How to Bid or Estimate Paint Jobs

Coming up with the right price for painting a house is important. For most people, this is a big concern, and rightly so. If you estimate too low, you don’t make money. If you estimate too high, you don’t get the job.

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to estimate.

Will you mess up the first couple times? Definitely. I have messed up a lot of painting estimates… But every time I messed up, I learned from that mistake and never made it again. Screwing up is how you learn and how you get better.

And of course, you can always learn from those who have been in the business for years. Remember though, that nobody can teach you everything you need to know (but I can teach you everything we do so you won’t make as many mistakes in the beginning).

There is no way to be in business and not screw up. Learn to embrace it, and learn from it.

If you do screw up your bid, that’s okay… it’s hard to be so low that you don’t make money. And if you are constantly pricing too high, customers will tell you.

This article is a basic overview of how to come up with a good price for painting. Also, check out how to estimate interior and how to estimate exterior for more details.

For our exact estimating formulas, you can download them here:

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How to Charge For Painting Jobs

Your price on your estimate should be competitive, but also at a point where you can make good money. Winning a lot of jobs because you have a low price is not cool. Working for dirt cheap is not cool.

Providing quality work, at a fair price, and making great money… that’s cool.

And never forgot – the price doesn’t sell the job. Your sales process sells the job. You can’t compromise on price to win jobs, or your business won’t be able to grow. There is no point in being in a business if you can’t make it grow.

To develop a competitive and fair estimate you have to:

  1. Figure out the costs involved and
  2. Markup so you make a profit.

1. Figuring Out the Paint Job Cost

First we need to figure out how much it is going to cost us to paint the house including the labor costs and the material costs.

2. Marking Up Your Price to Make a Profit

Then we need to add in our markup. Without a markup, you will be doing houses for free and probably losing money. Why? Because even if you cover your costs, your business has other expenses besides just material and labor costs.

The markup includes your insurance, warranty fund, profit margin, and any staff that you bring on. It also includes marketing costs and sales costs. The larger your company grows, the more you need to mark up your jobs.

Our company is fully staffed. We have a production manager, sales reps, marketing teams, accountants, and even office staff. At this level, we are looking for a 50% margin. That means we basically double our cost to paint a house.

If you are just starting out, you don’t need to double… you can aim for a 30% profit margin instead of 50% because you don’t have as much overhead.

When I first started my company (with less than $300), I did a full house for $2800. These days I would charge about $3800 for that same house.

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How Much to Charge for Painting: Simple Painting Estimate Formula

For now, here is what you need to understand when estimating a house:

  • Labor Cost is roughly $20/hour multiplied by the number of hours on the job.
  • Material Cost is the number of gallons of paint you plan to use multiplied by the cost per gallon of the paint that you are using.
  • Total Cost = Labor Cost + Material Cost

Then we take that number and add on your markup or margin.

  • Price = Total Cost + Markup

Painting Estimate Example:

We estimate this job is going to take 20 hours and use 7 gallons of paint. The paint costs $22/gallon.

  • 20 hours x $20/hour = $400 for labor
  • 7 gallons x $22/gallon = $154 for materials
  • Total Cost= $554

Add a little buffer for other supplies, set up, clean up, etc.

I would round this up to $600. That’s how much it’s going to cost you to paint this house.

You need to charge $300-$800 more depending on your company and your overhead. If you are just starting out, you can do this job for $900-$1000.

If you have a lot of overhead: sales reps, marketing, accounting, office, etc., then you need to charge closer to $1200-$1400.

This is the basic process behind how to estimate and bid jobs. You are ultimately aiming for your cost to be 50% of your total price. Start lower than that when you are new, and as your company grows, raise prices to make sure you are maintaining a good profit margin.

I always try to make 20-30% after all expenses. If my business does $500,000 in revenue, I want to make $100,000-$150,000 in income.

Make sure to check out interior estimating and exterior estimating here for more specifics.

When to Raise Your Prices

Raise your prices as your company grows. Remember that a brand-new company needs to price lower. You don’t have any name recognition, very few online reviews, few references, etc., Therefore, customers aren’t willing to pay you the same amount they pay a company that has been around for 5-10 years, has warranties, has tons of references and reviews, etc.

However, there are ways to make your company look and feel like it’s a larger company so you can charge more. I cover that in my course.

To get our estimating formulas, you can download them here:

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Or.. if you want ALL the sales scripts, estimating forms, and pre-made contracts, check out my course to get your business jump-started and quickly growing.

Have a question or something to add? Please share in the comments.

Eric

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13 Comments

  1. Rita Rwaks | July 21, 2015 at 1:03 am Reply

    Incredibly beautiful estimates, am looking forward to the next course. Great work Eric

    • admin | July 25, 2015 at 7:46 am Reply

      Thanks Rita! I’m working on putting some more stuff together.

  2. Dyson | August 9, 2015 at 7:49 am Reply

    Job cost estimates should be accurate and calculated to yield a reasonable profit. It’s not just about winning the bid.

    • Eric | August 10, 2015 at 7:37 am Reply

      I agree 100%

  3. Mike | October 24, 2015 at 2:02 am Reply

    So I’m just starting this phase of my general handyman and lawn services and I have a man they wants a bid by tomorrow evening on painting just his detached 25×30 with a 16×7 door and he is providing all material its just cost for the labor. Now the garage is peeling its latex paint that has been painted over oil based paint and I’m not sure how long it would take at all to complete this job. Just FYI customer doesn’t want a different color on the trim just paint it all one color. I am planning on starting the job by pressure washing it and seeing just how much I can knock off the paint before sanding caulking. So if I do the job by myself how long should it take and if I have one helper how should it take ? This is the only thing stopping me from being able to complete this bid because of my lack of experience can you please help me?

    • Eric | October 27, 2015 at 9:11 am Reply

      Hey Mike. Sorry I only review comments once every week or so. And I actually don’t do estimating for people – I’d recommend downloading our estimating standards in the top of the article for some direction.

  4. Glen | December 14, 2015 at 8:52 pm Reply

    Is it better to price by the job or by the hour

    • Eric | December 14, 2015 at 10:03 pm Reply

      By the job.

    • Ken | January 20, 2016 at 7:43 pm Reply

      Definitely by the job. If you know what your doing ? Your putting a cap on your proffits and it opened ended for customer

  5. Kevin | March 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm Reply

    Thanks for the tremendous wealth of information Eric.

    Do you itemize your estimates for the customer, or at least do so when requested?

    If so, how would you recommend accounting for overhead, and also markup/margin? Having markup as a separate line would be asking for trouble, but burying it in eg the materials cost seems like something a potential customer might check out and call you out on.

    • Eric | March 14, 2016 at 11:42 am Reply

      I do not itemize my estimates in that way. I do provide multiple options… but I don’t break down a single price into the components of that price.

  6. Dan | January 24, 2017 at 12:30 pm Reply

    2000 square foot house interior …walls ceilings and trim… Looking for a rough estimate

    • Eric | March 21, 2017 at 8:42 pm Reply

      Sorry I can’t give a rough estimate on that… interior varies greatly house to house, even if the houses are exact same square footage.


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I’m Eric Barstow, creator of Painting Business Pro, founder of National Painting Group & Foothills Painting, Co-Owner of Painter Choice. I’m disrupting the painting industry, and helping thousands of painters start or improve their businesses. I love what I do!

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