For most people, a home is the most important investment they’ll ever make. Whether you’re in it for the opportunity to resell at a later date, or you want a place to call your own, taking care of that investment becomes an ongoing (and often expensive) task. Many homeowners, aiming to increase curb appeal, choose to paint the exterior of their homes. And though it may seem straightforward (we’re not talking rocket science here), they can often find themselves spending a hefty bit more than they originally anticipated. In this article, we’ll be going over a few factors you may want to consider, prior to popping open that first can, that might end up saving you from a dozen more trips to your local home improvement store (or just throwing in the towel & calling it a day).
What You’ll Find in This Article
- How Much Does it Cost to Paint a House Exterior?
- Average Costs to Paint Siding
- What kind of paint should you use?
- When should you plan to paint?
- Factors Effecting the Cost of Painting a Home Exterior
- Other Considerations
How Much Does it Cost to Paint a House Exterior?
All details aside, coming up with an approximation of the cost to paint a house is fairly simple. Begin by calculating the square footage of the exterior walls & determine how many gallons of paint you’ll need to cover that (a high quality paint covers ~350 square ft. with 2 coats). Factors that come into play are items such as trim, windows, doors, etc. that may require a different kind/color of paint depending on the material the siding on the house is made of. Another factor that may effect cost (if you’re hiring someone to do the dirty work) is the number of stories, intricacies of the home design, and overall ease of access to all areas needing paint.
All things being equal, the quoted price from paint pros varies from state-to-state. These variations occur due to differences in median salary in your area, costs associated with doing business, & of course the market value of materials and labor in your city and state. However, initial estimates from painting contractors are based, primarily, on the square footage of your home. The reported average estimate for a home between 500-1500 square feet is between $1,000-$3,000. More recent figures (based on reports from homeowners who have hired out the process) inflate that average to upwards of $3,700 ($1,700 on the low end).
What Kind of Paint Should You Use?
What kind of paint you should use is determined by a variety of factors. One of those factors is the amount of time required for the paint to finish curing. The amount of time necessary for a paint to cure is dependent on paint type & weather. There are two primary types of paint used for the exterior of a house: Latex (water – based) & Oil-based. Below, we’ve inserted a graphic depicting the drying & curing time of latex & oil based paints.
As the graphic shows, the initial drying period of latex paint beats out oil based paint, but the overall curing time is much, much, longer.
Why does latex paint dry faster, but cure slower?
Why does oil paint dry slower, but cure faster?
The quick answer… because science. The slow answer is a lot more complex than that. To explain, we’ll start with the oil-based paint.
The basic composition of oil-based paint is: solvent + binder + pigment. The solvent consists of high volumes of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) derived from crude oil processing. Though these evaporate fast, for an oil-based paint to be “dry” the fatty acids in the binder have to absorb oxygen, partially break down, then recombine in a process called polymerization. These processes take time & are heavily temperature dependent. However, once this polymerization is 100% complete, the paint is also cured & ready to go.
Latex paints use water (primarily) as their solvent. Though water evaporates more slowly than volatile organic compounds, once the water has evaporated, the paint is considered dry. The curing process of latex paints, however, occurs from the outside going in & requires atmospheric oxygen to form a crosslinked polymer. Given the fact that outside layers cure before inside layers, the cured layers limit the rate at which inside layers can access the oxygen required to complete the chemical reaction.
So which paint should you use? Latex? Or Oil? Well the answer is: Both… sometimes… well.. maybe!
If you’re confused enough already, we can tell you, the type of paint you use is determined by what you’re painting. For instance, metal components of your house may have a tendency to rust. Therefore you’ll want to avoid paints that contain a water component (choose oil-based). But, we know you’re probably not living in an iron block, so here’s a list of surfaces appropriate for each paint:
Plaster & drywall
Siding (wood, fiber cement, aluminum)
You should be aware that some paint suppliers shy away from using latex paints on wood, as the drying process can swell wood grain & require sanding prior to applying a second coat.
