If I Hire a Professional Painter, Will I Get a Good Paint Job?

Purchasing painting contracting services for your home or business is not like purchasing a Toyota Camry that is pretty much the same at any car dealership you go to. How do you know how good a paint job you will get for the money you spend? Since preparation is 80% of the work, the level of preparation is typically what determines how good your paint job ends up being. However, what contractors consider to be “good” preparation is as varied as the number of contractors you have bidding your project. “Good” is a very subjective term.

Every contractor advertises that they take the time to properly prepare your project, only use the highest quality paint and are the most trusted painter in the area. But how do you really know how good they are and what the finished product will look like? You pay a fair amount of money to a contractor thinking you will get a good paint job because they are “professional painters”, but in the end, you are not happy with their definition of good.

Fortunately, there is a standard in the industry that defines the Levels of Surface Preparation & Finish Appearance. It’s put out by the Painting Contractors Association, a national association for painters that has been around since the late 1800’s. Roe Painting has been a proud member of the PCA for many years and has received tremendous value from the continuing education and training they offer, as well as adopting the many standards they have developed for the painting industry.

The Levels of Surface Preparation & Finish Appearance Standard has five levels and very clearly defines what you can expect from each level. Below is a good summary of the standard and here is a link to the complete standard https://pcapainted.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/PCA-Industry-Standard-P14.pdf. When included in a contract and followed by the painting crew, the standard helps the customer and contractor agree on what the finished look will be for the agreed upon price, hopefully eliminating the chance of being disappointed at the end of the job. Obviously, the higher level of finish desired, the more time will be spent on the preparation, which means the higher the cost of the paint job.

Since there is no such thing as a perfect paint job, the Standard does a great job in setting the expectation for the finished work. Most standard repaint jobs performed by contractors land at Level Three. This is a good paint job that addresses loose paint and achieving a sound substrate and allows for obvious imperfections to be corrected. It’s a good balance between cost and appearance. If you want something to look a lot nicer, then you will need to talk to your contractor about what it would cost to produce Level Four or Five work. If you are not as concerned about the look and just want the paint job to last, then you can save some money and go with a Level Two job.

The important thing is that you know which level you are paying for. You might be expecting a Level Four job, but your contractor produces Level Two work as their standard paint job. If that is never discussed or defined upfront, it usually ends up in a fight with the contractor at the end. Roe Painting’s standard paint job is performed at a Level Three. We are absolutely open to performing work at the other levels if that is what the project calls for, we just think you should know what you are getting for the money you spend before the project is complete. All of our contracts have the Level of Surface Preparation & Finish Appearance clearly defined in them for each project. When getting multiple bids from contractors, it might be a good idea for you to ask them which level you are getting for the price. If they don’t know what levels you are talking about, you might want to factor that into your decision-making process.

Levels of Surface Preparation & Finish Appearance
Description: The following levels are used to establish a clearly communicated standard as to what has been agreed upon and what is to be expected with regards to the different levels of surface preparation and the quality of appearance of the finished surface. They are a summary of the actual standard based on PCA (Painting Contractors Association) Industry Standard P14.
Level 1 – Basic: Cleaned, No Patching – Requires only basic cleanliness of surfaces to ensure the adhesion of new finishes, with less concern for the adhesion of existing paint and quality of appearance. Obvious loose paint will be removed, but no smoothing of the existing surface profile will be done. Includes washing or hand cleaning. No Warranty
Level 2 – Standard: Basic Patching – Requires all of Level 1 as well as the examination of existing coatings to assess their adhesion. With this level of surface preparation, good adhesion and longevity of finish are of primary concern and appearance is of secondary concern. Includes basic patching, filling, dulling of glossy surfaces, spot priming, caulking, and light sanding/abrading to address surface profile differences exceeding 1/8 inch. Excludes matching texture and taping cracks.
Level 3 – Superior: Detailed Patching – Requires all of Levels 1 and 2 with added emphasis on the quality of appearance of finish painted surfaces. Includes detailed patching, filling, properly taping cracks, approximate matching of textures, and thorough sanding to address surface profile differences exceeding 1/16 inch.
Level 4 – Supreme: Touch & Feel – Requires all of Levels 1, 2 and 3 with even more emphasis on the quality of appearance of finish painted surfaces. The criteria for inspection and acceptance may include smoothness to “touch and feel” on interior handrails, doors and easily accessible trim. Includes thorough filling & sanding to address surface profile differences exceeding 1/32 inch.
Level 5 – Restoration/Resurfacing: Back to Original – This type of surface preparation is required when existing conditions indicate that the surfaces are severely deteriorated (where damage to the coating is widespread). Includes complete or nearly complete removal of existing paint through various stripping methods. Substrate (underlying surface being painted) may need to be completely replaced, repaired or resurfaced.