Dealing With Painting Contractors: What Is A Properly Painted Surface?

Jeremy Holderness

Image of finger painting a properly painted surface by painting contractorsAt ImageWorks Painting we strive to do our part to elevate the level of professionalism of the painting industry.  So it's frustrating when we present someone with a quote to paint their home and they bypass the Scope of Work to be performed and go straight to the price to determine how ours stacks-up to the other bids and to decide who will be awarded the project.  Too often we hear folks say things like "A paint job is a paint job...they're all the same."

But my frustration isn't with the customer, and I don't fault the homeowner for feeling this way.  In fact, I believe that the reason we hear this is not because homeowners don't care about quality but that they don't fully understand what a properly painted surface is and how it's achieved.  And for that I blame the painting industry for not making more of an effort to inform people about painting quality standards.

It may sound cynical but, having spent a significant amount of time early in my career working for a large paint manufacturer, I believe that they have a vested interest in marginalizing the level of craftsmanship of true professional painting contractors.  

The more they can portray painting as a weekend project that anyone can master, the more paint they can sell.  While this is encouraging for the DIY'er who's looking to get their painting project done on a budget, it undermines the skill of the dedicated tradesperson and opens the flood gates for the wave of so-called "professional painters" who are looking to take advantage of uninformed homeowners who decide to hire-out.  Competition may lower the price of professional painting services, but it also drastically lowers the expectations for the quality of work that a homeowner should expect from a true professional.

Regardless of whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, everyone should know what a properly painted surface looks like and how you get it.  Luckily there is a governing body in the painting world -- the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) -- that has outlined the proper quality standards that guide the way painting work should be done.  These standards are nationally recognized consensus documents among architects, general contractors, and specifiers for the painting and decorating industry’s work practices.

In this blog series we will discuss those standards to help you achieve the best possible result of your next painting project.

This week's article will describe what a "Properly Painted Surface" is, as well as define some of the industry terms that you will see used in that description.

It is important to understand this concept before we can go into the specifics of how properly painted surfaces are accomplished, which we will do in the next few articles.

My apologies ahead of time for the technical nature of this article.  I'll try my best to make it a little less boring than watching paint dry.


What Is A Properly Painted Surface?

According to the PDCA Standards, "A 'properly painted surface' is defined as uniform in appearance, color, texture, hiding and sheen. It is also free of foreign material, lumps, skins, runs, sags, holidays, misses, or insufficient coverage. It is also a surface free of drips, spatters, spills or overspray caused by the painting and decorating contractor’s workforce."

"In order to determine whether a surface has been 'properly painted' it shall be examined without magnification at a distance of thirty-nine (39) inches or one (1) meter, or more, under finished lighting conditions and from a normal viewing position."


Wait...What?  A Holiday?

Some of these terms are a little confusing so the PDCA has taken the time to define them.

HIDING (Hiding Power): The degree or ability of an opaque coating, applied in a uniform film, to cover, mask or obscure the substrate to which it is applied, or the colors underneath. Hiding power is provided by the paint’s pigment.

TEXTURE: Texture as used in a “properly painted surface” (means) the texture of the paint or coating system.

SHEEN: An attribute of object mode of appearance which is similar to luster; gloss with poor distinctness-of-image reflectance. In the paint industry the term sheen is generally used synonymously with gloss measured or observed at a grazing angle, such as 85º off the perpendicular. Sheen is therefore frequently evaluated in terms of gloss measurements made on an 85º glossmeter.

RUNS: Narrow downward movement of a paint film resulting in an irregular surface.

SAGS: A coating irregularity similar to runs but often broader in scope.

HOLIDAYS: Application defects whereby small areas are left uncoated.

OVERSPRAY: The paint that did not hit the intended surface during a spray application. This can appear as small raised specks around the area sprayed and can give a halo effect on smooth surfaces.

FINISHED LIGHTING: Finished lighting conditions are described as those in place when the project is finished. This includes, but is not limited to, design lighting (e.g., wall washers, spots and floods, etc.) and natural lighting (e.g., skylights, clear view windows, window walls, window treatments, etc.).

NORMAL VIEWING POSITION: For the purpose of inspection a normal viewing position shall be at eye level at a minimum of thirty-nine (39) inches or one (1) meter from the wall. Inspection lighting can be used as defined in this standard.


Setting Expectations

Knowing what a properly painted surface is allows us to find a balance between having high standards for quality, yet maintaining reasonable expectations when inspecting the finished product.  

I have literally witnessed general contractors inspecting interior painted walls with a 500 watt halogen work light at close range.  While I can appreciate wanting to get what you paid for, going into a project anticipating that level of perfection is probably going to set you up for disappointment and cause hard feelings between you and your contractor.

On the other hand I have also seen plenty of painters who call a job complete that has all the attention to detail of one of my 7-year-old's after school art projects, and then expect the homeowner to accept it.

The best way to go into a painting project and come out satisfied on the other side is to clearly define the quality of work you desire from your contractor before the project begins.  Assuming you require a written job contract -- because you should -- the best place to spell this out is in the Scope of Work.

Since the quality and longevity of any painting project is determined by the quality of surface preparation, in next week's blog post we will be discussing the PDCA's defined levels of surface preparation that can be specifically written into your next painting contract.



If you need assistance with your painting project, please give us a call at (813) 570-8800 or visit our Contact Us page to schedule a free consultation and quote, or simply click on the button below to have us call you.


ImageWorks Painting Free Consultation & Quote Button




Photo by: Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY-SA 2.0




Contact the Pros

Ready to get started with your next painting project but unsure if it is in your budget? Reach out to the expert painting team at ImageWorks Painting to schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at 724-898-2446, or request a visit online.