“Joining PDCA and working towards our accreditation has been hands down one of the best things we've done to help grow our business and ensure we're doing things right. It has been invaluable to be part of a group who is striving for excellence just like we are, and as a new painting business being able to connect and learn from others has been incredible. “
Here is where this affects you as a consumer. You select a painter with a contract that says 2 coats, $500 down. You give the company the deposit and pick your colors a couple of days before the project starts. The painter goes to the store with your colors and figures out they are deep base. He (or she) not only needs to charge you more for the paint, but he also needs to charge you for a dark gray primer coat. Ninety nine percent of the time that primer coat is going to be really, really expensive since you already gave a deposit.
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.

The Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule establishes requirements for firms and individuals performing renovations, and affects contractors, property managers, and others who disturb painted surfaces.  It applies to work in houses, apartments, and child-occupied facilities (such as schools and day-care centers) built before 1978.  It includes pre-renovation education requirements as well as training, firm certification, and work practice requirements. 

Painting Contractor

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