The Hammonds’ dream house is currently in the "finish" phase. Though this is a great accomplishment this stage is simply the beginning step towards completion.
As our world has progressed we have consistently built more specialization into every industry. For instance, many of us can remember when we had a cold we would visit the family doctor. In today’s world our phone call for help depends on our symptoms and our health coverage. There are few general medical practitioners left. This is due to the greater specialization as well as the continued expertise and information available.
This specialization is also apparent in the building industry. It is rare to find a general contractor who can do it all. What’s important is that your general contractor understands how to do every phase and most importantly that he or she knows who to call.
The Hammonds are fortunate in this area. Unlike many contractors, Ted and David Peach have tried their hand at most major aspects of construction. They understand what the plumber needs to do. They have built homes, painted houses, installed chimneys, built walls, and designed landscapes. Even though the Peaches know how to do all of these tasks, they also know it is often more time and cost efficient to hire sub-contractors who specialize in some of these areas.
Drywall & Roll Paint
Some time ago a half dozen workers came in and began drywalling the interior of the Hammonds’ house. The Hammonds and the Peaches had received several bids and decided to go with the bid all agreed was reasonable.
This meant they rejected a bid that seemed far too low. It is not uncommon for contractors to come in with a low bid. Though it is possible that the contractor has offered this bid in hopes of getting the job and will later inform the employer that unfortunately "due to unforeseen problems the price has gone up," it is more likely that the contractor honestly believes he or she can do the work for the quoted price.
Historically, many tradespeople fail to estimate correctly. This has led to "flat rate" pricing where no matter how much time it takes, the client pays the original bid. In most cases the bid is based on compiled computerized data where the time and price of similar jobs are averaged. Obviously, if your job takes less time than the average, you may feel as if you’ve paid too much. The opposite is true if yours is a more complicated job.
When a "time and materials" tradesperson underbids a job, several consequences can develop. Often the client is asked to pay more than the original estimate to finish the job. The client may demand (depending on the terms of the agreement and/or contract) that the job be finished at the quoted price. In this case be aware that the quality of the job may suffer if the contractor feels as though he or she is being taken advantage of. If, in fact, you or your contractor has a good relationship with a bidding sub-contractor and you feel they have come in with too low a price, one idea is to tell the professional your feelings. This suggestion may at first seem to counter good capitalistic principles. But, if you and your general contractor have determined (through experience) a reasonable price, by offering that price to a trusted sub-contractor (whose bid was much lower), you will be ensuring a careful job and the respect of your subcontractor.
In a small community like Marblehead word spreads as broadly as the ocean which surrounds it. Most professionals know that they are only as good as their reputation and their next job. Due to the close knit population referrals are easy to get and often word of mouth makes it unimportant for most tradespeople to advertise. Due to these unusual conditions, contracts and written agreements can be less important than theprofessional’s word. However, this does not mean that the homeowner should not get a signed written agreement.
By preparing and processing a bid both the client and contractor will be clear on their roles. In larger cities and when you are dealing with contractors who are unknown to you, this becomes more important. Before you or your general contractor begin your home renovation or new home project you may want to meet with a lawyer who, for a reasonable fee, can help you create a "boilerplate" or general contract for each of the contractors involved in the project.
If you feel comfortable, you may also be able to find a reasonable contract at your local library. The contract should specifically state what the job entails, the price for the work, the amount of time the job will take, and the terms of payment. The terms of payment is important. In most cases the contractor will require that you pay a down-payment prior to the beginning of the job. Further payments may be required during phases of the work with a final payment due at the satisfactory completion of the work. You may also wish to include wording which states specifically what the "satisfactory completion" of a job is. In other words, don’t take for granted that the person installing your wood floors will apply three coats of sealant — write it in the contract.Though this sometimes time consuming part of the process may seem tedious, remember any home improvements you do are business agreements. Many of us are more lax when it comes to our personal business. If we were in charge of renovating our corporate office, it is highly unlikely that we would approve of any expenses that might cost our company too much money or create a situation where the company is liable in a lawsuit. This type of thinking is as important (maybe more so) when we are having work done on our own home.
A Prime Point
When Steve Wainwright and his employee Paul arrived on the job the walls had been primed by another company. The tint was more yellow than Anne and Ned had wanted. Steve went to his local distributor and they mixed a gallon of the new color.
