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How to Estimate a Painting Job: 9 Simple Steps to Making a Profit

Estimate a painting job

Coming up with the right estimate for paint jobs is tricky, but not impossible.

It may seem like a lot of work before the work even gets started, but knowing how to estimate a paint job accurately to account for all costs can mean the difference between breaking even and making a healthy profit. To this end, however, you need to know the right methods for creating a painting estimate.

That being said, there is no specific rule book on how to write an estimate for a paint job. Ask five different contractors how to price a painting job, and you’re likely to get five very different calculations. Every painting company has its own price range, depending on the resources and paint jobs they have. So, if you are relying on market practices and trying to emulate them for your business, you are in for a world of confusion.

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Given that’s the case, you’re probably wondering how other businesses provide painting estimates. How is the price calculated, and what would a customer choose? How do companies ensure that they win the bid? If you are thinking of such questions, then you are in the right place because, in this blog, we have a solution for all of your questions. 

In this blog, you will learn how to estimate painting jobs most efficiently. For your convenience, we have broken down the entire process into nine simple steps.  Just follow them, and your chances of winning more bids will skyrocket in no time. 

So, why waste your time? Let’s get started. 

Visit the Job Site Before Starting

Visiting the jobsite beforehand is crucial to creating the perfect estimate. If you want to know how to price a painting job accurately, then you must be aware of the job site as well as the job specifications. There could be factors that drive up the price. For example, the walls might be in poor condition, dark, or need to be painted in different colors. Imagine you have already given a quotation to the client. Then you visit the site and realize your estimation went wrong because of a wrong prediction, and now you have to face a significant loss. 

Also, it is a great opportunity to meet your client and create a valuable relationship with them. It will also indicate how dedicated you are to your customers. You will come to know what the client is expecting. Take a professional painter along with you; it will help you know how much paint is required so that you can easily calculate the price later.

2. Review the Plans Thoroughly

Painting Contractors

If you want to create the perfect painting estimate on the very first try, make sure you review the project plan and the specifications of the structure you need to paint. Not only does it give you a clear idea of what needs to be done, but it also saves you valuable time and money.

There are many points in the design phase where errors can be introduced into plans, and even small mistakes can end up costing a painting contractor’s profit. So you’ll want to examine the plans to make sure that there are no errors and that the measurements are clear and readable. To ensure this, remember to review the following aspects before you start writing the estimate:

  • Site Plans
  • Floor Plans
  • Interior Elevations Drawings 
  • Reflected Ceiling Plans
  • Various schedules the architect has provided

The more knowledge you have of the structure and the surface area you need to cover, the more likely it is that your job will be successful. It’s especially important for painting contractors involved in new construction or renovation projects.

3. Prepare a Checklist


As you’re now thoroughly familiar with the site plans, here are some standard variables you will want to watch for. Use these questions as the basis for a basic checklist you complete before estimating any painting job.

  • Will any panels require repair or replacement?
  • Are panels real wood, metal, or plastic?
  • Are the surfaces flat, or do they have raised molding or louvers?
  • Are there hard-to-remove imperfections (scuff marks etc)
  • Is the surface smooth or will it need filler and sanding?
  • Do the screws, nails, and glue joints for doors and windows need repair?
  • Are the door bottoms clear of the floor or rub on carpets?
  • How many coats of prior finish are on the surfaces? 1, 3, or 12?
  • Was the last coat of finish properly applied to the surfaces or does it need to be stripped?
  • Do any of the surfaces need to be washed, scrubbed, or cleaned with chemicals?
  • Will the hardware on the site be easily removed (doorknobs? hinges?)
  • Will the hardware finish need to be replaced or refinished?
  • Are any hinges clean and free-swinging?
  • Will the surfaces be painted or stained? 
  • Will the surfaces be painted in latex, enamel, lacquer, or polyurethane?
  • Will all sides of the surface be the same color? Will any sides of the surface require more than one color? 
  • What tools will you use to cover the surfaces (brush, roller, spray)?
  • If multiple coats, how much drying time between coats?
  • Will you have to make a second or third trip to complete the job?
  • What brand of paint will be used?

As you can see, depending on how you answer these questions, the time it takes to complete a job can vary dramatically, no matter how experienced you are. And it highlights again that, for the most part, every painting estimate is a custom job. For these reasons, you should work through this checklist or one similar that you customize for each job before you develop the estimate.

Field Promax Offers You the Best Customization for Painting Estimates. Book Your Free Demo to Learn More.

Once you’ve studied the plans, checked off all items from the checklist, and truly understood the project, you’re ready for the next step. And this leads us to the original question—how to estimate a painting job. 

4. Calculate the Material Cost

Calculate the Cost

Once you familiarize yourself with the project plan and requirements, it’s now time to figure out the price for materials. This includes paint, supplies. 

When it comes to the price of paint per gallon, a wide range exists—anywhere from $15 to $80, depending on the brand and the quality. But in general, paint per gallon will cost you roughly $15 to $50 on average. A veteran contractor with established relationships with vendors can purchase paint for half the price of a client or owner. For example, if a homeowner can purchase a gallon of paint for $40, an experienced contractor can purchase it for $20. As you become more experienced, leverage your relationships with vendors to save money by receiving bulk discounts for paint.

The cost of equipment and supplies for a paint job, on the other hand, might vary significantly based on the size and scope of the job. For simpler projects, you may just need a few essential materials, such as paint, primer, tarps, and ladders. Larger projects will require more materials, such as scaffolding, drop cloths, plastic sheeting, and so on.

