Painting Referral Sites

Painting Referral Sites

HomeAdvisor: Painting referral sites

There are a lot of painting referral sites that promote vetting or qualify their listed painting contractors and other homeowner services.  These sites appear to serve the consumer and help ensure that a homeowner receives quality services by reputable contractors.  Let me first say that they do qualify and weed out some contractors.  However, they filter out the lowest common denominators, and I am not quite sure who would hire these painters, roofers, and plumbers if they were to be found by other means.  The perception to the homeowner is that only the best of the best contractors are listed on their sites, and if this was true, it would not matter who you selected, you could take the lowest price painter, and feel confident that they would perform just as well as the highest cost painter.  But unfortunately, this is not the case, and you may know this first hand if you have attempted to get bids from contractors on,, Yelp, or even the BBB.

I am going to peel back the layers, and let you in on the secret of painting referral sites. My only caveat is that yes, we have participated in some of these lists over the years, with varying success.  So keep that in mind.  I will try not to berate each site, but will attempt to give you the truth, so that you can make an informed decision on how to best use these sites, and do research to find the best painting contractor for your project.  Know that there are new painting referral sites popping up every day, and they will always have some type of monitization strategy, and you just need to find out what it is.

The BBB (Better Business Bureau)BBB: painting referral sites

This organization is a 501(c)(6) and their income comes from “dues of individuals business” that join their organization.   While the original mission was to protect the consumer, I am not sure how relevant this is in today’s social media world.  Here are the standards listed on the BBB website:

BBB Accreditation Standards:  These BBB Standards For Trust represent good business practices generally and BBB Accreditation Standards specifically…

  1. Build Trust
  2. Advertise Honestly
  3. Tell The Truth
  4. Be Transparent
  5. Honor Promises
  6. Be Responsive
  7. Safeguard Privacy
  8. Embody Integrity

While I am not saying the BBB is a bad painting referral site, I just don’t think they carry much weight.  I think the majority of consumers would assume that there is a very strict policy and application process to be a part of the BBB.  I just called and asked what the criteria was to join the BBB.  The gal on the phone informed me that to join, you need to have been in business for one year, and not have any government judgements against you.  That bar feels very low.  I then asked how much it would cost, and it turns out that it is based on how many employees you have, but, if you have more employees, you do not necessarily get more services.  After I asked about the dues, she quickly wanted to talk about different marketing options to advertise my business through them.  Clearly, the BBB has turned into a marketing agency of sorts.

The biggest value that the BBB brings is clearly from a marketing perspective, and in that, mainly in web presence.  Because they have so many organizations linking to their site, the BBB has a lot of Google power.  A link from the BBB is more powerful than their consumer protection powers.   The BBB has a rating system, but I cannot determine why some businesses have ratings, and others do not.  The BBB reports complaints against companies, but all complaints must be in writing.  Companies are given the opportunity to respond to the BBB (even if they are not a member).

I believe that the BBB would better serve the community at large (as its mission states) if it was funded by means other than membership dues.  I believe this creates a conflict of interest that most people do not understand.  It can be a good marketing tool for businesses, but does not really provide the protection that many consumers assume it provides. I will add that they do have an arbitration service that might be helpful.  I have no experience with it, but could be of help to a consumer if things get that bad.

YelpYelp: Painting referral sites

Yelp has mainly been used to gather and aggregate reviews on restaurants and entertainment venues, but you might not know that it is a painting referral site.  It is also the search platform Apple uses (through Siri) on your iPhone.  Yelp is considered by some to be a social media platform, as it has a membership area, a way to message people, and in the past has organized local events.  However, keep in mind, they have an advertising component which is how they create revenue.  What I don’t like is their ability to screen reviews.  They have a “secret” algorithm that will hide some reviews.  If you are not a veteran “Yelper” than your reviews may not be seen.  They claim that this is to prevent bad or inaccurate reviews. But, their formulas still allow for bad reviews.  For example, we have a negative review on Yelp from someone that never did business with us.  He simply did not like our deposit policy…but that review shows, while other positive reviews from actual customers of ours, are hidden.

