Painting Estimators: How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Painter?

Painting your home, both inside and out, improves its curb appeal, character and resale value. Painting is one of the quickest and easiest ways to give your home a face-lift -- and it yields some of the most dramatic results as well. If you have ever visited the painting section of your local hardware store, you know how overwhelming the multitude of paint choices can be. In addition to colors, there are finishes, stains, maintenance and other options to consider. And, if you're interested in adding a mural or trompe l'oeil, you're looking at a whole different set of choices and associated costs.
  • Paint a Home Interior or Room Costs
    Most homeowners spent between:
    $900 - $2,500
    Average cost:
    $1,498
    Low cost:
    $700
     
    High cost:
    $4,000
  • Paint a Home Exterior Costs
    Most homeowners spent between:
    $1,500 - $3,620
    Average cost:
    $2,500
    Low cost:
    $1,000
     
    High cost:
    $5,042
  • Power or Pressure Wash Exterior Surfaces Costs
    Most homeowners spent between:
    $200 - $400
    Average cost:
    $300
    Low cost:
    $145
     
    High cost:
    $600

Pricing Paint: How Much Does Paint Cost?

When you choose to invest in a painting project, you must first decide on the kind of project you want to complete:
  • Painting a home interior: Interior walls and ceilings will top the list of projects; primer will need to be factored into the total costs. See the current average cost to paint a home interior.
  • Painting a home exterior: Siding, decks and garages may be included in projects, all of which will vary in cost. Learn more about the current average cost to paint a home exterior.
  • Painting a small home project: Small projects might include one accent wall, a door or trim project, cabinets, paneling or fence gates. Find more on the current average cost to paint a small project.
  • Painting a mural or trompe l’oeil: Factors to consider when painting a mural or trompe l'oeil include the artist's cost and fee structure, as well as the size of the space to be painted. See the current average cost to paint a mural or trompe ll'oeil.
When calculating total cost of your project, one of the most important factors to consider is the paint itself. Paint costs will be determined by the quantity of paint and primer required to complete your project, as well as the quality of the paint you choose. You can use this paint calculator to estimate how much paint you will need.. Once you have an idea what you're working with, go to your local home improvement store and compare the costs of a gallon in person. Painting professionals can also quote average prices from their years of experience working with different paint qualities.
Remember: You want to get the highest quality paint your budget will allow to ensure its lasting beauty. You'll also need painting supplies like primer, brushes, rollers and painter's tape. A professional will have these items on-hand. According to statistics, paint and other supplies account for about 15 percent of a professional painter's total cost; labor will factor into 85 percent of their charges.
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How Much Will Painters Charge for Labor?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 45 percent of all painters are self-employed, though that number may be slightly higher if companies hire freelancers or self-employed painters as part of their team. The price that painters charge for their services is largely dependent on their association and whether the job is completed in the warmer or colder months (painters often charge more in the summer and less in the winter, given demand and other factors). More information regarding painter rates and associated factors is included below.

Home Exterior and Interior Cost Considerations

Painters might charge a flat project fee for exterior areas like siding, garages, decks or sheds. Otherwise, they typically charge by the hour. A painter's total estimate is based on how many hours they believe it will take to complete the project, plus a few varying factors, which include:
  • Location
  • Type of job (interior versus exterior)
  • Painter's experience
  • Season
You'll typically pay less to have an interior painted than an exterior because there's more square footage to cover; however the reverse might be true if you were to have a simple deck painted versus multiple interior rooms. You also have to account for staining and protective sealants required outdoors, which can add to the total cost.

Painting an Apartment or Home as a Renter

It is often necessary to have a rental property painted -- whether it's to make it your own before you move in or to clean it up for someone new when you move out. Some buildings and landlords have pre-selected painters, while others will contract companies to paint on an as-needed basis. If your landlord or building doesn't have a pre-selected painter, see if you may be allowed to paint the walls yourself. If you're moving in and selecting a non-neutral color, understand that your landlord may require you to repaint the walls the original color when you move out -- and ensure that you're ready to make that investment down the road.
There are cases where apartment complexes allow you to choose from a color wheel of neutral hues before you move in. Some charge a fee for calling in a painter to do the walls, while others offer new paint as a benefit of moving in. If you're not a fan of neutral colors, consider looking for an apartment that allows you to paint the walls a more expressive tone. Otherwise you can invest in boldly colored furniture and posters.