When is the right time?
It’s a no-brainer right? A fresh coat of paint on your house is going to boost curb appeal & potentially increase property value. But is now the right time? Whether or not it’s the right time of year to paint your house is governed by 1 ultimate factor: weather.
It’s obvious that you shouldn’t plan to start a job in the height of the rainy season, but did you know temperature and humidity play a factor as well?
It boils down to curing time. Many novice painters think that once paint is dry, they’re in the clear. Unfortunately, however, paint (of all types) sets in different stages: drying & curing.
A paint is considered dry when enough of the carrier solvents have evaporated to where it can be touched (gently) without it sticking to whatever is touching it. If your paint is still “tacky” when a light rain comes through, you may be back in your local paint store getting a fresh round of supplies.
Paint is considered “cured” when the vast majority of residual solvents have evaporated off, and the paint has reached its maximum ‘hardness’ as a result of certain chemical reactions. The time period between curing & drying is a sensitive one. If, for instance, you live in Florida, you might want to avoid painting your house in the middle of tropical storm season. Inclement weather can still damage freshly applied paint, well into the curing process. In fact, professionals recommend to avoid moderate contact until your home’s exterior paint is completely finished curing (as shown previously, this can take up to 30 days depending on the paint).
Given that liquid evaporates faster at higher temperatures, you’re going to want to pick a time of the year when warm weather is expected. But you should ALSO avoid times when rain is frequent. Find a happy median in your region & plan for that.
Average Costs to Paint Siding
It should come as no surprise that the materials your house is made of can (and will affect) the price to paint it. Professional painters take into account the difficulty of fully covering surfaces with paint, the techniques & equipment needed for the job, and the extra prep/repaint time required to make sure the job is done to standards. These factors can positively or negatively impact the bottom line. To help you understand, we’ve broken it down to some of the most common siding materials.
Concrete siding always requires additional prep time, as old layers of paint can cause that brand new coat to chip & degrade if left to their own devices. Therefore, painters will usually put in the time to remove old paint from concrete siding prior to laying on the new stuff. This added work, however, comes with a price tag. If your house is shrouded in concrete, expect to be quoted anywhere between $500-$2000 for 250-1000 square feet of painting surface. These prices can vary based on the condition of the wall & it’s exposure to harsh elements in your area (even the sun can turn concrete siding into a hot mess).
Though not as painstaking a process as concrete siding, you can expect (unless your metal siding is in pristine condition) a bit of prep work to be needed. Ideally, past precautions were taken & all exposed metal was sealed away from the elements. Worst case, your siding is peppered with rust spots. Rust will prevent a paint from curing properly and, if left untreated, will cause new paint jobs to expire prematurely. As such, painters will need to refinish, sometimes replace, weather beaten metal siding. You can expect to pay $400-$1500 for 250-1000 square feet of metal siding to be painted.
Stucco is… well it’s stucco. Looks great if it’s done right, but flaws can stick out clear as day. And if your house is covered in this material you can expect to pay a premium for a repaint. Any cracks that have developed since your last coat will need to be caulked & filled, accumulated dirt & grime will need to be washed away, and you’ll have to buy paint specifically designed to be applied to stucco. Some “stucco-specific” paints aren’t even recommended by painters as they have a tendency to crack & chip. All of these factors make stucco one of the more expensive surfaces to revitalize with some new paint. You should expect to pay anywhere from $900-$3000 for a 500-1500 square feet of siding.
One of the biggest time (therefore money) constraints is the need to replace broken or damaged clapboards & vinyl sections. Otherwise, repainting vinyl is a matter of ensuring the surfaces are properly cleaned. Once prepped, the application of paint is fairly straightforward, just as it would be for an interior paint job. The kicker here is the application and regular maintenance requirements of the finish. The price variations in painting vinyl come from the finish, but you should expect to pay only $600-$2000 for 250-1000 square feet.
