How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Room?

How much does it cost to paint a room? This is a broad question so let's try to narrow the focus and have an upfront discussion.

First, let's settle on the size and type of a room. For simplicity we should stick to a 12' x 14' bedroom that has 2 standard doors, 2 standard windows, and 8' ceilings. With this being stated we know that we have 416 sq/ft of wall space MINUS 42 sq/ft(3'x7' door allowance x2) and 24 sq/ft(3'x4' window allowance x2) which would lead to 350 sq/ft of actual wall space to be painted. 

Secondly, we need to decide on whether we are painting ceiling, trim, doors, and/or the inside of the closet. These additional  items add time and material which translates into increased cost. A ceiling would add 168 sq/ft of surface to be painted, trim(baseboard only - NO crown molding or chair rail) would add approximately 108 sq/ft of surface to be painted, the interior of a basic(4'x8') closet would add approximately 100 sq/ft to be painted, and 2 slab doors would add 42 sq/ft of surface to be painted.

Thirdly, we need to determine the amount of surface preparation that is needed for the walls, trim, and doors. Are we just patching minor small nail holes, caulking minor cracks, and painting already painted trim? Is there staining on the ceiling, contaminants on the walls, major patching, dark colors to be covered/applied, or natural trim to be painted? Are we moving furniture and wall hangings? Extensive surface preparation adds labor and materials.

Fourthly, we need to determine how many coats of paint are we applying to each specified surface and area that is to be painted? Typically, we subscribe to a singular coat on the ceiling, a single coat in the closet, a minimum of 2 coats on the walls, and 2 coats of paint on the trim. *This is breaking it down to its simplest form and any additional items refers back to the third point of surface preparation. Additional coats of paint add labor and materials.

Fifthly, we need to settle on the areas to be painted, preparation, and product requirements. For this example we will say that we are painting the ceiling, walls, inside of the closet, and NO TRIM. We are just patching minimal nail holes, lightly sanding the walls, and no dramatic color changes. Our square footage for the walls is 700 sq/ft(2 coats of paint - 350x2=700), 168 sq/ft for the ceiling(1 coat of paint), and 100 sq/ft for the inside of the closet(1 coat of paint). We would need AT LEAST 2 gallons of wall paint and AT LEAST 1 gallon of paint to be shared amongst the ceiling and closet.

Next, we get to the product associated with the job. Typically you will spend $35-$50 a gallon for a quality satin/eg-shel wall paint, $25-$35 a gallon for a flat ceiling paint, and need to add 15% for additional products needed for the job. So you have the following in material cost - $90($45x2)+$30($30x1)+$18(.15x$120)=$138 .

Finally, we would get to the labor cost. We are basing this number on our labor costs, overhead, business costs, and profit needed to grow our business. We roughly estimate 2.5 hours of labor for ceiling/closet and 7.5 hours of labor for the walls(this includes moving furniture, wallhangings, and putting back wall plates). So you would have $138 in material cost and $525 in labor cost for a grand total of around $688 in this project example. Again, this is an estimate based on the numbers, not speaking with a client, not seeing a job in person, and for educational purposes.

* It is important to set the parameters and clarify the scope of the job up front in order minimize confusion, allow for proper job estimation, and set expectations. The labor cost is dependent the individual businesses operational costs, acceptable profit margin, and hidden costs(such as insurance, payroll costs, benefits, and more).

Tips, Tricks, & Product Information - Primers

Why prime? Let's be honest, priming a substrate/surface(before you paint) is a waste of time and money.  

But that may depend on your mindset, expectations, the value placed on quality, and the value placed on your efforts. Do you need to prime every time you paint? Probably not. Do you need to prime bare substrates/surfaces, stains, or slick surfaces before painting? I would recommend it. 

Because we tend to want home projects to get done quickly, there is a temptation to take short cuts....especially in painting. It would be hard to name each scenario in which to prime or not to prime but we can examine general practices. If in doubt, consult your local Sherwin-Williams,  Benjamin Moore , or XIM dealer. There are as many primers as a prism has colors.  Each primer is specifically designed for a particular purpose, substrate, and environment. 

