I’m always asked about how to estimate interior painting. It’s one of the biggest questions I get.
People just starting a painting business, or even people who have been in business for a while, all seem to get hung up on writing a painting estimate.
But it doesn’t need to be hard to come up with your prices for painting – you just need to have a system.
Because most of my questions come from people who are new to the business, I’m going to show you a very simple way to come up with pricing interiors.
Interior Painting Estimate Basics
Don’t overwhelm yourself when you are just starting out with pricing. With a pretty basic pricing strategy you can get pretty close on prices for your painting estimate.
Now let’s go through the basics.
For starters, we want to aim for charging about 2x what it will cost us to get the job done. If it is going to cost $100 in paint plus $200 in labor, we would want to charge about $600. This is just a general rule of thumb to help you be profitable.
But don’t worry about being exact right now. You have to screw up pretty bad to lose money.
Let’s just say you price the job at $300 instead of $600… Big screw up. And you still won’t lose money on that job!
Let’s say you price the job at $1000 instead of $600… Another big screw up. Usually the customer will tell you. So, you might lose a few bids because you were too high, but you will learn from that.
And you will learn from your mistakes being too low.
Bottom line, don’t let estimating concerns stop you from going after your business. The life of being an entrepreneur is amazing once you get over the small hurdles… we all have to go through it.
Before we get into writing an estimate, you should know that price is NOT the determining factor for the job. So you should not be adjusting your price in order to win the job. You should be pricing your job to make money.
The key to winning the job is a good sales process. Don’t start lowering bids (unless you KNOW you are too high).
How Much to Charge to Paint the Interior of a House (and how much not to charge)
It may be tempting to lower your price to win more jobs, especially when you are starting out. But let me give you an example why that’s not a good idea – stay with me here.
Imagine you drop all your painting estimates by 20% to win more jobs.
Maybe you’ll close $10,000 in sales instead of $6,000 (because you had a better price – you landed an extra job). At $10,000, 20% less on the price means 20% less profit for you… That’s $2,000 less profit.
So instead of bringing in $5,000 profit on $10,000 in sales, you are bringing in $3,000 in profit.
If you don’t adjust your price by 20%, you only win 2 bids for $6,000 (instead of $10,000). But since you didn’t lower price, you still earn $3,000.
I would rather make $3,000 on 2 jobs, than $3,000 on 3 jobs, especially because more price-sensitive customers also tend to be pickier customers. More headaches for less money? No thank you.
Like I said earlier, the key to winning jobs is your sales process, so instead of lowering price, improve your sales process.
Interior Estimating Example
Here we go… the simple approach to estimating interiors (also covered in the video above).
Initially we only did exterior painting estimates because we prefer to do exterior. When I first started interior, I kept it really simple. I had one basic standard that I followed to come up with any interior price. This has served me well, so here it is for you to use:
Cost to Paint the Interior of a House
One room that is 12×12 and 8 foot ceilings: Includes labor + materials + 2 coats of paint.
- Walls – $350
- Trim – $100
- Ceiling – $100
- Doors – $50/door
- Closets – $50/closet
Example #1: Customer wants one room painted walls + ceilings. No trim, no doors, no closets.
The price would be $450.
Example #2: Customer wants one room painted including walls, ceiling, trim, and one door.
The price would be $600.
Example #3: Customers wants two rooms painted including walls, ceiling, trim. One room is 12×12. The other room is 20×12.
Average cost (plus markup) to paint each room:
- First room = $550.
- Second room = $700-$750.
- Total price = $1250-$1300.
For any other estimates on interior, use these standards as a jumping off point and adjust from there. It’s hard to screw up that bad. Any mistakes you can learn from, adjust, and improve.
The larger the job, the more you can lower the price a little bit because it’s more efficient with set up, clean up, materials, etc.
You can go slightly up or down on those numbers depending on the factors below.
Raise your price a little if…
- Light color covering dark color: This takes more time and is more difficult.
- Multiple colors like accent walls: This takes more time and is more difficult.
You can lower your price a little if…
- Same color: This takes less time and is much easier.
- One color for trim/ceiling/walls: This takes less time and is much easier.
Watch out for:
- Cabinets: These can take a lot of work. A basic kitchen cabinet job can run around $1,000. If you haven’t done this stuff before, keep it simple with just painting. Check with your painters/contractor/paint store rep to help with pricing these jobs when you’re just starting out.
- Railings: if these are stained or complicated, be very careful. If you’re just starting, avoid them completely.
Be smart – don’t go out and estimate a $15,000 job on your first try. Start small and make sure you are in the range. Messing up a $600 job and messing up a $6,000 job have very different consequences.
If you want our exact estimating formulas, you can download them here.
Writing interior painting estimates is just the beginning. If you want to have a successful painting business you need to develop effective marketing, sales, and production systems. Save yourself the hundreds of hours and problems creating them yourself — check out my entire business system.
If you have something to add to this or you have questions, please leave it in the comments.