Truth be told, we did try the platform as an advertising vehicle.  We were required to sign a year contract, and when we experienced the problems of the reviews being screened, we decided to cancel our subscription.  Needless to say, we have not seen great things come from advertising with Yelp.  To their credit, Yelp allows the business owners to respond to reviews, which is nice…there is always two sides to every story.

There have been lots of complaints by business owners about Yelp, though, and even litigation.  A hardwood flooring contractor I know actually settled in court over a Yelp review.  The homeowner claimed that the floor was not done correctly and refused to pay.  Brian, the owner of the flooring company received a settlement of $15,000.  I have to admit, I was kind of happy about that one.

Angie’s list

Angie’s list started out with a great concept.  Let homeangies list nasdaqowners pay for access to reviews from other paying members.  It is a good painting referral site, but the problem is, not enough consumers are willing to pay for this.  How do I know?  Angie’s list just changed to a free model because they could not scale up once they became a publicly traded company.

I have tried Angie’s list to advertise as well.  We did not have any real negative experiences, but we certainly did not see a lot of traffic come from them.  We tried the platform while they were planning to roll out their “freemium” model, so maybe we did not get the best of what Angie’s list has to offer.   But, like Yelp, their revenue comes from contractors and businesses paying to advertise.  As you can imagine, if your revenue is coming from the people getting reviewed, there will be problems.  Due to the fact that they have just changed their format, I am honestly not sure how things are being done, and what it’s like to be a contractor or a consumer using their service.  Just know that contractors pay to advertise to Angie’s list “members” so they get expanded exposure.


Home Advisor: painting referral sites

HomeAdvisor, formally known as Service Magic is a big player in the painting referral site market.  You can’t really type any home service category into Google without getting a HomeAdvisor link.  I am most familiar with this platform, as I have had a love/hate relationship with them since the beginning.  It is a company that is based out of Golden, CO; so it is hard for me to not want to cheer for them.  Yes, we have gotten some great jobs from HomeAdvisor leads, but we have also been let down in the past.

But what does it mean for you, the consumer?  That is really what matters right?  The HomeAdvisor team might do the best job at looking into the background of a contractor.  According to their website, this is what the process involves:

  • Licensing
  • Sex Offender Search
  • Legal Search for Civil Judgments
  • Criminal Records Search
  • State Business Filings
  • Identity Verification (Social Security Number)

It is a great start, and that with the combination of reviews on their site is a good mix.  However, I am not quite sure how it works when you do a search.  I did one for the zip code we are located, and I had to scroll to the third page to find this:

We have good ratings, and are in the exact zip code I searched for, and yet the search brought me all sorts of painting contractors from about a 15 mile radius, and they are not categorized from top rated to bottom. Very random.  So, maybe that is a good thing.

The HomeAdvisor bread and butter is their matching service though.  They really want you to put in a project to be contacted by “up to 4 contractors.”  When I first signed up, it was up to three contractors.  This may sound like a good thing for the homeowner, but to understand why they do this, you need to understand how the system works.

When a contractor signs up and is approved; they agree to accept up to a certain amount of leads per month.  Each service is priced differently based on the type of service being estimated.  For painting projects, it might be $70, for a home remodel, it might be $150, for lawn care, it could be $30.  Then, as the contractor, you are charged for each lead.  So, if a homeowner changes their mind after signing up, the contractor still needs to pay for that lead.  To bring this around, if HomeAdvisor now connects you with 4 contractors, they get paid for 4 leads no matter if you contract with a contractor or not.

From a consumer standpoint, I think this model is the best.  From a contractor standpoint, I believe they are doing some great things, but I think there is room for improvement. But now you know how it happens.  HomeAdvisor has some other models of how homeowners can connect with contractors, but the referral service is their main business model.