5. Include the Equipment Cost

Equipment Cost

The cost of equipment and supplies for a paint job, on the other hand, might vary significantly based on the size and scope of the job. For simpler projects, you may just need a few essential materials, such as paint, primer, tarps, and ladders. Larger projects will require more materials, such as scaffolding, drop cloths, plastic sheeting, and so on.

6. Add the Labor Cost

labour cost

The labor cost for a paint job can vary depending on the size of the area measured in square feet and the geographical location. For a small paint job, such as a room or bathroom, the labor cost may be around $200. For a larger project, such as an exterior paint job, the labor cost can be upwards of $1,000. The average cost of labor for a paint job is between $500 and $700. While the hourly labor cost is the primary factor, there are other aspects to keep in mind when figuring out how much it will cost to complete exterior and interior paint jobs, such as the expertise of your team members, additional time for priming and caulking, etc.

7. Factor in Overhead Costs

graphic costs

According to the experts, overhead costs make up only around 10% of a typical tradesperson’s budget. However, many entrepreneurs fail to adequately budget for this element of their projects. If you want to master the trick of how to write a painting estimate, this is perhaps the most crucial step. 

Missing out on the overhead costs will end up costing you more than you quoted the customer once the project is completed. Unless you want to pay this out of your own pocket and incur a loss, you will need to ask the customer for more money than you mentioned in the estimate before. Not only does this lead to conflicts, but it could also affect your reputation as a brand considering the lack of transparency and efficiency.

8. Leave Room for A Profit

_Leave Room Profit

Making a profit isn’t all about cashing out your stock options or landing a bigger painting job. The method you use to estimate the cost of a paint job will determine how much of your revenue is left after covering fixed costs and available for investment in your business. So, when you quote your price, make sure to factor in your markup into your final estimate.

While each painting business is unique and size affects how much markup each company should charge, you should be aiming for no less than 50% profit margin if you’re a small contractor and approximately 30% if you’re a larger company. This markup not only ensures you’ll make a profit, but also that your business will continue to grow. It also helps you account for all of the variable or hidden costs that were impossible to anticipate when you initially started, including mistakes or oversights.  

9. Calculate the Final Price

Final Price

The final step is to calculate your final painting estimate. Add up all your expenses to get your total project estimate. Some of the professional painting companies add their marketing costs into their markup. It’s simply up to you to manage your expenses.  You can calculate your final price with this simple formula:

Materials Cost + Labor Costs + Overhead Costs + Marketing Costs (optional) + Markup Costs/Profit = Total Painting Project Costs

Wrapping Up

Painters Services Software

It may take a bit longer, but careful estimating will help you be more profitable, look more professional to potential customers, and win the jobs that are best for your business. Because the only thing worse than getting outbid on a job is winning it by being the lowest bidder, who then loses money. 

But now you know how to estimate a painting job. Just follow the steps, and you will have a winning bid to seal the deal. 

Having said that, the process could seem challenging for some people, especially for those starting a new painting business. There are a lot of things to remember and a lot of items to calculate. If you are planning to do this manually, using the good old pen, paper, or spreadsheet, you are leaving a lot of room for errors. And in the field service industry, there is nothing more fatal than an inaccurate or vague estimate.

The best way to avoid the risk and create accurate, professional-looking painting estimates is by using estimating software. This smart digital tool automates the process and makes sure no items are overlooked. The result— you provide the most flawless, impressive, and eye-catching estimate that wins you every bid, every time.

For more information, contact Field Promax.


The most common way to be charged for a paint job is by the square foot of wall space to be painted. Most painters charge $2 to $6 per square foot for interior jobs, including two coats of paint. If you choose to have the window and door trim, moldings, and doors painted, that number will increase a bit.

You can calculate your final painting estimate with this formula:

Materials Cost + Labor Costs + Overhead Costs + Marketing Costs (optional) + Markup Costs/Profit = Total Painting Project Costs

  • Total square footage of the project.
  • Degree of difficulty of the area.
  • Type and condition of the area.
  • Paint color.
  • Quality of the contractor.

Start by adding up the length of all the walls to be painted, from end to end. Then multiply that number (the perimeter) by the height of the walls, from floor to ceiling. That will give you the square footage of the room to be painted.

Painting estimates help you and your painter understand the details of the project. An estimate describes the project’s details, including the types of paint used and work hours needed. Reputable painting companies share client referrals, train their employees well, and have business insurance.

Other than the total cost, a painting quote should also include 

  • Time for Preparation Work
  • Measurements
  • Materials Costs
  • Labor Costs
  • Payment Requirements
  • Estimated Completion Time
  • Guarantee
  • Visit the job site
  • Review the project plan
  • Prepare a checklist
  • Calculate material and equipment costs
  • Calculate the labor costs
  • Factor in overhead costs
  • Add markup/profit
Joy Gomez

My world is made up of codes. It is the central element that drives my universe. I am a self-taught, process-driven programmer with a creative bent of mind. Since I was an engineering student, I dreamt of creating something unique. To satiate my creative appetite, I took to coding. Blessed with abundant support and generous scholarships from my employers, I simultaneously worked full-time and pursued my dream. My passion and high productivity helped me in my journey as well. Finally, I created Field Promax to follow my drive of coding and streamlining processes; and do more of what I know best—coding.