Wood, though very straightforward, is very unforgiving. Considerable time has to be spent on repairs to damaged panels, and wood needs to be extensively treated for defense against the elements. Whether you choose to paint or stain, you should expect to pay anywhere from $700-$2000 to have 250-1000 square feet of wood repainted.
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Factors Effecting the Cost of Painting a Home Exterior
Whether you’re hiring out your house repaint, or you plan on tackling the job yourself, it makes sense to avoid “winging it,” and to put together a list of things you’ll probably need to get the job done. Knowing how it all breaks down will help with your initial cost estimates & may even save you time and money while deciding what you’re going to paint. You’ll want to consider things like the cost of paint, what supplies you’ll need, and what other items you’ll want to spruce up before your project ends. Keep reading to for an overview of things you’ll need to consider.
How Much Does Paint Cost
It may be tempting to be as frugal as possible when selecting the paint for your home’s exterior (seriously, the bill can rack up fast). But if you skimp now, you’ll pay for it later. The quality of paint you choose drastically effects how long the paint will last, how well it covers a surface, and ultimately how well the job gets done. You can expect to pay anywhere from $360-$840 for paint (ranging from low to high quality). Here’s how those numbers break down.
- For a 2,000 square foot home, you’ll need ~12 gallons
- One gallon covers about 350 square feet, but you’ll need to account for 2 coats (when we’re talking high quality, lower quality paints may cover less)
- 2,000/350= 5.7 ← one coat/two coats→ 5.7 x 2 = 11.4 gallons (let’s be safe & round up)
We rounded up because the pros recommend adding on ~10% for incidentals. To be even more safe, go ahead and add an extra gallon or two… you don’t want to go back to the store over and over again… this project is big enough as it is. Keep in mind, this figure can change if you have concrete or stucco siding. These surfaces really soak up paint & can require multiple applications.
As much as we would like it to, the paint won’t jump out of the can and onto the wall. Therefore, it’s helpful to consider what supplies you’ll need actually perform the job. If you’re hiring a professional to do the work, let them buy the materials, this is incorporated into the cost & they know exactly what they need. But in case you’re going at the job yourself, here’s a list of what you’ll want to pick up:
- Rollers & Handles (varying lengths for multilevel homes)
- Paint Sprayers
- Drop Cloths
- Painter’s Tape
- Sandpaper (if your siding needs resurfacing)
- Paint Pans
Note: if you have shrubs/trees/bushes close to your house, you’ll want to tie these down & away. We don’t have an official method to recommend here, but an easy trick is use a trash bag & some form of cordage. It’s best to avoid painting your plants… they don’t like it… and neither will your neighbors.
Additional Features to Consider
If you’re going for a full repaint, then you’re going to have to factor some of the features on the outside of your house. The following are estimates for a professional painter, and can vary based on your area & materials involved:
- Doors: $60-$170
- Fascia: $500-$1100
- Porches: $500-$1700
- Shutters: $125-$425
If you’re trying to save some money, consider painting these yourselves. Just be sure to have the right type of paint for the material you’re trying to spruce up. Also, consider the difficulty. It may be worth the extra money to have your hired painter take care of those gutters that are 30 feet off the ground.
Keep in mind that, if you own an older house, you should expect a little bit more work to be done. If you’re handy, you can help reduce costs by doing small outdoor repairs BEFORE hiring a painter. However, it is an EPA regulation that old paints containing lead be tested & removed whenever a house is painted. It’s best to leave things like this to the pros. Also, if you have the means to do it (and want to save some time & money), you may work out an agreement with your painter for you to do the prep-work/cleaning, though this may void warranty work.
Painting your house is a big decision and investment, but it’s one that pays dividends. Just be sure to fully assess the situation and be honest with yourself as to whether or not you need to hire out the project. Our recommendation: Always hire out the process if you have any doubts or concerns. It’s a worthy investment & can save you a LOT of time and frustration.