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How Professional Painters Estimate

How Painters Estimate Your Painting Project

How Professional Painters Estimate Your Painting Project

Whether you’re looking to have professional house painters come to your home and paint exterior or interior surfaces or you are painting your own home, it’s important to understand what goes into a painting estimate. If you’re having Indianapolis painters (or your local painting contractor) do the work, this information will also help you with a better an understanding what’s a fair price.  If you’re looking into doing the work yourself, hopefully, this will help you estimate the cost of paint and supplies you’ll need.

There’s a lot that goes into painting a home exterior or home interior that many homeowners may not realize when they’re asking a professional painter to provide an estimate.  Many homeowners will just look at the price and make their decision without knowing what the price includes. Sure, there’s the cost of paint and the labor to apply the paint – but often times, it’s the prep work and attention to detail that goes into a quality paint job that can be much of the labor cost.

We’re going to break this down a little and hopefully, you will find this information valuable and help your decision process – whether you plan on painting yourself or hiring a professional local painter.

Estimating Paint Cost and Supplies

Measuring The Home or Room(s)

Before you begin to measure, grab a pen and paper so you can write down your measurements and notes.  When a professional comes out to put together an estimate, they should have something to take notes on; whether it’s a pen and paper or electronic device.

Next, you will need a tape measure – or if you’re confident enough, you can always step off a distance: 1 step for most adults is roughly 3 feet (give or take). Some painters are very confident when stepping off a distance, others will rely on a tape measure.  Regardless of whichever you choose, having an idea of length and width is important in the estimating process.

If you’re painting a flat surface, such as a drywall or brick or siding, we need to figure out the square footage.  To estimate the square footage, you multiply length x width.

For example: If you are painting a bedroom, you should measure from corner to corner of a wall and then measure the height. So if your wall is 12 ft wide and 8 ft high, that wall is 96 square feet.  You will do the same process with each wall and the ceiling (if you’re painting the ceiling as well).  If a wall is 12 ft 5 inches, it’s better to round up to 13 ft unless you’re confident enough to figure out fractions. Regardless, if you round to the next foot or are comfortable with fractions, it will make little difference in the estimate.

If you are painting any crown molding, baseboards, window trim, etc you will need to know those lengths as well.

So, if we have 4 walls and each wall has baseboards, trim around the doors and windows, plus crown molding, we will have approximately 160 linear feet of overall trim.

what to exclude from painting

Subtract areas that won’t be painted.

Not every square inch of a room will be painted. Often times there will be windows and doors or doorways that would be excluded from the painting.  When estimating the amount of paint you will need, you can measure those areas that are to be excluded and subtract the square footage from the total.

For example: If there is a closet door, entry door, and two windows that will be excluded. After you measured each wall to be painted, measure the doors and windows.  Subtract that square footage from the total square footage.

As a general rule, you can estimate that a door will be roughly 20 square feet and a window will be 15 square feet. If your room has 384 square feet of walls to be painted, you would subtract 56 square feet from the estimate bringing your total to 328 square feet.

Determine how much paint you will need.

Generally, a gallon of paint will cover 250 square feet. However, depending on the paint you choose to use, it could be more or less.  If you already know what kind of paint you would like to use, coverage should be listed on the label or on the manufactures website. If you unable to find the square footage your desired paint will cover, you can always consult the retailer you are purchasing the paint from and they should be able to help.

Let’s us the same example we’ve been using: If you have a room that is 384 square feet, we have excluded the doors and windows for a new total of 328 square feet. Our paint will cover 250 square feet, so we divide 328 by 250 for a total of 1.312 gallons.  You can’t buy 1.312 gallons, so we’ll round up to 2 gallons. Also, we have the trim to paint. With 160 linear feet of trim, we should be able to complete it all with 1 gallon of paint. BUT we’re not done. If you’re going to paint, plan on a minimum of at least 2 coats of paint for good coverage. Therefore, for this room, we will need to purchase 4 gallons of paint for the walls and 1 gallon of paint for the trim for a total of 5 gallons.

If you are trying to cover a dark color with a lighter color, you may need another coat of paint, so keep that in mind.

What about Primer? You may need to factor in a primer into you estimate if you have any patchwork that needs to be completed or your walls have never been painted – a primer is important.

But what if you buy a paint + primer combo?  In reality, there is no such thing, it’s a marketing gimmick.  If you see Paint + Primer – it really means it’s just a thick paint.  You would still need to prime before you paint if you’re painting a surface that has never been painted. If it’s a repaint – meaning you’re painting over existing paint, you would only need to “spot prime”, i.e. only prime what needs priming, like a drywall patch. 

Use the same math we used to find the number of paint gallons needed to also find the amount of primer you will need.  If you’re patching, you could probably get away with a half-gallon and it should be plenty.

Finding The Cost of Paint

Now that we have figured out the square footage, excluded doors, and windows, the number of gallons needed, we need to learn the paint cost.

The price of a gallon of paint will vary depending on brand, sheen, and quality.  You can expect to pay between $20 to $40 per gallon with your higher quality paints costing as much as $60 or more per gallon. So if we learned that we’re painting 328 square feet and we will need to purchase 5 gallons of paint and the paint will cost $32 per gallon, it should cost roughly $160 for paint.

If you need to buy primer, use the same math to figure out the cost of primer you will need.  To use this same example, let’s buy a ½ gallon of primer for $15 for some patchwork, bringing the total of paint cost to $175.

The Cost of Materials

Determine what supplies you have and what supplies you will need to purchase. Depending on what you already have you can find the cost of what you will need at a local paint supply store; make a list and determine the cost by visiting the store or utilizing their website (if they have those items and prices listed).

