Friday, May 29, 2015

TGIF-The Price is Right

That's Good In-Faux
By far, the question I am asked the most is about pricing.  When I visit on-line discussions, pricing is once again a hot topic. So how do you become a winner in pricing?
Let's start by agreeing that pricing is not about luck...

Or seeing what sticks....

It is about taking the guess work out of coming up with a bid.

What it really takes is knowing your budget, some time, and basic math.

Before you can price anything, you have to know what you need to make to earn a living and cover your expenses.

Now, creating a budget is a whole other post but for this exercise you have to decide on an hourly and a daily rate. These rates are determined by where you live and how you live. It is different depending on your market and how much money you need or want.

 In general, if you are getting 100% of your bids, your hourly/daily rate is too low.  If you are getting 50% of your bids, then your pricing may be high for your area.  A good goal is to get 60%-70% of your bids.

You need an hourly/daily rate to make comparisons with square footage pricing.

We are going to use a 350 square foot room as our example. This is a standard size for a dining or gust room. It is an easy size to half (a large powder room or guest bath) or double (a standard hearth room).

For our sample, I've selected a 3-step finish...

This is a straight-forward finish that uses not custom mixed tints or glazes. The base is Royal Taupe Setcoat, a high-low coat of Tiger's Eye Venetian Gem, and a tight skim on Charred Gold Lustersuede.
Where many people start to stumble on pricing is figuring out product costs and coverage. With Faux Effects, Setcoat covers about 400 square feet per gallon since it tends to be thick and it may be thinned 10% with water. Most paint companies suggest a gallon covers 350 sqft.  A troweled plaster product covers around 200 sqft for a low build coat with some trowel lines and 90% base coverage. A tightly skimmed product (like the Lustersuede used here) can be stretched to 250 sqft per gallon.  When in doubt, budget for more product-the cost difference is only a few cents more per square foot and will often guarantee you free shipping from studios offering minimum purchase options.

Many studios and manufactures also offer on-line stores where you can check product prices. For our 350 square foot room, we would need the following:

1 gallon Royal Taupe Setcoat.............................................$61.91
2 gallons of Tiger's Eye Venetian Gem..............................$148.18
1 gallon and 2 quarts of Charred Gold Lustersuede...........$78.95 + $45.40 (2 @ $22.70)

Plus tax (if you are in state)...............................................$30.18

or rounded-up to $1.05 a square foot.  To cover tools, tape, and misc. supplies, let's add 10% bringing our grand total to $1.15 per square foot. Now, $402.50 sounds like a lot until you break it down into a price per square foot.  I looked up tile on 2 big box store sites and came up with plain white as my choice in this price per square foot range.

Now let's look at labor.  This is a 3 step finish, so let's start with $1 per layer per square foot. That would be $3 plus the cost of the materials or $4.15 a square foot.  350 x $4.15 = $1,452.50 total.
$1,452.50 - $402.50 (product/supplies) = $1,050.  Now this finish for this amount of space should be completed in 2 days.  $1,050/ 2 days = $525 a day. $525/16 hours or $32.81 an hour.  This would low since you have to take taxes, gas and other expenses out of that $32.81 an hour.

Compare that to making $600 a day minimum.  $600 x 2 = $1,200 or $75 an hour.  $1,200 + $402.50 = $1,602.50 or $4.58 a square foot.

Troweling is hard work.  If you doubled you price on the troweled layers (there are 2 in this finish) then you base price per square foot would be $5.00 plus the product costs or $6.15 a square foot.  $6.15 x $350 = $2,152.50.  $2,152.50 - $402.50 = $1,750.  $1,750/2 = $875 or $109.38 an hour.

The point is you need parameters.  Give your self an hourly and a daily goal.  Then assign your tasks a dollar value.  Start with $1 per layer and see what you get.  Some people charge .50 a square foot to roll paint and $3 a layer to trowel.  Then they add $1 a square foot if the surface is a ceiling or a floor.
This will also give you a way to start taking your samples and assigning them a price.  When you visit a client you may shown them boards already marked with suggested pricing per square foot. Let the client compare what the finish is worth to them.  Just like a restaurant where the prices are listed.  The customer has to decide if they want to pay for hamburger or a Ribeye. The hamburger and Ribeye can both BE GOOD but they are not the same thing.

Sure it takes some time but congratulations- You have graduated from Magic to Math!

Don't let your budget be cut short.  Bob Barker knew this. And so should you!

