How to Estimate a Painting Job in 2022: 8 Step Checklist

Regardless of if you’re new to estimating painting jobs or have some experience under your belt, you could be leaving some money on the table with your current estimate writing strategies. Writing painting estimates is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to bid so high that you lose the customer…

George Leon | Updated March 27, 2023

Regardless of if you’re new to estimating painting jobs or have some experience under your belt, you could be leaving some money on the table with your current estimate writing strategies.

Writing painting estimates is a delicate balancing act.

On the one hand, you don’t want to bid so high that you lose the customer and miss out on an opportunity. At the same time, you may be worried about not bidding enough, and missing out on profit. 

Luckily, with the right steps, you can create the perfect estimate that caters to your client’s needs while representing your worth through profit.

Here are five easy-to-follow steps to get you to that perfect painting estimate!

1. Visit the Site

While it can be easy to simply look at a floor plan to get a basic idea of the expected dimensions, there will always be outside factors that you will have to take into account. 

Are the walls in poor shape? What about the windows that will need a little extra TLC before painting? 

Take these factors into account.

Pro Tip: Make sure the potential client knows how much time you’ll need to give a proper estimate. The last thing you want is to be rushed because they improperly scheduled your visit.

2. Estimate the Cost of Materials

After walking the site, you can start calculating the cost of materials. Besides labor, this is the most important aspect of your project and should be calculated first.

Start with the standard amount of paint you believe it will take to get things done, then add in all of the factors you noted in the first step.

Be sure to include all materials you need other than paint, such as tape, sanding paper, masking paper, gloves, and even coveralls for spraying. 

3. Determine Labor Costs

How much you will pay your crew in labor is a huge factor to include in your overall estimate. Along with the hourly rate, other factors such as experience and certain skills should also be considered when determining labor costs. 

Within the hourly rate, take into account the extra amount of time that will be needed for both prep and cleanup, and add it all up. 

4. Add Marketing Costs

Marketing your painting company is a hidden factor that is often overlooked when giving an estimate.

Are you paying for leads or creating and painting flyers yourself? Both take time and money, and should also be added to your estimate calculation. 

5. Mark up!

With all of the necessary factors added up, it’s now time to mark up to generate your profit! Normally, the percentage that you markup depends on the level of your painting business. 

With a new painting business, a 30% markup works well with your starting projects. As your business grows, so will your expenses. Painting company markups averaging 50% are typically applied to address this.

6. Include Overhead

To determine how much to include for overhead expenses, add up all of your administrative costs per month, and divide that by the number of jobs you complete each month.

Here are some examples of overhead costs:

  1. Office Rent
  2. Insurance
  3. Bookkeeping fees
  4. State registration renewals
  5. Office phones
  6. T-shirts or uniforms
  7. Website hosting & maintenance
  8. Software such as Google Workspace, estimating software, and payroll software.

If your total overhead comes out to $2000.00 per month and you complete 20 jobs per month, then you should be accounting for $100 in overhead costs per job.

7. Do The Final Math

Now the easy part – adding it all up! 

Cost of paint and materials + Labor Cost + Marketing Cost (optional) + Final Markup = Total Painting Estimate Price. 

Be sure to include cushion room for any unexpected costs by rounding up the total price or adding to it. 

a painting estimate

Pro-Tip: With handy tools like painting job management software, you can put together estimates in a few clicks. You just set up custom templates once and use them later for quick and easy estimating.

8. Provide Some Helpful Documents to Your Customer

Include some helpful documents along with your estimate to help increase your chances of winning the job.

Here are some examples:

  1. Any warranties or guarantees.
  2. References.
  3. A sheet that explains what the customer should do prior to starting the job.
  4. Insurance information.

3 Tips For Giving a Painting Estimate

1. Know How Much You Can Get Done in an Hour

Knowing how much you and your crew can get done in an hour on average can make calculating labor costs a lot easier. If you’re a new business with a new crew, it would be a good idea to keep track of the time with a stopwatch or time tracking device on your first projects to get a good idea of how long it takes.

2. Get A Second Opinion

When estimating your first paint job on your own, what may make sense to you may not translate perfectly to your customer’s wants and needs. 

If possible, try bringing a more experienced painting contractor to your first job site to better understand what goes into getting the perfect estimate for both you and your client. Or share your estimate with a painting group on Facebook (just make sure to hide your customer’s personal information).

3. Create an Estimate Checklist

Once you have gotten the hang of giving estimates for your painting jobs, creating a checklist will ensure that all of your future estimates take half the time to complete! Using all that you have learned through the trial and error process, come up with a few questions that will give you a solid foundation to calculate the total cost of a project. Your checklist could include questions such as:

  • What type of paint will be used?
  • How many doors and windows will need to be painted along with walls and ceilings?
  • How much preparation and cleanup time will be needed?
  • Will you need to wash or repair any surfaces before painting?
  • How much will you need to markup to achieve your desired profit?

With these tips in place, giving a painting estimate can be both quick and efficient.

4. Use a Painting Estimate Template

You can save a lot of time by creating a reusable painting estimate template. Having a template on hand will make your estimates look more professional and allow you to estimate jobs faster because you’ll be following a standard process and checklist each time.

5. Use a Painting Estimate App

A good painting estimate app will allow you to save line items that you can reuse on future jobs, add images to any line item, and automatically email your estimates to your customers.

6. Include a Warranty along with your estimate.

Including a warranty is a great way to make the customer feel safe with their purchase. It shows that your company takes pride in its projects and stands behind your work. Use a painting warranty template and attach it to each painting proposal you send.

3 Dont’s When Giving Painting Estimates 

1. Don’t Assume That All Projects Are the Same 

Every paint job is different. While there may be similarities in materials used or the size of the house, there will always be factors that can make a project take longer or require more paint and materials. 

2. Don’t Rely on Square Footage Alone

While the square footage of a site can give a good starting idea of the work that will be required, it does not include the many factors that play a role in making an accurate estimate, such as the condition of walls and whether extra trimming or materials will be needed. 

3. Don’t Underestimate Your Value 

When trying to appeal to your customer’s needs, it can be easy to forget about the needs of your business. 

You and your crew are putting lots of time and effort into turning your customer’s vision into a flawlessly executed reality. Know your worth and the value that your business brings, and do not be afraid to represent that in your painting estimate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do painting contractors calculate square footage?

Painting contractors calculate the square footage by multiplying the length and height of each wall to be painted.

What should I include in a painting estimate include?

A painting estimate should include prices, warranty information, references, insurance information, and instructions for the customer.

Written by George Leon

George Leon

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