Additional Supply Considerations

Consider purchasing supplies personally to save money. Ask the painter for a bid that separates labor and materials. Then explain that you'll purchase the materials and ask for a list of exactly what will be needed to complete the job. Caulking, for example, is an extra supply commonly used to fill any cracks or damaged areas in your walls -- and one that might be overlooked in an incomplete list.
You'll also need a ladder to paint the top of any walls, ceiling or siding. Here are some tips about handling a ladder:
  • Check your ladder's rungs to ensure that it doesn't get stuck.
  • Hold the rope of the ladder firmly so it doesn't hit your hands or feet.
  • Use the “four contact” rule: top two points should lay against the wall and bottom two points should firmly touch the floor.
  • Never stand higher than the third to top step on the ladder.
  • With an A-frame stepladder, make sure the bar is locked in place.
  • Keep your hips firmly between the rails for good balance.
  • Always wear rubber-soled shoes on a ladder for safety.
Supplies like rubber gloves and face masks allow professional painters to handle solvent-based products like paint thinner without ingesting harmful chemicals that cause respiratory damage. Most painters will bring these supplies themselves, but it doesn't hurt to buy them just in case -- or to get a few extra for yourself for safety.
In some cases, professional painters may include additional charges for specialized equipment that homeowners can't purchase on their own. Because professionals have licenses and access to such equipment, it's simpler to let them get those themselves. But providing some of the smaller equipment and extras directly really can help to cut down on the total cost of your project.

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Surface Preparation

If you're going to do any part of the painting or prep work on your own, you must know that the first step in preparing a surface is washing it. Since dirt can affect the smoothness of a surface area -- and therefore paint's adhesion to it -- use soap to remove any dirt or stains. Make sure there's no soap left on the walls when you're finished; also make sure to remove any gloss with sandpaper and vacuum up the leftover dust.
Inspect the surface area for holes, cracks or other problems and apply acrylic caulk to fill them in. Use a putty knife to smooth out the caulk and remove any excess to prevent bumps. For particularly thin or narrow crevices, you may have to use your finger to smooth out the caulk. Caulk contracts and shrinks, so apply a second layer once it's dried.
Here are some recommendations for surface preparation by wall type:
  • Aluminum: Remove any dirt, stains and other grime with solvent cleaner.
  • Cinder or concrete block: Remove loose mortar and clean off dust, dirt and loose cement.
  • Brick: Clean off dirt, excess mortar and any foreign grime.
  • Concrete: Remove grease, loose cement and oil; then, either power wash or clean by hand.
  • Copper: Clean off grease, dirt and other grime with a hand cloth and solvent cleaner.
  • Drywall: Spackle nail heads, sand joints and remove any dust.
  • Hardie board: Use a solvent cleaner and remove any waxy material.
  • Plaster: Patch any damaged areas; clean with vinegar and water.
  • Steel: Remove rust, oil, grease and salt with solvent cleaner.
  • Stucco: Clean off any loose stucco and allow to dry for 30 days.
  • Wood: Make sure it's dry, check for any rotted areas, patch any holes and caulk as needed.
    • Specifically for interior: Sand with the grain, correct any issues and dust.
  • Vinyl: Scrub with soap water solution and rinse.
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Mural and Trompe L'oeil Costs

Trompe l'oeil creates a realistic image or optical illusion in three dimensions; a mural is a painting composed on a wall of any size -- and of any paint medium. These two projects vary in price, with a trompe l'oeil typically costing more because of its complexity. Both are considered specialty painting projects.
Specialty painting by the hour costs between $40 to $50 on average. Paint might range between $75 to $90, costing an additional $40 to $50 per hour. The painter's skill and experience are also determining factors in the cost of specialty painting. While a freelance artist might charge $25 to $30 an hour, a very skilled professional might charge $80 or more. Some painters might also charge $60 or more for a consultation. Trompe l'oeils, in particular, will run on the expensive end of the price spectrum. Return to Top

Tips for Hiring a Painter

When you decide to hire a painter, know that their rates go down in the winter as business slows down. Ask about discounts, in case they can fit you in as an in-between project. Also consider whether you have other painting projects to be completed, as you may get them done in bulk for less than you would piece meal.
Keep these things in mind to be sure that you're getting the best painter for the job:
  1. Ask for recommendations: Consult with friends, family and neighbors to see if they've hired a good painter for a similar project. Also consult websites like HomeAdvisor to find quality painters who have good ratings and reviews.
  2. Get multiple estimates: Narrow your list of potential contractors down to four and then get four bids to make sure they're within the same price range. If one seems too high or too low, ask additional questions to understand why.
  3. Interview: Ask questions like:
    • How long have you been a painting contractor?
    • Are you licensed and insured?
    • Do you perform the paint job yourself or hire out freelancers?
    • Can you provide contact information for previous clients as references?
    • Do you have guarantees of your work?
  4. Review credentials: Make sure potential painters are actually licensed and insured so you aren't left with repairs or financial hassles after they complete the job.
  5. Figure out a payment plan: Never pay more than one-third of the total cost upfront.
  6. Get the contract and review it thoroughly before signing.
  7. Pick the paint and finish: The painter should work with you to find the right color, but the decision is ultimately yours. Make sure it's a color you'll enjoy for years to come.
  8. Check for lead: If your home was constructed pre-1978, the older layers of paint might contain lead. If this is the case, you'll need to have a lead testing and removal contractor come out to handle the problem before repainting your walls.
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