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Estimating a Paint Job

in 5 Simple Steps

How much to charge for painting depends on a few important metrics. How fast does your team work? What's your material cost? Overhead cost can also play a role in estimating a paint job.

Let’s dig into each of the 5 basic steps.

  1. Production Rate

  2. Measure & Count

  3. Paint & Material Cost

  4. Miscellaneous Costs

  5. Total Cost

Estimating a Paint Job

1. Production Rate

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Production rate is the ratio of the service produced and the time spent producing them. This is calculated by multiplying your Labor Rate by your Working Time then by your Markup. This is the first step to estimating a paint job. Your production rate will vary depending on what type of project you are running, how fast your teams are and how much you want to make after all is said and done.

A painting company that can handle larger projects will have highly skilled, better qualified and more productive painters. Repainting jobs usually take about 35 percent more time than painting new jobs. Much of this extra time is spent protecting adjacent areas. These are very important steps to starting a painting business with the correct rates.

Estimating a painting job

Labor Rate- A rate charged to customers for services performed by company employees or subcontractors. You may pay your team hourly, daily or by contract. Most painting mechanics work for around $20-$30/ hour. If you have conflicting pay rates for your employees find the average and go with that number.


Working Time- The period of time that a person spends at paid labor. How much trim can a painter coat in 1 hour? The answer is approximately 40-60ft per hour. How many walls can a painter cut and roll in 1 hour? The answer is approximately 125-200 sqft per hour. Figure out your production rate for each aspect of your painting process.

Markup- The amount added to a service to cover overhead and profit. Typically 30%-50% is added to cover insurance, licensing, marketing, administrative fees, profit and more. For our companies, it’s always a sliding scale depending on the season and available crews plus type of job. Usually, though, about 2 to 2.5 times the original cost is tacked on then we almost always offer a discount, 10% maybe 20% off. This is totally up to your preference, but mostly, it’s up to the market. This is why marketing for your painting business is extremely important.

2. Measurements & Counts

Now that you have your Production Rate determined you can focus on making measurements and counts during the estimate process. All you need to do is measure all the areas in each room and record them in a painting estimate template. The best tool to use for determining linear length is a laser measure, it’s accurate and fast.


Depending on the material, style, color and shape of the surface will impact the pricing. This is called a sliding scale. Example: a flat door to much easier and faster to paint than a 6-panel door and a 15 glass panel door is even more difficult. Each surface and area you estimate needs to be adjusted accordingly. I would charge $25 per side for the flat door and $50-70 per side on a fancy 6 panel and $125-$200 per side for a 15 glass panel french door! Then there it can go deeper like whats the condition of the door? Will it need scraping? caulking? primer? How many colors? Over time you can optimize your estimate process to be so detailed and fair your clients have to sign with you.

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Surface Area- To find the surface area multiply the length by the width or height. Use a leaser measure, tape measure or measuring wheel. You can easily determine most ceiling surface area by measuring the surface area of the floor. If the ceiling is pitched or angles just add 20% to make up for the extra area.

  • Ceilings

  • Walls

  • Wainscoting

  • ​Decking

  • Fencing

  • Siding

Linear Length- This refers to any long surfaces that are less than 1 foot in width. Use a laser measure, tape measurer or a measuring wheel. I found most average interior rooms will have about 100 linear ft of baseboard and trims combined. Also for the exterior, a measuring wheel works really well, especially for large commercial projects.​​

  • Trim

  • Baseboards

  • Crown Molding

  • Chair Rail

  • Railings

  • Fascias

  • Soffits

  • Headers

Count- This one is simple. Just count all the non-measurable areas by hand and list them in your estimate template. We will charge more for large closet and less for small. If you are not painting a closet then most likely you won't be painting the closet side of the door, unless discussed otherwise beforehand. Here are some examples of areas to count.

  • Door Sides

  • Spindles

  • Closets

  • Stair Risers

  • Stair Treads

  • Posts / Pillars

  • Cabinet Doors

  • Cabinet Drawers

  • Shadow Boxes

  • Bay Window

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3. Paint & Material Cost

After measuring and counting you can calculate the amount of money that will be invested in the production of the service. Use the process in step 2 to collect all your data and then do the math accordingly. 1 gallon of regular latex paint cut and rolled covers an average of 300-400sq.ft. If you calculated a 10 x 10 room ceiling at 100 sq.ft. you need 2 coats making it 200sq.ft. so 1 gallon of paint plenty. Always markup the paint, if the area requires a little less than a gallon, just get an extra gallon so you don’t have to worry, and also is a good idea to have leftover touch up paint to leave the client. Using a paint sprayer wastes a lot of paint and needs to be accounted for. Depending on the paint brand, quality, and sheen, some paint cost more per gallon than others.


Paint- Most paint covers 300-400 sq.ft. per gallon. Remember this is per 1 coat. Watch out for thicker paint like elastomeric as this paint covers less than half the area as regular paint at about 125 sq.ft. per gallon. Also depending on what surface your painting can affect the coverage, like stucco vs metal surfaces.


If you buy a lot of paint you can negotiate with your painting representatives at your local paint supply store. A 30% discount on materials can boost your profits and you can offer more high-quality materials to your clients.

Materials- You will need materials like brushes,( typically not charged for) roller covers, caulk, drywall compound, sandpaper, masks, plastic and much more. These items need to be factored into the painting estimate. If a painting project calls for multiple colors it will be wise to charge for each roller cover, need not mention the extra labor of switching colors, which we will get into in the next subject.

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4. Miscellaneous Cost

This cost is reserved for expenses that don’t factor into your production rate and costs like tax, payroll fees, using multiple colors, and more. Here are some examples of miscellaneous costs. If you plan to start a painting business these are some things to consider.

  • Prep Work

  • Taxes

  • Payroll Fees

  • Multiple Colors

  • Accessibility

  • Revised Contracts

  • Schedule Hiccups

  • Equipment Rentals

  • Travel Time

  • Hotels Expenses

  • Permits

  • Weather

  • Technical Issues

  • Special Request

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5. Total Cost

You did it, this is the final number you will be presenting your prospect. If it is written properly and the pricing is fair you will get the job and make your profit. Now all you need to do it create an amazing painting proposal either on the spot, delivered on another meeting, in the mail or by email. (in order from the best way to the worst way)


Estimating a paint job is simple but time-consuming. Besides experience, if you don’t win the job, you don’t gain progress for your painting business. Consider trying a Painting Estimate Template to speed up the process and gain more accuracy.


If you want to know more about turning your painting prospect into a paying client you will need to know how to write an amazing proposal, follow up with prospects, collecting deposits, and scheduling.

Related Articles:

"8 Questions a Painting Business Should Ask Every Client Before a Job"

"How to Get Painting Contracts"

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