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Question DetailsAsked on 11/5/2016

How much is per square foot of painting a wall

If I'm painting a wall 10 by 10 how do I know how much to charge somebody

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2 Answers


To be blunt, if you can't figure out how much to charge, you should not be bidding on the job.

Bidding should consider market rates of course - no use being way under the market rate, and of course if way over you won't get any jobs, but your bid should first be based on your actual / anticipated costs, THEN you can see how those stack up against average rates - which can also help tell you if maybe you forgot something, dropped a decimal or did some other math error, left off or doubled materials or profit or overhead or such, etc.

For instance - consider how long it will take you to go buy the materials, how much preparation the wall will need, will it need priming or not and how many final coats and what type (hence cost) of paint, what the coverage rate will be (can be anywhere from about 100SF/gallon on unpainted cinder block or staining of some highly absorbent woods to around 400SF/gallon on smooth/glossy pre-painted surfaces you are just overcoating or finish coating - plus of course spraying goes further than brushing or rolling as a rule), how much those paints will cost (and bear in mind the container size you need to buy - for instance, if you figure you need 6 qts will you buy a gallon + 2 quarts or 2 gallons to be sure you have enough to finish the job without running out at the end), what miscellaneous materials you need (cleaning supplies, protective plastic, brushes or rollers, masking tape, any specialty items like tarping for vegetation protection and whether you need to buy it or already have it, etc. Also transportation costs if significant distance from your base or operations, and sometimes (not necessarily for your case) things like fuel for generators or compressors or pressure washers or such.

Then what your labor time estimate is (including travel time and how many times you will have to go to the job to prep, prime, finish coat - can be as many as 3-4 trips at times, with a day to several days in between each coat for a small job where it is not dry by the time you get to the end of the areas being painted and are ready to come back for another coat), and much you figure your labor is worth per hour. Can be anywhere from about $10/hour for a high school kid or illegal immigrant worker to $50/hour for a highly professional painter - without overheads.

Then costs of any permits, and all your overheads that need to be applied to the labor cost (direct overhead) or distributed between your jobs over the year (indirect overhead) - state/local taxes and employment costs, federal/state/local income taxes, business and real estate property taxes, bonding and liability and (as applicable) worker's comp and unemployment and disability and such types of insurance, any retirement or health benefit costs, accounting and tax prep costs, any business loan costs, licensing fees, loan/lease and insurance and maintenance costs on base of operations and vehicle(s), office supplies and communications costs, office and mainteance workers (anyone not direct-billed to jobs), provision for "idle" labor costs because no employee is working 100% of the time, utilities and gas/oil cost, general business equipment and supplies costs (loans, purchase/amortization, maintenance, etc), your time doing overhead items like bid prep and customer satisfaction, provisions for unexplained loosses/uninsured thefts and uncollectable debt writeoffs, etc. And lots more if you go into full detail - all the general costs of running a business which are not directly bought and consumed on a specific job but are spread out over many jobs.

Then, depending partly on what labor rate you "pay" yourself, a fair profit on the gross and on your capital investment - and for your investor's capital investment if you have any.

Then, once you have figured what direct (materials and labor and any vendors or subcontractors) costs you expect on the job and apply the proportionate direct and indirect overheads and profit margin to come up with a reasonable bid amount. THEN you can look at what typical costs are for your work and take into consideration whether "typical" rates apply to your job. If you find your estimate is under you may decide to bring it up closer to what your competitors are expected to bid, though the more you do that the greater the risk of losing the job. If you are above the expected competing bid range you can choose not to bid, give a "courtesy bid" based on your calculated numbers without expectation of actually being competitive, or if you have a reason to really want the job (say a potential new large client) even though it may fail to generate the expected overhead and profit coverage on this particular job which you expect then you can drop your bid some to try to "buy into" the job - though do much of that and you start losing money or at least not make any.

You said a 10x10 wall - a really small job which at standard pre-square-foot painting rates might only charge out at about $70-300 at the extremes depending on prep and priming needs and number of coats, so you also have to figure what your minimum charge will be regardless of calculated cost - just for the trouble of having done a bid, figuring the time involved in just getting there and back - most contractors figure 1-2 hours worth of labor minimum charge, plus any materials and applicable materials overheads.

Then after you bid, if you are lucky or sweet-talk the customer, you might find out at least generically where you fell in the bidding range - if not the actual high and low bid $, perhaps whether you were highest or lowest or where in the range of bids they received. That can give you an idea of where your estimate fell relative to competitors. You certainly, unless your work quality is such that you get all the work you can handle without having to worry about being high bidder, do not want to consistently be near the top of the bids. However, you also don't want to chase the low bids either - because commonly those are from people who misbid the job from ignorance or misunderstanding the scope or because they do minimal quality work, or trying to "buy-in" just to have work, so chasing the low bids can be a long-term losing proposition.

BTW - you can find lots of ballpark painting costs in previous questions on the subject in the Home > Painting link in Browse Projects, at lower left - though of course those are for normal sized jobs, not a tiny one like this.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



This is Erick in Member Care. Thanks for your interest in Angie's List!

As LCD mentioned, we would not be able to give a definite amount of how much it would cost per square foot, but our Silver and Gold Plan members do have access to our Project Pricing Guide which can give you a price range for different projects. We'll be happy to help find top rated Painters, but it doesn't look like you have a subscription to the List yet. You can join by visiting or by giving us a call. Our call center is available 8:00 am-9:00 pm weekdays and 8:00-5:00 pm ET on Saturdays.

Thanks for your question and we look forward to assisting you!

Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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