How to Estimate House Painting Costs

Estimate House Painting

Are you a homeowner trying to figure out which estimate is right or a painter looking to charge the right amount to a client?  In this article, OnDemand Painters shares all of this, plus some additional things to look for when accepting quotes from painters.  

For the format, you’ll see we’ve broken down the steps and tasks into “units”. Each unit resembles an hour of work for an average painter.

Estimating Interior vs Exterior Painting Jobs

When estimating the cost of an interior painting job, there are a few things to take into account: 

  • the size of the room
  • the complexity of the trim and details, 
  • the number of coats of paint that will be required. 

Generally speaking, a small room will cost less to paint than a large room, and a room with intricate trim or details will cost more than one without. 

Exterior painting jobs are slightly more complicated than interior jobs, because there are a number of factors to take into account: the size of the house (two story house or 3 floor victorian design), the condition of the exterior, how complex the architecture is, and whether certain components are wood or masonry.

A few factors affect both interior and exterior painting jobs: The condition of the surface that needs paint (new house versus old house), and whether certain components (doors, windows, etc.) also are included in the job.


Also,  the prep work is usually a lot more extensive for exterior jobs, because you have to make sure that the surface is clean and ready to paint. 

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Estimating Exterior Paint jobs 

When estimating the cost of painting your home’s exterior, there are a few factors to consider.

This includes: 

  • the washing of the house 
  • caulking where needed
  • the necessary prep work like scraping and sanding

You’ll also need to figure out how much paint you’ll need, as well as the cost of materials and labor.

Professional painters can give you a more accurate painting estimate for the exterior of your home. This estimate will factor in all of the items listed below. If you are hiring a professional painter, they should be able to provide an accurate quote before starting work.

Washing

When using any latex paint, prep work is important, and a proper wash is required. The best way to do this is with a power wash. You are not trying to grind every stain off the house; rather, you are getting any significant debri or dirt off. This takes approximately one unit per side per storey of a house. 

Caulking

It is important to check seams around doors and windows – entry points for air. On the first storey of a house it takes approximately one unit for every 40 linear feet. On the second storey, that number goes down to 30 linear feet

Scraping, Sanding, Spot Priming

These three really go together. The best way I’ve found to compute this is about ¼ a unit per square foot. Another way to look at it is using a sheet of paper for a “spot” as a reference. Every time you have to move your body or a ladder, it’s a new “spot.”

If we are looking at a two storey house with minor caulking and peeling, we are probably already at 16 hours of prep work alone.

Painting

The easiest way to divide this up is into large areas versus trim areas. You don’t need to be exact, but having the rough length of the home is needed. For the large areas, simply take the length of the house times the height. For two storeys, use 20 feet. If we have a house that is 60 feet long, our math comes out to 1200 square feet. Don’t worry about subtracting windows or doors – use this rough number. It takes approximately 1 unit to roll 150 square feet of large area. This would give us approximately 8 units.

For the trim, you want to get a rough gauge on linear feet. It takes roughly 1 unit for 40 linear feet on the first storey, 30 for the second storey, and 20 if there is a third storey. Remember, any time you have to “cut” a line (Paint one thing without getting it on another), that counts as a piece of trim.  Get your total linear feet (Not uncommon to have 300+ for the front of a house) and divide by 35 for a two storey house. We use 35 as a way to split the difference between the first and second storey. 

At this point, we are likely at 18 hours of painting for the front of the house alone. 

Go ahead and do this for all four sides and you have your total units!

Hidden costs

Ok, so for a standard 1700 square foot two storey house we likely have 60 hours of labor. However, we have to compute hidden costs. There are trips to the paint store, typically one a day. There is setup and clean up time, typically an hour to an hour and a half a day. You have to clean out all of your brushes and that can take awhile! There are hidden issues like bushes that are right up against a wall, ground that is not level and very dangerous, or work on a roof that requires a harness. On a 60 hour job for a professional crew we are looking at 8 hours minimum for store visits, setup and cleanup. MUCH more if there are dangerous or difficult ladder placements!

Materials: How much paint?

The best way to calculate materials is to take your total square footage of the large areas and divide by 300. This will tell you the rough number of gallons you need for that portion. Take the total linear footage of trim and divide by 400 – that should get you the total gallons for trim. 