The truth is, paint contractors need to connect with homeowners, and homeowners need to connect with paint contractors, and neither know the best way to do it.  My hope was to shed some light from an insider perspective to inform you how some painting referral sites work and generate money.  Even the BBB which is a non-profit organization exists because they generate revenue.  If they did not make revenue, they would not exist.  There are a lot of other services as well that on the surface appear to be working strictly for you, the homeowner, but there is usually a monetization strategy.   Feel free to leave a comment or ask me a question, as I am sure I have left out a detail or two.

Best Paint Contractors in Denver

Best Paint Contractors in Denver

I recently found my company, Walls by Design, on a list of the Best Paint Contractors in Denver for 2016 by the good folks at   My first thought was…Sweet! But then, I decided to do some competitive analysis on who made the list.  This is my competition right? I should know about them.  The first thing I thought when looking over the list was: why are these people on this list?  Because I have never heard of many of them.  Here is the list, and I’ll include a link to their website, oh, and it’s in alphabetical order, so no favoritism here:

A Masters Touch Paintingpaint contractor

A New View Painting

Aesthetica Painting & Contracting

Ambassador Painting

Brush Pro Painting

Carter Painting

Colorado Commercial & Residential Painting

Colorado Faux Painting

Coverwell Painting

Denver Paint and Repair

G.Go Decorative

Liberty Painting, LLC

Lime Painting

MVP ContractingTall ceilings

Mod Paint Works

Old Western Paint Company – this isn’t even a painting contractor!!

Painting Plus of Boulder Inc

Pro Painting LLC

Rob the Handyman

Singletrack Painting

Tall Pines Painting, Inc

The Color Lab

Tri-Plex Painting

Walls by Design, Inc.

Wheel of Color, Inc


Additional Paint Contractors

So that is the list.  I went through about 95% of the list, looking at their websites and their Facebook pages, and I have to say, overall I was not impressed.  I was by a few of them, but some didn’t even have a website.  It did help me understand that there is a lot of stuff on the web that is not the “best”, as this post would propose.  Why are these the “best”?  I know lots of Denver painting contractors, and several of them are not on the list. Companies like:

Bill Marks Painting

Vivax Pro Painting

Imhoff Painting

Ireland’s Finest

Stellar Painting

Patriot Painting

Five Star Painting

Certa Pro Painters

These are few of the companies that I consider my competition.  I think you will see a wide variety of contractors now.  There are small (two to three man shops) all the way up to the largest national painting franchise.  You can also do your own internet search for “paint contractor Denver” to create your own list.  So, I am not sure the posting from really has the ability and authority to identify the best painters in Denver, even if we are on the list.  While I would argue that we are at the top of this list, you have to know where the information is coming from.

kitchen painting denver

So, what makes a Denver painting company the best?

My guess is that this blogger simply did some research and aggregated a list.  They clearly didn’t put much thought into it, even though their own article claims their criteria is: Reputation, Credibility, Experience, Availability, Professionalism, and Engagement. I am not sure this is possible with a simple Google search.  I know I was never contacted for the article to find out my availability or to check my experience.

With this information, you must be thinking to yourself two things: first, how does one determine who is the best and second, why the hell are you doing a blog post on your competition?  Ah ha! Let’s tackle the first one.

How does a homeowner determine who is the best painter? Walls by Design google listing I think you have to first determine what you value first.  Is it price? Time? Reputation? Availability? Personality?  I don’t think any painter or paint company will fit all those criteria.  As you know, price is a big factor for most people.  If I gave you a bid to paint your 3000 square foot house for $1000, you might be a bit wary.  Too cheap right?  Even if I was on time, gave a good presentation, and had a good reference or two.  But if I came in at $10,000 you might be mad after the same presentation.  There is a balance right? Here is what I would do if I was looking to get a bid for my home (and I didn’t already own a Denver painting company):

