The Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) was founded in 1884. It is a national trade association focused on promoting business success among its members by developing ethical standards, promoting performance excellence, and providing professional educational opportunities on issues that these professionals face every day. Most industry manufacturers and suppliers recognize and support PDCA as the premier organization for helping these trades run profitable professional businesses.

We wish all painting contractors were PDCA members because it would help them grow their business faster and make more money.  The unfortunate reality is that the organization currently represents only about 2,000 painting contractors in North America. We’ve all seen the veteran painter who looks around the job and, using the WIT – “What I Think” – method, estimates how many gallons of paint they will need and how many manhours it will take to do the job. If he actually takes out a tape and measures, then it becomes the SWIT method – “Scientific What I Think.”

In all fairness, many professional painting contractors run successful and profitable businesses because they have honed their estimating skills over many years of experiencing the trial and errors of coming up short. Many say that they most often come up short on an estimate because they will rely on how long a task would take them. Then they assign it someone with less experience or skill.

So how can a painting contractor build a profitable business without the traditional painful learning curve? One way is through education. The PDCA offers its members access to over 500 training videos, industry research, and best practices and proven strategies. Anyone can download their “Industry Standards” booklet which breaks down the painting process into seven categories; from Scope through Definitions to Disclaimer of Liability.

There are currently 24 different standards that will help the painting contractor define, determine, and account for such cost factors that impact the work. As an example, a few of these include industry standard production rates minimums & maximums, determining the amount of surface prep required, who pays for touch-up requirements, and who determines project acceptance criteria. Standard P10 deals specifically with estimating a painting job and suggests proper ways to measure the surfaces to be painted. It also deals with identifying often overlooked cost items like painting surface, finishes, application methods, accessibility, proximity to work items, and minimum quantities – all factors which have a definite impact on your costs to perform the work.

Experience is always a good teacher, but a true craftsman also relies on trusted tools to effectively leverage experience. Use the tools that are available to you and never stop learning. Your estimates will be more accurate, your customer satisfaction rating will rise, and your jobs will become more predictably profitable.