4 Mistakes Everyone Makes … Once

Filed Under: January 2020 Issue, Toolbox Articles

Hey, as homeowners and business owners, we all make mistakes but the key is to never make the same mistake twice. The other key is to heed the warnings when you read articles like this one. Learn from the mistakes of others and save yourself money and heartache in the long run.


That little spot of squishy wood or tiny hole of rot can wait until spring, or fall, or any other season. Always repair it as soon as you or your handyman or painting contractor sees it. I get it, we all get it. No one wants to spend money they may or may not have to fix something that appears to be tiny and something that you think can wait 4-6 months and you can save the money to pay for it. The problem with this reasoning is that once the tiny hole or squishy wood appears, its already a pretty big problem. Wood rot is like a cancer. If your doctor spotted cancer, you likely would not wait 4-6 months to begin treatment, right? Why? Because the cancer could spread and the battle would be harder and more dangerous. It is the same with wood rot. It will spread. It will be more difficult and more expensive to fix.

Accepting the cheaper estimate

It’s a common mistake that we’ve all made because who among us doesn’t want to save money? We understand and we would probably do the same thing as long as the estimates are equal in what they are providing. The devil is in the details as they say. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Are both service companies providing quoting on the same number of hours for the job? If not, why? Maybe one of the companies is only providing one coat of paint or stain, versus the other that is providing two. That’s a major difference. Which paint job will last longer (not to mention look more finished) the two-coat job or the one coat? OK, maybe they provide two coats. But there is still a discrepancy in the number of hours. What sort of prep work is being done before they paint? What sort of finish work? If it is the same, then make sure they have included all the rooms you wanted, or if it is exterior, did they include painting of doors and window casings. Don’t laugh, it has happened. One spouse meets with one contractor and gives them one set of information, the other spouse meets with the other contractor and is far more detailed. Or one contractor assumes and doesn’t ask all the right questions. while the other contractor asks very detailed questions. Bottom line, read the estimates carefully and make sure you ask questions before accepting that less expensive estimate. You will eliminate a lot of frustration and additional expense down the road.

Discounting experience

Can you get a great job done by a new company? Absolutely. Hey, we were all once the new company. And if the job is straight forward, and the person has experience elsewhere and is breaking out on their own, and you feel comfortable with the quote you were given, by all means go for it. Be sure to get a written warrantee saying what they do and do not cover and for how many years. This is very important. But maybe your job isn’t so straight forward. Maybe you have an older building as your home or business property. If it is older than 1978, there is a very good chance that it has lead paint. This will require lead remediation and you have to be trained and certified to deal with such jobs. Maybe you have an even older property, one that is historic. Does your painting company have experience dealing with that? Do they know the rules in your town about how to manage and deal with the details of painting a property like that? For instance, in a 300-year-old house with original windows, if someone isn’t careful and breaks a pane in the window, they can’t just go to a hardware store to pick up a new pane of glass. Special care should always be given to these special details to prevent such accidents.

Not sizing up the situation

When it comes to choosing a company to work with, always ask if they sub contract their jobs or do they have their own employees. Why does this matter? Employees are trained better in safety and techniques to the standards of the painting company and state and federal rules. For instance, going back to the lead remediation, we have 18 employees trained to the EPA standard of moderate-risk. With a company that uses sub-contractors, you pay the Contractor, they pay the sub-contractors. A Contractor may not make your call back a priority if he is working on his next jobs that he is trying to get paid on. That may delay their response if they contact you at all. A Contractor or smaller company that uses subcontractors may also experience difficulties in getting a response from their subcontractors as they are not employees and they have no direct control. Let’s say for example, you hired a company to repair the wood rot on the rake board and trim, and paint the rake boards, trim, windows and doors. A subcontracted carpenter comes in and fixes the wood rot. Then the painters come in but find a some more rot on a window sill that the original contractor did not spot when he did the estimate. So work stops while the Contractor tries to get the sub contractor to come back out. Well this sub contractor is on another job. He’s already been paid. He can’t get back there for 3 weeks. So the Contractor looks for another subcontractor to come in. But this one doesn’t have as much experience and does a sub-par repair. The painting subcontractors are out on another job because they needed to work while the Contractor found this subcontracted carpenter. Now, six months down the road, the wood rot on the window sill starts bubbling up. The job is fully paid for by you. The Contractor and subcontractors start pointing fingers as to who is to blame, meanwhile you have this rotting window sill. A larger company that employs their own painters and carpenters can repair and schedule the job to meet your deadlines. And if there is an issue, you know who to deal with.

No finger pointing.

Every one of us has made these mistakes with some contractor for some job, The key is to learn from others mistakes, and if you do make the mistake only make it once. There used to be an old television commercial, I think it had to do with car repairs, and the key line was, “you can pay me know, or pay me later.” Wise words for all of us to keep in mind when choosing a contractor, service provider, or automotive repair team.

Sheldon Stewart is President of Stewart Painting, Inc. with offices in Hyannis and Hingham. Learn more at stewartpaint.com or 508-362-8023.

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