Friday, May 22, 2015

TGIF-Don't be Clueless about a simple Countertop makeover.

That's Good In-Faux
The question this Friday comes from my friend Phyllis who asked about creating a copper-look counter top over an old surface.  You know what that means....
But first here are some things to think about before tackling an unconventional faux project.
  •  How much is the surface used? Is this a kitchen countertop that gets cleaned everyday or a guest bath used a few times a year?
  • Is the condition of the surface damaged from a structural or water problem? You are just using paint not a magic wand.  These things should be fixed by the appropriate professional first
  • What is the material?  Plastic, acrylic, wood, metal, and ceramic have different properties.
  • What is the client's expectation? If they are expecting granite like qualities-they should get granite.
  • All products need time to cure. That means 48 hours for a light cure such as setting things back on the surface, 72 hours for water clean-up and 30 days for heavy cleaning.  Many people will disregard those time frames if the surface is one they use frequently like a kitchen counter.
  • Dry times between layers are critical.  It may only take you 20 minutes to apply a layer but you can not come back until the next day.  Plan on multiple trips even for a small surface.
Still interested in doing a countertop?  OK, let's get started....
Our countertop is wood. Wood is good.  It is an easier surface to work on because it is porous. 
To prepare a wood surface, you need to clean it with a degreaser/de-glosser like Krud Kutter, TSP, or Paso.  We prefer Paso or granular TSP (mixed with water).  These products are brushed or wiped on and  allowed to sit for 30 minutes. Then use a 220-320 grit sandpaper to scuff the surface and remove loose topcoat/debris.  Clean the sanding dust and other smutz with a damp cloth.  Give the surface at least an hour for the liquid to evaporate.
If the surface is non-porous like cultured marble, after the above steps, you will need to apply a bonding primer.  In the Faux Effects line, I either use Primetch or Stone Décor. Primetch is a silver label product and is as sticky bonding agent.  Roll on a coat with a black foam roller and it will tack-up. When it is no longer stick, you may roll a Setcoat color.  Stone Décor is gold label and involves training. 
I let the Setcoat layer dry over night whether I use Primetch, Stone Décor, Primer, or go directly to Setcoat. I used Royal Taupe Setcoat on our wood counter.
These are the products I used for this simple technique.  I opted not to use the large Mica Flakes as I progressed with the project. The Activator II is the only Gold Label project. If you don't have access to it, then substitute denatured alcohol for a similar effect.

Faux Effects Royal Taupe Setcoat
Faux Effects Charred Gold Lusterstone and Weathered Bronze Lusterstone
Faux Effects Metallic Copper and Metallic Rich Gold Concentrate
Magic Metals Aqua Blue Patina Solution
Faux Effects Activator II or Denatured Alcohol
Infinity Laser Cut Antique Gold Glitter
Faux Effects Aquaguard Gloss
Faux Effects C-500 Satin
Water bottle
Chip Brushes
Pointed Glazing Brush
Small bowls or ramekins
Black Foam Roller
Sanding block and/or papers

Don't have what you need? Don't worry we carry it.
Of Course!
I'm using Charred Gold and Weathered Bronze Lusterstone but any color complimentary to copper will work.  Spritz the surface with water and dab in one of the Lusterstone colors.

There should be enough water for you to swirl the brush and make the Lusterstone frothy.

Repeat with the 2nd Lusterstone color.  While the Lusterstone is wet, squirt in some Metallic Copper Concentrate and some Rich Gold Metallic Concentrate.

Spritz with more water....

And use a brush to break up the shapes.

The final step in the sequence is to flick the wet materials with the Activator II for small pits or denatured alcohol for larger holes.
It seems like a lot of operations to perform in a step but really after you try it a few times, you develop a rhythm. Spritz, swish, and flick....

Just work in small connecting sections.

Once a section is done, spritz with some Aqua Blue Patina Solution. The reaction does not happen right away but must be done while the copper and gold is damp.


This layer should dry overnight.  The next day, us a medium to fine grit sanding block. This will smooth the surface and check for bonding. Wipe off the dust.

 Butter your blade your more of the copper and/or gold metallic concentrate.

Pop this on in areas where you would like to see more metallic.
To soften transitions, I also repeat this process with my Lusterstone and pulling it tight in connecting areas.

Your goal is to soften the look without burying the pitting motions you created in the previous step.  You may also add more Aqua Blue Patina Solution.

For added bling, I blew into the damp plaster some Antique Gold Glitter.  Some people don't like glitter...

