When you’re just starting out, estimating a job can look very complicated. However, if you talk to a seasoned painter, someone who has been in the business a long time, they’ll tell you how easy it is to estimate exteriors. Most of them can just look at a house and tell you what the price is within a couple hundred dollars.
But when you are just getting started, or if you don’t have a formula, it can be really confusing and overwhelming. I’m going to try to keep this as simple as possible in this article, to show you how easy it can be.
If you’re really concerned, it’s usually because you are worried your price is going to be too high or it’s going to be too low. With just a few simple tips, you can make sure you are at least in the ball park.
If you want the exact estimating formulas we use, you can download them here:
First, I want to give you some ball park figures so you know you are in the right range when you come up with your price. For these we are going to assume that the house has an average amount of prep work, we are doing 1 coat of paint, and we are using a middle of the road paint – something around $25-$35 per gallon.
- One-story house: $1800-$3000
- Two-story house: $2700-$4000
- Three-story house: $4000-$6500
If you don’t have experience with detail work, like what you find in Victorian homes, avoid them at first. If you don’t have experience dealing with lead-based paint (homes built pre-1978) avoid those jobs too. It’s not worth it. Stick to the easy moneymakers for now.
Without going into all the details of our formulas and why they are what they are, here are some really basic formulas you can use to come up with your price. First we come up with labor cost and material cost, then we get the total cost, then we use that to come up with our final price.
Step 1: Calculating your costs
Your costs come down to labor and materials. Estimate each one separately.
Estimating Labor Cost: Assuming 1 coat of paint
To keep this simple, we will consider two measurements for estimating labor for one coat of paint.
For any area being sprayed, calculate the square footage. If you are spraying one coat of paint, assume it will take 1 hour for 200 square feet. This estimate includes the masking and prep time, as well as spraying. Include the eaves in the square footage of the area to be sprayed. Also include windows in that calculation because they need to be masked off.
For example, if you have a two-story house that is 30 feet wide, that’s 600 square feet. And probably another 100 square feet of eaves.
700 square feet would be 3.5 hours of total time.
For anything we will be painting with a brush or roller (trim, shutters, gutters, etc.), add up the linear feet.
For example, a window trim is 5×5. That’s about 20 feet of linear trim. If the house is 30 feet wide, the first story of fascia is probably 30 feet.
Add up the total linear feet of trim and divide by 40 feet to get the hours. We plan to paint trim at 40 feet per hour. If you have 300 feet of trim on the house, then that would be 7.5 hours of work.
You also need to consider your total hours for prep work. You can estimate prep work by area. For example, each local failure (like a peeling window trim) you should assume 15 minutes (.25 hours).
We assume 2 hours total for power washing the house. Caulking is typically 1 hour on the low end up to 8 hours on the high end if there is tons of cracking on a huge house.
To finalize your cost of labor, multiply total hours by $20 (pretty standard market rate after insurance, workers’ comp, and payroll).
Estimating Material Cost: Assuming 1 coat of paint
Here we are just interested in the paint. There are other materials you need for the job, but that is covered in the markup.
Body paint covers 200 square feet per gallon. If it’s stucco, you are rolling the house, it’s really dry and you can tell it is going to soak up a ton of paint, or you are covering a dark color with a light color… then it’s 150 square feet per gallon.
Add up the total square footage and divide by 200 (or by 150) to come up with the number of gallons.
Trim paint is going to be 2-8 gallons. You can literally pick a number based on 2 things: First, how big is this house? Small, medium, or large? Second, how much trim? Very little, normal, or a lot?
If it’s a large house with lots of trim, choose 8 gallons. If it’s a tiny house with very little trim, choose 2 gallons.
Add 1 gallon for each accent color.
Total up your gallons of paint, multiply by the price per gallon and that will give you your material cost.
Now that you have your labor cost and material costs… Here’s how you come up with your price.
Step 2: Calculating you price
- Add them up. Labor + Materials = Total Cost
- Take your Total Cost and Divide by .42 (the price should be a little more than double your cost). This is your total price.
- Multiply that price by .9 (this is the 10% discount you can offer). This is your price including discounts.
- The discounted price should be a little more than double your cost. That little bit extra will cover materials like tape, paper, plastic, and any other miscellaneous things you did not include.
Assume your total cost was $1,000. Divide by .42 and you get $2,380. Multiply by .9 and you get $2,142.
At this price point, you should be able to hire a subcontractor or employees to get the job done for about $1000-$1100 after labor and materials, leaving you with $1,000 in profit to pay yourself, your marketing costs, sales people, production managers, office staff, insurance, etc.
If you are just starting, and have no overhead, you can lower your price to $1,600 to be more competitive. Or if you do your own painting, you can lower your price as well.
At $2,142 you should be pretty competitive with other ‘big’ companies in the area. Every area in the country is a little different. Learn and adjust. This should give you a good starting point.
If you’d like our estimating formulas which are more detailed (along with instructions) you can download that information here:
For a complete step-by-step guide to estimating, check out the Painting Business Pro Course where I give you everything you need to start and grow your business.
Have a question or something to add? Please leave it in the comments.