There’s nothing worse than starting a painting project and realizing it’s going to cost more than you estimated.
It’s tough to find the right balance with bidding a paint job. Charge too low, and you won’t be making a profit. Charge too high, and you’ll drive away potential clients.
Main Street’s got you covered. Follow our template below to learn how to estimate your painting bids properly.
#1. Visit the job site
First things first, you’ll have to visit the job site itself to look out for anything that may affect the bid. Here are various factors in the client’s home that could impact the job price.
- The house size: The bigger the home, the bigger the project cost will be. Tall homes will also require extra equipment to clean hard-to-reach areas.
- Home material: How your client’s home is built, inside and out, can have a significant impact on cost. For example, you’ll have an easier time painting on vinyl than on stucco.
- Condition of the walls: Take a close look at the current state of the walls. Old or damaged walls will cause the price to increase.
Lastly, keep in mind you might not paint everything in a home. Make sure to discuss with your client which areas (windows, ceilings, etc.) should be left untouched.
If it’s your first time bidding for a client, we highly recommend that you connect with someone who’s done this before and would be willing to walk you through your first bid. An experienced painting business owner can identify blind spots in your specific scenario to help as you estimate the cost of the project.
#2. Calculate the paint cost
Once you’ve examined the job site, the next step is to calculate how much you’ll have to spend on paint.
On average, you can expect to pay around $20-$50 per gallon for paint. However, this all depends on the type of paint — higher quality brands can cost more than $80 per gallon.
Expensive paint brands use resin, a chemical compound that helps the paint stick fast and last longer on the wall. Cheap brands, on the other hand, lack the necessary solvents to dry correctly, which means you’ll have to use more paint and end up paying more money.
Paint stores may even offer you discounts on products if you’re a consistent customer. Try to build a good relationship with the supplier and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal if you’re spending hundreds on paint each month.
Let’s say you’ve chosen your ideal paint brand that costs you $35 per gallon. Here’s a cost estimate template of what you can expect to pay to get the job done (depending on the square footage of your client’s house):
1,500-square-foot home: 10 gallons x $35 per gallon = $350
2,500-square-foot home: 15 gallons x $35 per gallon = $525
4,000-square-foot home: 25 gallons x $35 per gallon = $875
#3. Calculate the cost for materials
Beyond paint, you’ll have to invest in materials to complete your project. Here’s a checklist of the top essential tools you’ll need for your painting business:
- Drop cloths ($15-$30): You want to minimize potential mess for the client and cleanup for you at the end of the job. Drop cloths help protect floors and furniture from paint.
- Paint tray ($20-$30): A paint tray extends the life of your can of paint. They’re also plastic, which makes them reusable after each job.
- Tape ($5-$10): Tape will come in handy for interior painting and protecting walls when painting ceilings.
- Ladder ($60-$100): You’ll need a ladder to stay safe and paint hard-to-reach areas. We recommend you use a 16-foot ladder with adjustable heights.
- Small brushes ($2-$5 each): Small brushes help finish the job by painting possible gaps between surfaces.
- Paint rollers ($8-$15): For painting walls, rollers make the job much more efficient. Make sure to learn the proper technique for the best results.
- Caulking gun ($10-$20): The caulking helps in filling gaps and cracks, a handy tool for any painting job.
- Small fan ($30-$150): As you finish a room or an area, a small fan will help dry the paint quickly.
- Tool bucket ($2-$5): Consider getting a tool bucket to help your painters carry their equipment around the job.
If you hire painting subcontractors, they may already have many of these supplies, such as brushes and paint rollers, so be sure to factor that into your calculations.
#4. Calculate labor costs
You’ll need to know in advance how much you’ll pay for subcontractors before hiring them for the job.
Beginners struggle with estimating how much they should pay painters since there are so many factors at play. These include:
- Your work relationship with the painters
- Your crew’s previous experience
- Obstacles that may affect how long it’ll take to finish the project (using different colors, type of windows, etc.)
Here are three examples to help you estimate how much labor for painters can cost:
1,500-square-foot home: 2 painters x 1 day = $800
2,500-square-foot home: 2 painters x 2 days = $1,600
5,000-square-foot home: 3 painters x 3 days = $3,600
Check out our guide for more insight on how much painters make on the job.
Subcontractors may ask for high pay on the first job, but you want to avoid this. As your work relationship and business grows, you can progressively increase their rate per hour.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting your painting business is hiring the wrong painters. Painters who can’t do their job correctly will only frustrate clients and lose you money in the long run. As part of our training, we’ll teach you how to hire the top professional painters and make sure they complete the job properly.
#5. Estimate your marketing costs
When estimating your painting project, make sure not to overlook your marketing costs. Consider how you much you invested in the following marketing techniques:
- Flyer drop campaigns
- Online advertising (SEO, PPC, etc.)
- Word-of-mouth (fees to attend networking events, etc.)
- Lead providers such as Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor
Don’t overspend on marketing costs. Aim to keep the marketing percentage below 10% of the painting job. For example, there’s no reason you should spend $2,000 on a flyer drop campaign to land a $2,500 painting job.
As you gain more experience, you’ll be able to identify which technique provides the greatest return on investment. From there, it’s up to you to optimize for the best results.
At Main Street, we know the value of advertising — which is why we’ll provide you tools and tips to maximize your marketing budget. And as you reach your business goals, we’ll provide funding for online ads and to set you up with online lead providers.
#6. Apply markup
Lastly, after calculating all the costs above, it’s time to apply your markup to determine your final price.
Whatever you do, always determine overhead before providing the client an estimate. As a beginner, we recommend you start with a 30% markup on your painting jobs. As your staff grows and your expertise improves, you can increase your markup further.
Here's your final formula for an estimate of how much to charge per project:
(Paint Cost + Project Materials Costs + Labor Cost + Marketing Overhead) × 1.3 Markup
Estimate Painting Projects Without the Guesswork
Starting a painting company comes with its fair share of challenges, from landing quality clients to estimating projects. Getting help from an experienced partner can go a long way.
At Main Street, our goal is to take the guesswork out of starting a painting business. Each of our clients goes through our unique process, positioning them to land clients quickly and grow from there. Here’s what we offer to set you up for success:
- Free coaching: We’ll teach you all the skills you need to grow and market your painting business.
- $10,000 in marketing: That’s right — Main Street invests in you. We’ll spend $10,000 of our own money in marketing to grow your business.
- Continuous support: Speaking of taking out the guesswork, our 500-plus training modules, online forums, and Q&As help provide guidance throughout the process.
- Independence: You’re your own brand. You choose your company name and how you want to operate the business.
Become your own boss today
Estimating a painting project for your client doesn’t have to be a headache. With our templates and tips above, you should be able to confidently charge what’s fair and get closer to your revenue goal.
Making the right financial decisions early on in a business is crucial. Figuring out how much to spend on materials, what to charge clients, and what to pay painters are all inputs that go directly toward your bottom line. If you don’t feel like guessing along the way, we get you. That’s why we support business owners with coaching and resources so you have a clear path to follow. We’re with you as you start out, gain clients, and scale into larger projects. Want to know more? Here’s how completing six jobs a week can get you to $1 million.