Archive for May, 2010

The Power of Paint

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Paint. It’s a big deal, especially in the life of an interior designer. This pigment-saturated liquid that transforms into an opaque solid film is arguably one of the most valuable tools in a designer’s arsenal. From supplying a mere backdrop for artwork, furniture and decorative items to taking on the role of the stand-alone design feature in a room, the power of paint is irreplaceable. With the ever-increasing color palates donning delicious names from Nacho Cheese to Mascarpone, we are able to deliver more and more unique and interesting spaces. So, why settle with the typical tan or redundant red? Whether you want to pull out a highlight color in a painting or a pillow for inspiration or seek to juxtapose your walls with a contrast color, go for it! If taking the leap to a bolder color is difficult, try using a neutral color as the base and adding a feature stripe that incorporates a statement color. Vertical or horizontal, stripes are a perfect way to finish off a room. As you select your paint colors, be sure that the entire scheme sits together well tonally. A home that is harmonious in color throughout is much more pleasant and balanced than one that haphazardly pulls colors from all areas of the color wheel and spectrum. In order to be sure you achieve the positive power of paint, take your time selecting the colors and then get swatches and hang them for a few days. I would suggest using the paper samples so that you can move them around and you see the affect of different light. Then pull down those samples that get eliminated until you’ve settled on the perfect color. Since it is powerful, paint can be intimidating. Just remember, paint is every commitment-phobic’s dream. It can always easily be changed. Considering the fantastic level of interest, updating and creativity that paint offers, embrace its potential.

Home Repair Costs – Keep Them Under Control!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

As one of the best painting contractors in northern Virginia, we’ve seen just about every single painting application you can imagine.  Usually it’s something simple: a homeowner wants a new color for their kitchen, or a new homeowner wants to start with a fresh coat of paint in their new home.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are repairs…

So many home repairs require that the affected area be re-painted after the job is completed.  From replacing exterior wood work, and then repainting the trim to replacing water-damaged drywall – painting is usually the last touch of a big repair job.

We came across an interesting article on home repair costs while perusing Bankrate.com and it seemed worth posting about it.  There are many things you can do to avoid having costly repairs in the first place.  The Bankrate article suggests that by keeping tabs on elements of your home having to do with water or drainage, you can often avoid costly water damage repairs in the first place.

I’m sure you’d much rather call Williams for help with a new color for your home, then to call us when you need a big repair job.  But know that we’ll be there to help you regardless.  It’ll be our pleasure.

Retail Sales for Home Improvement

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

The economy has had everybody at least a bit cautious about spending money.  Home improvement is one of those areas that can (sometimes!) be put off, for a while at least.  The big jobs will need immediate attention, like a hanging gutter, or broken door jam.  But other projects can sometimes fall off the radar in times of economic uncertainty.  Replacing the old carpet, new bathroom fixtures or even changing the paint color in the kitchen – these are all “nice to have” projects that can easily be put off.  But it looks like these types of projects are making a surge in the marketplace…

Both Home Depot and Lowe’s beat earnings expectations in April and both reported stronger than expected retail sales.  A Washington Post article about strong retail sales provides a lot of background for this important story.  It looks like consumers are starting to feel a little more comfortable making some home improvement purchases.  Of course, Williams is always here to help with painting projects or even projects that require some drywall or plaster repair – just give us a call if you need help!

Save Money & Get Quality Work – What Every Homeowner Should Know

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

We’ve all heard the stories: A man writes a check for a down payment on what he believes will soon be his new deck, only to find that the contractor disappears after digging a few holes for footings that never get poured. Another family contracts with a “company” to paint the exterior of their home, but three weeks later the job is only half finished and the painters seem to work on an erratic schedule. And then there is the widow who is warned by an unscrupulous carpenter that without extensive work, soon the damage to her house will be irreparable. Unlicensed, fly-by-night contractors are all too common in the Metropolitan area for several reasons:

Despite laws requiring the licensing of all who operate a business in each local jurisdiction, enforcement is inadequate because the State’s resources are stretched thin. The chances that a contractor would be caught operating without a license in this area are slim.

Even those who do take the trouble to obtain a business license are not subjected to any testing or required to provide proof of training or competence in most home improvement fields.

Some homeowners who are defrauded are too embarrassed to report the illegitimate contractors to the appropriate authorities. Legitimate contractors often find themselves bidding against people who can do work sometimes for substantially less, because of the way some of the “competition” are running their operation. Homeowners who have been burned in the past tend to view all contractors with suspicion and distrust, and even those who have been treated fairly in the past may consider legitimate operators overpriced. Therefore, honest contractors must rely on their reputation for honesty and the quality of their work.

Ironically, in some areas, opportunists have created a different scenario. In particularly affluent neighborhoods, homeowners actually may reject legitimate bids as being too low, and fall for a scheme known as “Zip Code Bidding” — also commonly known as “price gouging.”

Save Money: Plan Ahead

Planning ahead can save you money. If it is summer and you would like to schedule your interior painting for the winter months, or if it’s winter and you want to schedule your exterior painting for the spring through fall, we can offer you a contract now, and guarantee you the prices that are currently in effect.

What can you do to protect yourself, and get your work done for a fair and reasonable price?

– Get at least two bids and compare what they include. Low bids do not always take into account overhead such as taxes, insurance, and licensing fees. Some low bidders do not pay their employees an honest wage. At the same time, you should also not necessarily equate quality with price and be lured by the high bid. Many companies that come in as low bidder are competent and trustworthy and will do a superb job. The bottom line is that you should compare the bids and determine what accounts for any differences between them. Most often, a big discrepancy in estimates can be attributed to the services and materials being offered. If there appears to be no major difference other than price, you may want to get a third or even fourth bid to provide a better comparison. (A good guide that will help you make an informed decision is the evaluation form on the following page.)