There are several ways to try out a color before the painters arrive. Across the nation paint distributors are installing high tech computers which can produce a picture of your house, or a room in your home in a new color — or several new colors. It’s now possible to bring a snapshot of the area you want to paint and have it scanned into a computer and then the sales professional can show you what it will look like in various tints. Taking this step will insure that your choice of color will be one you will like for as many years as the paint holds up. If you’re still unsure and need to see your home in the chosen color, don’t fret. Many homeowners don’t realize that during the priming phase of painting you can often have your house painted in whatever color you like. If you decide you don’t like the new color, you can have a different paint applied in the final stage.
Generally exterior paint should be applied every eight to ten years, depending on your climate. Stains which allow the natural texture of the wood to come through tend to last a bit longer. As far as interior paint is concerned, when properly cared for it can last for twenty or more years. Of course the life of any paint job depends on the surface preparation. It is critical to wash all the surfaces and rinse them well with water. You’ll also want to fill in any holes with putty or a similar compound. If there are stains on the walls you may want to use a stain killer. If there is mildew, bleach can often remove it. Remember, it’s the process that produces the product.
There’s More Behind the Surface
There are several authorities on interior and exterior painting. The following are a few questions and ideas you may want to consider when you decide to undertake your project:
- Exterior Painting:
What color do we want to use? Look around your neighborhood. Purchase small amounts of different colors and try them out on a part of the house, your garage or an out-building.
When you decide on a color use it as the primer. If you don’t like it, you can change your mind. Are there any colors I shouldn’t or can’t use? In some areas of the country the city has house color restrictions. Contact your building commissioner. You may also want to consider the homes on your block and also whether your color choice will remain timeless.
What about gutters, downspouts, windows and other exterior trim? Before you begin painting you will probably want to take off your downspouts and paint them separately. You should also make sure all rust has been removed from the gutters and nail and screw heads. Generally, it is best to use steel wool and then wash the surface with soap. Be sure to rinse the surfaces well with water as many paints and stains will not adhere to soap residue.
- The Material World
How much paint will I need?
Generally, on interior walls you will want to apply one coat of primer and one or two coats of the finish color. If you have decided to apply a lighter color over an existing dark surface you may want to use a tinted primer or a product which removes mildew and water damage. Obviously, the number of coats depends on your particular project.
In general, a painter will measure the square footage to be covered and then check the chart on the paint can to see how many square feet per gallon the paint will cover.
- Should we use oil based or water based paint?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both products. Each are available in flat, gloss and high gloss. It’s generally accepted that oil based paints are more durable and provide a harder surface. A downside is that instead of the easy clean-up offered with water-based coatings, oil based products require harsh solvents like turpentine to clean them.
Another consideration is that most contractors suggest you use the same type of paint when re-surfacing an area. There is question as to whether oil based paints will be available in years to come. For this reason you may opt for a water based product.
There is currently an ongoing debate on the environmental impact of oil based paints. These conversations revolve around VOCs which are an abbreviation for Volatile Organic Compounds. These compounds are an element of oil based products. Many scientists believe that VOCs form smog which harms the earth’s ozone layer.
- Get the Lead Out
Environmental and health concerns are not new to the paint industry. As reported on the National Paint and Coating Association’s (NPCA) website the industry has most often responded to these types of concerns before legal action or new laws are enacted.
For instance, after 1978 unsafe levels of lead paint were no longer applied in residential dwelling
What should we do if our home was painted before 1978?
There are many qualified lead paint testing companies listed in the yellow pages. You may also want to contact the NPCA for further information. Another resource is to contact your local Board of Health. They will let you know if there are removal requirements which are particular to your city.
What about the exterior of our house? Could that be lead paint too? Recently, the hazards of exterior lead paint have made the headlines in Marblehead where the Hammonds’ house is being built. The board of health is currently investigating a measure that would require the homeowner to power wash, or erect a tent around the house when lead paint is being sanded or removed. The fear is that if the particles are blown through the air children might inhale an excessive amount.
This type of issue is reminiscent of the strict rules regarding removal of asbestos and asbestos siding. It is also similar to the voluntary removal of mercury in 1991 by the members of the NPCA.
Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac