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A Guide to Planning Your Next Painting Project

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When summer comes, so does our desire to take on projects we’ve been putting off. When the heat and humidity drive us inside to air-conditioned relief, plenty of home-improvement projects stare us in the face. Fortunately, long summer days are the perfect opportunity to cross things off our to-do lists.

If your list includes an interior or exterior painting project, it may seem so overwhelming that you’ve avoided even starting. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide — to take you from overwhelmed to on top of it, so you can get back to enjoying summer in a freshly painted home.

Make Your Painting Plan

Of course, the first thing to do is determine your needs. Are you simply looking to change the look and feel of your bedroom? Or is your home’s exterior in disrepair, with old, chipped paint? The more complex the job, the more time and money it will take and the more likely you’ll need professional.

This first step is the best part, and it usually comes pretty easily: Decide what look and feel you want your room (or house) to have. You’ve probably already got an idea, but if you’re starting from scratch, flip through magazines and pull out photos of what you’re looking for. Maybe watch some home design shows and look for colors and themes that you’re drawn to. Consider what feelings you want your room to evoke, and how it will be used. Is it a small room with limited light? Light and bright colors add a feeling of spaciousness. Is the room big, high-ceilinged and full of windows? Feel free to go darker, which adds texture and depth to a big open space.

Visit your local paint store and start pulling paint chips or draw downs — pieces of white cardboard the size of a sheet of paper, painted the color you’re considering. These options are free and allow you to look at the color at home to see how you like it. Or purchase a quart of the paint you’re considering and paint a section of the wall. Watch it throughout the day to see how changes in daylight affect how you like it. If you like a bold color but aren’t sure you want the whole room in that color, why not an accent wall?

Sometimes it helps to have a professional weigh in on the right color for your tastes, your lifestyle and your home’s architectural features. Neighborhood Painting offers a free color consultation to guide you through the color-selection process.

Finish also matters. High-gloss finishes are easier to clean and more durable, but their light-reflective properties call attention to imperfections, while flat finishes hide imperfections but are susceptible to damage because they can’t really be cleaned. Usually, it’s best to stay somewhere in the middle, with an eggshell or satin finish that provides some gloss and durability without highlighting flaws.

If you plan to paint your home’s exterior, you have further considerations: What’s appropriate for the style and age of your home? What will your neighborhood’s rules allow you to do? And what colors give your home the curb appeal and aesthetic you’re looking for?

Also, assess the features of your home that are unchangeable — roof tiles or shingles, stone or brick work, downspouts and gutters, trees or cement steps and porches. Your colors should complement these features.

Remember that if you’re painting your exterior, you’ll need a primary color as well as trim and accent colors too. Many paint stores can produce fold-out color cards with ready-made color combinations for you, to help you see how certain colors work together.

Evaluate Your Space

Once you have a picture in your mind of what you’re looking for, it’s time to evaluate your current situation.

You’ll need to take an inventory of the area to be painted. Examine the surface. If you’re planning an interior painting project, pull furniture away from the walls and look at them closely. Are there any holes that should be patched? Is it textured or flat? Will you want baseboards, crown moldings or a ceiling painted?

If we’re talking about an exterior paint job, how old is the house, and when was it last painted? Are there areas of damage in wood, or are there boards that seem weak? Are there any holes or areas of discoloration? This could mean you have some underlying problems that are affecting the structural integrity of the house — namely, termites, mold or wood rot. (More on those in a minute.)

Now it’s time to start laying the groundwork for the project.

Watch Out for Potential Hazards

In most cases, a paint job is just a paint job. But in the course of evaluating your home, you may encounter hazards lurking there, and ignoring these hazards won’t make them go away.

• Lead Paint: Depending on how long ago your house was painted, there’s a chance it contains lead paint, which can lead to brain damage. Homes built before 1978 — when the federal government banned the use of lead paints — usually contain it. In the Kansas City area, approximately 40,000 homes date back before 1950, and they all have a risk for containing lead. If you think yours could be one of them, you should have a certified lead inspector check out your home.

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If it turns out that your home does contain lead paint, working with it can be seriously hazardous if not done properly. This work must be done by a painter who is certified in Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP). It takes special power tools with vacuum attachments, not to mention that the operator must wear a respirator. Be sure that your professional painting company understands the issues related to restoration of older homes.

