What to Expect When Getting a Painting Estimate

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated November 10, 2021
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It may be tempting to book the first available professional painter to refresh the interior or exterior of your home, but good fortune rewards the patient homeowner. Get at least three painting estimates before committing to one person for the job. Experienced painters will save you time and energy, but they’ll also have the know-how to make the space look perfect—you won’t have to worry about visible brush strokes or missed spots when they’re finished.

You: Book a Painting Estimate

A painter painting a house external wall
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There are several ways to find a qualified contractor or painting company. Recommendations from friends and family members, or searching the internet for reputable painters near you is a great place to start. Many contractors will have a contact form on their website or detailed instructions on how to contact them via phone or email.

Make sure the company has experience, proper qualifications, and good reviews before asking them for an estimate and scheduling a visit.

Before the pro arrives, brainstorm a few of your favorite interior or exterior paint types and finishes. The painters are the experts, but they’ll want to hear your general ideas before providing more detailed recommendations.

You: Explain Your Paint Project

When the painters come over for a walk through of your project, explain the project in detail. The more specifics you can provide, the more accurate their estimate will be, which will help you determine if their work is in your budget.

Walk the painters through your home or other project site and make sure they are aware of any complex or hard-to-reach areas. This could raise the price of your painting project. The painter will assess the site to determine how much prep work is needed and how long a project like yours would take.

The Painter: Actively Listen and Educate You on the Process

While you’re explaining your project, painters should be actively listening to understand the project’s scope. They will also be able to answer any of your questions about their process and give you further information as needed.

Contractors should be able to discuss:

  • Their company’s history

  • Their experience

  • Customer referrals

  • How their process works

  • Estimated project timeline

  • Paint recommendations

They may even have an informational pamphlet or business card handy to give you more information. If not, ask them to send you a follow up email so you have something to refer back to if you have questions before you hire them.

You: Ask Questions

Getting an estimate for a job is not a commitment—you don’t have to hire this painter if they aren’t a good fit. Treat the estimate process similar to a job interview. Ask them plenty of questions to make sure they are the right painter for your project before you move forward such as:

  • Do you have experience with this type of job?

  • Do you have liability insurance?

  • Do you have the proper permits?

  • How long will this project take you?

  • Will you hire subcontractors to take over?

  • How long have you been in business?

Most professional painters can easily answer all of these questions. Bonus points if they can share a portfolio of past work.

If the person you’re dealing with cannot answer these questions, it could be a sign that they aren’t reputable. Trust your gut if you feel uneasy and only hire painters who make you feel comfortable and confident. Hiring the wrong painter could cost you in the end.

The Painter: Deliver the Estimate

Painters will usually take a few days to give you a complete cost estimate for the project. Once they send it to you, typically by email, review it carefully. Details are important.

There are multiple factors that influence the total cost of a painting project. Expect the contractor’s estimate to include:

  • Travel costs

  • Prep work

  • Materials (paint, tools)

  • Labor

  • Scope of work

A gallon of paint costs between $15 and $40 per gallon, while labor generally costs $20 to $50 per hour. The other factors vary from project to project.

You: Review the Estimate

The average home painting project costs $2 to $6 per square foot, although prices may vary depending on the complexity of the project and the quality of the materials being used. Estimates way outside of this range should be a red flag.

A good painting estimate should include a detailed explanation and breakdown of project costs, including labor and material costs. Read every word and watch out for any unexpected fees they may sneak into the bid.

You: Ask for a Contract

If the estimate looks good, ask the painter to provide a contract. Contracts are crucial in any home improvement project—they make communication a breeze and protect you in case an accident happens during the project.

A good contractor or painting company should have a standard contract they issue to all clients. Not only does the contract protect you if the unexpected happens, but it also protects the painter. If your estimator is not willing to provide one, move on to someone who is.

The Painter: Schedule a Start Date

Once you’ve gotten multiple estimates and found your painter, it’s time to move forward. Both you and your contractor should sign a contract and schedule a date to start the project. The contract should state when the painters will begin work and an estimate for how long it will take. Most professional painters can get a job done in less than a week, depending on how much they need to paint.

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