I did go with the highest bidder and it did not matter. They did a shoddy job and threatened to take me to court when I pointed out mistakes that they made based on their work standards stated on the quote. I have not paid them yet, just filed a complaint with the BBB. No money down asked, no contract signed. The boss stated I have to high of expectations just because I live in a 121 year old house!
I disagree with your criteria to hire a painter. A prompt returned call is nice but does not indicate the quality or fairness of the painter. As far as a written estimate, that should be more of a qualifier for the bid versus an evaluation criterion. I'm not sure one would have favorable results by hiring a painter on this basis. As far as the bidding process, change orders should ONLY be used if the customer requests additional scope (PMP 101). Angie's list should consider asking reviewers if/how much they were told to pay compared with the estimate. Unfortunately, there are a lot of contractors that are unethical and need to be accountable.
This article with comments was terrific - it was so informative. I found the advice useful. It addressed specifics like the condition of the dry wall surfaces, any additional repairs such. pin holes, chalking, smoothing of wall surfaces, absorption of paint and number of coats that may be needed. It should also include insurance coverage, and reflect the clean-up afterwards. Having a written contract with the company's letterhead is a must.
Minor repair and maintenance activities that disturb 6 square feet or less of paint per room inside, or 20 square feet or less on the exterior of a home or building. (Note: Window replacement, and partial and full demolition activities, are always covered regardless of square footage.  Activities designated as “prohibited” are prohibited regardless of square footage.)
Another good rule of thumb is to test out colors on your home before you start. Once you’ve noted what others have done, and have visited a paint supply retailer to get some more ideas, test out a few potential colors on a nondescript part of your home just to make sure it’s what you expect. Colors that look fantastic on a tiny brochure can strike you a lot differently when they’re covering an area of a couple square feet. Try out a few options so you can compare them, and give yourself a few days to mull over your impressions. Taking this advice can save you the dilemma of what to do those 20 gallon buckets of “Green Myth” that you quickly realized looked more like split pea soup once you started slopping it on.
When the homeowner is at the point of hiring a painter, they generally will have colors selected or at the very least a color in mind. I always ask for the colors before I bid a job. Dark colors, high sheen colors and specialty finishes require more labor, this drives price. If its not a color change or I'm going over a similar color I give the pricing option of one or two coats. The best advise I can give based on 25 years in the business is to put it all in writing,colors, brands of paint preferred, when the work can be done, who moves furniture and how payment will be handled. I never get up front money. BTW you most definitely get what you pay for with paint. Higher quality products results in and better looking job. Don't be a cheapskate when it comes to paint or the painting contractor.
Thorough preparation is essential to ensure a good finish. Contractors might have to fill cracks or holes and remove old paint if it is badly worn, peeling or flaking. They remove all paint and apply a suitable primer to the bare surface. If the existing paint is in reasonable condition, they clean it and rub it with abrasive material to provide a key for the new paint. On new surfaces, such as bare wood or fresh plaster, they apply a suitable seal, followed by a primer coat.

House Painting

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