Contractor Q&A: Rob Waller on Passion, Pride and the Challenges of the Painting Trade

Rob Waller has been a professional painter for more than 30 years. He lives in the Charleston, South Carolina area, where he owns and operates Waller Painting. The company employs 24 painters.

PPC sat down with Rob to find out what he’s learned over his long career in the trade.

How did you get started in the painting business?

When I was 14, I askedmy father for some spending money. He said: “Get a job, son.”

So, painting became your first job?

Yes, my first paint job was about four miles from my house. I worked with a friend who owned a car and drove us to the job site. When my friend did not show up to continue the job, I had to carry a 40-foot ladder for four miles to the job site to finish the work. I was so tired I could barely set up the ladder, but I finished the job to satisfy myself and the customer.

Where did you go from there?

After high school, I attended Syracuse University and put myself through college by painting. I worked in Rome, New York restoring old houses and worked commercial jobs from Manhattan to Buffalo. When the economy fell, I packed up and moved to Johns Island, South Carolina and have been here ever since.

What kind of work do you do?

I concentrate on high-end new residential and repaints. My work is primarily on Kiawah and Seabrook Islands.

What are the challenges of this market, and how are they different from the work you did in New York?

The challenges I face here is that there is not enough quality labor force to do the amount of work. In New York, there was plenty of labor and not enough work.

What are your go-to paint products?

I exclusively use Duration® Exterior Acrylic Latex on all my exterior projects because it works in this harsh, humid environment. I like to use Duration Home® Interior Acrylic Latex Matte on interior walls because it allows me to give my customer a good quality, scrubbable finish. For trim, nothing beats ProClassic® Alkyd Interior Enamel.

What do you think makes your business successful?

My passion in life is to work with my hands, and I love to be on the job working with my crews. I take pride in my work and love hearing that my customer is pleased with the finished project. The contractors appreciate the hands-on approach I deliver.

What advice do you have for young people getting into the trade?

I would tell them to take pride in their work and always finish the job.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of PPC magazine. Rob Waller was interviewed by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Photo by Matt Parker. Read more about what pro painters have discovered on the job in the PPC What I’ve Learned archive.