Technology influences exterior painting experience

With summer coming next weekend, it’s that time of year when many homeowners opt to paint the exterior of their homes, even though most are stuck indoors. Today, painting professionals are using technology tools to make estimating and job execution easier for everyone. Here’s a look at how some tools are making the experience better.

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Estimates only a few clicks away

Cory Summerhays ran his own commercial and multifamily painting company, Unforgettable Coatings. Starting in 2007, his crews began taking on more residential work.

But homeowners, he found, seemed to have different needs than his commercial clients. They wanted a simplified, streamlined experience, and they didn’t seem to want to fuss over many details. So, the idea for a new venture, Blue Ape Painting, began percolating.

With Blue Ape, potential customers simply log on to a website and drum up an accurate estimate in a few clicks. Type in the address and the number of floors the home has and, in seconds, pricing options appear based on a three-, five- and 10-year warranty coating. Naturally, the better the coating, the higher the price.

“We found through our research that people didn’t want to have to answer too many questions. It took away from the experience,” Summerhays said, “and we thought, ‘what if we made this as simple as ordering a pizza?’”

If customers want extra conversation about the details of the job, Blue Ape is happy to do that too.

Heather Pritt, a Summerlin homemaker and mother of three, reached out to Blue Ape via its website and was surprised by how quickly the crews showed up and were ready to go. Pritt had questions though.

She needed colors approved by her HOA and hadn’t decided on a color scheme yet. The team helped her with color suggestions, navigated the HOA approval process and were ready to paint within a couple of weeks.

“They were all over every detail. Honestly, they could’ve started the next day if I wanted it, but I needed to have my questions answered,” she said.

Software improves customer experience

For some pros, estimating tools help with the customer experience as well. Brian Cho, general manager of Nevada Painting Co., uses ServiceTitan software to assist with his estimates.

The software is more of a customer service platform that can auto-populate information about the home and customer from the first time the homeowner engages with the painting contractor. Cho can electronically send warranties to the customer and log detailed notes on prep work; the software is great for storing estimate details given by the client, such as photos and other notes. This came in handy for the many virtual estimates he did during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

“Our estimates include a lot of detail. This removes so much human error and brings so much consistency,” Cho said. “It’s not really even an estimating software, but it’s very clean and professional.”

Color-matching technology

There also are applications available that allow customers to preview colors on their homes before they sign the contract. Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap Visualizer, for example, allows homeowners to download photos of their homes so they can see the color schemes before buying.

To take it a step further, says Rick Watson, Sherwin-Williams’ director of product information and technical services, the company’s Color to Go program gives paint crews quart-size paint samples to cover up to 75 square feet on the home to help the homeowner gauge how the environment and different lighting influence the color.

“It helps save time and money by giving you the opportunity to really see that color,” Watson said. “You can make sure that this color you are visualizing is exactly the one you want.”

Technology in a paint can

It’s easy to focus on the technology tools that customers touch, but Watson also said there’s a lot of technology and innovation that goes into paint formulations. Sherwin-Williams recently released Emerald Rain Refresh, a self-cleaning formulation that allows for an easy washing of the surface with a power washer or hose, so dust, dirt and grime don’t penetrate the paint and cause staining over time.

In addition, the company’s FlexTemp coating can also be applied in temperatures up to 120 degrees without the paint thinning, which is common for paints being applied in extreme temperatures.

Tips for choosing a contractor

While technology can enhance the experience, keep a few things in mind when looking for a reputable contractor for that exterior paint refresh.

Know your paint. If a painting company just mentions a brand, dig deeper with online research and questions. All brands have entry-level to extremely high-quality offerings. Prices per gallon can range dramatically, Summerhays said, and for good reason. There is a world of difference in the quality of a $10-per-gallon and a $60-per-gallon paint.

Ask if contractor crews are actual employees. Some companies use subcontractors they don’t actually employ. “When they have their own employees, they control training and are more invested in the quality of the final product,” Cho said.

Drill down into prep and application details. You want to know what prep work the contractor will perform before applying paint, Cho said. Will they pressure wash the house before painting? How will they handle chipped stucco or damaged areas? Will they primer bare wood areas on soffit? These are all important questions, he says.

Get the warranty in writing. It doesn’t matter if they email it to you or give you a hard copy, but ask for the warranty and review it before you sign on the dotted line, Cho emphasized.

Watch out for “too good to be true” pricing. Hiring a licensed, bonded contractor offers protections for the consumer and contractor. If pricing is too low, you may be dealing with someone unlicensed or who is possibly swapping out lower-quality materials to make a profit.

“I would definitely say if the price is too good to be true, you should do a little homework,” Cho said. “Make sure they’re bonded and insured, ask for a copy of their certificate of insurance and surety bond. … A few hundred dollars is not that big of a deal, but once it’s $500 or $800 or more, they have to be making that up somewhere.”

Pay attention to customer service skills. The company should care about its reputation, Summerhays said. Problems can arise on any job, but how a contractor reacts to them says a lot about reputation and desire to do what’s right.

“A contractor who is displeased when you’re displeased — they’re going to take good care of you,” Summerhays added.

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