College Pro Painters. Yea or Nay?
March 23, 2015 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone hired College Pro Painters to paint their house?

So, Dotsmom and I have decided that our house desperately needs to have the exterior re-painted this year. Unfortunately, I am physically unable to attempt the task, so we'll have to hire someone.

Serendipitously, a flyer was left on our door yesterday, advertising a group called College Pro Painters. I think this the same group that shows up every summer and used to go by the name "Student Painters". Going by the flyer, it looks like they operate all across the country. They claim they've been at it for over 40 years.

So, simple question...Has anyone used these guys before and, if so, would you do it again? Or, was it a disaster? What was the quality of the work? Are their prices good? I really have no idea what to expect in the way of cost of painting my home.

posted by Thorzdad to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Had them give me a quote a few years ago. Price was low, but when asked about things like scraping and sanding, I was basically told "for this price, we don't scrape and sand, we just put on a fresh coat". If your current paint job isn't flaking and peeling, I think this would be a decent stop gap, with the realization you'll probably need to paint again in a couple years.

Throughout the quote process, their rep seemed honest and knowledgeable. I get the feeling they basically work on a franchise like system, where anybody can start a painting crew and buy their brand. Quality likely varies from crew to crew as a result.
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:07 PM on March 23, 2015

They have a pretty mediocre reputation in my area.

This isn't exactly the question, but you should definitely get another quote from a non-student painting company. Painters see your house while they're up on a ladder and are able to pass along issues such as water damage, rot, bugs, gaps around windows, etc. A student company doing blanket flyers like this will put on a quick coat and move on. They're not really incentivized to call your attention to any specific issues. If you know your house is in great shape then a fresh coat isn't that big of a deal, but in my experience "the house needs to be painted" generally means there are other areas lurking in the background, and it's really worth knowing what those are!
posted by barnone at 2:16 PM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

We were pretty close to using them, but their reviews are very mixed. We ultimately decided we're going to go with a standard professional outfit with a better reputation. They can compete on price, but price is not the only factor when considering a big ticket/big exposure project like painting your house. The secret to a good, lasting paint job is a) really careful prep, and b) high quality paint, The actual application of the paint is a factor, but not as important as the prep and the quality of the paint used.

Ultimately, I think there's more long term value in paying a pro crew to do a careful job prepping your house. YMMV, but that's what we decided.
posted by mosk at 2:30 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The quality of the job you get is going to be highly dependent on the actual foreman and workers who do it. So while getting higher-level opinions is fine, it's going to be hard for anyone to really tell you what you're going to get with this kind of outfit. It's entirely possible for someone down the block to get outstanding work, and you to have tons of problems.

Whenever I have this kind of work done, I go on Angie's List or similar, look for companies with lots of good recent reviews in my area for the actual kind of job I need done*. And I put a lot more weight into smaller companies, where either the owner does the actual work, or at least closely monitors what happens. For something like painting, I generally want the owner to be on the job site at the beginning and end, at the very least. With at kind of setup, you're much more likely to get the quality of service you read about in the reviews, vs. a national brand where it's going to vary widely from job to job.

* Beware of companies that do a lot of different stuff and have good reviews for something completely unrelated to what you need. Also beware of places with a bunch of good reviews several years ago and nothing recently.
posted by primethyme at 2:58 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

We had our house painted, inside and out, a few years ago by an experienced pro. Wasn't the cheapest, was a guy we knew from other contexts.

Based on what I saw him do, don't go cheap. There is an actual physical skill to painting, experience counts, and any company selling based on "we exploit inexperienced college kids and pass the savings on to you!" is probably not going to be in your best long-term interests.

Definitely get a few more quotes, and have the discussions with the person who comes out to do the quote over what maintenance you should expect to be doing over the lifetime of the paint job, listen to any gotchas they call out, and consider the higher priced options.
posted by straw at 3:21 PM on March 23, 2015

These guys tried to hire me when I was in college. It's similar to a pyramid scheme. They grab a bunch of excited college kids, show them how much money they can make if they do all the right things, then leave it up to them to hire crews, do scheduling, etc. So you might get some kids who have experience in the field or are real go-getters that rise to the challenge and can do a quality job, but most of them underbid and underdeliver because they lack painting and management experience. I definitely did and they would have hired me. That's not to say all other painting companies are great either, but you know what you're probably getting here.

Basically, imagine Uber or Lyft, but instead of the drivers being the ones hired as independent contractors, it's an entire taxi company and the dispatchers are new at the job, but some of the drivers might have experience.
posted by JauntyFedora at 3:53 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ha, I worked for them for a few months in college. Our "foreman" (franchisee, basically) had zero experience and did a terrible job of estimating job costs, which meant that we all got paid shit since we only got paid according to the number of hours in the estimate. My coworkers were mostly uninterested and inexperienced in the work and it showed. We probably left more than one back yard a mess. There were also some serious safety concerns, like when my boss tried to get me to hang from the roof using a rescue harness so I could paint the soffits since the ladders wouldn't reach.

We did actually do some scraping and minor window reglazing, but since the estimates were so out of whack we weren't given enough time to do a proper job. Actually, that's probably all you need to know in a nutshell - "not given enough time to do a proper job".
posted by backseatpilot at 5:16 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. This was great help. It more or less confirmed my gut feeling.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 PM on March 23, 2015

I also worked for them in university, and while I may have given it my best amateur go, in no way was I trained or capable of delivering a professional job. And having done it now, I can confirm what people are saying above about the level of skill and nuance in the work. And yes, I came here to say, absolute pyramid scheme. We certainly weren't paid fair value for our labour, regardless of our skill or performance, while money went up the ladder for franchising costs. In fact we were paid on spec which meant we had to meet or beat time estimates to even make the low wage we were putatively being offered, effectively incentivizing rushed work or cut corners with any delay taken out of your pay. So if you care about the fairness of compensation or lack of abject exploitation of the people doing the work for you, I'd consider that as well.
posted by kaspen at 8:50 PM on March 23, 2015

I worked for them long ago and we weren't very good. My experience was similar to backseatpilot's--our "foreman" under-estimated costs pretty consistently, so we got screwed on hourly and generally didn't do a very good job.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:46 PM on March 23, 2015

I was CPP crew in the 80s and was pretty happy with the experience. The pay wasn't great, but it was good enough, my foreman and fellow crew members were nice people, and we generally did a good, fast, reasonably-priced job for our customers. But times change, budget pressures are different these days, and I would not hire CPP to paint my place now. Sorry.
posted by maudlin at 8:59 AM on March 24, 2015

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