How to Estimate a Painting Job to Make Profit?

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Do you know that you would probably get ten different numbers if you were to ask five different painters for an estimate?

To outbid the competition, contractors may employ a variety of pricing strategies. These include a base rate per square foot, a multiplier of 4–6 times the cost of the paint, an estimate of the time it will take to complete the job, and an estimate of the cost of the materials. 

Each of these strategies has its uses. However, a well-made estimate is needed if you want to build a thriving business with the support of satisfied customers who will spread the word about your excellent service for free.

Estimating accurately may take a little more time, but it will help you make more money, gain credibility with clients, and land the greatest jobs for your company. Being outbid is bad, but securing a job by offering the lowest price and taking a loss is much worse. Herein we will discuss more about how to estimate a painting job in the simplest manner. So, let’s get started!

The Process of Estimating Painting Job

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to estimate a painting job:

  • Measure the size of the space that needs to be painted. This will give you a good starting point for estimating the amount of paint and other materials you’ll need.
  • Decide on the number of colors you want to use. More colors will require more paint, so this is an important factor in your estimate.
  • Choose the type of finish you want. A high-gloss finish will require more paint than a flat or eggshell finish.
  • Add up all of your estimated costs, including the cost of paint, primer, tape, and other materials. This will give you your total estimated cost for the job.

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Calculate Labor Cost

The labor cost for a paint job can vary depending on the size of the area measured in sq ft and the geographical location. For a small paint job, such as a room or bathroom, the labor cost may be around $200.

Calculate labor cost

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 bear in mind when figuring out how much it will cost to complete exterior and interior paint jobs.

  • There is probably a wide variety of prices depending on the level of expertise of your group. It’s important to figure out what your ideal rate is for your exterior painting company and to keep in mind that it’ll probably go up for paint jobs that call for particular talents, like woodworking.
  • Remember to include additional time for priming and caulking when estimating paint needs for a new construction project, which takes roughly 30% more time.
  • Also, painting takes twice as long compared to exterior painting of the same square footage due to the extra time needed for preparation, attention to detail, and cleanup.
  • Think about timing as well. New construction projects often experience delays in the final stages when electricians and plumbers aren’t able to finish their work on time. Inclement weather might halt outdoor painting projects. 
  • Don’t forget to factor in the ancillary expenses associated with labor, such as insurance and taxes.

Cost of Equipment and Material

The cost of business equipment and supplies for a paint job 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.

Cost of equipment and material

Larger projects will require more materials, such as scaffolding, drop cloths, plastic sheeting, and so on.

For example, a small room that only requires one coat of paint will be less expensive than a large room that requires two coats. The type of paint also makes a difference; higher quality paints will cost more than lower quality ones. Finally, any special features or finishes (such as textured walls) will add to the cost of the job.

Once you have the total square footage, you can begin estimating how much paint you’ll need for the interior paint job or exterior paint job. A gallon of paint will cover approximately 400 sq ft, so divide your total square footage by 400 to determine how many gallons you’ll need. For example, if your total square footage is 1200, then you’ll need 3 gallons of paint (1200/400 = 3).

Now that you know how much paint you’ll need, it’s time to start estimating the cost of materials. Paint usually costs between $30 and $50 per gallon, so multiply the number of gallons you calculated earlier by the price per gallon to get an estimated cost for paint alone. For example, 3 gallons of paint will cost you approximately $100 (3 * $30 = $90).

Account for Your Overhead Costs

According to a poll by the National Association of Home Builders reported by, overhead costs make up only around 10% of a typical tradesperson’s budget. Regrettably, many entrepreneurs fail to adequately budget for this element of their projects.

Since you aren’t paying for these costs out of a single work but rather trying to spread them out across all the jobs, the math for doing so is inevitably more complex if you want to turn a profit. 

An excellent beginning point is the 10% average if you’re just getting started or don’t yet have a firm handle on your company’s annual expenses to average it out among your employees.

Make Sure You Factor in Some 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 available after covering fixed costs and available for investment in your business.

Put aside funds for investment in the company’s future

Ideal profit margins can be found anywhere from the low single digits to the high 50s, depending on where and how you estimate. However, when you dig deeper into how these numbers are arrived at, you may find that they still account for things like overhead costs, owner salary, and even labor costs in some cases. 

There should be a clear delineation between growth expenses and growth investments in your profit calculation. Your business aims and the geographic context in which you operate are additional considerations.

The establishment of a profit margin that guarantees cash flow for the future while producing a reasonable projection can be difficult, yet, a typical range for net profit is 8 to 12%.

It’s Time to Begin Creating Your Painting Cost Estimate

You’ve done the math and can now provide your potential client with a quote. Present your work with the same level of professionalism that you put into it.

Estimating a painting job

  • You can utilize a painting estimate template or estimating software that you’ve customized to create a branded estimate form or letterhead.
  • Give a detailed description of the project from start to finish, including all tasks you will complete.
  • After conducting a site visit, provide the customer with a painting estimate as soon as feasible and offer to answer any questions they may have.

For business owners who are new to the painting industry, understanding the costs and terms associated with hiring a painting contractor can be overwhelming. Here are a few frequently asked questions by new business owners.

Pro tip: Create professional estimates and convert those estimates in invoices in a single click with InvoiceOwl!

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. At what point should a business owner start offering discounts or adding services?

    There is no definitive answer to this question, as each business owner will need to make a judgment call based on their unique circumstances. However, some general guidelines that may be helpful include starting to offer discounts or additional services when:

    • Your business is struggling toget painting contracts
    • You are facing stiff competition from other businesses in your industry
    • You want to thank your loyal customers or reward them for their patronage

  2. What are the steps to estimate a painting job?

    There are 7 simple steps to estimate a painting job. Here are those steps:

    • Step 1: Review the plans
    • Step 2: Finish painting checklist estimate
    • Step 3: Estimate overhead and marketing cost
    • Step 4: Estimate cost of labor
    • Step 5: Estimate the cost of materials
    • Step 6: Decide your markup
    • Step 7: Decide final painting estimate

  3. How much do painters charge per hour?

    According to Angie’s List, a professional and experienced painter charges approximately $25 to $100 per hour; however, the cost varies depending on the painter’s experience, the difficulty of the job, location, and skills.


Estimating a painting job correctly is essential to ensure that you make a profit and get paid on time. We hope this article has given you some useful tips and tricks for estimating your next painting job so that you can get it done quickly and efficiently with maximum profitability.

As a painting business owner, you are always looking for ways to streamline your operations and save time & money with efficient invoicing. InvoiceOwl can help you with creating professional-looking estimates, invoices, purchase orders, credit memos, and more. It is the best invoicing software for painters.

Give it a try today and see how much easier estimating can be with InvoiceOwl. Next, check out painting invoice templates for your business!

Author Bio
Jeel Patel
Jeel Patel

Jeel Patel is the founder of InvoiceOwl, a top-rated estimating and invoicing software that simplifies the invoicing and estimating processes for contractor businesses. Jeel holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Toronto, which has provided him with a strong foundation in business principles and practices. With understanding of the challenges faced by contractors, he conducted extensive research and developed a tool to streamline the invoicing and estimating processes for contractors. Read More

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