If you are strictly repainting walls in a room that are not a vibrant or dark color and/or glossy, chances are you shouldn't need to prime but should be able to apply 2 coats of your finish paint after a light wall sanding. I would prime raw wood prior to painting to ensure proper adhesion and a uniform appearance of the finish coat. Fresh drywall or drywall patches should be primed or spot primed prior an application of a topcoat. There are many other examples in which it would be necessary to prime prior to the topcoat application but we can stop here. Primers have been formulated with extra binders and specialty formulated for sealing surfaces. 

It is also worth noting that if you are painting a latex over an oil/alkyd better sand and prime it before your latex topcoat is applied. If you are unsure if the painted surface is an oil product, test it. Put a little denatured alcohol on a rag and gently rub the surface. If the paint softens up, it's a latex product. If the denatured alcohol seems to do nothing to the surface, you have an oil topcoat.

I am generally not a fan(not one bit) of the 2-in-1 primer/paints. It's a clever marketing scheme but you will still probably need to apply 2 coats of paint for a uniform appearance and proper performance. 

Tips, Tricks, & Product Information - Shellac

If you have the privilege of owning a home that was built between the 1920's and 1960's, and your woodwork/cabinets have an yellow/orangish color color to them, then more than likely they have shellac on them.

Shellac, in its natural form, is a by-product/resin from a forest bug in India and Thailand. The flakes of the natural resin can be a number of colors - pale yellow, orange, dark orange, or almost burgundy. The flakes are harvested and sold as a dry good for numerous applications and uses. Typically the flakes are dissolved in an ethanol or denatured alcohol solution in order to give it a liquid consistency. The rate at which the solvent was added to the dried flakes was referred to as 'the cut rate'.

If you look at the time period in which this product was immensely popular, you will notice that it directly correlated with many men coming back from WWI & WWII. The housing boom, in some areas, that took place when men returned from the front was almost unquenchable. I remember hearing stories from 'old timers' that said rail cars couldn't deliver enough lumber for all the construction that was going on. It was time to build because families were being started.

How does this exactly relate to painting, you may ask? Well, shellac was used as an all-in-one stain and finish product on a lot of trim woodwork within the previously stated time frame. This product allowed painters & carpenters to save time because it was an all-in-one product, it would dry quickly for a re-coat, was durable, and was readily available. The product was used to save time which is vital when you are confronted with many houses that need finished in a short amount of time. 

Shellac has fallen a little out of style due to the advancement of other products such as lacquers, nitrocellulose lacquers, varnishes, polyurethanes, and others. But some of the qualities of shellacs are still applicable. Shellac based primers are an excellent choice for sealing in smoke damage, odors, and stains. Shellac products can also be used as a universal sanding sealer or finish on woodwork. 

I try to keep a quart of amber shellac, denatured alcohol, and shellac sanding sealer handy because of the universal application. Just know that you will have to clean up tools/brushes with denatured alcohol. If used in a large area make sure that there is adequate ventilation and proper respiratory gear is worn. You also may have to reduce the shellac with denatured alcohol in a separate container in order to make it easier to apply(so it doesn't dry too quickly for you) and more user friendly. Please refer to manufacturer's recommendations on the side of the can for the proper cut rate of solvent to the liquified shellac. If I see that some trim work, in an older house, needs a fresh look - shellac is the go-to product. 

For more information about shellac and it's history, check out Natural Handyman or Zinsser .

Getting back to basics....

I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with a Sales Representative from one of my suppliers, over coffee, yesterday afternoon. He made me stop, think, and evaluate(once again) the real core of why we do what we do. Is the main goal strictly sales, numbers, and profit? Of course we need to provide an income/provide for our families but does it go a little deeper than the 'almighty dollar'? In my opinion, it does. You should be able to give your clients value, quality, service, and trust - the income may follow one you have established the real core.

