Painting Your Home

by Gary Foreman

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Dear Gary,
We live in the south, where the humidity is extremely high. The average number of years one gets on an exterior paint job on their house is about seven or eight years. After getting quotes from several painters, is it better to go with the lowest bidder, the middle bidder or the highest bidder? Especially if the paint is all from the same source? What other factors should I consider when picking paint or hiring a painter?

Sooner or later, every homeowner faces the same question. New paint not only looks good, but it protects your home from the elements. It's also one of the more expensive things you'll do for your home and the results could last a decade. So Ted is wise to make his choice carefully.

Let's begin with paint selection. Good quality paint can save you money in the long run. If cheaper paint saved you 20% but only lasts half the time, you haven't saved any money.

According to the Paint Quality Institute, using better quality paint will reduce the likelihood of peeling and flaking. It will also hold color better and be more resistant to mildew. They also claim that it will apply easier.

The best way to find quality paint is by checking the ingredients in the paint, not by the company who made it. Quality paints have better binders. These binders not only affect how well the paint sticks to the surface being painted, but also how resistant it is to stains and cracks. Look for latex paints with a high percentage of acrylic binders.

Ted will also want to look for prime pigments. The most common being titanium dioxide. Prime pigments are better at covering old colors.

Finally, make sure that the paint contains a mildewcide. That's especially important for exterior painting.

Once Ted has selected a paint, he'll need to find a painter. The best way to find a reputable contractor is to talk with other people. Ask co-workers, neighbors and friends.

It's easier to compare bids if they're all using the same quality of paint. Ideally, the homeowner will have made a choice and notified each bidder what paint he wants.

It's always good to get three bids for any large job. Most of the time, you'll find that two of the bids aren't very far apart. That's probably about what the job is worth.

Sometimes one bid is significantly lower than the other bids. You'll be tempted to take this bid. Don't do it without thoroughly checking out the contractor. Ask him why his bid is lower than the other bids. It could be that he's going to skimp on materials, permits or cut other corners that could cause you trouble later.

You don't want to arbitrarily reject the highest bidder. You won't pick them often, but it can't hurt to ask why their bid is higher. Perhaps their service justifies a higher price. You'll need to decide whether the extra money is well-spent in your case.

Sometimes a contractor will bid a little more or less for a job depending on how much work they have lined up. If your work isn't urgent, you might get a better price by allowing the contractor to use your house as a fill-in between other jobs. Especially if it's a smaller job. The downside is that they might make only sporadic progress on your job.

You may want the job to move quickly from start to finish. Ask each bidder if he intends to stay with your job once started. Some are notorious for beginning many jobs to collect partial payments. But then things begin to drag.

The contractor should have proof of insurance and any necessary licenses. A good one won't mind you asking about their training and experience. Check references. You'd be surprised what you can learn from people who have already worked with a contractor.

Expect a good contractor to need to schedule your job a few weeks or even months in the future. That's because good contractors are busy. It's rare when one can start your job right away.

There are also certain warning signs of a painter who might not be up to the job. Beware of a request for a large deposit. Ten to twenty percent is sufficient.

Don't be pressured into signing anything. Reputable contractors won't make offers that are good for "today only."

Ted has some important decisions to make. Selecting the right paint will take a little work on his part. And, finding the right contractor is a matter of balancing quality, service and price. But, the combination of the right paint in the hands of a good painter should have his home looking good for years to come!

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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