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Painting and Finishing Pricing, What to Expect

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Protective coatings are the first line of defense our homes have against the elements. If we wish to minimize maintenance in the future it is a good idea to keep up with failing paint. For instance, failed caulked joints will allow moisture to penetrate the interior of the walls creating mold.

We all wish to know roughly how much it costs to paint our homes a chair or even a corner office. I myself find that I do not like to get estimates for fear I may be taken advantage of or not able to afford them. I can relate. I am a homeowner myself.

I will attempt to provide some clarity to help you make informed decisions in the future.

Everyone hears horror stories of contractors or has had their own personal negative experiences. Many people will let projects go due to this fear. Either the bid will cost way too much and I feel I have wasted the contractor's time or I hire the wrong person. I still have a shower I need to tile. I have no clue what to do about it out of these same fears. I even tried to do it myself and messed it up more. It now will cost me even more to pay someone else because I tried to do it myself from YouTube. YouTube is great, don't get me wrong I use it daily to expand my knowledge, but I need to know my limitations.

It is tough to hand over a deposit check to someone you just met. This can lead to a few things. If the check is made out to their personal name they could just cash it and never come back. Or, even if they have a business name they could not retain the skills necessary to complete the project in a fashionable and efficient manner. Then the unimaginable happens. You and the Contractor have set a timeline for the scope of work to be performed and weeks later you still have a mess in our house and the contractor is either incommunicado or has a gagillion excuses that all seem legit. Or everything works out fine.

I have seen this go on for months and months. The homeowner will be praying every day for some resolution all the while wishing they could just fire the substandard contractor, but have financial interests already invested.

Things you may consider when deciding on a price. The old saying still stands. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

We all want stuff for free of course. That rarely works out. Free furniture comes with a price. Cleaning, Transporting, and minor repair. New furniture usually has fewer of those features.

If Person A Charges $100 and takes 2 days and left a mess, and Person B Charges $125 and takes one day and no mess, which is better? Or, what if you hire a Company and then to perform the scope of work they send the drunk?

When I design a bid to paint anything I have many questions outside of if it is a bedroom or an exterior. Many people ask me to bid over the phone or with a couple of pictures. Well, smaller projects a lot of times can be. If I can get detailed descriptions I might be able to bid without looking at them. But, in my experience, it is better if I show up and put my hands and eyes directly on the proposed work. I can usually answer my own questions best with my own eyes. Even if I ask a potential client to describe things to me I may miss something. Here are some things I look at:

•Can I bring my dog, Hammond;

•How far do I have to drive and how many times;

•Access: from getting to the project to ladder movements;

•Cleanliness of the surfaces to be painted. Do I need to pressure wash or lightly clean;

•Do furnishings need to be moved;

•Cleanliness of surrounding areas such as floors and carpet;

•Protection level of all surrounding surfaces and furnishings;

•Any damaged areas;

•Caulking failure, just from over time it shrinks;

•Tools, equipment, and sundries;

•How much I have to prep and how easily I can clean up after myself;

•The weather;

•Access to cleaning arrangements. Do I clean tools at my shop?;

•Then the actual painting;

•Can I give value-added extras;

•Am I going to clean the glass or not;

•And, Finally the exit plan. Clean up and waste removal.

Personally, I take chicken scratch notes as I walk around taking all of this info into my brain. Larger jobs take a few days to compile a bid and most of the time I need to return at least once to refresh my memory. Notes and Pictures work sometimes. Walking the project is always the best. (Secret: Most real experienced painters can look at a house and a price instantly pops into our heads. But, we still go through the motions to back up our gut instinct. Be wary of people that give "Johnny on the spot" pricing. I would want someone to think it over thoroughly).

Each contractor has their own way of devising their own pricing techniques. In my personal experience, with mostly residential painting under my belt, I have seen painters use an hourly plus method meaning they imagine how many hours it takes to perform each task and then add them all up then adding the cost of materials and a percentage on top for business costs like drive time, insurance, accounting, and advertising to name a few. I like this method because I am able to give a more detailed description in the proposal. It forces me to detail all of the tasks individually for each job I approach.

Some contractors use a square foot method. This is a blanket style of bidding. One bid fits all jobs. Companies will tell you over the phone numbers like $2.00 a square foot to paint the inside of your house. One of two things happens here. There is a contract, and there are "Extras" charged for any repairs such as drywall patches and caulking. Or, worse yet, they show up not knowing what the details are and rush through the repairs leaving them substandard or ignored altogether.

Painters and Wood Finishers are not the same things. Be very cautious about hiring a painter to finish your woodwork. Staining and finishing doors, trim, and cabinets all take additional special care that oftentimes is not associated with painting. This is next-level stuff.

Many Companies are both, but always ask questions.

Wood finishing is a task I would not leave to anyone with a business card. Wall painting on the other hand can be completed by an apprentice or a handyman.

I could go on for days but I hope this provides some insight into what to expect when requesting a proposal from a painting company or even an individual painter.

I would like to close with this. It is a good idea to get multiple proposals unless you already trust the painter. Try not to rush into decision-making. It can wait one more day. Trust your own instincts that is what they were given to us for.

If you are spring cleaning and have some questions I would be happy to answer them for you. You may contact me at


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