Questions About Pricing Answered Honestly
Why does painting cost so much?
Recently, a number of factors have led to spiraling costs
in the home-improvement / construction industry. Chief
among them is insurance costs, both for contractor’s
liability and for workman’s compensation. Gone are
the days when a contractor could hire casual labor and
not worry about lawsuits from injured workers or dissatisfied
homeowners. These kinds of lawsuits (and in my opinion,
rampant greed by insurance companies) have escalated the
cost of these now required insurances to record levels.
In the residential painting industry, the going rate for
workman’s comp is 40 to 45% of gross wages. For
an employee earning $10.00 per hour, that’s an additional
$4.50 per hour the employer must pay out of his pocket
to the insurance company. And that’s only workers
comp. In addition he must pay general liability and payroll
taxes, making the true cost of that $10.00 per hour employee
something like $20.00 to $25.00 per hour. And that’s
before figuring in any other overhead, not to mention
There is supposed to be an insurance reform movement underway
here in California, but so far all we've been paid is
lip service and promises; no real reform (i.e. rate reductions).
In the meantime, the scrupulous contractor who abides
by the rules and protects himself and his customers with
required insurance has no choice but to raise his rates
and pass costs along to his clients.
I understand, but it still seems high. Anyone
can paint, right?
Yes and no. While it is true that many of the tasks involved
in residential repainting can be performed by unskilled
labor, the second that labor is performed under the auspices
of a legitimate licensed contractor, all the conditions
discussed above apply. Also, a professional contractor
seeks to hire stable, long-term employees who will be
as conscientious in sanding wood trim as in spraying fine
finishes. These employees deserve a decent wage. Isn’t
quality workmanship performed by knowledgeable, conscientious
craftsmen under the protection of an insured contractor
the reason you called a licensed contractor in the first
Ok, but why is your bid higher (or lower) than
the others I received?
A number of factors conspire to determine a contractor's
bid, and these vary from contractor to contractor. Differing
labor and overhead costs play a part in it, but for me
the biggest difference is the amount of time (labor) I
feel it takes to do quality work on any given job. Every
contractor has his own idea about this, and it’s
reflected in his bid price. Contractors who cut out prep
steps or number of coats can charge a cheaper price. Contractors
who hire minimally skilled labor can charge a cheaper
price. All else being equal, it really just comes down
to how each contractor figures his costs and what constitutes
a reasonable profit. Many of my customers realize that
they could have gone with a cheaper bid, but end up choosing
my price because they know I will give them their money's
worth and treat them and their property with the respect
they deserve. That's my pledge.