  1. Ask anyone I knew that just got their home painted. Not just for the name, but what did they learn along the way. What went right and what went wrong? How did they handle any problems?  This can teach you a lot.
  2. Search online. This would start with a generic search for painting contractors, but it would also include a search for any specific companies that people recommended to me, or that I have heard about.  What comes up about the company?  You will find review, articles, and other things.  Then do a search on the company owner.  Is there anything good or bad that comes up?
  3. Call the top three companies to set up appointments. If I have a bad experience during this phase, I would take them off the list, and add a new one.  Think of this stage as the dating period. If you have a bad experience during this stage, you can only imagine what will happen later if you contract with them.
  4. Meet and greet. At the estimate appointment, you need to get to know them.  Ask them questions.  How do they answer? Are they knowledgeable? Do they give you good ideas?  Or do they only do what you ask?  This is added value in my opinion.
  5. Do they do what they say? I get frustrated when someone tells me they will get the bid back to me in a day or two, and it comes back in a week, or worse, I have to call to ask for it.  This tells you about how organized they are…and again, how it will be like to work with them.
  6. Make a decision based on my budget, and what was presented, how it was presented, and how they made me feel. You have to make me feel confident that you are “the guy.”

It’s like interviewing a new hire.  If you do this at work, then you know how to do it for hiring a painting contractor.  Far too often I hear people tell me they wish they would have listened to their inner voice, but went with someone because of a lower price.  I’ll be honest, we will never be the lowest price.  But we will answer our phone, come when you ask us, do what we say, and stand behind our work for the long haul.  OK, off my soap box.

Denver Paint contractor Walls by Design

Okay, why am I writing about my competitors?

First, many of them don’t compete with us directly as they focus on commercial painting, exterior painting, or are in an area we don’t focus on.  And, to be honest, I don’t find many of the businesses on this list to be good competitors, and the ones that I do consider competition, I’m still not afraid of.  There are some good painters out there, and a few of them, we might refer you to for different reasons…we don’t do all types of painting. I believe however,  we are truly the best residential interior painting company in Denver.  Sorry if that sounds a bit egotistical, but if I don’t say it, who would…right?  I honestly believe if you do the 6 things above, called all the companies I have listed above, you would land on Walls by Design to paint anything in your home.  The only way we might not win on is availability.  While we have nine teams (and growing), we cannot always get to projects on a timeline that is requested.  If you call me to paint your 3000 square foot house next week, the chances are pretty slim.  Now, we do have holes in our schedule that pop up occasionally, but I can’t always promise.  In my next post, I am going to talk about referral services like Angie’s List, Tom Martino, and others, and why you can’t always believe them either.



Painting Shiplap Siding

shiplap siding dining room

Painting Shiplap Siding

If you know anything about me, you know I’m from the Midwest, well, Chicagoland to be more precise. And if you know anything about the people from Chicagoland, you know that about 90% of people from that area either have a cabin in Wisconsin, or know someone that does.  Well, I grew up spending every summer with my grandparents at their cabin on a lake in Lakewood, WI.  So, I have been going there since before I was born (literally). This last year, one of my dearest friends from high school, who also grew up going to the same lake (that’s a funny story all in itself), built a gorgeous new home on the lake.  And one of the most striking features about the home is the use of shiplap siding (some may call it clap board siding) throughout the home. The home is best described as a cape cod with big windows (and great views of the lake I might add), crown molding, white cabinetry, and shiplap walls…all painted white on white.  Just beautiful.


Imagine Home showroom in Atlanta



The funny thing was, however, after visiting my friend’s home over Memorial Day, I startedseeing shiplap siding in lots of places.  Kind of like when you decide to purchase a new car, let’s say a Toyota 4Runner, and all of a sudden you start seeing them EVERYWHERE!  I was at High Point Market, and it was in IMG_5384showrooms.  I was on Instagram…and there it would be.  As a person involved in interiors, I guess I just don’t pay as much attention as I thought.  I’ll blame it on living in Denver I guess.  We don’t get trends here quite as fast.  Anyway, it’s a thing.

One day, my friend messaged me and asked me about how to fix a problem they were having with their shiplap.  She told me that they had decided to go with pine (as it was much cheaper material than poplar), and everywhere there was a knot in the wood, they had a discoloration.  Most of the home is painted in white, but they have a few areas where they have painted with some light greys, and the grey areas were actually showing the problem (called shiplap siding with knot bleedsblead through) more than the white areas.  I explained to her that to solve the problem, she needed to use a stain blocking primer on all the spots, and zinzer 123I recommended a shellac based primer called Zinzer 123 (over Kilz), but then she would need to repaint the wall.  And not just the small area or the board, but the whole wall.  If she only painted the spot, she would get what’s called flashing where the touch-up area would be shinier that the rest of the board and she would see each spot.  If she repainted only the effected boards, those individual boards would flash causing the same problem, so the only solution would be to repaint the effected wall.  I knew that would not go over well, as she had this problem throughout the entire house: walls, ceilings, and on some of the other trim as well.


shiplap siding with knot bleeds 2

Why is this happening?  Well, the product they decided to go with, due to cost (and there is usually a cost with a less expensive product). If you are familiar with pine, you know that it has knots in it; whether you are looking at pine tongue and grove, pine 2x4s, or any other product made out of pine.  It is just one characteristic of the wood.  And these areas are what have more of the sap from the tree.  It takes a very long time, if ever, for all of it to pull out of the wood.  In order to stop it, you need to use a stain blocking primer, and I have found the shellac based primer to work the best.  As the sap comes out of the knot, it yellows the paint, leaving a mark that looks like a water stain.

What would have been the correct thing to do from the beginning of the project?

In order for this to not happen (did you see what I did there?), the builder should have specified to the painting contractor to prime all the shiplap boards with a stain blocking primer, and for insurance, I would have recommended that they prime all the knots with an additional spot coat.  So all the knots would receive two coats, then they could paint the boards with whatever top-coat they wanted.


My friend is trying to work through this with her builder, and who am I to say, but in my opinion, the builder needs to own the problem, as I am sure he did not specify a stain blocking primer.  Some builders will claim that the painting contractor should have known to use a stain blocking primer, but the reality is, he or she probably was not privy to what kind of wood was installed, and who knows, some people want this kind of rustic look in their homes.  So in my opinion, the problem and the cost is  what the builder needs to solve.

One more note, I also explained to my friend that before painting the whole entire house again, that she should do a test area in one room.  Because I am sure the contractor does not want to paint TWO coats of primer and two coats of finish, she should have them do ONE room, and test.  Spot priming the knots, and applying two coats of paint, and then letting the area sit for at least 3 months to make sure the problem does not come back.  If the proper materials are used, it should work; but it will also ensure that the spot priming does not cause flashing as well.  If it does not flash (look shiny at the areas where the knots are painted), then move on to paint the rest of the home.  This is a tricky and costly problem.  Can you imagine if they painted the whole house again, just to have the knots come back again in three months?  Yikes!

shiplap siding stairs

So, the lesson in this one is; if you are going to install shiplap siding, you need to either choose the right material (and I would spend the additional cost and get the poplar, especially for a small project), or you need to prime the wood with a good quality stain blocking primer.  If you are interested on a blog I found on installing shiplap, check this one out that I found at  Another solution would be to stain the boards, but that is another topic for another day.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets White

Painting Kitchen Cabinets White, why so popular?

So you are thinking about painting kitchen cabinets white? There are a lot of Denver paint contractors to call, but few know how to properly paint white kitchen cabinets.  Whenever I go to see a customer and ask them what it is that they don’t like about their cabinets, they always tell me, “The color! I can’t stand how they have turned orange!!” It feels like almost every kitchen in Denver has an orange, or yellow/orange kitchen…so if you are shaking your head right now, you are not alone.
I get asked by new transplants to Denver, why are all the kitchens Oak kitchen cabinets - Painting Kitchen Cabinets Whitelike this here? And the truth is, cost. You can put it back on the builder, but the choice to put these cabinets in, always lies with the original home purchaser. Not too many homes were built as specs in my opinion. If they were, most of the time, those are the ones that have the higher level finishes in them. So, just like my wife and I were on a budget when we built our first home (I can even remember being okay with the popcorn ceilings. YUCK!), people are always trying to get the most house for their money. They cut corners on finish details thinking they can always upgrade later. Hardly anyone does.
The next thing that has contributed to the rise in painting kitchen cabinets white is the fact that so many people wanted solid surface counter tops and were tired of the laminate counter tops that use to proliferate the home landscape. So, in order to sell a house in the last 10 years, you had to be able to advertise “granite counter tops.” Well, once you have granite on the counters, very few people want to trash the tops in order to replace the cabinets.  This brings the cost of redoing a kitchen from $20k to over $30k usually.  So painting kitchen cabinets white to match the trend is a great option.
refacing kitchen cabinetsWhy not re-face the cabinets?

Great question, and I’m glad you asked. The reality is, it is almost as expensive to re-face cabinets (meaning you replace all the doors and drawer fronts and put a skin, or veneer, over the boxes to completely change the look of the cabinets) as it is to buy new cabinets.
Can you change the stain color? No, not really. You can try to do one of two things. First you could try to strip the cabinets and then stain.  It is very labor intensive to strip the cabinets, and it might be MORE costly to do this than to replace. I’ve investigated dipping the cabinet doors, but even the guys that do this process (and you could not pay me enough to work with those chemicals), can’t guarantee that all the finish will come off. If all the finish does not come off the surface, you cannot re-stain them and get an even color. Stain needs to penetrate inside the wood, unlike paint.


Some people try to do a gel or over stain on the existing

finish, but those products do not hold up over time. The will wear unevenly and look worse than what you had to begin with. It’s like painting with stain, but it doesn’t have the binders like a paint does (think prime coats, bonding primers, etc), to hold up over time. This might be an option if you are selling your house, and don’t care about what happen 3 months down the road, but I do not believe it is a great solution.

Last thing that has contributed to the popularity of painting kitchen cabinets white is the trend of light and bright. The last decade, all we used was earth tones that were progressively getting darker. We hit a turning point about 5 years ago into the light neutrals and grays, and we are not turning any time soon. Have you gone to or Instagram, or Pinterest lately? Just do one search for kitchen cabinets, and about 90% of what you will find will be white painted cabinets.
White kitchen cabinet painting in Denver

With the trends and the reality of granite counters, and people not wanting their yellowed-out cabinets (oak or maple), painting the kitchen cabinets white is a really great option. It is a third the cost of re-facing and can be as much as a fifth (or more) the cost of replacing. Not to mention, you can keep your counter tops.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets White in Denver

Are you only painting kitchen cabinets white? No, we are doing some grays, blacks, and the occasional blue, but about 80% is some form of white for the cabinets. If you need help picking the right color, we have you covered. We have color designers that will come out and help you find just the right shade.

Will they hold up? They sure will, but they do scratch. Customers always want to know if they can scratch, and I always remind them that their car, which has the most durable finish I can think of, will scratch or chip if you impact it. The good news at Walls by Design is that we offer a free touch-up program for all our painting projects, including painting cabinets. We will come out each Jan/Feb to do up to one hour of free touch-ups.

How long will it take? Most kitchens can be painted white or any other color in about four days.

How much does it cost? Every kitchen is different. It depends on the type of wood, the number of doors and drawers, and the configuration, but our average painting of kitchen cabinets white is about $3,200.  Since we started out new process for painting cabinets white, the cost has increased as we have learned what can happen if certain things happen.  One of the things we have learned is to do more prime coat when we are painting oak cabinets, so as to reduce the grain appearance.  This cannot be eliminated from a cost perspective, but we can minimize it.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting cabinets white is one of the most technical painting procedures, and I highly recommend that you work with a paint contractor that has painted a lot of kitchen cabinets.  Whoever you talk to, should be able to walk you through their process, and should do a good job of educating you on the process.  Know that the preparation, number of coats, application process, and the paint that is used are HUGE factors in making sure you get a good end result.

So, if you are considering to paint your kitchen cabinets white  or any of your cabinets, please contact us. We are one of the biggest, and I might ad best paint contractors in Denver. We would love to give you a free estimate.