How Do Painters Price Out Jobs?

Cover the cost of your overalls in your bids.

Cover the cost of your overalls in your bids.

You'll certainly learn how to price out a painting job after you underbid one and end up working for $3 an hour. Or you can follow the advice of experienced painters who have already learned the tricks of the trade the hard way. Work for a successful painting company for a bit to learn the secrets that really aren’t so secret when you make a plan and follow it without compromise.


Most homeowners and commercial companies want an estimate for an entire job instead of agreeing to pay you by the hour. They don’t want to watch over the job to make sure you’re working the whole time. That’s no reason not to figure out a quote by the hour, however. Consider how many hours it will take you to complete a job and add a couple more hours to cover unexpected delays. Remember that ceilings, trim, doors and ceilings take longer to paint than flat walls, so build in the time based on your previous experience.


Even if you’re going to figure out your quote by how many hours you expect to take, measure the space. Customers believe that it’s more professional to measure the space and give them a price per square foot than just something that seems to come off the top of your head, according to Advantage Painting Services. Do the math and create a bid that reflects the square footage. For example, if you measure a room to be 500 square feet and you gauge it will take 10 hours and you want $50 an hour, quote $50 a square foot, including paint. Measuring also will help you figure out how much paint you need to buy.

Materials and Labor

You can price just the labor and then bill the client for the amount of paint and other supplies you use on the job. If you hire extra help, count that labor as well. By splitting up the materials and labor, you won’t shortchange yourself, and you put the onus on the customer to choose the pricier or more economical supplies for the job, instead of having to eat the difference to buy high-end paint the customer demands after you give a straight bid that includes paint.


When pricing a job, don’t forget about all the incidentals that can cut into your labor time and material costs. Your hourly figure should include prep work, for example, because very few jobs are going to provide you with surfaces that are ready for the paint. Consider the costs you put into advertising, gas to drive to the job, office incidentals and insurance. You also need to consider the costs of brushes, tape, drop cloths, gloves, masks and spackle. If you don’t consider those costs ahead of time, your final profit margin will reflect them.

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About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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