• Wood Rot: In a climate like ours, where there’s a considerable amount of humidity, wood rot can pose a threat. In Kansas City, wood rot repair services may be unavoidable. Wood decay fungi grows on wood that has a high moisture content — usually 20 percent or above — which can affect your home’s structural integrity. Replacement costs for wood rot account for nearly 10 percent of the annual wood production in the U.S.

If you spot questionable areas, contact a Kansas City wood rot repair company to have it examined and to provide an estimate for repairs.

Set Your Project Timeline

Your timeline obviously will depend on whether you are painting your home’s interior or exterior. A room can be painted in a weekend. A full home exterior can take weeks. Here are some things to consider, based on the type of painting project you’re planning:

Interior Painting: Whether you plan to paint the room (or rooms) yourself or hire a home interior painting services company, know there will be some prep time involved before anyone picks up a brush. This includes:

• Moving furniture away from walls and out of the room
• Removing light fixtures
• Removing hardware (doorknobs, switchplates, etc.)
• Laying drop cloths over furniture and floors
• Removing doors (particularly if the door obscures surfaces to be painted or if professional painters will need to pass through the door frequently)

On average, professional painters spend two to four days working on an average-sized room. Obviously, specific features of the room you’re painting affect this timeline, such as having ceilings that are higher than average, textured walls, dark paint that requires several coats, etc.

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Exterior Painting: The weather is really the driving force behind the timeline for an exterior paint job. Midsummer in Kansas City can bring high temperatures of around 90 degrees and are frequently accompanied by high humidity. When there’s too much moisture in the air, paint won’t be able to dry and cure properly, which leads to an uneven finish.

Of course, a good professional painting company understands how to overcome the challenges that accompany the Kansas City climate, including what times of day are best and how to select the right paint for the conditions. This is another reason not to do it yourself.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind with regard to timing your summer painting project:

• Paint in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cooler.
• Don’t paint when it’s windy; dust and debris may stick to paint.
• Don’t paint just before or just after rain.
• Avoid direct sunlight — paint in shady areas and follow the shade throughout the day.
• Take advantage of overcast (not rainy) days.
• Avoid the hottest days.
• On very humid days, double the drying time between coats.

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Also, remember that prep time can, and should, take as long as painting itself. Ensuring the surface is adequately prepared for painting — with old paint removed and surfaces sanded and cleaned — means that your paint will look great and last for years.

How long will it take? Obviously, doing it yourself is likely to take longer, especially if you don’t have much experience. Weather and other factors affect your timeline as well. Having someone else to help is great, but a professional company generally will have several crewmembers on site to expedite the process. Neighborhood Painting will actually send out specialized crews — one to handle prep work and wood repair and another to handle the painting. This speeds up the process as well, and will ensure that the work is done right the first time.

Creating a Budget

So how much is all this going to cost you? That mostly depends on whether you plan to do it yourself or hire someone.

Interior Paint Costs: Factors affecting labor hours and cost include size of the room, textured vs. flat walls, crown moldings, baseboards, awkward angles and tall ceilings.

Meanwhile, doing it yourself may not save you much money. By the time you’ve purchased equipment and paint, it’s likely you’ll pay up to 75 percent of what you’d pay a professional company. You’ll just need to decide whether the time you save is worth the extra money.

You’ll have to buy paint either way, and good quality paint can run anywhere from $35-$75 per gallon, and a gallon covers about 200-250 square feet of wall. Textured walls take more paint, so a painter likely will estimate another 300-350 additional square feet for textured walls. Typically, professionals can paint about 100-120 square feet of flat surface in an hour. Wood or plaster may reduce that. As an example, a mid-sized bedroom can require two to three gallons. One way to save money on paint is to buy it in bulk. Buying five-gallon cans of paint can be cheaper than five one-gallon cans.

Primer also reduces the amount of paint you’ll need. Primer costs just over $20 a can on average.

DIYers will have other expenses, including:
• Brushes
• Tape
• Drop cloths
• Paint trays
• Paint rollers
• Ladder

Exterior Paint Costs: Numerous factors can affect the cost of hiring a professional paint crew to paint a home’s exterior.

