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How to Quickly Estimate Painting Jobs

by Chris Lee | September 28th, 2017
When painting is your passion, it's easy to get frustrated when clients don't always see the value of your work. For that reason, it's important to be able to reduce your overhead as much as possible to ensure a better profit on every job. Part of your overhead is time spent in the office that isn't billed to a specific project, including the time you spend estimating your painting jobs. To help reduce that expense, it's vital to your bottom line that you come up with a way to estimate your painting jobs as quickly, accurately and efficiently as possible. Here are some tips to help you gain speed in estimating your painting projects.

How to Quickly Estimate Painting Jobs

Don't be afraid to generalize, at least a little. Take the measurements of the overall area in terms of wall height and length, then count the number of windows and doors to remove that square footage from your total. Though it can be very tempting to spend time measuring each opening in the wall, that level of detail won't really save you much in terms of time and materials but will cost you more time during the estimation process. If the client has a large number of openings that will need to be taped off or removed such as vents, outlets and similar small openings, include them in your estimate to ensure you're aware of the extra labor involved. Specialty application? Don't forget to add time and the extra materials you'll need. If your client is looking for a two-tone wall, glazing or technique that will require more work to lay out, you'll need to add more man hours to get the project done. Whether it's taping, spending more time in application, multiple trips to allow for drying time between colors or similar time-consuming task that impacts your bottom line, make sure you add in the extra time and materials those aspects of the project will take. What does the prep look like? We've all seen those projects where the client wants you to, “just scrape off the popcorn ceiling and paint it,” or “pull down the wallpaper and paint the wall behind it”. If you know that a particular project will require additional prep work, such as adding a skim coat to even out the surface, make sure you include the additional time and materials, such as drywall compound, primer and masking tape, in the project's estimate. You'll probably also need to explain to the client why it's a necessary step for a quality paint job. What color is currently on the wall? If it's a dark or bright color that contrasts strongly with what the customer wants laid down for this project, you'll need to consider that you'll probably need at least a couple layers of primer to lighten and color correct the surface before the new paint is applied. If the client is insisting that you simply paint over the existing color with no primer, suggest laying down a sample coat in one area so that they can see the difference between the actual application on the existing wall and the paint chip from the store. Consider the type of paint requested. If you're spraying on a simple interior latex, it's going to go down and dry much faster than a brushed on oil-based enamel. The paint type will also make a strong impact on the overall price of materials, as a high-quality paint may cost significantly more than a cheap paint intended for short-term use. If you're pushing clients towards a different type of paint than they're interested in, plan on spending some time explaining why the option you're pushing is the better one. Use quality painting estimating software. Though many shops are still using Excel or paper takeoff options, this can cost you a lot of extra time and some level of accuracy. Why? When you use modern estimating software, you don't have to flip between screens to do your takeoff, because it's all on one screen and can be automatically imported to your estimate using nationally recognized cost databases. Instead of working up and marking each aspect of the job, then transferring it to Excel, then checking whether the price is still accurate, then moving it into your estimating form, and finally printing out or exporting your estimate to deliver to the customer. Good estimating software automates most of this process, saving you significant time and effort on each project and reducing your overhead. Though this last tip is often overlooked, the amount of time you can eliminate in the process by using painting takeoff and estimating software can make a huge difference to your bottom line. When the estimating software you use also provides you with other tools to improve office efficiency, you'll be able to reduce overhead in other areas of your business as well. But what type of tools and features are we talking about? Among the options that Esticom provides is the option to export your project figures into your QuickBooks, preventing you from having to manually enter the pricing for each project. With cloud functionality, you can then quickly access your accounting system on the go, accept payment and send an invoice to a customer on the job site. Our program also features a wide range of analytics options, allowing you to quickly determine which type of job tends to be your most profitable and focus your marketing and sales efforts on that demographic. It's also able to send out automated follow-up messages for prospects and clients, reducing the amount of time you spend on the phone or computer. Overall, Esticom can help drastically improve the amount of time you spend in the field while minimizing the time spent unpaid in the office. Ready to get started? Our no-credit-card-required free trial gives you a solid view of the many features, easy-to-use interface and overall functionality of this software.
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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