Roll with the Changes: Historic Homes to Commercial Work, Canadian Painter Thrives on the Details that Bring it All to Life

Pro Experts Painting was first profiled in the Fall 2007 issue of PPC magazine. PPC editor Mike Starling caught up with Scott Martell, owner of the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based painting company, for the fourth installment of our Where Are They Now? series.

Change with the times or get left behind.

That’s sound advice for any painting business in today’s fast-changing marketplace. It has certainly served Scott Martell well over the past 26 years.

Steeped in history

Martell is the owner of Pro Experts Painting in Halifax, the capital and largest city in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, this portside municipality of nearly half a million people is rich in history and known architecturally for its grand and well-preserved Victorian houses.

It was on these types of historic residences that Martell first made his mark as a painter in the late 1980s.

“I learned my trade in the UNESCO heritage town of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia,” he says. “The first 40-foot ladder I climbed was held by the local minister. He was the only one I trusted to do it. If not for him, I would not have been a painter.”

These early jobs instilled a passion for historic restoration that set his company apart when he moved to the larger Halifax market and started Pro Experts Painting in 1996. It’s still his favorite type of project, but he has also expanded his services to accommodate
changes in the market.

“Nova Scotia has gone through a housing boom,” he says. “It is the fastest growing housing market in Canada right now.”

Consequently, Martell has added new construction to his painting mix. He also has a specialized crew that works only on commercial projects. This work dates back to early 2000 with the addition of Matthew Hennigar to the Pro Experts team.

Hennigar had a keen interest in heavy-duty sprayers and industrial coatings and was instrumental in helping Pro Experts Painting become a successful player in the commercial segment all across the Halifax Regional Municipality region.

Embracing new coatings advances

New markets also require new tools and new coatings, from spray dryfall to fire-retardant products to epoxy floor coatings.

“The marketplace here in Nova Scotia is ever changing,” Martell says. “My best weapons are the local Sherwin-Williams reps. They helped us grow into our commercial side showing us all the products one would need. They also make sure to show us any new technological advances.”

One of his new favorites is Latitude™ Exterior Acrylic Latex. Formulated with ClimateFlex Technology™, this premium paint combines early moisture resistance, extreme temperature tolerance and a durable finish that protects against peeling, cracking and dirt pickup.

Its best-in-class, weather-adaptive technology is known for results that are ideal, even when the weather isn’t.

“This is extremely beneficial in areas where the rain can come quicker than expected,” Martell says. “It allows for more dependable production timelines.”

He’s also a big fan of Loxon XP™ Waterproofing Masonry Coating.

“This high-build coating cuts my production time in half as one less coat is needed,” he says. “I also do a fair bit of work with Pro Industrial™ Pre-Catalyzed Waterbased Epoxy. It is amazing on cupboards and any high-traffic areas where lots of cleaning is anticipated.”

The introduction of hybrid alkyd-acrylic coatings is also a welcome advance.

“Combining the durability of oil-based and the clean-up of water-based keeps all painters much happier than in the days of old,” he says.

Continuing to grow

Besides the many advances in paint technology, Martell says one of the biggest changes he has witnessed is in the labor market.

“Like the rest of North America, recruiting employees is one of our biggest challenges,” he says. “We used to have people banging at the doors and begging for work. Now we actively interview and recruit daily. I expect to have 10 to 15 percent growth over the next few years as we are slowly but continuously adding qualified and vetted painters similar in mind set.”

Martell turned 57 in October, but says he doesn’t plan to retire for at least another 10 to 15 years. In fact, he’s getting reacquainted with the brush.

“Lately I have been putting in half-days as a laborer,” he says. “I am jumping in on jobs, painting directly with the crews – something I had not done in 20 years. It is bringing me joy, a social connection with staff, and above all it’s an amazing fitness program.”

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of PPC magazine. ©2022 Northbrook Publishing. Story and architectural photography by Mike Starling, PPC editor. Scott Martell photo by Alex Macauley. Read more about what pro painters have discovered on the job in the PPC magazine archive.