How to Estimate Painting Jobs in 7 Steps: A Beginners Guide
If you’re new to the painting business, you may struggle with painting job estimates. Bid too high, and you might lose the job. Bid too low, and you may not turn a profit—or you may diminish the perceived value of your services.
The right price estimate showcases your services to your clients in a competitive and professional format, letting you stand out from other painting companies. But finding that perfect estimate requires some strategy.
Thankfully, if you follow the 7 steps below, you’ll be making profitable, attractive estimates in no time.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. Do a Site Visit
Do yourself a favor and visit the site first before you start your estimate. There could be factors that will increase the price. You’ll need more paint if you’re covering dark walls, for instance. Multiple accent walls and different colors will also take more time than painting an entire room or home with one color.
Then, take a laser measure and measure the wall space for yourself. Ask the customer if they just want the walls painted, or the ceiling, trim, and doors as well. Ask if they’ll supply the paint and if not, ask if they need a specific brand and if the colors need to be custom mixed.
Asking all of these questions beforehand will make your estimate more accurate and save you trouble down the line. If you’re inexperienced at painting or estimating, try to bring someone more experienced to the job site with you.
A professional painting contractor will be able to tell in time the different factors that go into a painting estimate. Take your time, and if possible, consult with more experienced painting contractors to give you a thorough understanding of the business.
2. Calculate Paint Costs
Paint can cost anywhere from $15 to more than $100 a gallon depending on the brand, paint type, your discount, and the paint quality. For instance, your client may want to use only oil-based paint instead of latex-based paints for their project, or they may insist on using flat paint or semi-gloss paint for their finish.
According to Painting Leads, contractors typically pay up to $45 per gallon, allowing you to save money on this aspect of your project.
Ask your paint supplier if they give a contractor discount. They’ll be much more willing to cut you a break if you’re buying lots of paint every month and you maintain a good relationship with them. It may take time before you can get a sizable break on your paint costs, so don’t rely on this in the beginning. The total painting cost will take into consideration the prices of the paints, so choose your products wisely.
After selecting your paint, calculate the paint you’ll need for the job using the measurements you took in step one.
Home Advisor estimates that 5 gallons of paint covers up to 1,800 square feet—although you can use their paint calculator to hone in on the total gallons of paint needed to complete your painting project. From there, it’s a simple matter to estimate your painting costs.
3. Calculate Other Material Costs
You’ll need the following materials for a painting job:
- Masking paper
- Masking plastic
- Masking tape
- Drop cloths
- Paint roller
- Pressure washer
If you’re buying these materials and equipment for the first time, LawnStarter estimates the final cost for the above list comes out to $476 on average.
That said, material amounts depend heavily on how much prep is required—more prep means more primer and caulking.
It also depends on how many windows there are and how much roof line and brick there is if you’re doing an exterior—more of any of those things means more masking paper and plastic. The painting cost will go up for all of these factors as well since you will then need to paint over them.
4. Calculate Labor Costs
Labor can be tricky to estimate because there are so many elements. The typical cost of labor for professional painters is typically $20/hour per person, according to Painting Business Pro.
Here’s a rough estimate for exterior painting: 2 to 3 painters can paint the exterior of a 2,500-square-foot house in 1 to 2 full days. The crew will cost about $800 per workday, so you’re looking at around $1,600 max. This means that a 1,500-square-foot house will take a day ($800), and a 4,000-square-foot house will take 3 days ($2,400).
For interior painting projects, on the other hand, you can expect labor costs to range from $180 to $650 on average, according to HomeGuide.
The following variables can add to the time a project takes:
- Multiple coats of paint required
- Ivy, trees, or other foliage in the way
- Difficulty in painting windows, like embedded windows
- Difficulty in accessing the house: hard-to-place ladders, steep roofs
- Lots of prep work: wood damage, peeling
If you’re new to estimating, you’re sure to miss something that’ll cost more. Raise your prices to protect yourself from uncertain labor and paint costs, recommends Painting Leads.
