Estimating Painting Job Cost

Ask an Expert From: Products Finishing,

Posted on: 1/1/2005

Question I came across your name in the Painting Forum.


I came across your name in the Painting Forum. I was hoping you could help me. I am concerned with finding out about how to estimate paint jobs. I am a new painter with a small two-person company. My partner and I feel we are getting underpaid by contractors that know we are new and “green.” I’ve tried everywhere to get information on what is the going rate to charge for painting. I am in Edmonton, Alberta. P. L.


Assuming you mean residential and commercial painting rather than industrial, you’re asking the wrong person, because, I hate to paint. I haven’t painted the interior walls of my “new” home since moving in 18 years ago. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada isn’t too far from Export, PA, USA; perhaps, you can come down and paint my walls (just kidding).

As the song goes, “I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I don’t know enough about estimating.” The words may not be right, but the thought is. It seems to me that paint stores supplying contractors had brochures on estimating paint jobs, but maybe they only covered materials. You should know how many square feet you have to paint. The paint can label usually gives coverage per gallon. From that, you can estimate the number of gallons of paint needed. Once you know that, you should try to calculate the man-hours required to apply the paint. As silly as it sounds, you would have to know something like how many square feet a roller-full of paint covers and how fast you can move the roller without spattering paint all over yourself and your partner. Then you could base your estimate on square feet per roller-full per hour. The same would apply to a brush-full of paint. After thinking about it, it seems as easy as falling off a ladder—and I don’t recommend trying that.


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