This phrase can get you in trouble if you don’t know what it means.
Recently I was called out to a project because the homeowner was not satisfied with the quality of work from his current painter. These situations are never good, and I try to steer clear of them and not get involved when possible. This time though, I wasn’t aware of the situation before arriving on site for the estimate. During the meeting with the homeowner and his contractor I asked them to show me the problem so I could determine if it was something that could be fixed.
After looking at the room, the homeowner expressed that he felt the painters had done a poor quality job. To be honest, I was not sure what he was unhappy with! Then he pointed it out… the painter had done what the industry standards call “tape and backfill”. This process is fairly new to the industry and has been used for about 15 years.
There are a couple of reasons why professionals use the tape and backfill method. First, to fill in any gaps between wood trim and the wall surface. Second, to seal the tape down so paint doesn’t bleed under it onto the wood trim. And third, because you cannot get a straighter, cleaner line than tape and backfill produces.
So how does it work?
The painter tapes off the trim (after it has been painted) so just a small fraction of the wood will show along the edge nearest the wall. This gives the caulking something to adhere to. Next, a very small amount of caulking is applied to fill any spaces/cracks between the wall and trim, and to seal down the tape. Once the wall is finished, the tape is pulled revealing a straight line marking the edge where the wall meets the baseboard. Painters take special care to use as little caulking as possible because if they use too much, when they remove the tape, the caulking will strip off taking the paint with it.
That all sounds fine, right?
Well the problem with this project (and many like it) is that the seam between the wall and the trim had a gap, in some places as much as ¼ inch or more wide (see picture). That makes for a sizable gap to fill. Also, the wall color was orange, and the orange paint covered the caulking and appeared to be bleeding down the wall and onto the white trim. Because of such a large gap, it gave the illusion that paint was on the baseboards, when it fact, it was just on the caulking. Now this could be addressed, and that clean line moved back further towards the wall, but it would require a couple of extra steps.
A word on industry standards:
What the painter did was correct per the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PCDA) standards.
However, to give the customer the outcome they envisioned, here’s how this could be addressed…
First the gap between the wall and trim gets caulked, and is given adequate time to cure. Second, tape would be applied on the caulking up to the wall. Third, backfill the tape with caulking to seal the tape down (so paint doesn’t bleed under). Since there is an extra step, it will take more time and product and that equals more money. Plus, you’d have to be even more careful when pulling the tape after painting, so that it doesn’t pull out the caulking in the gap.
In conclusion, the painter did what is considered the industry standard, however the home owner had a different picture in mind. It is good to be informed and ask questions, but it is impossible to know what the other person is envisioning or expecting. The PCDA industry standards can be viewed here, or you can visit our FAQ page, where we explain painting terms and the practices we use each day in our business.
-The time frame is quoted the day we come to your property to do your free estimate. Meanwhile, back at the office signed contracts may have come in that are added to the schedule that the estimator is not yet aware of.
-Your project is not put on the schedule until we receive your signed contract. For example: We tell a client on Monday during their estimate that we’re scheduling about 6-8 weeks out from booking. Fair enough right? But what happens when we don’t receive the signed contract until three weeks later? Scheduling has changed, but the client’s expectation is that their work will now be started in 3-5 weeks. No dice, while you were deciding we continued booking new projects. So what can you do? Sign your contract and get it in asap. Also, contact the office (the same day if possible) to get an update on how far out until we begin your project.
FYI – To be fair to everyone,
we do not schedule clients
until the day we have their signed contract back. A phone
call will not get you scheduled. You will be contacted the
day we receive your signed contract, and your project
will be put in the schedule.
-Human factor. Painters and their helpers occasionally become ill, get injured, or have family emergencies at the same rate as the rest of us. This equals either a day lost or slowed down with a crew member out.
Wrapping up: These are not all, but certainly the most common variables that affect scheduling for all professional painters. They can result in one day, to one week, of variation in your project start date. A big thank you to all of our customers for their patience and understanding. We take scheduling and your satisfaction very seriously.
Now the interior job is going to take two days instead of a quick (rainy) one. Note: We do accept reasonable add-ons for efficiency and our commitment to customer satisfaction! Large project add-ons will be scheduled at a later date.
Now let’s look at the situation, our exterior customer is disappointed because we started another client’s interior project. Our interior customer’s house is going to require a second day to finish, pushing back the exterior customer another day. This all may have happened with NO RAIN! But, a decision had to be made and in this business sometimes decisions can be costly in the form of days lost on a job.
Before we move on, let’s back pedal a bit and say we’ve instead made the decision to go forward and work outside. Que storm clouds and we get rained out. Now we’ve spent time and expense towards set up, which will have to be re-done another day because it’s wet and useless. Or, maybe we’ve begun painting and now your entire project has been compromised. That’s a risk we are unwilling to take, so we err on the side of caution with rain, or threat of rain at 50% or higher.
Come back next week for the final installment of the blog series “Scheduling”!
So, we’re up early in the morning and all seems quiet on the horizon. Just one quick check of the forecast with our cup of coffee and we learn that there is a threat of rain. Now, threats of rain are quite common in Ohio, and in our business we only pay special attention to them if they are at 50% or higher.
We listen to the meteorologist, have a look at the radar to see what areas are affected, and make the best decision with the tools we have available. That decision is always based on the risk to our customer’s investment. We are unwilling to jeopardize a customer’s project by trying to paint on a high risk day, so we are left with two options: call a “rain day” and lose all business for the day, or attempt to schedule for short interior projects.
We prefer to try scheduling interior jobs to keep the business running, of course. But this means that we may be calling a client the night before or the morning of. Luckily most clients respond well to last minute notice because they are excited to begin their projects!