I know, boring right?
This layer needs to dry over night.  The next day, sand again and seal.  I like 1-2 coats of Aquaguard Gloss followed by 1 coat of C-500 Satin.  The gloss coats should dry 2 hours between applications.

(Clueless, Paramount Pictures. 1995)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And We All Shine On

I've tried so many times the past few months to write my blog.  But how do you go from talking about Cancer to explaining how to finish a Countertop?  The lightness and humor that once flowed easily has been hard to find since December when I held 3 things in heart:

1. Bruce knew he had Stage 4 Lung Cancer. What he didn't know was the 1st doctor told me he might only live 3 months.
2.  Because the cancer had spread to his spine, a fall could paralyze him or be fatal.  Our dream home had become a potential for a nightmare.
3.  He would not be returning to work and I would need to assume all the responsibilities of Surfaces.  If not right away, within at least 6 months.

And in the craziest twist, our only good news turned out to be a gene mutation.  Most people cringe when they here mutation but in lung cancer it is like winning a golden ticket (with odds of less then 8%). Bruce has the ALK mutation which means he can take a targeted therapy with better outcomes and less side-effects then traditional chemotherapy.  But you don't know how your body will respond and when it will stop working. And it is expensive. So I started 2015 thinking I might possibly lose my husband, my home, and my business.  As Bruce said to me after a long day of tests and doctor's visits, "who did we piss off?" 

Karma. I'm not sure there is always "a plan" in suffering. What if sometimes really bad things happen to good people for no reason at all-just bad luck as unfair as that sounds. I couldn't think of anything we had done that warranted such a stiff lesson from the Universe.

But maybe Karma wasn't the question but the answer? An opportunity to release my burdens and begin embracing our life again.  After all, Anger and Fear will hold your energy as much as Love and Friendship. I needed some better juju and I needed it soon.

The Call
Outwardly I tried to be optimistic. I wanted to be brave and keep Bruce's spirits up but inside I was balanced right on the edge of despair and grief. I felt like a fraud. Then I got a call from a finisher I met last year.  She was returning to her love of finishing after caring for an elderly parent.  I sensed that Ann just needed someone to say, "give yourself permission to let go. Enjoy the moment." We had nice conversations during the class that I hoped would encourage her to re-embrace decorative arts.

The day in December when I posted my blog about Bruce's cancer, Ann suffered the worst of losses-her son passed away.  A young man who had just talked with her on the phone the day before was gone.  But in her own grief, she called to talk about mine.  Because her son Taylor embraced joy and living in the moment she had found some comfort.  He sent her a sign in his passing, that gave her peace.  She shared all this with me and I have thought about our conversation everyday since.  Talking with Ann reminded that loss is universal. Suffering unavoidable.  But beauty and happiness are possible. Relationships endure. Later my friend Anna would send me this:
No One Fights Alone
 I needed to re-set my physical, emotional, and spiritual self before I could move on to what is ahead. This meant getting our home ready to sell and finding a new place to live. Learning our home and store finances better so I am prepared to manage them. Keeping my body and mind healthy. 
Maintaining Surfaces' classes and sales. Finding ways to celebrate the milestones of this year. And do these things with Gratitude, Love, Generosity, Kindness, and Forgiveness. No small task.

But I couldn't do them alone.  From the moment I told family and friends the reality of our situation, we have been the recipients of Instant Karma.
My brother in law Stan flew out to help.  He has given me guidance on budgets and our home. In the early days, he provided Bruce companionship while I started tackling the house.  His love for his brother expressed in words and deeds eased my own suffering and helped me with forgiveness. I am fortunate to enjoy a close relationship with both of Bruce's brothers and my sister in laws. And his nieces and nephews
They even hosted a party so Bruce and I could celebrate a milestone birthday while enjoying time with their extended family and friends.  The Slaton are not my blood family but definitely the family of my heart. 

My sister Sally.  She may be the baby in the family but she became my pillar of strength.

Sally has her own demanding career teaching children with Autism and Spectrum Disorders plus two children of her own and a husband. She came over multiple times during the week to help me clean and pack.  We had signed up for our first marathon before Bruce's diagnosis. Because of her, I continued to train and remain mentally & physically strong even when I wanted to give up.

Together we ran that marathon which had become a metaphor for my life.

It was important to me that Bruce knew I could achieve this goal.  We ran the Oklahoma City which seemed fitting since it raises funds supporting the memorial created to honor sacrifice and loss. But also the will to survive and go on!


