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Question DetailsAsked on 2/28/2017

When people say per sq ft, for painting, is this per sq ft of floor space? Or the actual sq ft of all the walls?

If a contactor says its $1 per sq ft to paint. The room is 10x10 with 8' walls. So would it be $100 (10x10 = 100sqft) or $320 (10x8=80x4=320 sqft)

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In your calculation - don't forget the ceiling - and special treatment of doors, trims, etc.

In the responses to Questions in the Home > Painting link under Browse Projects (at lowerleft), almost all refer to actual surface to be painted.

However, some painting contractors, especially if giving an "estimate" rather than a firm bid, will base it on square footage of the room or house - obviously at a higher price than if it were for actual painting surface area, because in a normal house the painting surface runs roughly a multiple of 1 to 2 times the "real estate" square footage for exterior (commonly around 1.5x), and usually in the 2 to 5 times footprint square footage for interior walls (commonly around a multiple of 3-4 (3.5 is a common off-the-cuff number used, 3 for very large rooms and garages) for houses with a single central hall, more like 2-3 for very open floorplans with few interior walls. Plus another multiple of one for ceilings if they are being painted too. Plus additional for any flooring being painted (playroom, garage, etc maybe).

And of course, with non-standard wall heights the multiples change too - I remember one painter scratching his head about why he came up almost 50% short on wall paint and 25% short on ceiling paint (rare paint brand, with a fancy custom mix that was very hard to replicate) for a high-end ski lodge job - not realizing until then that the average wall height was 12' (up to 25' in the main entry and common room) and that the ceilings were all cathedral ceilings with steep roof. He ended up having to drive over 300 miles round trip and lose a day's work (this was up in the mountains) to buy more paint from the original place he got it.

Probably what you are thinking of - if one painter says $1/SF and another says $3/SF - is the first one thinking actual surface and the other floor area ? Obviously - the bid should state exactly HOW square footage is to be determined - particularly since many painters include ALL wall area without excluding windows, figuring that square footage makes up for the greater amount of time doing the trim around the window. So - contract should spell out exactly what is being painted (and number of coats, type of paint, prep to be done, etc) as well as the exact brand and type of paint and colors.

Better yet, rather than paying on a per-square-foot basis however figured (which also means YOU have to measure it to besure he is not cheating on the numbers), it is MUCH safer to stipulate the above requirements, and list the rooms to be done, and whether trim (of the several possible types) is included or not and in what colors or stains and number of coats (or specify complete coverage with no showthrough after minimum 3 days drying time), as well as spelling out ceiling info too. Then ask for a firm lump sum bid for the actual paint job complete - let THEM figure the square footage needing coverage and amount of materials needed - after all, they are in the business and any good contractor will take the hour or so to figure the actual coverage area. Course, going with a lump sum bid means you have to be exact on the scope of work listing so all areas and variations in finish types are included.

Also - be sure to list what if anything is NOT to be painted - like escutcheons or base covers for lights, light switch and outlet cover plates, maybe specific trims, HVAC appliances or vent covers or radiators, any special decorative plaster medallions or such, window frames, doors and door frames, etc as may be applicable - so they don't just hit the entire room with a spray gun covering all trim and doors and such in the same paint. Saw that done once on a flat per-SF bid - they even oversprayed the doors and windows, and painted the valences and curtain cords for good measure - not to mention the electric wall heaters.

Also - on the floor square footage area - remember in many areas the MLS or "real estate" square footage does not include garages and commonly does not include unfinished basements or finished crawlspaces - so that needs to be factored in whichever way is proper to come up with the correct areas.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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