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Evaluating Bids for Painting

July 8, 2018


Don't Compare Numbers, Compare Values



You need a couple rooms painted. You get bids from two reputable companies. One bid is $2000, the other is $4500. How do you decide which to go with? The immediate reaction as a consumer is to go with the lower bid because it's less expensive. But I'm going to let you in on a secret.....the higher bid COULD be the cheap bid, and the lower bid COULD be the expensive bid. In terms of cost of service proposals, the words ''high/expensive, and likewise "low/cheap" are NOT equivalent. It's up to YOU the consumer to determine which bid is (more) expensive and which is cheap(er), not just which is high and which is low.


When you look at the bottom line dollar amount, you're looking at numbers. Comparing $4500 and $2000, these are only numbers. This is a number comparison. The correct terminology to use in comparing the bottom line between two bids is “high” and low.” In this scenario $4500 is the high bid, and $2000 is the low bid. This is a number comparison. Speaking as a paint contractor who writes multiple proposals every week, number comparisons tell you, the consumer, almost NOTHING about evaluating the two proposals, because the way you evaluate and make the decision is with VALUE comparison, not number comparison.


I cannot tell you how many proposals of mine have been turned down because, according to the client, I'm twice or three times as “expensive” as the other contractor. I can assure everyone who reads this as well as anyone I have ever given a proposal to, that this is not true. I am not twice or three times as expensive as the majority of contractors. My proposals, however, are frequently twice and three times as high. But twice as high does not mean twice as expensive. A  $30,000 2005 Kia Sedona and a $30,000 2005 Corvette are not exactly the same value; $30k for a 2005 Kia would be a huge rip-off. Same price, very different values. 


By contacting two painting companies, the consumer is considering a financial investment. Just like every other financial decision, it is the consumer's responsibility to do their homework and make the best decision by determining the value of their investment options. The consumer has to compare the value of what is being proposed by the two competing companies. The $2000 company could be the most expensive option for a number of reasons compared to the $4500 company, and the consumer needs to be able to determine that.


How do we do that?


Let's look at the scenario from my perspective, one of the competing painters. The project we're bidding on is wall space only, matte finish, in two rooms, about 1500sqft of wall space. My bid is $4500, and the other painter's bid is $2000. My wall finish price is $3.00/sqft. The other painter's wall finish price is about $1.30/sqft. This is information the potential client should know if they want to make the value comparison.


My finish price: $3 per square foot

Their finish price: $1.30 per square foot.


Again, there's HIGH and LOW, not “expensive” and “cheap.”


Why is the other painter's price $1.30?  Here's what they're providing: They are giving a light sand with a pole sander to the wall to knock down any high points, making any minor repairs in the drywall (filling holes, etc) and insure good adhesion of the paint, and they're using Benjamin Moore Aura, arguably the best matte acrylic wall paint made in the USA.

Why is my price $3? Here's what we're providing for $3/sqft: Wall space is all sanded down with 80 and 120 grit sandpaper (HEPA vac attached sanders for virtually zero dust and debris), so that ALL the old roller texture is removed and the wall is completely smooth, defects in the drywall (holes, dings, faulty tape seams, high/low spots filled to flatten the wall as needed) are repaired, drywall mud is sealed with an acrylic primer, then the wall is primed with Fine Paints of Europe oil undercoater tinted to the topcoat color, then the wall is topcoated with Fine Paints of Europe Eurolux matte with a 1/4” roller cover for an almost completely smooth wall that feels like porcelain and will outlast the Aura finish by 5-10 years.

(I also have a $5/sqft wall finish using the same product, but involves a full skim coat, or two, to make the wall flat and perfectly smooth, but I'm using the standard as the example in this case)


What my “higher” bid is offering is more than double the prep work, with the addition of two primers, one of which is the finest primer I have ever seen. My higher bid is offering deeper color saturation, more washability, and a more luxurious feel when touched. Also, considering how much more work this finish is, I'm not making any more money than the other painter is. It's possible that the other painter ends up with a higher hourly rate on this particular project....that depends on crew size, overhead, etc. I don't charge more per hour than most good painters; I just typically take more hours to do the job because we're doing much more prep.


Considering how much more work is being proposed, and how much longer the finish will last, and how much better it will look, my bid is the better value. There most certainly comes a time when a potential client understands the greater value and still cannot afford the higher bid. Of course this is understandable. I live on a fairly limited budget myself as a single parent of four kids! Trust me, I get it! In this case, I can downgrade to the same product as the other painter and offer the same project with the same prep work, but with the other guy's product at $3800, which is arguably a better value because we're doing more than twice the prep and the overall price is NOT double the other painter's price. The other process is faster because it doesn't involve oil primer requiring overnight dry time and more jobsite staging to keep the odor contained and ventilated.


Consumers, you are entitled to know why our prices are what they are. It's your investment, and I respect that. I want to help you however I can to understand the value of what I do and offer, and why Durso Painting is different. I'm not out to slam other painters, I'm not out to say I'm better than other painters. I'm just trying to do work that is different, more customized, with greater attention to detail, and I have no problem explaining the cost of getting the results.


So the next time you get bids for projects, ask questions so you can compare the value of what's being proposed so you can make the wisest financial investment.


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