How To Estimate Painting Jobs

Between the costs of paint, materials, tools, accessories, labor, gas, taxes, insurance, and more, learning how to bid a painting project accurately is no simple task and takes some serious strategizing!

As a professional painter, job costing is generally one of the more difficult skills to master. After all, biding a new project accurately can make or break your margins.

In this article, we will review in detail the steps required to accurately bid your next interior and exterior house painting project. Even experienced estimators can walk away with some valuable tips from this post!

Why Is Estimating a Paint Project So Difficult?

Expectation vs Reality

Before you started painting, you probably thought it would be simple to bid on a job and figure out the cost to paint. Just do a few quick measurements, get the square footage, calculate the labor cost, and add a little extra on the top as your markup. Right?

Well, not so fast. Estimating costs for a painting project takes intelligence, precision, knowledge, and a fair bit of know-how, which oftentimes is easier said than done.

In reality, every painting project you bid will have a unique set of challenges. No two projects are alike because you complete the work onsite. Plus, your cost to paint interior or exterior surfaces is always going to vary based on labor, which is dependent on the overall simplicity or complexity of a job.

While there’s no “one size fits all” approach to estimating your cost to paint, being as accurate as possible is always in your best interest. It makes you look professional, increases your chances of getting the job, and lowers your risk of losing money on the job.

What Is the Average Cost to Paint in the U.S.?

Depending on where you are in the U.S., the average cost to paint varies. Let’s take a look at the national averages for painting costs according to HomeAdvisor. This popular home improvement website uses data pulled from painting professionals all over the U.S. to calculate these averages.

Interior Painting Cost

The average cost to paint interior walls ranges from around $1,000 to $3,000. Here are the national interior averages from HomeAdvisor:

  • Average range: $950 to $2,910
  • US average cost: $1,914
  • Low to high: $350 to $5,000
  • Single room: $200 to $1,000
  • Entire house (2,500 square feet): $2,000 to $9,000
  • Cost per square foot: $2 to $6

Next, we’ll give you a rundown of average interior painting costs according to HomeGuide, broken down by room. Of course, these prices will vary by size:

Average Cost to Paint By Room

  • Master bedroom: $650 to $1,400
  • Regular bedroom: $350 to $850
  • Master bathroom: $250 to $650
  • Regular bathroom: $150 to $400
  • Kitchen: $150 to $250
  • Finished basement: $800 to $2,500
  • Dining room: $300 to $1,000
  • Hallway: $300 to $1,000
  • Accent wall: $80 to $200
  • Ceilings (12 ft x 12 ft): $150 to $300

Pro Tip: If you’re painting ceilings we recommend adding an extra $1 to $2 extra per square foot to your painting estimate to account for the extra labor.

Exterior Painting

The average cost to paint a house exterior differs slightly from painting walls and other interior projects. Check out HomeAdvisor’s national averages for exterior house painting:

  • Price range: $1,770 to $4,344
  • US average cost: $3,054
  • Low to high: $600 to $7,000
  • Range per square foot: $.50 to $3.50
  • Average per square foot: $.75 to $2
  • Entire house (2,500 square feet): $1,250 to $8,750
  • Two story home (1,500 to 2,500 sq. ft): $3,000 to $6,200
  • Crown moldings and trim average: $.65 to $4 per linear foot

Remember, these prices are only general estimates. Expect the average painting cost to depend on additional factors, like region, complexity, size of the job, etc. We’ll go into these factors and how they will affect the price of a professional painting proje later in this article.

How to Estimate and Bid on a Paint Job: Step-By-Step Guide

How to Estimate a Paint Job

1) Visit the Job Location

When estimating a painting project your first step should always be to visit the job site and take measurements. Yes, it might cost you some extra gas money. However, the knowledge you’ll gain will be invaluable and help you make the most accurate estimate possible. Plus, visiting the job site means you’ll be able to see any factors that will make your job harder and increase the overall cost of paint you’ll have to cover.

