Have you ever looked forward to a fishing trip? Days leading up to it you plan and pack your snacks, playlist, and gear. The day arrives and you get up early to find that perfect spot on the water and you cast your first line. After a few hours no bites, but you’re not deterred. You find a new spot and cast again. This time you get caught in debris and loose your hook. Still not deterred you connect a new one and cast again and you catch something. A guppy sized carp that you throw back. You keep fishing. You move again. Now your snacks are running low. It’s hot, you haven’t caught anything worth keeping. The sun is starting to set, mosquitoes are eating you alive, and you get snagged again. This time you cut bait, call it quits and hope for better results the next time. This describes the process of getting my house painted.
Work to paint my house started on June 9. From the beginning I was physically involved with the project and initially I didn’t mind because I like working on my house and the first project I took on would save me money and the painter time; replacing the trim on the 14, 1st floor windows and scraping them myself. After this project I decided to rebuild the rear portico as the ceiling wood was spongee and the outer layers of paint came off with your hand. I love woodwork projects, so this was also fun to tackle. Lyle was exceeding my expectations at that point due to the degree he was scraping and prepping the dormers and side trim. He shared with me that he couldn’t find people that would work on heights, so I took on another project, removing the paint from around my transom window. This work is what led to the ONLY project I added, the paint removal from the porch bead board, which introduced me to the product Peel A-Way.
The removal went so well I decided I wanted to leave the wood natural, but some detailed clean up would be needed. Since this was an add-on project I removed the porch and columns off of the original scope of work. I would handle the detail clean-up of ceiling and did not want to feel rushed/pressed to get it done and not impede Lyle’s progress. This was 20 day mark, so it was clear the three week timeline I was given would never be met.
The first of July hit and Lyle didn’t work for several days of good whether. When he finally returned it was to clean up his scaffolding that had been blown over in the storm from the night before. I asked if he was going to work that day and he shared that he had a contract to paint apartments in Kentucky at the first of each month. Nice to know. When Lyle started putting primer paint on the dormer trim I knew I was in trouble. He had only fully scraped two of the four and the Stock Street side of my house. Other areas he started, but did not complete. This was a clear sign to me that he was going to start taking short cuts to get the job complete. He had left his ladder on the roof near the large dormer, so I finished scraping the side of that with my heat gun. He did finish scraping the fourth, but then turned to applying primer to the dormer siding.
The crown under the soffit of the front of the house can be easily reached with a ladder. The man Lyle brought on day one could have been tackling that instead of the windows. For 40+ days Lyle scraped in earnest dormers 20′ off the ground, in crevices that can barely be seen with the naked eye and yet he’d done next to nothing to the crown and soffit that greets visitors as soon as the walk up to the front door. On day 3, when his guy pressured washed the front of the house he hit that area and in spots went down to the bare wood. At that time Lyle said it would be scraped. When I discovered the rot in the crown of the rear of the house, my concern was that their could be more in the front. I asked again about when that area would be scraped. Lyle scraped more in the same areas that had been pressured washed and told me I should replace all of the front, as for “resell value” the two sides should be the same. I totally disagreed with that, so instead I took a metal pipe and tapped hard every 3-5 inches and determined the wood was sound. When I shared I would not be replacing his response had turned to that area was not part of the proposal. My grandmother said all the time “one monkey don’t stop no show” or “one setback should not impede progress”, so I purchased more of the Peel A-Way product and decided to do it myself.
Peel A-Way is awesome, but you cannot allow the product to dry. It does not come off with scrubbing. I actually purchased a pressure washer specifically to tackle this project. The first of August rolled around and I knew Lyle would disappear again for his Kentucky contract. I was still steamed over the girlfriend smearing caulk on my house, but while cleaning the crown I took about an 8′ fall off my ladder. The soil gave way, the ladder went to the right, I went to the left. Thankfully I landed in my flower bed which is relatively soft soil and butt first (baby got back). I was bruised, sore, and mad at myself for falling. That also became the moment I decided to cut bait. I should not have needed to be on the ladder in the first place. When Lyle arrived the morning of August 3, 54 days after starting, I brought an end to the contract. At that point I did not have another painter lined up, but my gut told me to shut him down in the same resolve it had when it told me to rent a jack hammer and remove the concrete from my shower.
So here are some lessons I learned in selecting a painting contractor:
Get personal reference. Lyle found me, he was not referred, so I relied on strangers to vouch for him.
Even when referred check references. I did. But only 1 of 3 actually called me back. The one supported the quality of his work, but warned me about his poor time management, which Lyle explained away.
Ask how big of a crew they have and if they are on payroll with the company. Run if the company only deals with freelancers because you have to trust they work at the same level of quality as the person you selected.
Ask about their equipment and how they plan to access high areas. Lyle’s ladders have scraped the coating off areas of my box gutters. They should not have been used to give him access to the dormers. I feel fortunate that more damage was not done. I will not use them in that fashion again.
#1 question to ask, especially for a small operation, is how many projects are they working simultaneously. You only want to deal with a small operator that is solely dedicated to your project. Maybe two projects if one is interior, which they could work in the case of inclement weather.
On August 5th Joe Hall of DJK Painting Co. came to look at my house. Joe was referred to me by Mike Tanner, who had installed my master shower and replacement columns. This was the second time Joe had come out. The first time, after explaining I wanted the windows and trim scraped to wood he was not interested in the project. It would be too time intensive. I told him Lyle’s bid and he said, if that guy does all that, for that price, he’s your man. He wasn’t surprised by the turn of events. Mike Tanner was enough of voucher for Joe, but I did check out a house he had painted in Indian Hills. He encouraged me to knock on the door and speak with the owners. I did and they could not say enough great things about Joe and his crew of two. They volunteered all the answers to questions I had before I could ask the questions. That house was 3x the size of mine, all brick, and they had it painted in three weeks and there was no signs they were ever there. Joe also gave me the address of an asbestos siding house he had painted. I didn’t get to speak with anyone, but comparing it to the before picture he had sent to what I saw in person was enough to seal the deal for me. Fortunate for me, his schedule allowed him to start the next day.