Moving on… we’ve had a rainy day (or a day with a high threat of rain) and we’ve managed to schedule last minute interior projects to keep our crews busy. Fast forward a few hours and now it’s noon. No rain. In fact, the cell appears to be heading just north/south of us and the day turns out to be nice. Threats towards our local weather personalities aside, our exterior customers feel cheated. We understand this completely, but this is one of those factors that is out of our control (insert frustration here).
Now, to further complicate matters, our interior clients who were gracious enough to let us start their projects with no notice, want to add on another room while we’re there…
Put simply, scheduling is the most challenging part of our business, and most reputable painting contractors will have some backlog. We understand that our clients want to know how long they will be waiting for their project to begin. Once the decision has been made to invest in a business or home improvement project owners become excited to see it finished.
When a client asks how long it will be before we get started on their project, I give them an educated guess based on nearly 20 years in the business. But, that guess simply cannot take into account a handful of mitigating factors. We give our best estimated date, and usually we’re on the mark, but sometimes factors skew that date.
“What are these factors?”, you ask. We aim to answer that question in this blog series.
Factor number one: Weather
The painting business is heavily dependent on mother nature. In fact, the forecast is the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we look at just before bed. Either it’s clear or it’s raining, right? But consider this; have you ever left home without an umbrella, assured by your local weatherperson that the storm will pass us by, only get caught in a downpour? (Here is an article from timeanddate.com on forecast accuracy)
Now, while you may be at risk for an unpleasant soaking before going on about your day, the painting business comes to a screeching halt due to rain. Simply stated, we cannot paint exteriors in the rain. Latex paint is water soluble, so it will dilute and streak, the finish will be at risk. Oil paint… we all know that oil and water don’t mix, again the result would be undesirable. Even a morning shower results in a lost day on the job because we can’t be sure that all the surface areas are completely dry. Since customer satisfaction is our number one goal, it would be remiss of us to paint/continue painting in conditions which would result in a compromised outcome.
Okay, that is all quite reasonable, you can’t paint exteriors in the rain. But let’s delve a little deeper than what the average DIY painter considers…
I’m Dale Jagger and thought I would start this blog about the commercial and residential painting trade by introducing myself, my philosophy on service, and tell you a bit about who I am.
I’m from the Centerburg, Ohio area, about 30 minutes northeast of Columbus. I grew up on a farm and went to Centerburg High School, class of 1977. I spent most of my free time working on the family farm, which I really enjoyed, while growing up. I went to Ohio University and graduated with a degree in general studies in 1982, but like a lot of young people I was still not sure what I wanted to do.
I began my career path by going into management in the food service industry. I worked with two different companies, and I enjoyed the food service industry. While I was in management, I was still an employee and found it very frustrating that the owners would occasionally make minor changes, just for the sake of making changes. These variations essentially amounted to “rearranging deck chairs”, rather than making any impact on actual problems.
My frustration with food service management let me to taking a leap into another industry. After being asked several times, I finally went to work with my father in law at his painting company. Now this was against my better judgement, I don’t like to mix business and family, but it was an opportunity for a change. After about two years the business dissolved due to a divorce, so in 1997 I decided to go into business for myself and started my own painting company, Integrity Painting.
I was set on running my business the same way I had in food service, with my own personal philosophy: “Say what you do, and do what you say.” I was determined to set an example of good quality service. Since I was in control now, if changes need to be made, I was going to make ones that would solve real problems. I’ve been asked what makes me an expert in my field, and to that I reply, “Nothing”. There is no school for this industry, it’s just experience. Been there, done that and found out what works and what doesn’t. It’s a constantly changing field, so nobody is really what I’d consider an expert. Some of us are just more knowledgeable than the layperson would be because there is a great deal to know.
I will acknowledge that in the trade industry, a lot of companies have earned a bad reputation for being unreliable and trying to get by with doing fast and cheap work. I don’t want that to be what Integrity Painting is known for. The only way to distinguish yourself from the next guy, whether you’re selling nuts and bolts, food or paint, is the quality of service you provide. If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time. It just makes sense. Go the extra mile, beyond what you’re supposed to do, rather than trying to get away with doing the minimum, because you will always have to go back and fix it or do it right later. That makes a bad impression right from the get go, and you can never walk away from that situation in a positive light. I believe in being upfront with customers about what we can and can’t do. I would rather be honest about the limitations in my field, than tell a customer that we can do something that we can’t, and have them walk away from their service experience disappointed.
“Say what you do, and do what you say.”
This statement is the cornerstone of my philosophy for success. It holds true across all types of businesses. If you and your employees follow that rule, you will be successful. That, and of course your staff. I am just a “cog in the wheel”, and if it wasn’t for the people that put the paint on the walls or the administrative staff, there wouldn’t be an Integrity Painting. My employees spend more time with our customers than I do, so they really are the ones that represent the company. I’m careful to hire people that share my philosophy about business and quality of work.
I currently live in Baltimore, Ohio with my supportive wife Dona. We began raising our family here in 1987. We have three beautiful daughters, Abigale the youngest, is going to Mt. Union pre-med. We also have twin daughters Audreyana and Louisa. Audreyana is going to Southern Illinois University, pursuing a doctorate in neuropsychology, and her twin sister Louisa has Down’s Syndrome and lives at home with us. We have a dog, Daisy, and cats (all female) too. So the “seat is always down” at my house, ha ha! I don’t have much time for hobbies since I work 60-70 hours per week, but I still enjoy farming, we have some wool sheep currently for 4H. I also enjoy muscle cars, we have a 1970 Ford Torino that we take out on weekends occasionally.
Stay tuned for the next post: Part one of a four-part series on the most challenging topic in the painting industry: Scheduling.