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.
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Every home has details that can be accentuated for amazing looking visual appeal and first impressions.  The key is to not make the wrong details stand out.  Entryways, windows, shutters and other details on the home can be painted to make their design noticeable.  However features such as gutters, downspouts, external air conditioning systems, unevenly proportioned windows and protruding garage doors should not be completed to draw attention to them as this will provide a negative results.

The materials of the home’s facade should be considered before painting your home. When painting flat surfaces like siding or wood, you can opt for standard outdoor paint. When painting a textured surface like stucco or brick, “elastomeric” paint is a much better choice. This type of paint can stretch more than normal paint, which allows it to bridge over small gaps and crevices, painting smoothly over texture.
Interesting information! We just got scammed in White Stone, Virginia... we chose the same color, but went from a flat to an eggshell finish. I wasn't available to stand over the painter while he painted. For such a detailed job, I marveled at how quickly he finished the project! After he was paid for the job, we discovered all he did was roll paint across the walls and close to the crown, baseboards and detailed trim around windows and doors leaving about an inch or so of the flat finish. By using the same color, he didn't even do the job he was paid to do, which explained why he could finish the job so quickly. By using the same color... he got lucky and passed it off as a completed job not bothering to paint to and cut in around the trim. Upon further evaluation of our walls we could see exactly where he stopped because we could see the difference between the flat and eggshell finishes. There are walls he didn't even bother to paint. Then where he did paint near the crown when we were in the room watching ... he hit the crown moulding and tried to tell us it was already there... and tried to sell us on painting the crown moulding. I am so disgusted and upset!! He'll be hearing from us to rectify the situation.
Did you even read the article? It was specifying UNSCRUPULOUS painters! And, by the way, the photo at the top was not identified at all. How would anyone know whether it was done by a homeowner or not? Also did you ever stop to think that if a consumer has the knowlege to spot a dishonest contractor then by default he also has the knowlege to identify an honest one as well? And, pardon me, but just because you've never seen something has absolutely nothing to do with whether it has actually happened to someone else. Why would any honest business person be so defensive about the publishing of such useful information? If any painters/painting contractors object to a consumer having this kind of information maybe they are the dishonest ones! 

Oh, where to begin? Let me start with 'watered down paint'. 25-50% before the material gets to the site? Impossible. You would basically be painting with water at that point. It would be less of a hassle, and cost, to simply use proper material. You would be forced to apply three coats instead of two, as the coverage would be horrible. Whatever cost you think might be saved in materials would be lost in labor.

House Painter

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