For Example: A home with intricate crown molding or cathedral ceilings will take longer than a simple ranch. Dark walls may take two coats, another factor that will up your bid. Homes with exteriors that are brick or stucco are generally harder to paint than wood or vinyl.

Carefully check the condition of the surfaces you’ll be painting to determine if it will affect the amount of work, such as moderate damage, wallpaper removal, or mold issues.

Ask for Pictures or Video If You Can’t Visit In-Person

Granted, it’s not always possible to do an in-person visit ahead of time. In that case, ask for detailed pictures from the homeowner. You can also use Zillow as a resource, however, remember that photos don’t always tell the full story. When offering virtual/phone estimates you may want to give your estimate a bit more padding to account for any last-minute “surprises.”

Pro Tip: If the house you’re going to paint is on the market, you can check out professional photos online on the realtor’s website or even take a video tour.

2) Measure Twice

Measuring the surface area you’ll be painting is critical when calculating your final estimate. Most painting companies measure the height and width of every wall, then multiply the two to find the overall square footage.

However, there’s one crucial step you shouldn’t forget when measuring for a painting estimate: subtracting the square footage of any doors and windows that you won’t be painting, which applies to your exterior and interior painting cost.

Some professional painters use averages and estimates to calculate unpaintable space:

  • Average window: 12 to 15 square feet

  • Average door: 21 square feet

However, we recommend individually measuring each window and door to prevent any inaccuracies. Also, if you’re painting ceilings, don’t forget to include them in your measurements.

Pro Tip: When measuring for interior painting, include the baseboards in your measurements. That way, you’ll have some extra paint to use on touch-ups.

3) Estimate Paint Costs: How Much Paint & The Cost

Estimating how much paint you’ll need for a job and how much it will cost you is tricky. To calculate how much paint you’ll need, you can use this general formula from Bob Vila:

Paint Coverage Estimates

  • One gallon: Covers 250 to 400 square feet

  • Average coverage: 325 sq ft.

Interior/Exterior Paint Calculation

Square footage of surface area / square footage of paint coverage = total gallons of paint needed

For Example: 2,500 sq. ft / 325 sq. ft. = 7.69 gallons (round up to be safe)

Be sure to account for multiple coats. Depending on the surface, location, and color you’re covering you will want to plan for at least 2-3 coats.

Cost of Paint

The price of paint ranges depending on a several factors:

  • Type of Paint (Interior/Exterior)
  • Amount of Paint (Bulk purchases typically cost less)
  • Quality of Paint
  • Finish (Eggshell, Satin, Flat, etc)

  • Brand

Pro Tip: You may feel tempted to save money by purchasing cheap paint. However, we recommend against this course of action. Buying low-end paint will inevitably affect the overall quality of the job, making it look poor. So if you want your work to stand out, purchasing high-quality materials is your best bet.

The two most common types are latex paint and oil paint:

  • Latex paint: $20 to $65 per gallon
  • Oil paint: $20 to $75 per gallon

Here are the general averages according to Remodeling Calculator and HomeAdvisor:

  • Average per gallon: $30 to $55
  • Low to high: $20 to $100
  • Pint: $5 to 50
  • Quart: $10 to $80
  • Half-Gallon: $10 to $25

Average Cost of Paint per Gallon by Finish

  • Primer: $10 to $30
  • Flat paint: $27 to $40
  • Matte: $25 to $50
  • Eggshell: $24 to $40
  • Satin: $29 to $42
  • Semi-Gloss: $33 to $56
  • High-Gloss: $30 to $120

Interior vs. Exterior

  • Interior average per gallon: $15 to $50
  • Exterior average per gallon: $20 to $80

Pro Tip: As a professional painter, you may be able to get a contractor’s discount on paint from your supplier, particularly if you’re buying a lot each month. However, it may take time to get this discount, so new painters should always use the full price when calculating their cost to paint.

4) Esti