My Dad, who was there to see us accomplish our goal. Who has always been there to cheer me on.

He and my Mom always give me good counsel offering support when I need it. I used to think they demanded a lot from me. Now I am grateful. My Mom is the person who can talk me off the ledge better then anyone.  Because of her own struggles she knows empathy better then most.

And my brother who offered much and took the time to research matters of trusts, medical directives, and other things I had not thought about on his own.  He still checks in to see how big sister is doing.

The quiet hero of this story is Emily. Talk about Instant Karma. Emily grew up in the home behind ours but we had never met her.  Until she happened to come into our store with her Mother's Designer Friend. A recent graduate of Fine Arts, Bruce offered her a job. And thank goodness he did.  I am not exaggerating when I credit Emily with keeping our business running. Through-out all the hospital stays and doctor's visits, she has kept Surfaces' open.

During Bruce's testing, Emily got married. How many other brides do you know who would come to work the Monday after getting married?  She worked the whole week before her honeymoon.  And took no time off while preparing for her wedding.

She is an important member of my family and I've often questioned if that random day she came to the shop was not so random after all. Mentoring her has been one of my joys through all this.

My Circle of Trust
You are truly lucky in this life if you can have deep and meaningful friendships whether you see each other every week or once a year. These are the people who have shared my fears, struggles, and hopes for the future.

My "faux sisters", Sue, Suzanne, and Mary coordinated the efforts of our finisher community to help us in our time of need. They organized shifts to work on our home and meals during Bruce's first days of diagnosis and treatment. They set-up the accounts that allowed our out-of state friends to donate to helping get our home ready to sell.

Sue, My Conscience Sister. Thank you for being there with me and Sally when I found out Bruce had cancer.  For helping me with classes, working on my house and many road trips-I am grateful for your integrity and steady support.  Thanks to you and Jim for opening your home on Thanksgiving and being there many times over.

Suzanne, My Soul Sister.  Thanks for being the caregiver and checking in with me weekly. For taking the time from your busy schedule to work on my house when you had so many things going on in your own.  I am grateful for our deep discussion about life but also for the laughs-we share the flair for drama. You are the kindest of souls. We are grateful to share so many happy memories with you, Thom, and Donovan.  We are a family of our own making.

Mary, My Compass. The sister that helps me be steady and even.  We needed someone that could keep things focused while sharing an amazing laugh! Bruce always lights up when he finds a meal from you.  Your presence in the studio is appreciated in many ways.  We are grateful for our friendship with you and Dave.


Ashley, who picked right back up at Surfaces when I needed help during Emily's honeymoon.  Thank you for working on the house and bringing your talents to planning my 50th Birthday party with our local friends.  Everything was perfect and I will cherish the memories always. 

Brenda Mac, who helped me learn to let it go and the power of moving on.  Thank you for working on the house and my party. For including Bruce and me in your life with Joey and your kids. I am grateful that we have our long and funny history. We hope to see the painted trees.
Jeanette, my guardian angel.  Thank you for your hard work on our home and at Surfaces. You are an important part of our family.  I can always count on you to lend a hand or an ear.

Mona, Julie, Heather, Tyler, and Eber, thanks for working on our house and being a part of my party. Your support of us and Surfaces is greatly appreciated.  And to Kevin, thanks for popping out of a cake and singing to me-but mostly thanks for all the lake memories.

My friend Kim, whom I've known for 20 years and has always been a source of the truth, taste, and good conversation. Even though she moved away before Bruce's diagnosis, Kim always keeps in touch through messages, emails, and phone calls. She remembers every special occasion and makes time to see us when visiting Kansas City. Seeing her new home this year is an important goal for us.

My friends Sass and Sasha. We have exchanged many cards and late night emails.  I know that you are due some good Karma too and I always include you in my private requests for Joy.

My friends Anna and Jackie:
For the words of encouragement. The hospitality. All the signs that show you care. I don't get to see you often enough but your long distance support means the world to me. you helped to mend my broken wings. Some day I hope to help you continue to fly!

My Faux Community

To everyone that sent us a caring token from videos to hand-made items. From gift cards to cash. For your prayers, messages, notes, and posts.  You made a difference to us and helped us prepare for the next chapter in our lives.  We can now say good-bye this house but we will take all your love and support into our new home.

Because wherever we land-it will be home. My Karma Cleanse taught me that the most important things in life are the people (and pups) who are in it.

The love you take is equal to the love you make.

 I can now let go of my burdens....

Choose Happiness...

And write about countertops again!