Ask Woodiwiss: how do I evaluate a paint job? How do I know my painter did a good job?

We sometimes pick up the pieces of a bad paint job. Here’s how to tell if your project was worth it. 

Like any craft, a paint job can be done with care that goes beyond merely brushing liquid against a wall. A contractor’s experience, their work crew, the warranty and promise from the sales agent, and the kind of materials used all add up visibly on your walls and exterior spaces.

Check how much paint was used

Outside of labor costs, the sneakiest way for painting companies to reduce their overhead costs is by reducing how much paint they use. A gallon of paint can cost between $20 and $50 or more. Woodiwiss Painting never uses cheap paint. Cheap paint:

  • Chips and reveals damage faster
  • Doesn’t stand up to touching and scraping
  • Can’t be wiped clean as easily or well
  • Bubbling and peeling paint in humid, damp areas becomes a concern within a couple of years
  • Doesn’t last nearly as long as the six-to-ten-year average of higher-quality paint

A professional painter that cares about their craft knows better materials make for a better result. We literally don’t want to come to repaint your house in a few years (unless it’s a room or area we haven’t painted yet, of course). 

So ask how many gallons of paint your painter intends to use and compare it with what they actually use. They should show you receipts if they buy it from a local hardware or paint store. A contractor discount will likely be applied, too, which can sometimes be passed along to you.

During the estimating process, they should have an idea based on the square footage of your home. Our usual calculation is one gallon for one coat of 350 square feet of interior home space. We also use two coats by default, sometimes more, depending on the prior paint color. 

A modest house job painting a bathroom, living room, kitchen, 2-3 bedrooms, and dining room should probably consume about 4-6 gallons of paint. Maybe less if several rooms are all the same color. Our average paint job spends about $250 on paint. 

Compared to cheap paints that might only cost $100 for the whole job versus $250, contractors with 3 or 4 paint jobs a week can net $800 or more a month in profit margin just on the paint. Lower-quality brushes and re-used rollers can add even more margin.

You can’t grade your painting contractor entirely on how much paint they use of course, but you can get a feel if they’re trying to stretch each gallon too thin and bring re-used rollers to reduce overhead costs.

Look for even surface area coverage

  • If you run your (clean) hand over the wall after it dries, does it feel smooth?
  • Does it feel and look similar to other walls in your house?
  • Does the paint appear the same at the top, bottom, and corners of the wall?

If so, you can grade your paint contractor with high marks because the paint was applied evenly. 

Look for streaks and brush strokes in a different light

A good starting point for any painting job is laying down protective barriers and sheets to protect the floors and furniture.

The next part of the paint job starts with the edge work around ceilings, door frames, crown molding, windows, and rails. This is time-consuming, detailed work with a brush since rollers can’t cover these spots without also hitting the ceiling or floor.

Shine a flashlight at different angles to see if the strokes appear after the paint has dried.

Look to see if brush strokes are visible around the ceiling line and edges. Check the entire house because brush strokes will remain visible forever. If you can see the strokes, they didn’t apply enough paint. 

Did they cover over wood damage?

Wood damage around baseboards, window frames, and doorways can often be fixed. But not every painting business is interested or capable of applying these small fixes themselves or reaching out to qualified vendors for help. New construction rarely has these problems, but it’s more common in older homes.

If prior damage was covered up with gloms of paint, you likely had a bad paint job. And the problems (such as water damage, mold, etc.) will reoccur.

Similarly, check whether prior nail holes were properly patched or covered over. Small nail holes aren’t a big deal, but larger hardware and anchors leave a mark. If you can tell where they were, the paint will likely break over the hole and reveal itself soon.

Check the small areas for perfect coverage

Painting contractors vary in their use of labor contracts with third parties. Woodiwiss Painting doesn’t rely on this stop-gap measure. We background check, hire, train, and employ all our painters. They’re on-staff, which adds to some overhead costs, and sometimes means we have to schedule out jobs further than competitors who will hire temp teams on demand.

We think it makes for a superior painting project every time to have our crew in-house. Our crew knows they have a job today and tomorrow, they stick with us for a long time, and they are paid fairly and more than competing firms. Meaning they just care more than temp painting contractors. You can also know you’re equitably supporting the lives of the people who work with us.

Some other painting contractors may seek to reduce labor costs by minimizing downtime and labor hours and maximizing the number of painting jobs assigned. More houses painted quickly adds up to a more profitable painting business in the short term. 

And the number one way painting companies can reduce the number of hours spent on an interior house painting job is by skimping on the small details and time-consuming brushwork. The second and third ways to cut costs are in reduced prep work (like laying down covers to protect your floors) and the aforementioned cheaper materials.

Look for:

  • Missed spots behind railings and uneven applications near tight corners, woodworking, etc.
  • Paint stains on the floors, carpet, furniture, etc. Door handles are a common spot for stains, too, because hasty contractors that don’t wipe their hands might not notice in their effort to get out the door.

Signs of color separation and bleeding

Paint applied near corners and intersections with other paint should have a clearly demarcated line. If you see little blobs of color that “bleed” into another line of color, or around a corner where the color should have stopped, your paint job was done too fast. 

Paint “bleeding” can also occur near cracks. Run your finger along or near a cracked area. You might not see the crack anymore — and painting over small hairline cracks is perfectly fine with the right paint and conditions — but if you feel a “bubbling” effect where color glommed into a crack and bled back out or looks like a mismatched texture, this is a sign of a hasty, poor-quality paint job.

For exterior paint jobs, look for these marks of quality

A quality painting job outside your house may be difficult to see up close because you might need ladders. But exterior painting jobs have tell-tale signs of bad craftsmanship:

  • Did the team bring in more or less labor than they estimated? Exterior painting requires a slightly larger crew than an interior paint job because of the sheer size, ladders, scaffolding, etc. required. If they quoted one estimate and brought in less, they might be trying to cut labor costs. Be especially worried if they somehow get done in the same amount of originally estimated time.
  • Is the paint applied uniformly, with no errant marks along the roof line or ground?
  • Did they remove the gutters and other bits of hardware like shutters first?
  • Did they bring enough equipment and paint the first time on-site?
  • Did they apply painter’s tape around the windows? 
  • Did they offer to paint the window trim and actually do it?
  • Do you notice brush strokes around the edges of walls, corners, and other hardware?
  • If they painted the garage door, does it appear evenly coated and smooth, particularly around the hinges and rubber seals? 
  • Was the painting estimate accurate on the number of gallons necessary? Did they use the exact same paint throughout?
  • Did they apply more than one coat? Can you see any of the prior paint, particularly if it was a dark color, underneath?

Leave your next painting job to the pros at Woodiwiss and experience the difference

You’ll be able to see and feel the difference a quality paint job brings to your home with Woodiwiss Painting. The total cost may appear more on the estimate than competitors, but certain aspects of quality work show up in ways beyond the paint on the walls. 

You get more prep work, high-quality painting materials, and the most experienced painters who care about your whole house from top to bottom, inside and out.

Get started with a no-risk quote.