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8 Min. Read

How to Estimate a Painting Job in 7 Steps: A Simple Guide for Beginners

How to Estimate a Painting Job in 7 Steps: A Simple Guide for Beginners

Estimating a painting job can be tough for those new to the painting business. You don’t want to bid so high that you don’t get the job. Nor do you want to price yourself so low you don’t make a profit.

The right price estimate will showcase 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 below seven steps you’ll be making profitable, attractive estimates in no time.

FreshBooks’ online estimating software makes generating and sending estimates easy, plus you can easily convert them into invoices.

In this article, 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 up the price like poor condition of the walls. You’ll need more paint if you’re covering dark walls. Multiple accent walls and different colors will take more time.

Then, take a laser measure and measure the 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, do they need a specific brand and will the colors need to be custom mixed, recommends Jobber.

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 confer with more experienced painting contractors to give you a thorough understanding of the business.

2. Estimate the Cost of Paint

Paint can cost from $15 to $80 a gallon depending on the brand, your discount and the quality. Contractors typically pay up to $45 per gallon, according to Painting Leads.

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 have 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 house painting cost will take into consideration the prices of the paints, so you will need to choose your products wisely.

Now that you’ve chosen your paint, take your measurements from step one and figure out how much paint you’ll need for the job.

Let’s say paint is $25 per gallon. Here are some rough estimates for either the exterior or interior of a house, including body and trim:

  • 1,500 square foot house: 10 gallons, $250 cost of paint
  • 2,500 square foot house: 15 gallons, $375 cost of paint
  • 4,000 square foot house: 25 gallons, $625 cost of paint

3. Estimate the Cost of Materials

You’ll need the following materials for an exterior painting job (the material amounts are based on a 2,500 square foot house that needs a medium amount of prep):

  • Primer: 1 gallon
  • Caulking: 6 tubes
  • Tape: 10 rolls
  • Masking paper: 3 rolls
  • Masking plastic: 2 rolls
  • = $115 approximate cost of materials

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. Estimate the Cost of Labor

Labor can be tricky to estimate because there are so many elements. Labor cost is typically $20/hour per person, according to Painting Business Pro.

Here’s a rough estimate for exterior painting: two to three painters can paint the exterior of a 2,500 square foot house in one to two full days. The crew will cost about $800 per work day, so you’re looking at $1,600 max.

A 1,500 square foot house will take a day ($800) and a 4,000 square foot house will take three days ($2400).

Then again, the following problems might triple the time a project takes:

  • Multiple coats of paint required
  • Ivy, trees in the way
  • Difficult to paint windows, like embedded windows
  • Difficult house access: 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, recommends Painting Leads.

5. Estimate the Cost of Marketing

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 percent of a project price to get the job. This will leave your profit margin intact.

  • For example, a $1,000 paint job shouldn’t cost you more than $100 in marketing.

6. Apply Your Markup

What percentage markup you apply depends on if you’re new to the painting business or not. A 30 percent markup works well for a new business. A 50 percent 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 percent on all jobs, according to Painting Business Pro.

7. Do the Final Calculation

Calculate your final estimate using this formula:

Paint Cost + Materials Cost + Labor Cost + Marketing Cost + Markup = Total Project Cost

Some companies choose to include their 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.

People also ask:

How Much Does a Painter Charge?

Painters charge $380 to $790 on average to paint an interior room, according to Home Advisor. Interiors painting estimates will vary from state to state and will also depend on other factors, some of which we’ve outlined below.

The cost will depend on:

  • Size of the room
  • Height of the ceilings
  • Condition of the surface of the walls
  • Price of paint
  • If you’re covering up a dark color (requires multiple coats 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 $1,000 to $3,000. The average cost nationally is $2,581 and most people pay between $1,714 and $3,682, 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, walls and trim and the number rises to $3 to $4 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 $1.80 per square foot. A 1,500 square foot house would cost the customer $1,500 to $2,500 and a 3,000 square foot house would cost the customer $3,500 to $4,500, according to Painting Leads.

The price of interior paint jobs will depend on what paint you decide to use and the size of the room. The total cost of painting a room will range from $950 to $2,700, which also takes into consideration the product price and labor costs, according to Project Cost.

How Much Do Painters Charge per Hour?

A professional painter typically charges between $25 and $100 per hour. The cost will vary based on the painter’s experience, the difficulty of the job and where the location is, according to Angie’s List.

Interior house painters charge differently to exterior house painters. An interior painter usually charges between $40 – $60 per hour for a standard painting job, according to Service Seeking.

But many house painters provide specialized services, so ultimately the cost will vary from job to job.

Once you’ve finished your painting job, it’s time to get paid. You can use the free painting invoice template from FreshBooks to get started. It’s custom made for house painters, so you can rest easy knowing that you’ll get paid quickly and accurately.