– Make sure that any contractor you consider is properly licensed and insured, and that the firm’s workers are covered by workers compensation insurance. (This factor alone often accounts for a large discrepancy in estimates from company to company.)

– Inquire about the crew that will be coming to the home. Are they permanent employees, or does the company pick up day laborers on an as-needed basis?

– Ask for references of projects the company has done in the area. After checking references, and after comparing all the bids, consider one more fact: Do you feel comfortable with the person you are dealing with? Can what is probably your most significant investment — your home — be entrusted to that company?

Although there is no guarantee that taking all these precautions will offer complete assurance against problems, it is an excellent start.

Renovators Hit by New Lead Regulations

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Here is a fascinating article about the impact of the new lead regulations.  This is copied from The Examiner…

By: David Sherfinski
Examiner Staff Writer
May 9, 2010

“Local contractors and builders are scrambling to comply with costly new federal regulations for work done on pre-1978 homes — to avoid facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Contractors working on homes built in 1978 or earlier must now undergo lead safety training and become certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, with a penalty of up to $37,500 per violation for noncompliance.

The new laws could add thousands of dollars to the cost of many basic home remodeling jobs like painting and window replacement, experts said.

The new laws, which went into effect April 22, are intended to “reduce the incidents of lead-based poisoning in this country,” said Dale Kemery, a spokesman for the EPA.  But local remodelers and contractors say that the new rules will make fix-up projects on older home prohibitively expensive.

Some companies, such as Elk Remodeling in Northern Virginia, will no longer work on homes built in or before 1978.
“I’m basically going to lose money to do something the EPA has mandated?” said Tim Shellnutt, president of Elk. “What the homeowners don’t understand [is] their homes are going to become money pits. Why would they give up 20 to 25 windows in a day to do eight?”

Contractors are also worried that the new regulations will give rise to an underground, unlicensed remodeling community that will be able to undercut their pricing.  “I think that’s a real concern,” said Jerry Levine, president of the D.C.-Metro Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, adding that there are already a number of unlicensed contractors doing work. “Are all of these guys going to all of a sudden follow the EPA edict? I doubt it.”

Costs will get passed along to homeowners, but contractors — who bear the liability — are being affected even more, said Dave Wise, manager for the Alside Supply Center branch in Lorton, Va.

Opt out? Not anymore…

Under the original Renovation, Repair and Painting Program, published in the Federal Register April 22, 2008, not every person who lives in homes built before 1978 would have to comply with the new training and work practice requirements. If homeowners certified that the house is not occupied by a child under the age of 6, a pregnant woman, and the home is not a child-occupied facility, they could “opt out” of the requirements.

Environmental and advocacy groups petitoned against the rule, and the EPA subsequently removed the opt-out provision as part of a settlement. “By removing the opt-out provision, the rule will go farther toward protecting children under age six and pregnant women, as well as older children and adult occupants of target housing where no child under age six or pregnant woman resides,” according to the Federal Register.

In addition to undergoing training and becoming certified, there are also work practice requirements under the new rules:

» Renovators must use work-area containment to prevent dust and debris from leaving the work area.

» Certain work practices are prohibited. Open-flame burning, using heat guns at greater than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and the use of power tools without high-efficiency particulate air exhaust control (to collect dust generated) are prohibited.

» Thorough cleaning followed by a cleaning verification procedure to minimize exposure to lead-based paint hazards are required.

» Generally, minor repair and maintenance activities (less than 6 square feet per interior room or 20 square feet per exterior project) are exempt from the work practices requirements. However, this exemption does not apply to jobs involving window replacement or demolition, or that involve the use of any of the prohibited practices listed above.”

New Technologies for Painting

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Painting is like any other industry – there are constantly new advances in technology that make it easier (if not more fun) to paint your home or business offices.  From the paint itself to the myriad accessories for the do-it-yourselfer and professionals, new advances are all over the place.

With ever-present concerns for the environment in mind, low-VOC paints are now quite popular.  VOC’s or “volatile organic compounds” may exist in some paints and be less than beneficial to the environment – VOC’s may contribute to some respiratory illnesses and even to smog!

There is even an iPhone app for painting!  You can quickly visualize what your room will look like painted a different color.

There are all kinds of great new advances in painting technology.  We’ll let you know about the good ones…Whether you’re doing a residential painting job for a single room, or have a large commercial job, we’ll make sure you have the help you need.

Finding the Right Contractor for the Job

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

We’ve been in business for over 30 years and come across just about every job circumstance you can imagine – if we haven’t seen it, we’ve heard about it!   Most of the problems folks encounter when they’ve hired a contractor for a home improvement project can be avoided with a little preparation.  I came across this article in Consumer Affairs and it hit home for me.  There is a lot of pretty good advice here.  I particularly liked this:

Hiring the right contractor, of course, is extremely important. There are many highly qualified and reputable home improvement contractors in the industry who use reliable materials, hire trained employees, and perform superior for a fair price. The trick is separating them from all the others who don’t.

It’s that last sentence that grabbed my attention.  The trick is deciding who is going to do a great job, and who is not.  We’ve posted literally hundreds (thousands?) of customer reviews, testimonials and letters.  By doing this, we hope to give you some insight into the kind of company we are.  Maybe take some of the guess work out of hiring a painting contractor.