Are you in the marketplace to have your facility painted? As far as quality, safety, health standards and the delivery of value go, it seems that in today’s market there is a race to the bottom underway with the client generally settling for increasingly lower prices and poorer service. Whats more, the majority of painters have business goals that are usually not aligned with your business goals.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Do Not Disturb: Many companies choose to paint their offices at night to avoid disruption or lost time incidence from odors. Did you know virtually all painters charge more to work at night or on weekends. If they don’t they may be giving you their B Team. Typically their most experienced and productive painters are family men who work the day shift and need to be with their families at night.
2. Who’s who?: In this day and age of pickup labor, subcontractors and street corner painters, the protection you need is simple. Ask your painting contractor for a list with the names of all the people working on the project, their years employed and even their level of safe lead practices and OSHA training. Also ask them to wear sticky name tags so you know who is who, at least at the start. Preferably the company does background checks to protect you and this would be something you want to be assured of.
3. Insurance & Licensing: Liability and workers compensation coverage needs to be in place for the primary contractor and all his subcontractors. Sometimes the contractor has insurance and licensing but the subs, or their subs or friends who might help out on the fly do not. Its not always clear if this could open your company up to potential liability for uninsured workers in this transaction.
4. Trust, but Verify the Cost: Be absolutely sure that for every project, even the extra costs for a project end up being approved in writing, even if that is an email with a clear offer and acceptance forming a contract. Many prevailing wage projects require a certified payroll form signed by the contractor that all wages are certified to be paid at the correct rate. Your contractor should know what this is and has access to a blank copy. Its always good to include a clause about requiring contractors to follow all tax laws. FYI, moving furniture can be a big extra cost and you always want to be sure that the paint is included if you are not buying it separately.
5. Occupant Safety and Paint Choice: There are many types of paints with Low VOC, Zero (not really zero) VOC and actual Zero Voc Paints as your choices. Read the health warning labels on the cans. Some products surprisingly do not have clear health warnings or direct you to the website for more information. FYI, “water-based” or “latex” are broad terms for paint and can still be extremely hazardous with acute health concerns for some rubber or plastic based, isocyanate based, modified-oil-based and epoxy-based coatings to name a few. Acute hazards mean that without proper respirators people might get sick immediately from just one exposure. No employer wants to be responsible for this shortcut. When it doubt, positively ventilate the work area.
6. Worker Safety: If you see painters without safety equipment, please speak up on their behalf. In the US, toxic chemical exposure, illness and death is highest among workers who don’t read the English language and who cannot grasp the need for personal safety protection. This may also be an indicator of a “who cares” attitude from the company. This may be more common with companies that don’t have a supervisor on the job and are running a project with less qualified subs who absorb the risks for their health individually.
7. Offsite Cleanup: Many painters take advantage of janitor sinks or bathroom sinks to wash brushes and rollers. Unfortunately many water based products include harmful toxic chemicals and marine pollutants that harm fish and wildlife and these can then be traced back to your facility through the sewers by the EPA or DEP. Maybe it is best to use products that don’t contain harmful chemicals at all or insist that painters take their waste away to dispose of legally rather than engage in dumping into sewers or behind the bushes.
8. Ventilating Odors is a Must: Many products have environmental concerns for those exposed to their fumes, with warnings on the products like “wear approved respirators,” or “not to be used in enclosed areas.” Paint or solvent smell is the clue that you should not be in that area without respiratory protection. When possible use the lowest odor product available like a premium, virtually odorless Zero VOC Paint. Many buildings have ventilation systems that simple move air (and off-gassing) around and do not send it out of the building. Direct ventilation to the outside is best.
9. Off-Gassing is Real (and not just VOCs): It’s been proven that harmful chemicals, not just VOC’s that damage the ozone, but also those that impact hormone and endocrine systems, cause cancer and neurological damage and that cause asthma and allergies can remain in the air for up to SIX YEARS after a paint job! If your company has a Healthy Product Policy, like they are way ahead on this. Once again, Zero VOC Paints, along with natural, non toxic and bio-based carpet, furnishings and flooring might be your best choice if this is a concern.
10. Getting Price Quotes: If you want to get the best deal in painting ask for your contractor to itemize the cost of labor for each coat of primer and paint and also for the cost of the primer and paint. Using cheap paint means needing to do extra coats. Many times a project that upgrades the paints, will save the extra labor that was budgeted for extra coats. Ask for a sample on the wall with the actual paint being used in an area where the color difference is greatest. You will immediately know how well a product covers and how it smells, with both factors allowing you to nail down the labor cost and to immediately know if you have a risk of lost time incidence with your staff from noxious paint odors. It’s best to include your staff in the decision. Companies that use high quality Zero VOC Paints have been known to be able to paint during the day and to save the night and weekend premium they used to pay since high quality Zero VOC products may be virtually odorless and free of all the things that make people react. Paying a little more for higher quality paint and being able to eliminate a coat can easily save 30% on the cost of a project. It’s worth noting that the established brand names in paint are only more convenient for painters and don’t always offer the best value and performance in the short and long run even though some painters may tell you so.
BUYER BEWARE: While many in the painting trade are straight up legitimate business men who are well-trained and licensed you need to remember that the prerequisite for appearing to be a professional painter are simple:
a. Get a cell phone. Free.
b. Order Business Cards. Free
c. Buy a Paintbrush, drop cloth, ladder and roller $75.
d. Make a deposit payment on an insurance policy $300.
e. Find some friends with white T-shirts.
f. Viola. Painting Contractor.
It would be fair to suggest that you treat all bidders equally, by using a matrix or point scoring system and by not settling for the lowest price from someone who is cheating the system. We all end up paying for that eventually.
If you are interested in getting knowledgeable professionals to come in and consult for you to help you take control of your maintenance painting, please drop us an email. We sell paint, but we do not sell painting services, we simply offer “unvarnished” advice to keep your staff and the planet healthy without ever paying more or supporting the toxic chemical industry.
Need paint colors matched, advice on which product to use or product delivered directly to your jobsite? Just give us a call and we will walk you through an order. It only takes a few minutes. 973 886 4722.