How To Estimate A Interior Paint Job

I get a lot of questions via our Youtube Channel about how to estimate a paint job. The majority of those questions come from new painting contractors or from painters that are trying to go out on their own. Every company has its own methods and there is not a “one size fits all” answer. Your pricing can be dependent on several factors. Location, target audience, and how much you value yourself.

Starting a painting business can be scary. Just like starting any other business. 

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The fear of change and the uncertainty of a secure income is what makes 8 out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months of startup.

When I first started my painting business in Albany NY I had no clue what I was doing. I remember landing a job with which is a pay-per-lead type of app. Sort of like home advisor where you bid on jobs but just on a smaller scale as far as the cost of bidding on a project.

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My First Painting Job Estimate

I remember going to this Lady’s house in a nice neighborhood and pulling up to her driveway. Right around that time is when my stomach started turning. 

I was so nervous because I had never bid on a painting job prior to that and nobody ever taught me how to. At that time I was still working at Walmart full-time and had a part-time job with a painting franchise in Albany NY. I really hated working in retail. I would break my back for little pay.

In addition, working for a franchise painting company made me realize that it was time for a change and that I could do this on my own.

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It’s Time To Bid

Sitting in that lady’s driveway I kept telling myself that if I ever want to become independent and work for myself then I need to step out of my comfort zone and do this.
The job was small. It was a 10’x20′ foyer I believe. She wanted her walls and ceilings painted. The only things I brought with me were a pencil and a tape measure. By the time I realized that I didn’t bring paper it was too late. I had already entered the building.
The Lady was very friendly. I listened to her go on about how many colors she had picked out but couldn’t decide on, all while pretending to take measurements. Eventually, she told me she decided on an orange color. That’s when I stopped fake-measuring and I told her I would call her with an estimate.

The Commitment

I remember sitting at home with a blank stare and thinking I should just forget about this. I clearly was in over my head and I didn’t know what I was doing.

Looking at my pregnant wife made me realize that I had to figure this out on my own.

I had too many people depending on me.

That is when I simplified everything and came up with a method for estimating painting jobs that would give me the opportunity to learn as I grew my new painting business.

This method is very basic but enough to get you started.

You’ll have to include more costs in the future such as Insurance costs for your company and vehicles, advertising and more.

There are a few things you need to figure out first when using this method.

How to Price Painting Jobs

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  1. To price a painting job you need to figure out what it will cost you in gas to get back and forth from work. Let’s say $50 for the week.

2. Figure out how many hours the job will take you and what you want to make per hour. This is up to you to figure this number out.
You should always know your value when you price painting jobs! If you don’t set your value, someone will set it for you and you don’t want that. So let’s say you start off charging $25/hour until you figure things out. Keep 2 things in mind.

A) You will have to put 30% aside for each job to pay taxes
B) You will eventually have to make at least $400 a day to sustain your painting business.

So now you know that if the job takes 8 hours you need to do the following math.

8 x $25 + tax (for painting contractors in Albany NY it’s 8%)
= $216
+ $50 for gas
total = $266

I would take %30 from that $266 and put it in separate business savings account for taxes.
Disclaimer: I am not an accountant and I am not giving tax advice, I’m sharing with you what worked for my painting company when I first started.

If you price a painting job your job for 8 hours but finish it in 6 your profit margin is already more.

Bid a paint job and material

Painting Materials

Your material costs should be covered by the customer when you bid for a paint job. 

There is an ethical way of doing this.

Tell the customer you will present them with a receipt after or close to completion in your bid.

And tell them they will only be charged for what was used.

Give them an estimated material cost.

You can have your paint rep print out a list of prices for each paint product. That will help you figure out your material costs when you bid on a paint job.

If you know the ceiling needs 1 gallon of paint and it costs you $15.

And the walls need 2 gallons at $20 a gallon.

Your paint costs will be $55.

You can add tape, caulk, roller frames, etc. That is up to you.

Even if you underbid your paint job in the beginning, as long as you charge for gas and material, you can’t lose money.

But you will learn to bid accordingly as you grow your painting business.

A lot of painting contractors in Albany NY will bid a paint job by the square foot.

Personally, I believe that there are differences in sq. ft., and estimating your time based on sq. ft. can backfire easily. Especially when bidding on residential interior jobs. It is different for commercial paint jobs.

