All About Paint (and Systems)

August 28, 2008 · 6 comments

This post is about paint. It’s also about the need to create systems to streamline my business (remember my business philosophy?). Yes, both of those are boring subjects, but they are important topics to address while trying to systematize my investing business to the point where I can manage several (i.e., more than 5) rehabs at one time.

I’ve spent much of the past three days driving between my two current rehabs (my first two) and a couple different paint stores (Home Depot, Duron, Sherwin Williams). Originally, my thought was that I would pick a single paint color, use it for every house, and I’d never have to think about paint again. As usual, I was naive. The problem is, when I got down to the details, I realized that one SKU of paint doesn’t go very far.

While a flat paint in a non-white neutral color will get you about 75% through a house, a lot goes into that other 25%. For example, if you’ll be changing wall colors or need to cover stains or odors, you’ll want a primer. For really bad odors/stains, you may want an oil-based primer like Killz. Plus, that flat non-white paint won’t be good for ceilings, trim, or cabinets, each of which require a separate color and/or type of paint. And that non-white flat won’t be good for kitchens and bathrooms, where you generally want a semi-gloss. It won’t be good for the exterior, where you will want an exterior paint in multiple colors to cover the siding, the trim and the shutters. And don’t forget about the basements — concrete and cinder block will generally require something a little different than sheet-rock, both in color and paint type. Oh, and don’t forget about the stain needed for any wood surfaces, such as decks.

So, as you can see, what started out as, “Pick a color and go with it,” ended up as, “Let’s put together a list of 12 different paint SKUs, of which at least 8 are probably needed on any given house.”

While it’s been a tedious couple days going back and forth between the houses and the paint stores — picking colors and trying to keep all the types/colors straight in my head — it’s given me a chance to really think about how to systematize these sorts of things in a way that the next time I start a rehab, I won’t have to go to the paint store at all (my contractors can do it), yet still be confident that the right materials will be used. So, how did I do this for something like paint?

First, I decided that I needed to consolidate all my paint purchasing at a single brand; in this case, I’ve chosen Duron, because I was able to get a steep discount on all their Prokote labeled paint using an account that many of the Georgia REI Association members use. Next, I’ve created a list of every type of paint I might ever need in one of my houses. This includes all the interior needs, exterior needs, basement needs, stains, etc. For each, I’ve picked one SKU and one color, and where it makes sense, the colors are the same (for example, the primer colors always match the finish colors). The next step was to create a new account at Duron so that when my contractors need paint, they can give the account number and the quantities, and the store can do the rest.

While it was a pain in the butt to do this the first time around, hopefully on subsequent rehabs I won’t have to be involved in the process at all, and it will still be easy for my contractors to purchase the paint without confusion. If I can achieve this, my process for this area has been successful. And if I can achieve this sort of process for the thousand other areas of my acquisitions, rehabs and sales, I may just be able to scale this business pretty big.

6 responses to “All About Paint (and Systems)”

  1. Brian says:

    Hey J-

    Great ideas for “systemizing” paint colors. Have you done the same for cabinets, countertops, tile, hardwoods, etc?


  2. J Scott says:

    Hey Brian –

    At this point, we use almost all the same materials — from cabinets to paint to flooring to lights to plumbing fixtures, etc — in every house. If I never said a word to my contractors and just set them loose in a house, they’d get the rehab 95% of the way I wanted it, just because we always do things the same way.

  3. Brian says:

    Hey J-
    Did you ever post a list of these materials, or is that a trade secret?

  4. J Scott says:

    Hey Brian –

    Many of my materials come from local suppliers, including flooring, cabinets, countertops, higher-end appliances, etc. So, unless you live in Atlanta, getting my specific suppliers/SKUs for those things probably wouldn’t help you.

    But, most of my finishes (light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, lower-end appliances, etc) come from Home Depot, and I’m happy to share those SKUs. Just shoot me any email…

  5. Risto says:

    I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning. It’s like a really good book; you get so into it than you realize 2 hours has past, it’s 1am and you have to be at work @ 5. Oh well, sleep is overrated.

    Anyways, I spent 4 days at Home Depot ( about 4 hours ea day) writing down prices so I can have a general idea of material cost for my rehabs. I didn’t think about writing down the SKUs of the items I would prob use over and over. If only I read this beforehand…

  6. J Scott says:

    Hey Risto,

    You should grab copies of my books — they much of the information from my blog plus a WHOLE LOT more:

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