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How to Estimate Painting Jobs?

by Chris Lee | October 18th, 2017
When estimating a project, do you know how much to charge painting per square foot? What other considerations do you need to take into account? What should you charge for materials? What issues will impact your profitability on the project? These are common questions that have plagued the painting industry for centuries. Fortunately, we've provided you with the information and insights you need to accurately estimate your painting projects in a way that will ensure you're not finishing up in the red.

How Should You Estimate Painting Jobs?

Basic Information to Take Into Account

One of the first things most painters take into consideration on bidding a job is how much to charge painting per square foot. This figure can be calculated based on the coverage of the paint you're planning to use, the time it will take to paint and the time and labor involved in preparation and cleanup on the job site. Masking, draping furniture, laying rosin paper, removing drips and removing all the materials will all impact your final bid and overall profitability. But beyond these simple factors, there are many other situations to take into account that can have a strong effect on your final bid and profit made on that particular project.

Indoor or Outdoor?

Indoor painting is often very straightforward. You don't need to worry about what the weather is doing. However,  you may need to do a lot of work to mask off parts of the interior finish and protect the flooring and furnishings in the home if they can't be otherwise removed during the painting time. If the owner has tough time constraints and needs an oil-based enamel, for example, scheduling will need to be very carefully considered. Ventilation also needs to be taken into account when working indoors. Though outdoor painting projects can involve less work in terms of drop cloths and careful masking of other surfaces, weather is a much bigger consideration. If the owner needs the project completed within a specific period of time and there are few dry or temperate spells, you may need to use a different paint to meet those needs, which will almost certainly impact your profitability if it isn't included in the initial bid.

Other Potential Issues to Consider

Pre-painting finishing work: Does the homeowner want you to just scrape off the popcorn ceiling and paint? Some education may be required to make them understand that a skim coat may be required to get a smooth finish, along with a layer or two of primer to seal the work. Lead paint: Working with lead paint can be a pain, especially if remediation is required as part of the project. Be sure to include the cost of respirators, testing, sealing and disposal in your initial bid or get an add order for the project if lead paint is discovered once you've started work. Victorian and Fine Detail Work: Victorians are beautiful homes, but the high level of detail painting on the exterior takes a lot of time. If you're not comfortable bidding detail work on a Victorian, find out if you can handle the bulk of the painting and subcontract to someone with experience on that type of detail. Extra masking for busy surfaces: When you're looking at an 8x8 wall that has two vents, half a dozen outlets, two electrical panels and a ton of trim, it's going to be a pain to mask. Make sure you include that extra time and materials in your bid. Specialty finishes: Sponging, rag rolling, faux finishes, glazes: though these finishes can look beautiful, they take extra time, labor and materials to pull off well. If the owner wants a finish like this, make sure they understand why your bid is higher for the additional work in the process. Time constraints: So the homeowner is going to be on vacation for a week and wants the entire home painted by the time they return so they don't have to deal with the inconvenience. That's going to take more people working on the house, faster drying paint and similar issues that need to be taken into consideration when bidding. Sky-high application: When you're bidding a two-story with high ceilings or a three-story home, you may need to take ladder time, rental platforms and similar issues into consideration. Don't forget that your crew will spend more time going up and down than in a typical job as well.< Aspects of the paint: Are you using a paint that allows you to use one coat, making up labor costs? Do you need paint that requires multiple coats, specific timing, a particular curing environment or other factors? Look at the paint you're going to use and make sure any specific issues are addressed. By knowing and considering all the details of your next painting project, you can provide the owner with an estimate that accounts for all your costs without risking taking a loss on the project. But with all this to take into consideration, you could end up spending a lot of time in the office working on bids. When you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, you raise your overhead and cut your profits.  How do you keep your estimates accurate without spending a lot of extra time in the office? When you use a good painting estimating software package, it provides you with the tools you need from takeoff and estimate to final billing and follow up with customers. Estimating software like Esticom provides you with on-screen takeoffs on a single screen and window using an extensive products and materials database that is regularly updated to national averages. You can simply export your estimate as a PDF or into Excel for further work. Compatibility with QuickBooks automates your backoffice process while automated follow-up emails keep you in touch with clients. Try our free trial to see how smoothly your operation can run.
Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

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