What’s left: Material and Labor cost

We need to discuss what materials cost as well as labor. If you are a client, you are likely paying full retail or around $60 a gallon for a quality paint. This job in question would cost a client around $900 in paint. It would cost a contractor around $500. For labor, this is where things get tricky. In today’s labor market, it is difficult to find any painter for less than $25 an hour. The best ones will command $50 an hour. This means at minimum the cost to a client is $3500 to work with a contractor, or $900 + another $400 in brushes, rollers, etc,, and about 8 full weekends. 

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Hidden costs part 2

Here is where things get tricky. Expecting a painter to charge only $3500 for this job is like asking to pay for a pair of Nike Shoes at sweat shop prices. A contractor has to cover insurance, taxes, marketing costs, sales costs, estimating costs, credit card fees, and that thing we call profit so they can stay in business. This is what will drive your more likely cost up to $4500-$5000. And don’t forget – this is only one coat! A two coat job thankfully does not double the price, but adds about another 60%.  Less product is used and all of the prep work and protection has already been laid out. 

Other Factors: Regional Price Differences

The cost of painting a house can vary depending on your location. For example, the cost of painting a house in California is typically higher than the cost of painting a house in Texas.

Some of the reasons for these price differences include the cost of living, the cost of labor, and the availability of resources. Labor costs are typically higher in big cities than in smaller towns, for example, and the cost of living is often higher in coastal areas.

Estimating interior paint jobs

When painting the interior of a house, there are a few important things to keep in mind. The first is that painting is a skilled trade and should not be attempted by someone who does not have experience. Second, it is important to estimate the job correctly in order to get an accurate idea of the cost.

Many people try to save money by choosing the painting business who charges the least. However, this can often lead to poor quality work and additional costs down the road. A professional painting industry will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the job based on the size of the room, the type of paint required, and the number of coats that will be necessary.

How its done now

Most painters, believe it or not, just look at a property and guess how many days it will take them. They charge a daily rate, and hope they are right! This is often why in this industry we see contractors leave jobs unfinished or ask for more money once in person.

Why You shouldn’t go with the lowest price

It may seem like it’s worth the risk to go with the lowest price – but there are many issues you may not expect. One of them is sloppiness, or particularly paint on floors and carpet. This contractor is unlikely to pay to fix this and will go into hiding. The second is oftentimes the new contractor coming in will not only charge full price for the job, but have additional charges to fix the previous work. Choosing the right contractor and price in the beginning is key.

How much should my paint job cost?

Let’s start with the prep work for the interior. Let’s also remember that interior painting is more or less a want and not a need. This means there can be a large variance in price and how the walls look afterwards. Here are some of the items a good job should include:

Spackling – there are often a number of nail holes and screw holes from objects hung on the walls. This is a low cost to prep and should be included on every quote

Corners failing – there is a piece of metal called a “corner bead” that often needs to be replaced if a corner is damaged – this can cost more than you think, up to $150 per corner.

Baseboards and crown molding needing caulking – this must be done or you will see a gap that will contrast poorly with the paint job. This costs approximately $1 per linear foot.

Significant patching or drywall cut-outs – a small patch the size of a fist is around a $85 fix. A drywall cutout of 4’x4’ you can expect as much as $850. These types of fixes need to be done well or they will look terrible when finished. One of the keys is a minimum of two coats of mud and sanding after each coat. 

Floor protection – it is expensive and time consuming to use paper, plastic, and drop cloths to protect floors – but worth it!

Painting

For the painting itself, the typical range is between $1.50-$2.00 per square foot for a room(That’s the floor space). If the walls are above 10’, you can add another $0.50. If you are adding in baseboards, toss in another $0.50. If you are adding ceilings, go ahead and add another $0.75. 

Can you break that down for a room?

Let’s take a small 10×12 bedroom. If we have basic prep, walls only, this room should cost around $240 to paint. Let’s say that same room has a vaulted ceiling, one 2×2 drywall cutout, and we want ceilings and baseboards painted. That same room now will cost around $950. See the variance? It can be good to ask a contractor to break down items a’la carte so you can see which are most necessary and fit in your budget.

What if I want a ballpark for a whole house?

I think a good middle ground is using $2.60 x the total square footage of your house. This price will be a middle-low price for the job because it assumes walls only, basic prep, and low ceilings. Anyone drastically below that price and you are gambling. Anyone much higher should have a justification for it!

In summary

I hope this has shed some light on a way you can either estimate a project yourself, or feel like you are getting the price you should from a local contractor!

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