5. Add Marketing Costs
Here’s a hidden cost you should definitely take into account: marketing. Paying for lead providers, printing and distributing flyers, and making lawn signs don’t pay for themselves.
Always monitor your marketing costs and stick with tactics that generate leads. Just make sure you’re spending no more than 10% of a project price to get the job. For example, a $1,000 paint job shouldn’t cost you more than $100 in marketing. Following this rule of thumb will leave your profit margin intact.
6. Apply Your Markup
What percentage markup you apply depends on if you’re new to the painting business or not. A 30% markup works well for a new business. A 50% markup is good for a larger, more experienced painting company, according to Painting Business Pro.
Why the difference? Overhead costs, for one. More experienced companies usually have a staff, an office, accounting fees, and higher sales and marketing costs.
Before you decide on your markup, you should always know your total overhead costs to make sure you’re not selling yourself short. Insurance, a warranty fund, clothing, vehicle costs, and gas are other costs you need to be aware of.
You should always be making at least 20% to 30% on all jobs, according to Painting Business Pro.
7. Do the Final Calculation
Calculate your final cost to paint a room using this formula:
Some companies include marketing costs in their markup—it’s up to you.
Consider rounding up your total fee, like rounding up $1,150 to $1,200, to create room for unexpected costs.
A painting estimate calculator can be useful for beginners, as well. Homewyze has a calculator based on ZIP code.
This article will help you write a formal estimate you can send to your customer.
How Much Does a Painter Charge?
Painters charge $150 to $790 on average to paint an interior room, according to Home Advisor. Interior painting cost estimates will vary from state to state and will also depend on other factors, including:
- Size of the room
- Height of the ceilings
- Condition of the surface of the walls
- Price of paint
- Whether you’re covering a dark color (requires 2 coats or more and more time)
- Whether the ceilings and doors are being done as well as the trim and walls.
To paint the exterior of a house up to 1,500 square feet, the cost is usually between $1,774 to $4,360, while the national average cost to paint the same size house is $5,400, according to Home Advisor.
The number of stories of the house and ease of access will affect the price. Prices also go up or down based on your city and/or state.
How Much Do Painters Charge per Square Foot?
Painters usually charge between $1.50 and $3.50 per square foot to paint the interior of a house. Add in ceilings, interior walls, and trim, and the number rises to $3 to $7 per square foot, according to Smart Asset.
Exterior paint jobs depend on the house’s square footage, though the number of stories and other variables will affect the price. The cost is typically between $1 to $4 per square foot. A 2,000-square-foot house would cost the customer $5,200 on average, while the cost to paint the exterior of a 3-story house ranges from $5,000 to $12,000, according to This Old House.
The price of interior paint jobs will depend on what paint you decide to use and the size of the room. The total cost to paint a room will range from $300 to $1,750, which also takes into consideration the product price and labor costs, according to Fixr.
How Much Do Painters Charge per Hour?
If you’re hiring professional painters, you can typically expect them to charge between $20 and $50 per hour. The cost will vary based on the painter’s experience, the difficulty of the job, and the location, according to Angi.
It’s also important to remember that interior house painters charge differently than exterior house painters. An interior professional painter usually charges between $225 – $100 per hour for a standard painting job, according to Fixr.
But many house painters provide specialized services, so ultimately the cost will vary from job to job.
FreshBooks Makes Estimating and Invoicing Easy
Once you’ve finished your painting job, it’s time to get paid. Use the free painting invoice template from FreshBooks to get started. (No FreshBooks account required.) It’s custom-made for house painters, so you can rest easy knowing that you’ll get paid quickly and accurately.
When you’re ready to upgrade your cost estimate process, FreshBooks’ online estimating software makes generating and sending estimates easy. Plus, you can easily convert estimates into invoices. With our powerful financial software at your fingertips, estimating the cost to paint a room (or any other painting project) is a breeze.