-panel and often have a small window and frame above. The sash windows will be complex and made of timber that also needs painting. Often there are picture rails that not only need to be prepped and painted BUT create effectively 50% more cutting (brush painted outlining before rolling) for each wall. The ceiling heights are higher meaning bigger ladders, more labour, paint, masking etc.
Older ceilings are usually ornate and decorative. Poking a paint brush into detailed moulded plaster cornice and ceiling roses takes a lot more time than applying paint to a flat surface.
Are the walls and ceilings smooth and firm? Are there cracks and loose plaster that needs gluing, patching, sanding and priming before paint is applied? Are there holes that need filling?
Sydney homes can get pretty mouldy. Is there mould that needs to be removed? If so it’s also wise to add mould inhibitor to the paint.
WHO WILL DO THE PAINTING?
All painters are not the same. And all painting companies are not the same either. For more info on what types of painting companies are out there, click here.
Once you have decided which type of painting company is right for your needs, the very best way to choose is to ask for references.
A couple of people you can phone and chat to, who have a similar home to yours, painted by THIS painter, is THE BEST WAY TO CHOOSE A PAINTER. Well recommended painters usually have a few jobs already lined up, so it’s wise to book them and wait. They are also usually able to charge more for their superior work. Go figure!
NOTE 1 - Savings
Cost savings can be made if the paint project is for walls only, or walls and ceiling (but no trim), if the exact same colours are used, if the home is empty or if you are away. Buying the paint yourself won’t save you much at all.
NOTE 2 - Online Nonsense
You will find on-line some hourly rates for painters. Like $30-$40 an hour. This is what you might pay a painting EMPLOYEE. Unless you want to start your own painting BUSINESS these hourly rates are pretty pointless!
So the best way to get the best price/quality balance is this:
1. Ask friends for personal recommendations.
2. Search online for painters with informative websites and lots of good reviews.
3. Decide if you want a small or large company to paint your home.
4. Invite one or two (No more than three. You’ll get confused! ) companies to quote.
5. Observe everything from punctuality, to listening skills, to appearance, to advice, to speed of quote, to follow up.
6. Ask for names and numbers of happy clients that you can phone. Phone them!
7. Consider all of the above AS WELL AS the quoted price. Your gut feel is usually right.
8. If your favoured painter is more expensive (why is that always the way?!) by all means, call and discuss. There may be a simple remedy that is win win. eg. simplified painting plan, certain quiet times of year, doing some prep. yourself, replacing flooring after painting etc.
PS. Other painting cost saving options that I DON’T recommend:
1. Paint it yourself. Most normal people only paint a whole house once in their lives! If you don’t like the work it can be very long and very boring. Also factor in the hundreds of hours of your valuable time not spent with the kids or at the beach.
2. Manage the job yourself. One person I know hired painters by the hour. But he ended up having to be the site foreman and believed work stopped as soon as he stepped out the door. You need to be a special kind of person for this to work. You don’t know what the cost will be until the end. And I don’t think my friend even saved that much money!
3. Hire the very cheapest quote you can get. Cheapest is almost never any good. Very low quotes have a habit of increasing soon after the job starts. There is little or no prep. so the paint soon peels off. And the people who give very low quotes often vanish for months mid job. More info here.
HOUSE PAINT PRICING - CLICK HERE
SHORT ANSWER - Dulux is very good. Taubmans is as good and a tiny bit cheaper.
LONG ANSWER - Most people assume that there is a 'best' paint to use when painting your home's interior. And because they see it advertised more, people often think of Dulux.
All paints have different qualities for different situations (hardness, stretchiness, sun resistance, mould resistance, fade resistance etc.) Or put another way, Horses for Courses.
For now, I'll stick to writing about interior wall paint and leave ceiling paint and trim paint for another time!
Choice has recently tested 24 interior wall paint options (available for $5 from their website). They tested 4 attributes: Hiding power, Stain resistance, Scrubbing resistance and Cost.
The top 3 place getters are Resene Zylone Sheen, Dulux Wash and Wear Plus Superhide Low Sheen and Taubmans Endure.
All 3 are premium paints with good Hiding power, Stain resistance, Scrubbing resistance. Not surprisingly they are also on the expensive end of the spectrum.
Each of the top 3 has a particular strength. Resene has the best 'scrubability'. Dulux the best 'stain resistance' and Taubmans the best compromise on all attributes.
These 'scientific' findings are interesting to me. I've found Dulux and Taubmans to both give great finished results, but have quite different 'feel' when painting. Dulux is 'thick' and 'gluggy' whereas Taubmans is 'runnier' but still covers well.
But Choice tells me that Taubmans has better scrubability than Dulux, which I think is important for a long lasting paint job.
So my gradual move from Dulux to Taubmans now has science to back my gut feel!
