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How to estimate a paint job—determine your costs, labor, and profit for every house painting project
A winning house painting estimate is more than a list of supplies and gallons—there is a specific strategy to creating an accurate cost estimate and ensure that nothing is missed. And while you may prefer choosing the right color to crunching numbers, a solid estimate will show potential clients your company is professional, trustworthy, and has expertise in house painting.
How to Estimate a Paint Job
As a trade, painting requires specific tools and knowledge about pricing. From cleaning and prep, to eggshell and high-gloss, using the current prices of materials and labor will keep your painting business from losing money on unexpected costs. To create an estimate for a painting project, you want to thoroughly measure the area, calculate any unique areas, make a detailed lists of all materials and equipment with local cost data, include the latest labor numbers, then add in your overhead and profit.
Measure and Measure Again
To start, you will need accurate measurements of the surfaces you will be painting. If a client mentions that they have a 15’x20’ room, there are still more questions to ask to ensure you can properly price the job.
Paint Measurement Checklist
- What are the overall dimensions of the room?
- How tall are the walls?
- How many windows are there, and how deep is the window jamb?
- Is the ceiling vaulted or at an angle?
- Will the ceiling also need painting?
- What size are the baseboards and/or crown molding?
- Are there any cutouts, arches, or inset areas?
- How many doors, and what type of doors, are in the room?
- Are there special items included, like banisters or railings?
These measurements can be taken by hand, or if you have blueprint plans, consider using a takeoff tool that integrates into your construction estimating software. The ability to quickly measure linear and square feet, as well as count items, can increase your efficiency for every house painting estimate. If you have the opportunity, be sure to compare your plans to the current job site, especially if the project is a renovation or historic preservation that may have older plan documents.
Material Consideration for Residential Painting
The range of material costs in the painting industry is wide, so knowing exactly what equipment and paint the job needs is your next step when you are asking how to estimate a paint job. Your basic materials won’t change from project to project, like brushes, rollers, drop cloths, and tape. But other projects may require specific equipment like sprayers, scaffolding, or speciality primer.
You will also want to consider how the specific wall or siding needs to be prepared. Are there extra cleaning chemicals that need to be applied? Will a texture need to be removed or smoothed? Be sure to include those supplies in your house painting estimate so you can start with an accurate number.
When calculating the amount of paint that will be added to your project when trim is included, start with this simple calculation: 4:1 ratio for paint for body vs. trim. For example, if you need 16 gallons of paint for the walls, you will need 4 gallons of paint for the doors/windows/trim.
Once you’ve determined base supplies, the next consideration is the number of coats your team will apply. Surface type, previous color and type of finish, will determine the number of gallons required for a quality paint job. When pricing your paint and primer, get ahead of your competitors by using a local pricing database rather than using your time to individually calling suppliers to get the latest rates in a volatile market.
Changing Labor Costs in 2022
Are you ready to calculate the value of your team’s time and expertise? Labor costs continue to fluctuate, but if you have completed the steps above, then you will be able to more accurately estimate the man hours needed to produce high-quality work. You will also want to consider any intensive prep work that may take more time, like removing old caulk or scraping peeling paint from wood. Accounting for additional cleaning time and detail work will keep your real costs in line with your house painting estimate.
As labor prices fluctuate, you may also need to re-evaluate your typical pricing structure. Avoiding costly turnover in your team means paying competitive rates based on experience and ability, as well as availability for longer projects. With the 1build pricing database, labor is included with every trade and assembly, so you are able to compare your current rates with national and county averages.
Profit Margin and Scaling Your Business
Making a profit on one project is fine, but your ultimate goal should be overall business growth. Net profit will first go to paying your overhead costs like administrative staffing, company website fees, vehicle maintenance, and advertising costs. Your markup should include a percentage of that annual amount, while also including additional profit margin set aside for future growth. This could look like hiring another team, adding a new truck to your fleet, attending a conference, or opening a new location.
Remaining competitive while also earning the profit margin necessary for growth is a delicate balance. Typically smaller companies should aim for a 50% profit markup and larger companies typically add 30% of the project price.
One of the best ways to find cost savings for your construction business is to create a more efficient bid process that includes all the details that matter, not only to you, but also your client. You will increase not only the quantity of bids submitted but also the amount of house painting bids that win.
Ready to learn how you can build a quick, accurate estimate using the 1build platform? Sign up for a demo with a 1build expert.