Can We Pick 'Em or WHAT?

There's a problem with our paint job. Those of you who have been around for a long time will recall that we had to get our house painted in late 2003 because our homeowner's insurance threatened to revoke our coverage if we didn't paint (not sure why that made such a difference, but it did). We hired a firm called American Craftsman, formerly known as Al Vanek Painting, which was run by a guy named Alton Vanek. They started out fine, but ended up taking forever to do the work, doing a piss-poor job of it (particularly in places where it was not easy or even possible to inspect their work while they were on the job), and the owner actually showed up and tried to physically intimidate me into giving him the last payment when the work was not remotely complete.

So the paint is peeling, less than five years after it was applied, and we looked up our contract and found the guarantee, and decided to call in to get it repaired. Only the phone numbers don't work. So we looked up his license at the California State Licensing Board. And it turns out that it was revoked. Why?

American Craftsman revoked license

You have to admit it, that is one intriguing revocation. A quick couple of searches later, and we find that shortly after he left our job, the owner of the company went to jail for bribery. Which is its own kind of awesome, isn't it?

People sometimes ask me why we are so wary of hiring contractors to work on our house. I think the fact that we sequentially hired a criminal and then a moron to work on our house pretty much explains it.

And let me say, to the guys who are going to e-mail about how stupid I am (though I may have chased them off with all those posts about plants lately), we called every reference for both of those businesses, got copies of their licenses and insurance paperwork, visited places they said they had worked on, and did all the due diligence. But our legal system is designed to encourage commerce, not protect consumers, and for all the toys with warnings printed all over them, this is one area where it really is caveat emptor. The next time we hire somebody to work on our house it will be under much more stringent observation.

Edited to add:

By request, a photo of some of the bad paint. This is actually a section where they failed to fill and sand before painting, as you can see. It's at the back of the house, right where the lower portion of roof meets the wall.

Bad paint job

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posted by ayse on 02/11/09

13 Comments

It gets frustrating, doesn't it??? This is why we try and do as much as we can ourselves because then if it goes bad at least we are not out gobs of money.

Two real pet peeves of mine are contractors who bitch that they are losing $$ because of DYIers. Well if they didn't do such crappy work maybe there would be less DYIers and more customers. The other is the contractor who talks down to you or starts right in on how hard the job will be trying to justify the inflated price he is going to give you.

With the economy the way it is...I feel there will be more inexperienced contractors out there preying on homeowners. Bummer.

Sorry to read that. At least in my case, my house is short enough and simple enough (stucco) for me to do it myself. If you decide to rent a scaffold and be a do-it-yourselfer, I am good for an afternoon or whatnot in exchange for The Usual Tempting Foods.

E, the reason we had a contractor do the work was that there was lead remediation involved. We spent one afternoon out there in bunny suits and respirators and decided to pay the money.

Oh my. That was quite a winner. Out of curiosity, was it the lowest bid by a lot? Or was anybody's Spidey Sense tingling about the choice?

In any event, if you ever want an extra pair of hands for a project, gimme a holler. I'm just over in Oakland.

Oddly, this was not the lowest bid, and nothing looked off. At least, not until they showed up the first day with only two guys to scrape our entire house. I think that they underestimated the amount of work to be done on the house.

And we're going to be taking down our dining room ceiling in March, Gene! Soon I will be posting a general invitation for that. Like a barn raising, only much more dangerous and we don't have a barn in the end.

> though I may have chased them off with all
> those posts about plants lately

And how! ;) Sorry about your bad luck. Our bathroom remodel has the final inspection today and it looks great. I was super paranoid about another new contractor, but it turned out awesome. Guess I just am lucky when it comes to picking them.

Awesome, Jim! You can pick our roofer.

Wow, how janky is that. I'll be sure you guys have a big truck to use for the March party.

I'm, gasp, interviewing design-build firms that I found on Angies list cause we are going to bite the bullet and pay someone to get the top floor finished. I'm hoping that they are all a little hungry and I can get the job done faster and maybe a bit cheaper than say 3 years ago...

Daniel, we will be getting a dumpster for that party, because we love us the dumpster deliveries. Wanna hold onto that debris for four more weeks? We can stuff it in the dumpster and save you a dump run. I'm still really impressed that you had that massive tree fall down and it didn't even take out your deck. Everybody, go over and check out the carnage at Daniel's house. It makes us look like total pikers.

You're right that construction people are all a bit more hungry than they used to be. That could work in your favour.

After I read your post, I looked up one of the companies we might hire to do some remedial work on the house. They had some charges against them that were dismissed. I might ask about those complaints before we go further.

Great post.

Wow, Kathleen. I'm so glad you caught that early. Good luck.

Heard about your site some time ago. Finally got here. I am in construction so I will remain anonymous. Contractors are respected about as much as lawyers. Unfortunately it is deserved in many cases, which bums me out.

Particularly on exterior a good paint job is based on prep. The best prep requires full removal of all old paint, or a lot of it, depending on the previous paint jobs. That requires chemical stripper and or heat gun. For a 50 year paint job, and I'm not kidding, the wood should be primed with two part penetrating epoxy where there is bad distress, like badly weathered window sills and the highest grade oil based primer everywhere else. Then a high quality latex. There is a compatible epoxy filler for places like sills which have lost chunks of wood to rot. The epoxy and filler are toxic as heck tow work with. Bondo for car repair used to be the wrong stuff for sill repair, but there are now improved versions for wood repair. Obviously a 50 year paint job costs money but cheaper than a bad paint job every five years.

Mark, it is definitely true that prep is critical. Of course, it's sometimes hard to know exactly what prep has happened when you aren't there all the time (you have to go to work). In our case, the painters were supposed to be doing prep based on a spec from Benjamin Moore that was really quite thorough, but my guess would be that after working on one side of the house they realized it was going to take quite a lot more time than originally estimated, and skipped the rest to maximize profit.

We definitely paid for a paint job that should last more than five years. Had we just had them slap up some paint and call it a day I would have been a lot more philosophical about it.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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