(And if you were thinking that the other cheaper paints were either rubbish or pretty much the same, you'd be wrong on both counts. The rest of the paints they tested had lower prices and decent hiding and stain resistance BUT really fell apart on scrubbing resistance. So if you want to wipe marks off your walls without wiping the paint too, don't buy cheap paint!)
If your home was built before 1970 it probably contains some lead paint somewhere.
Usually it’s found in glossy ‘trim’ paint work – doors, windows, skirting boards and picture rails. Although it can also be found in ceiling and wall paint, inside and out.
Loose lead is especially harmful to children, pregnant women and unborn babies. But the lead in paint is usually only a problem if it gets released into the environment – by sanding.
Hang on! Did you say sanding? Isn’t that what painters do before they re-paint glossy surfaces?
Well yes, a lot do.
But there are two other ways to make sure your new paint grips onto the old surface.
One is to ‘de-gloss’ the surface with a chemical solution which is pretty much diluted paint stripper. This method is effective but gives off some pretty smelly vapours.
A better way is to simply scrub the glossy trim with sugar soap and an abrasive pot scrubber (metal or plastic, it doesn’t matter). The Sugar soap cleans off most of the dirt and grease while the pot scrubber puts tiny scratches in the surface.
You end up with a clean and very slightly scratched surface that is ready for the next step …
Application of a primer designed specifically to grip. I use Taubmans 3 in 1 click here.
or Zinsser B.I.N click here.
Either of these primers grips onto the slightly roughened surface and give a low sheen surface for the top coat to stick to. They also seal in the old paint and the lead it might contain.
Your trim surface is now sealed and ready for the decorative top coat. But that’s another story…
We've just had a fence built and its a beauty! So what's the problem?
Well, its a problem that comes up far too often when tradespeople do work for the general public, whether its painters or window installers or ... fence builders.
The problem is that the Home Owner thinks they are dealing with a fully staffed company. Oh, how deluded we are!
You see, many trade businesses today are just a string of sub-contractors.
I won't bore you with the many 'fence' conversations we had with various people, suffice to say we dealt with an estimator, an owner, an office lady, the old fence removal guys, the new material delivery guys and lastly, the guy who actually built the fence.
Apart from the Owner EVERY SINGLE PERSON was a new subcontractor who knew nothing about the other parts of the business.
So when we had questions no one was able to answer them: that was a different department.
And if you thought the Owner (whom we never met or even spoke to on the phone) might be our go-to guy, you'd be wrong!
Turned out he was too busy juggling sub-contractors to talk to his customers. The best he could do was send late and garbled texts. He simply refused to speak to us! It was incredibly frustrating.
I've encountered (read 'bid against') several large painting companies who don't actually do any painting! I've seen coaching videos telling owners to hire only subcontractors then DOUBLE what they pay them, to arrive at the quote.
I guess if you're happy to pay $2000 for $1000 worth of work thats fine but I think its nuts!
I encourage all home owners to ask 'Estimators' if sub-contractors are doing their work then ask themselves "Why not just hire my own subby?"
A few simple decisions and choices of order, can save you a lot of money when it comes to your next interior paint job. . Here are the 5 main tips to keep costs down.
1. Paint the same colour as before. Its not as exciting but you are happy with your existing colour and just want a freshen up you can save money. Why? If your painter uses the same colour you already have, he can often (but not always) paint walls with only one coat. Ceilings usually need 2 coats though.
2. Paint walls and ceiling and just sugar soap your trim. If your trim (doors, windows, skirting picture rails) are not chipped, a good sugar soap wash can make them look almost like new. And a wash is much quicker than a full paint job.
3. Paint walls and trim in the same colour. Semi gloss trim and low sheen walls look great even in the same colour. The difference in gloss levels separates the two visually. But from a painters point of view, no masking is needed, and the joins are much easier (faster) to achieve.
4. Empty rooms. Although most painters (not all) are happy to move small items out and larger furniture to the middle of the room, a completely empty room, means we can get started imediately and that saves you time and money.
5. Paint just before replacing carpets or re-sanding floor boards. Carefully masking carpet is part of the painters job, but if the carpet is going to be ripped out soon after painting, masking can be much simpler-faster-cheaper!
As you can see, most cost savings are are really time savings. Talk to your painter before the job starts and you might be pleasantly surprised!
'Removing small amounts of dried paint from your carpet is as simple as it is ingenious!
(Keeping paint off my clients carpets is a big deal. I use masking tape tucked down the edges, then a 6 inch wide strip of paper, then absorbent drop sheets on the floor, then plastic wrapped around large furniture.)
BUT (and I hate this) every few years a wee drop of paint gets onto the carpet. And usually it dries before Inotice.
Sooooooo this is how you fix it....
Take a small par of nail scissors (the curved ones) and give the carpet a haircut. Only take off the fibres that have paint on them and take off as little as possible. The curved scissors will take a tiny dip out of the carpet and after a bit of fluffing, you'll never know.
You are welcome to use my blog posts - in their entirety or as "quotes".