How to Bid a Paint Job: Guide to Estimating Painting Costs

Six Steps to Get Your Bids Right

By George Leon | Posted on April 25, 2022 | Updated on May 21, 2022
a painter and an estimate on a computer

Bidding a paint job can be a daunting task. You have to put in a bid that represents the quality of your painting services and gives your business a reasonable profit without underpricing yourself. You also don’t want to overbid and have the competition snag the project from you. 

So how exactly do you come up with the perfect bid amount? 

To help you estimate painting costs, we’ve developed a comprehensive guide that will help you learn how to bid a paint job step by step. 

We’ll talk about materials, labor, and marketing costs that you must factor in as a professional painter, whether you’re bidding on a residential or commercial painting job. 

We’ll also provide the top do’s and don’ts to remember when creating the ideal estimate. 

Let’s get started. 

Step 1: Examine the Property

Painter visiting a property
Painter visiting a property

The first step in creating a compelling bid is collecting essential information about the painting project – which you can do by personally visiting the property. 

Schedule an on-site visit with your client and ask about the property’s overall condition. 

What’s the condition of the walls and windows? Do some areas need more than average prep work before painting? 

You need to understand the job’s complexity and see how fast your team can complete it without incurring unnecessary extra costs. 

The last thing you want is to experience unforeseen delays and lose profit because you underestimated the amount of time and materials it will take to finish the job. Add an allowance to your estimate in case the project takes longer. 

To calculate the square footage you should cover, you can measure each wall in every room and multiply the wall width by the wall height. Then, add up all measurements to identify the total square footage. Knowing this will help you get a better idea of how much paint and materials to use for the project. 

RoomTotal LengthHeightTotal Sqft
Living Room7210720
Bedroom #1649576
Bedroom #2489432
Family Room6410640

Step 2: Determine the Cost of Materials 

The next step in creating an estimate for bidding a paint job is calculating the total cost of materials. 

Find out how much paint you’ll need to get the job done, and consider all the factors you’ve taken into account in the previous step. 

Here are the standard materials typically required in a paint job: 

  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Caulks
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sanding paper or sanding blocks
  • Masking paper
  • Floor protection such as dropcloths, plastic, or paper.
  • Coveralls and masks for spraying
  • Paint brushes, rollers, and paint trays
  • Ladders

Step 3: Include Labor Costs  

Another critical factor that will affect your overall bid are the labor cosst. 

Are you bidding on a small residential job or a bigger commercial contract

When creating the perfect bid, consider these labor costs: 

  • Time spent on travel and setup.
  • Time spent on prep-work such as cleaning, scraping, wood replacement, sanding, etc.
  • Time spent on painting.
  • Time spent on quality control, project management, walkthroughs, and touch-ups.
  • Time spent on final cleanup.

Pro Tip: It’s best to account for more costs – but not an unreasonable amount! – when estimating labor costs. This way, you don’t lose profit if you need more hours prepping, painting, and cleaning up.  

Step 4: Consider Your Marketing Costs 

Besides materials and labor costs, marketing costs should be factored in as you learn how to bid a paint job. 

Did you spend on advertising expenses like printing postcards, branded T-shirts, and business cards? Do you also pay for digital marketing, like maintaining your painting company’s website

Marketing is part of running your painting business, so it’s important to include it in your final estimate. 

Step 5: Calculate Your Profit 

Now that you’ve identified all critical components of a paint job, it’s time to determine your markup amount. 

Bidding a paint job involves determining your overall costs and your profits as well. A 30% markup can be a reasonable amount for new painting companies. For longer-running painting businesses, a 50% markup makes more sense. 

It’s up to you to determine how much profit you should generate from the paint job

Step 6: Sum It All Up 

Taking into account all the information above on how to bid a paint job, you can finally add up everything and come up with an accurate, well-thought-out estimate.

As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to create room for excess costs by increasing the total price. You can add around 10% to account for unforeseen expenses.

Here’s the formula for bidding a paint job: 

Material Costs + Labor Costs + Marketing Costs + Markup = Total Estimate 

5 Do’s When Creating an Accurate Paint Job Bid 

Measure Only the Required Areas On-Site  

Make sure to bring all necessary tools for measuring the property and create a specific list of measurements to avoid confusion. 

You don’t have to measure the entire site; just take measurements of the required areas, whether bidding on an interior, exterior, or full property paint job. 

Create a Standard Checklist for Future Paint Jobs

Starting with your first paint job, try to develop a general checklist that can help you generate faster estimates for future projects. You can improve this checklist as you accomplish more paint jobs and discover the best estimating methods that work for your painting business. 

Here are several items you can add to your estimate checklist: 

  • Type of paint to use
  • Number of doors, windows, walls, and ceilings that need painting
  • Number of hours for prepping and cleaning up
  • Types of necessary prep work, like repairing damaged areas
  • Estimated markup to obtain your desired profit 

Boost Confidence In Your Painting Company With a Warranty Offer

Providing a warranty gives your client peace of mind, knowing that you will go above and beyond to accomplish the job. 

We have a free downloadable painting warranty template you can use to skip the hassle of crafting a warranty every time you have a painting project. 

Use a Comprehensive Painting Estimate Template to Streamline Your Bidding Process 

Knowing that coming up with an accurate paint job estimate can be a challenging task, we’ve come up with a detailed painting estimate template to help you bid faster. 

Our free painting estimate template is simple to understand and easy to customize to fit your different painting projects. 

For example, we have a template that helps you determine how to bid an interior paint job. 

Our free template also helps you determine how to bid an exterior paint job. 

Our free, customizable painting estimate template includes a project overview, company overview, and a table where you list all components of the paint job along with measurements, quantities, rates, and total costs. Plus, you can include important notes, especially if there’s some peeling and other noticeable issues. 

Add Clear Terms and Conditions to Your Bid Proposal

Discuss your terms and conditions regarding the payments, quality of the painting work, change orders, and liability. This will help keep you and your client on the same page and prevent misunderstandings when the job is done. 

3 Don’ts When Creating a Painting Estimate

Don’t Leave Calculations to Guesswork 

It’s important to accurately assess how much paint and materials you’ll need and the number of hours it will take to complete the painting project. Running out of paint means wasting time on extra trips to the paint store and losing money. 

Also, keep in mind that newer contractors may take longer to accomplish paint jobs and use more paint than seasoned veterans. 

Don’t Ignore Your Client’s Special Preferences

Does your client want you to use a particular type of paint or a custom color? It’s best to discuss a selection of choices with them and explain how different materials vary in cost. 

Don’t Underprice Your Painting Services 

Every painting contractor wants to win more paint jobs and keep new business coming. However, that doesn’t mean undervaluing your services and reducing your profits to be ahead of the competition. 

Be sure to represent your company’s outstanding services in your painting estimate. 

Final Thoughts: Creating the Right Estimate to Submit a Winning Bid

While bidding a paint job can be complicated, applying the key steps above can help speed up the process and allow you to create an accurate bid. Check out our free downloadable painting estimate template so you can save time and calculate all costs without missing any crucial factor.

Knowing how to bid a paint job helps you win clients, keep them happy, and achieve your target profits so you can grow your business one paint job at a time. 

Written by

George Leon is a Managing Partner at Scalebloom. George loves to help business owners scale their business with modern marketing strategies and branding.