College Works Painting Complaint - Unprofessional Painters
I should have known there was going to be trouble ahead when the branch manager for College Works Painting, was a day late for our first meeting at my home in March.
College Works Painting (and Student Works Painting owned and operated under parent National Services Group) recruits college students to essentially run franchises in towns across the country. These students are responsible for hiring workers and making sales of their painting services to businesses and residents in their area.
This initial meeting was supposed to be an introduction, presentation of the work College Works Painting does, and a 2 hour walk-around followed by presentation of an estimate/quote to paint my house. The branch manager assured me that she would have a 2-week intensive training and I wouldn't be required to make a final payment until I was completely satisfied with the results.
A couple days after this first meeting the branch manager called to see if I was ready to sign a contract for the job because the summer was booking up quickly with jobs. I felt pressured into making my decision hastily, but having worked my way through college and paying my own tuition and expenses, I appreciated young people willing to work hard.
A week later I signed a contract to have the body of the house painted (no doors or window trim), and I asked to have the work done in late July because we were expecting a new baby in the last part of June and a vacation planned the first of August.
In April a College Works Painting sign was placed in my front yard. I never heard from College Works Painting again until early July when the branch manager said she'd like to start the job. I explained we agreed that work would start in late July. The next 2 months were a series of missed and late appointments. The branch manager never came to the house at times scheduled, often arriving an hour late or not at all. I frequently left work early to be home on time for scheduled meetings only to wait an hour or more, and sometimes no one would come at all.
At the first meeting just before work was to begin in late July the branch manager, my wife, and I discussed what color to paint the house. There was a semi-transparent stain already on the cedar clapboard siding. The branch manager recommended using a solid color acrylic stain because it would last longer than a semi-transparent. She said she would come the next day to put a small test patch on an inconspicuous area of the house to show what the color would look like. No one came the next day.
3 days later the test patch was applied while we were away for the weekend. The inconspicuous area where College Works chose to do the test patch was 3 feet by 1 foot right next to the front door. The solid color stain looked like a dark brown patch of paint and didn't look at all like a stain. Due to the location of the test patch, we couldn't now opt to use a semi-transparent stain as was currently on the house because the dark brown patch would be an obvious blemish and eye-sore. Our only option now was to have the entire house painted. College Works Painting agreed and said it would change the cost, an increase of $1300 above the original quote. I knew it would take more work and materials to paint instead of stain, and despite not having the option to stain the house anymore, we agreed and selected a light green color for the body of the house. Still no doors or window trim would be painted.
On August 1, a worker came to the house to begin the prep work taping and covering the windows and doors with plastic. The worker finished covering about half the windows, enclosing the windows on the living room, kitchen, dining room, and porch. I called the branch manager that morning to discuss her plans and when the job would be finished. College Works Painting didn't call back.
The following day no one came to the house and the branch manager didn't return my call until that night.
No one came back to the house to finish the prep work for a week. This was August and we were baking inside the house because the windows were covered with plastic.
On August 6 College Works Painting returned my phone calls which I had been placing twice a day for four days to find out what was happening and when the house would be painted. The branch manager said she would have the house finished in two days. I explained that we were going away for a vacation the next day and she should have the house done in plenty of time before we return seven days later.
On August 13 we returned from vacation and found one worker at the house applying the first coat of paint. All the windows were still covered over two weeks later. The branch manager promised the job would take no more than four days when we signed the contract. The painter got about half the house painted with a first coat of paint, but couldn't continue because the sprayer was malfunctioning, and there was no ladder left for him to reach the second floor. That night I noticed that College Works Painting was not using a primer, a critical error because they were painting a light color over a dark stain and because cedar siding is known to stain paint over time as tannic acids bleed out of the wood and through the paint.
The next two days no more work was done on the house, and the branch manager did not return my phone calls. I was forced to call the College Works Painting headquarters and voice my complaints.
On August 16 the branch manager called me and said she would have the first coat and the entire second coat finished by the end of the day. This seemed unbelievable, but I was happy to see such a flourish of work being done after such a long wait and so much frustration. We scheduled a walk-around to review the work at 6:30 that evening.
That evening I got home and saw a disaster. The paint was streaked and splotchy around the entire house. There was paint splatter on the driveway, plants, and brick patio all around the house. There were several spots on the house that still showed the original brown color, and every door and window frame had been dripped on or sprayed with paint. The branch manager arrived 30 minutes late at 7:00, and the first thing she said when she saw the house was, "This looks terrible." We walked around the house and I pointed at all the touch-ups needed and paint damage to the patio and landscape. She said College Works would be back the next day to fix the touch-ups, but the streaked and splotchy paint was the result of conditions of the wood siding that she could not have foreseen, and I would have to pay for another coat of paint if I wanted it fixed. I stated that I had contracted College Works Painting to paint my house. At no time, and nowhere in the quotation or contract was there a specification for 2 coats of paint only.
No one came the next day as promised to fix the problems, but the branch manager came that night and said I would need to pay another $800 to fix the streaked and splotchy paint with another coat of paint. I explained again the contract was to paint the house to my complete satisfaction, not to apply 2 coats of paint.
College Works said they would not do anymore work on the house, not even correct the damages to the landscaping, window trim, and doors, until I made a payment, contradicting our original contract to pay when the job was finished. At this point the branch manager told me she didn't think I would ever pay. I explained that we have a contract to which we are both bound and that I would pay but not until the job is finished as written in the contract written by College Works Painting.
College Works never came back to finish the job after this, and I incurred approximately $1500 in expenses and time to repair the damages to doors, window trim, landscape and patios caused by College Works painters.
During the following 2 months the paint on the house began to be stained by the tannic acids bleeding from the cedar siding through the latex paint. I spoke with 5 different experienced professional painters and they all said that any experienced painter would have known that to prevent this from happening with cedar wood siding, a stain blocking primer needed to be used first followed by the latex paint. College Works Painting did not use a primer, instead they only applied 2 coats of latex paint.
The House Still Looks Bad:
Eventually College Works Painting took me to small claims court to force a payment from me despite admitting on the claim that they had not finished the job. The settlement awarded me reimbursement of the $1500 in materials and time I had put into repairing many of the damages caused by College Works Painting, and College Works was required to return to my house to remove the stains on the paint, then prime, and repaint the areas of cedar bleeding. They were also required to apply more paint where "lap-lines" showed from paint application (the streaks).
The problems with splotchy paint appearance are still not resolved, but having had enough frustration I let College Works Painting finish the work by correcting the cedar bleeding problems that we could see. I paid the balance due for the job minus the $1500 owed to me for my expenses, and learned my lesson about hiring unprofessional workers. Time will tell if the cedar bleeding will be a problem in areas that weren't repainted, and I will repaint the areas showing streaks on my own to insure it is done right and put this behind me.
My final warning and words of wisdom gained through this experience are that if you want unprofessional results, hire unprofessional painters. I did, and that's what I got. I recommend hiring only experienced, professional painters when the time comes to improve or maintain the exterior appearance of what is likely the biggest investment you have. There are probably some college kids who can do a good job painting houses, but it's not a risk worth taking without seeing their previous work.