Chicago painter says prep work is 90 percent of the job

Chicago painter says prep work is 90 percent of the job

"I've been doing this my whole life," says Gary Noel, the second-generation owner of Northern Painting and Decorating. After managing a career in commercial art, Gary was persuaded to join the family business full time, partnering with his wife, Barbara. "I've been happy ever since," he says. So have his customers - Northern has won five straight Angie's List Super Service Awards.

How and why do you prepare the home for painting?

"Prep work is 90 percent of the job. Most painters' failures are because they don't do the preparation work properly. Anyone can lay paint but not everyone can get in there and do the prep work correctly. If the house is dirty, we power wash it, then scrape and sand all the loose paint. Then, we use an oil-based primer to seal the wood, and that's how we get deep penetration. Then we paint, putty, and caulk. We also cover up the grounds. It's very important to leave the premises absolutely clean. We only do things one way, and that's serving the customer, giving them exactly what they want and doing the job correctly."

What's the best type of paint to use?

"Typically, we like to use our own materials. We don't like to use paints we're not familiar with - we like to stay with what we know. The bulk of the paint we use is by Benjamin Moore."

What advice do you have for customers when they're picking colors?

"Most of the time, we select the colors for our customers. We're good at what we do. The most common colors today are white and earth tones. The most unusual color we've ever painted a house was for a woman who wanted her entire house - interior and exterior - painted pink. We let her select it because she was very determined it be that color."

What's the average size of the homes you paint, and what's a typical cost for a job?

"There's no definite size. It doesn't matter how big the house is, we'll paint it. But the average house is probably somewhere around 3,000 square feet. The average is around $6,500 for a job, although it depends on what we're doing. For a four-man crew, the average job takes around four or five days."

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