Comm Painters Taking More Res Work

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COVID-19 has made some permanent changes in the landscape that may affect painting contractors looking for work on new construction. One of these is that as more and more people find they can work remotely, they’re moving out of the densely populated cities. With no need for a daily commute, many professionals are looking for a slower pace in rural or suburban areas, but where there aren’t as many people, there aren’t as many places to live.

Some of these areas are seeing a severe housing shortage, which may mean more opportunities for new home builders as cities are issuing more permits for condos, duplexes and apartments to accommodate. This in turn means more opportunities for painting contractors to get work brushing, rolling, and spraying.

According to, the top ten cities, in order of new housing permits granted, are

  • Dallas
  • New York
  • Phoenix
  • Washington
  • Atlanta
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle
  • Philadelphia
  • Charlotte
  • Tampa

The highest percentage of increase in permits, in order, took place in Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, and Tampa, with Atlanta showing only a one percent increase – even though it’s seen a lot of permits this is nothing new for this fast-growing area. Painting contractors in those areas may be able to take advantage of the upturn in permits and work opportunities.

COVID Boom or COVID Bust?

There are, however, a couple reasons why this might not be as good for residential paint contractors as it looks. The housing construction boom has encouraged many commercial contractors to switch to residential, which could impact residential contractors down the line.

Another issue that can affect when, exactly, you’ll get to paint is the soaring cost of lumber. According to according to the National Association of Home Builders, the COVID building boom has jacked up the cost of lumber; in some cases it now costs twice as much as it did just a year ago. It’s said to have added an average of $24,000 to the price of a new home, meaning the home buyer can’t afford the purchase price, and the builders themselves aren’t able to complete their projects anywhere near on budget. This has led to delays in construction, and sometimes outright cancellations of contracts.

No surprise, but the pandemic continues to shift the painting playing field. With people increasingly working from home, those people are increasingly buying newly built homes. Is that good news for new-res painting contractors? You'd think so, but with commercial painting stuck in neutral, commercial contractors are moving into the residential market, which is offering more reliable work. Toss in a spike in lumber prices, and the new-res market can be described as...volatile.

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Forgive me but in my opinion this article is incomplete. When I read it I saw so much data that is not factored into the reasoning. I do not live in a large city however I am 30 miles south of Indy. Whether you print my observations and experience as it relates to this article or not it does give a balanced picture of the situation and it is true. All of the cities you mentioned plus Indianapolis, Louisville, Portland, D.C. and others were recently destroyed by rioters, BLM, Antifa, looters and other criminals. As unprotected inner city business owners tried to protect their businesses themselves, all of the lumberyards were cleaned out of everything especially plywood and OSB. Lumber prices have soared since the rioting, not because of covid entirely.Businesses temporarily and permanently have moved out of urban areas to the safer suburban areas, buildings are empty. Immediately workers were furloughed home to work and be safe. People are fleeing the cities and many new commercial and industrial projects are still on hold. One major paint company has put a major project on hold as the economy has suffered in cities due to the insurgents. There is still rioting in many areas, shoplifters are allowed to terrorize businesses without fear of arrest. Business owners are fleeing because of this unlawful behavior. As you said, there is a spike in new home construction, in the suburbs and rural areas because citizens can't feel safe in or close to these lawless cities.And, I have noticed some commercial painters go to the residential market. 50 years ago I apprenticed with a contractor who had been a Commercial steel painter but had settled in suburban Indy and painted new homes for builders. He was tired of traveling and wanted a stable place to raise his family. As to the market, there has always been work for professional painters commercial and residential, it still takes experience, quality control and professionalism to make a profit and hold onto customers.

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