Purchasing your own paint and hiring a company to do the labor only can help you to save costs. But don’t skimp by buying poor quality paint. Cheap paint may not save you money in the end, since it’s usually thinner and will require more coats. You need paints that say “water repellent,” “preservative” and “paintable” on the label. Find the paint that seems best for your home’s conditions.

However, the equipment you’ll need to do this job yourself — such as ladders, paint removal materials, face masks, a sander, power washer — not to mention the time involved may justify the expense of hiring professionals. They have all this equipment already. Doing it yourself could result in numerous trips to the hardware store, potential falls and mounting unforeseen costs.

DIY or Hire a Pro?

It may be tempting to do the work yourself. It’s often cheaper, and it puts you in the driver’s seat in terms of scheduling and the final results. Plus, if you have somebody (or two) to help you out, that doubles your speed.

On the other hand, hiring the work out has numerous advantages:

• It can be hard to calculate how much paint or equipment you need if you don’t do this regularly, whereas professionals usually get it right the first time.
• They also have mastered methods for a clean finish in less time. Fixing mistakes could double your time.
• They have all the necessary equipment on hand.
• Safety concerns are far less with pros — no need for you to climb ladders or scale rooftops.
• They can deal with unforeseen hazards such as lead paint, asbestos, electrical or plumbing problems and fall safety.
• They usually know about HOA rules and what paints are required based on a home’s age, surface type, conditions in the area, etc.

Typically, it’s easier, safer and more affordable to hire a home exterior painting services company.

Choosing a Professional Painting Company

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You’ve likely heard somebody grumble about a professional painter before. A lot of inexperienced folks pick up house painting as a temporary job, looking to make a quick buck and assuming anybody can do it. It looks easier than it is, and, before long, an inexperienced painter can ruin a job.

But when you find the right company, the time spent and final results usually justifies the expense. Saving money by going with the lowest bidder isn’t necessarily a good move. Remember that old adage: You get what you pay for. Companies who skimp may do substandard work. Taking the time to do your homework before hiring a company is the best way to ensure the results you want.

Start asking friends and family members about companies they might recommend. Paint stores also may be a good place to gather referrals. Collect a handful of company names and start calling them. Explain as clearly as you can what you’re looking for and find out what they offer, and see if they can give you an estimate by coming to your home. Collect references and begin calling them. Also, check to see whether they use subcontractors. Neighborhood Painting never subcontracts any of its work, which ensures greater quality control over the final product.

It’s also a good idea to talk to the company about the people performing the work and what process they follow. At Neighborhood Painting, the first crew on site handles prep work. They prepare the house for painting, addressing any wood rot that may be present and handling all paint scraping, priming, caulking and pressure washing. The house then sits for about a week, allowing homeowners to inspect the work to guarantee complete transparency. Then the second crew comes in to paint, paying as much careful attention to detail as the first crew.

When you meet with any professional painting company, ask the following questions:
1. How many workers would you have on site?
2. Do you use payroll employees or subcontractors?
3. How many days would this job take?
4. Are you insured?
5. Describe your experience doing work like this.
6. What brands of paint do you use, and how are those costs passed along to me?
7. What bathroom arrangements would we need to make for workers?
8. Will you use primer first?
9. How many coats of paint would you apply?
10. Do you move the furniture?
11. Is everything included in your estimate? (Ask about hidden costs such as charges to move furniture, high ceilings, crown moldings, etc.)
12. How do you clean prior to painting?
13. How will you protect plants, windows and furnishings?
14. How will you dispose of trash and old paint?
15. What payment arrangements do you require?
16. Do you offer written guarantees?
17. Is there anything else I need to know about this job?

Once you’ve met with a few companies, one company probably will emerge as the best fit for your needs. It’s time to draw up a contract. Make sure the contract specifies every service the company will perform and what products they will use. Be sure the contract details the time it will take, start to finish, and how the company will be paid. Be sure it includes surface prep, priming, type of primer and paint, how many coats of paint and any other steps necessary. And be sure to ask whether there are any potential hidden costs that could add to the contracted amount.

Then, sign the contract, have a nice cold drink and enjoy the prospect of a summer with a freshly painted home!

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