Using the our example project we will need a couple brushes, rollers, paint tray, painters tape, caulking, spackling, putty knife, masking plastic, masking paper, and sandpaper (to scuff the existing paint to help the new paint bond better, plus to sand the spackling, used to patch some small areas, smooth after drying).

Let’s say the brushes cost $18, the rollers cost $15, the paint tray costs $5, painters tape cost $17, 1 tube of paintable caulking is $3, spackling is $8, 6 inch putty knife is $12, masking plastic $25, masking paper $15, and sandpaper costs $12.  The total of materials for our 328 square foot project is $130.

Concluding our paint and materials cost, using our example of 328 square feet (where we excluded the closet door, entry door, and two windows), we are looking at $175 for paint and primer plus $130 for additional supplies for a total of $305 to paint this room.

Length of Time Involved to paint

Figuring Labor Cost of Painting

Consider the Length of Time Involved

Professional painters can have different methods of figuring their labor costs.  Painters sometimes charge per square foot, some charge per hour. Some have even created their own equations and spreadsheets or use special software that calculates the cost if they know square footage and linear footages.  To give you an idea of estimated painting time, a good painter by themselves should take 10-12 hours to paint a 500 square feet bedroom. However, if you have baseboards too, you should add an additional 5-7 hours to that time considering trim takes more time to paint than drywall.

Let’s keep with same 328 square foot room example and for labor, let’s use an hourly rate to keep the math simple:

Prep-work: Let’s start off with the prep work and factor in the prep time of taping off all of the floors and trim with painter’s tape, paper, and plastic which should take a couple hours. We have a few patches, so we need to add another hour to allow for drying, priming, and sanding. Plus we have to scuff the walls and trim with our sandpaper so the paint will bond better – add an hour.

Painting the Trim: The trim should take another 8-10 hours since we have baseboards, crown molding and trim around the doors and windows. 

Painting Walls: The walls should take approximately 8-10 hours to paint for one good painter by themselves to complete.

Why does the trim painting take so long compared to painting the walls?  The easy answer is prep work and painting at a slower rate.  Painting walls go much quicker than painting trim even though we have less in paint cost… the time and prep time is the largest factor in trim painting.

Anything that could affect the length of time

It is not uncommon for a painter to add additional costs to their estimate such as moving furniture, removing wall fixtures such as curtain rods or light switches, switching paint colors.  If a job requires a painter to do any extra carpentry type of work or buy extra materials, the painter will have to pass that cost to the customer.

Here are some other factors to consider:

  • Removing light fixtures or curtain rods.
  • Moving furniture.
  • Replacing drywall, not just a few patches and how much.
  • Is there scaffolding involved?
  • Is there a lot of ladder work?
  • Overnight painting.
  • New construction vs repaint.
  • Using an airless sprayer vs brushes and rollers.

For example, the 328 square foot room we are painting, does not require any furniture to be moved, but it does require us to remove some curtain rods, take off vent covers, light switches, and a couple light fixtures. Plus since this room requires 2 colors (the walls and trim are different colors).  We will add another $100 to the cost of this project.

If you feel the job requires a little more work than some prep and painting, factor in an approximate cost or flat rate to add to the overall price of the project.

Account for Accidents

Accidents happen.  Paint can get spilled. A ladder could bump a wall. Hopefully, no one will get hurt, but accidents happen.  Most painting companies carry liability insurance and if you’re looking for a professional painter to paint your home and they don’t have insurance – they’re not a professional painter and you should probably run away.

If you’re doing the painting yourself or helping someone on the side, it is a good idea to factor in a little extra in case of an accident. For example, an extra $100 or so. 

Calculate the Total Cost

Add up the cost of material, total labor, any extra costs such as moving furniture or removing fixtures.  If you want to add accident costs, you can.

But let’s finish up the cost of our 328 square foot room we are painting.

So far in the examples, we have about 24 total labor hours a painter should charge for their services. If the painter charges roughly $20 per hour, you’re looking at $480 to paint the 328 square foot room with all the trim work. But we added an additional $100 for removing fixtures and changing paint colors because there is extra time involved.

Adding all this together we have $305 materials + $480 labor + $100 additional labor = $885 to paint this one room.  If you have multiple rooms, use this same method.

When it comes to painting kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinets or more custom projects, seek the advice or a professional painter to get a ball-park figure – they may have to come out and get a visual to have a better idea on labor cost. If you’re in the Indianapolis area, you can contact Legacy Painting and we can help guide you. 

If you plan on hiring a professional painter, an estimate between $800 and $1,000 should be a fair price for this project. If you were to also paint the doors, that will increase your estimate well over $1,000, so don’t be surprised if that is where your estimate comes in at.  Painting doors can get tricky depending on the detail and how many panels are on the door and if it’s an exterior or interior door or if it’s more than one color.

Ask A Professional Painter For An Estimate

As we stated in the beginning, if you are hiring a professional, each professional will have different pricing and methods of pricing. It’s important to explain to the painter the overall scope of work: what you want to be painted, what you don’t want to be painted and your overall needs.  The painter will put together an estimate for you with more accurate pricing to help you determine the right choice.

Now you have a better understanding of the types of thought processes that can go into a painting estimate and an idea of how much painting a room may cost, hopefully, this can help you make the right decision for your project.

If you’re in Indianapolis, IN or the surrounding metropolitan area and you are looking for a good house painter for your interior painting or exterior painting, consider Legacy Painting.

Call us at (317) 560-7428 or send us an email.

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