But for those who are interested in this method, I will break it down for you.

If you look at this example chart you can get an idea of how to bid a painting job by sq. ft.

Here is a little painting estimate cheat sheet:

Interior Paint Jobs:
1500 sq ft – $1,800-$3,000
3000 sq ft – $3,500-$4,500
5000 sq ft – $5,000-$8,000

For interior work, it is very common to charge between $1,20 – $2

If you are bidding on just trim work then it usually ranges between $1.25 – $1.75 per linear foot.
Doors between $25 – $40

A similar calculation goes for exterior paint jobs:

Exterior Paint Jobs:
1500 sq ft – $1,500-$2,500
3000 sq ft – $3,000-$5,000
5000 sq ft – $6,000-$10,000

In addition to paint, you will have to estimate other materials such as masking tape, caulk, spackle, primer, etc.

These estimating prices can differ depending on your location. I use to call up painting contractors in Albany NY or send them an email with pictures. It would be trim in our home. Then I would ask what they would charge, just to get an idea of pricing.

Landing The Painting Job

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A few things that I learned over the years is that presentation is another factor you need to be aware of when bidding for a paint job.

I could be the best professional painter in Albany NY. But if my “look” doesn’t match my work then I would be fighting an uphill battle.

When you go to estimate a painting job be sure to dress accordingly. 

Although people know that you are a painter, showing up at someone’s home in dirty work clothes smelling like oil-based primer can have a negative effect. 

I use to do that in the beginning. Then I went and bought some slacks with a belt, a blue button-up shirt, and some black shoes to go with it. 

I might have spent $50 on the entire outfit but my company looks like a million dollars painting business.

Immediately I saw an increase in landed jobs

Sometimes time didn’t allow for me to run home and change before an estimate. 

Therefore, I would wear latex gloves those days while painting to keep my hands clean. 

The new clothes I would keep in my vehicle. 

You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to change in a McDonald’s bathroom.

It’s OK to have some paint on you but try to look as presentable as possible. 

It makes a difference! 

You might not even be the lowest bid for that customer but the most professional looking.

It’s All About The Details


Whenever we go to do a paint job estimate we use a simple spreadsheet to collect info. 

Remember to always ask for the customer’s email address and how they found you. 

Include this in your spreadsheet. 

It’s important information you will want to keep for the future You can create one in Google Sheets. It’s a free Google Chrome extension. 

It is very simple to use and there are many YouTube tutorials.

You can print out our template here for free.

Once you figured out all of your pricing you can use a free app called Joist to write your estimate. 

It is very simple to use and looks professional. 

You can even add a logo and you can see if a customer opened your email. 

After you set up your free account you can send out estimates, invoices and even get paid electronically if you choose.

Even the paid version is only $10 a month and definitely worth it! 

 Watch this video and see how simple it is.

Joist bidding app tips

I suggest you use your desktop or laptop.

It is easier to navigate and print with.

You will get better at estimating painting jobs as you grow your business.

Just keep track of everything you do.

Time, costs, mistakes you made, compliments you receive, and so on.

All of this data will help you take your painting company to the next level.

This article is just some helpful advice to get you started.

When I first started 518 Painters I wish someone had given me these tips and tricks.

There is much more to running a successful painting business.

As you grow you will have to get an accountant for your taxes and learn about things like overhead expenses, gross income, and net income.

I hope this will help you step out of your comfort zone and take that step towards building your own painting business.

This EBook is a complete cheat sheet !

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Save yourself the headache of researching and find it all here!

  • How to start your business
  • get insurance
  • incorporate your business
  • how to find new customers
  • getting paid
  • how to hire employees
  • and more!

Everything you need to know is in this book and it’s only $5. Well worth it!

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5 thoughts on “How To Estimate A Interior Paint Job”

    • Thanks, I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels like that.

  1. The most important information for estimating painint jobs is by the job labor instead of by the hour plus materials.

    A few bosses of mine just give a flat somewhat adjustable rate (in case there is heavy unacountable damage i.e. remudding a wall leads to a large rotted section needing replacing).

    We obviously had most of the tools but leaving materials out, we would always say we needed to go to the store on their dime. Easier to seperate it.

    People just need the basic interor, exterior labor calculations per job. Then branch off.


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