Cost of Painting a House

We have all seen it on the home improvement reality shows that a fresh coat of paint is the least expensive of all of the remodeling activities. House painting cost is much more affordable and definitely something you can do yourself if you have the knowledge, time and a good understanding of what those costs are.

Many many years ago we were told that you could determine the cost of painting a house by its living square footage. I was told that I would be charged something close to one dollar a square foot for exteriors and two dollars a square foot for interiors. With all of the new techniques, paints, products and business overhead over the years those old school ball-park estimates are no where near close to the actual costs of the project.

Typical cost calculations:

Interior paint has a wide range of costs from $20-$50 or more a gallon, depending on the quality, sheen and other The cost of painting a house can be calculated if you know what you are calculatingbenefits like low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and low odor. Most paint will cover 350sq.ft. per gallon. Painting a typical 12×12-foot room with eight foot walls, both walls and ceiling, can require three gallons of paint. To get the best possible coverage you will want to apply two coats. Just for the paint, your costs will be between $36-$150 worth of paint, plus $50-$150 for primer, tape, brushes, rollers, drop clothes, plastic and other supplies. The greatest costs are in the labor to complete the task.

A professional painter can paint a 12×12 room in half a day or less depending on the number of colors used. For someone who is lacking in experience might take a full weekend or more to paint this room. The cost here is what your time is worth to you. The other consideration is quality of craftsmanship. An inexperienced painter will not produce the clean lines between colors and the proper coverage of paint. Not to mention avoiding drips, sags, smudges and those annoying areas of texture that the paint does not get into.

The costs for exterior painting per gallon are essentially the same as interior paint. There is a myth out there that you can estimate the cost of painting your exterior by knowing what your living square footage is. That would be true if we lived in a square box. Typically your home has several angles, corners and architectural details that increase the surface area to be painted.

Calculating surface area on the outside of your home is not as hard as you might think. Most home’s can be divided up into rectangles and triangles so that makes the calculations easier. You will just need to know your base and height distances. Calculating square footage for the areas to be painted is multiplying base by height for the rectangular areas. Calculating square footage for the gable areas (Triangle at the end of your roof), you will want to multiply ½ the base by the height to get the square footage (sqft).

Practical Example

If you know that one wall is 32 feet long on a single story (typically nine to ten feet per story). 10 feet x 32 feet = 320 square feet. If it is two stories, you are safe with using 20 feet as the height.

Calculating the gable areas is a little more complicated (but not much more). If you know the base measurement and you do not want to climb to the roof top to get the height, you can calculate the height based off common roof pitch. Roof pitches can be between 15 and 45 degrees. On average most roofs will pitch at 30 degrees.

We can use the 30, 60, 90 formula (also called the 1:2:?3 rule because the length of the base the square root of 3 times the height and the top angle of the triangle is 2 times the height ). Divide the full base length in half to get the base length for our right triangle (Diagram 1). Then divide that number again by two to get the height because the side opposite the 30 degree angle (height) is always half the distance of the base.

Diagram 1

30-60-90 triangle definition is useful when determining the cost of painting a house exterior30-60-90 triangle definition is useful when determining the cost of painting a house exterior

32 feet /2=16 feet (1/2 the length of the side). 16 feet /2=8 feet high, 8 feet (height) x 16 feet (1/2 of the base) = 128 feet. 128 feet /2 = 64 sqft (one half of the roof line). 64×2=128 and 32 x9=270 sqft from the lower section of the wall and you have 398 total square feet for that section of the house.

We will need over two gallons of paint to effectively cover the area with the equivalent of two coats. One gallon equals 350sgft of coverage. Two coats times 398sqft = 796. 796/350=2.27 gallons of paint.

Let’s say the house is square (32 feet by 32 feet) with two gable ends. the two gable ends will have an equal square footage of 398 and the non-gabled ends of the house will have 270 square feet each.  So… (398×2)+(270×2)=1336 square feet is your total surface area.  If you were using living square feet alone you would have calculated 32×32=1024 square feet.  A 312 foot difference smaller.

Because you want to apply an equivalent of two coats of paint, multiply the square footage by two (1336×2=2672). A gallon of paint will cover 350 square feet, divide by 350 (2672/350=7.63) You will need almost eight gallons to paint the exterior of your home.

With all of that said, the materials cost of painting a 1,024 square foot home will run between $50-$150 for supplies and average about $160-$400 for eight gallons of paint and potentially more for higher quality paint with more corners and surface area.

Cost of a Professional Painting Contractor

Interior house painting costs are roughly around $200-$400 to have a 12×12 foot room painted by a professional painting contractor with brand-name paint. A 15×20 foot room will usually cost between $300-$700 and up. A 1,200-1,600 square foot home will cost between $1,100-$2,000 or more to have the interior painted. Having the ceiling painted increases the cost to the high end of the scale. These cost ranges are quite large because every home is different so getting an estimate first is always a good idea.

What a professional painter should include in the cost estimate:
Whether doing it yourself or hiring a painter, buy the best quality paint you can afford because it will last longer. A painting contractor’s estimate should include all surface preparation including removing switch plate covers, outlet cover, light fixtures and moving items away from walls to increase access. Make sure you find out how many coats of paint and/or primer is included in the estimate.

Potential additional costs

Cheap Tools:
Inexpensive paint roller covers will leave a fuzz and can pill on the walls while inexpensive brushes streak and can fall apart and loose bristles when working the paint.

Poor Calculation of Materials Needed:
It takes more coats of paint and costs more to cover a dark color with a light color. Make sure the painter is prepared to either prime the darker color first or add more coats to get to the color you want. I recommend a gray tented primer to cover extreme color differences.

Moving Furniture:
Removing heavy furniture is often not included in painting contractor’s estimates; if you can’t do it yourself or hire someone, ask the professional if there will be an extra charge.

Molding and Trim:
Crown molding, baseboards, doors, door jambs, wainscoting or other details can add to the cost, as can walls taller than the standard 8 feet.  The exact additional expense will vary depending on the amount of labor required.

Look for Discounts

Additional rooms may cost less because of economies of scale. Meaning the painter will not need as much time to paint additional rooms once they have started the first one.  It is possible to see a significant savings overall by painting all of your rooms at once.

House painting cost can be lower in winter, early spring and late fall. These times are the painters slow seasons. While peak summer months when there is a lot of work available can be more expensive.  Ask if there is a discount if the project is done around other larger projects.  If you are flexible with the timing of the project the painter should reward you with a discounted cost.

Now that you have a better understanding of what it costs to paint your home, you can start your painting project as soon as you can to get the best pricing.  Do your math to make the most accurate paint purchase.  Be aware of what to look for in a professional paint contractor.

Please give us a call at 720-231-2344 or email us to help you with your next painting project.

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