Give value. Give value. Give value. And then ask for business.
— Gary Vaynerchuk
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
— Luke 6:31 ESV

The following is the list of questions that he asked me about our business.

1) What are your core suppliers and the percentage of business from each?

2) What are the core products from each supplier?

3) What are your strengths in the market?

4) What are your opportunities for growth in the market?

5) What are your goals for 2016?

6) What are the biggest threats to your business in the future?

7) What is your most significant accomplishment in the past year?

8) What do you expect from a supplier and why do you buy from us?

9) What areas do we need to improve or maintain in order to help grow your business?


Of course the questions are meant to derive certain information in order to help corporations drive sales, meet the customer's needs, and give value to their customers. It is up to the salesperson which one comes first...the good salesmen already know the answer. Notice that questions 8 & 9 will have nearly the same answer.

Our question to our valued clients/customers is this,  'What can we do in order to provide you with more value in our service??'

Tips, Tricks & Product Information - The Proper Brush

The decision of which brush to buy for paint application could lend itself to be a bit of a challenge. The array of brush filaments and firmness should be paired up with the paint or product you are using(we can delve into brush construction at a later point). 

As an example, if you are laying down a coat of a waterborne polyurethane, you would probably want a very soft synthetic brush in order to minimize the appearance of brush strokes. For the higher solid wall paints you may want to use a stiffer filament brush for better control and application. 

Oil Based Products: For oil based products you can use synthetic or natural bristle brush. The order of natural bristle firmness goes from the stiffer Black China, to White China, and then to Ox Hair. Do not use a natural bristle brush with any waterborne product because the natural bristles will absorb moisture and you'll end up with a broom for a brush.

Latex/Waterborne Products: For latex products use brushes made of synthetic filaments which could be Nylon, Nylon/Polyester blends, Chinex, and more. Each blend or filament has its own firmness characteristics. These are designed for use in different environmental conditions, different products, and for different applications. The unspoken guide to picking the right brush is based on your comfort and feel during the application process. We tend to pick the stiffer filament brushes because they handle the heavier bodied paints better while offering a sharper cut line.

If you are planning on painting a great deal...don't skimp when buying a good brush! Even good brush companies make poorer/entry level quality brushes that won't last or will make your efforts look less than desirable. 

Check out what Purdy and Wooster have to say!

Tips, Tricks, & Product Information - Tape & Taping

Ah, tape and taping.  Sometimes the bane of all things painting or the necessary step.  I have to be honest and say that for me it can also be a mixed bag.  Let's walk through a few things to help us with choosing the proper tape and taping.  Otherwise, you may end up with an investment of time while receiving a dividend of anger and frustration.

The mantra for painting is this: clean, dry, and dull.  Using tape on a surface requires 2 of the 3 previous adjectives: clean & dry.  If you expect the tape to adhere to dusty baseboards or greasy cabinets, the tape and taping job will surely fail.  Take a damp cloth and wipe down those dusty areas that you intend to tape and thoroughly wash any area that has a residue of grease, dirt, soap, or scum.  You can wipe it, after washing, with a dry rag but still wait a few moments before applying the tape so that the remaining moisture has time to dissipate and not interfere with the tape's adhesive properties. 

Tape selection is also a big part.  Use masking tape for surfaces that can take the extra adhesive properties(like tile, formica, or wood) and knowing that the tape will be removed in rather short order and not be on the surface too long.  I prefer to use the green FrogTape or the Multi-surface 3M Scotchblue for taping on most surfaces like cured paint, woodwork, or other semi-sensitive surfaces.  I use the delicate surface tapes on freshly painted(at least 24-48 hours old) walls, on wallpaper, or very sensitive surfaces.  

After you have cleaned the surface and picked the proper tape it is time to apply.  Pay careful attention on how the tape's edge will be lined up with the edge/corner in which you want to protect.  Gently press the tape to the surface and smooth it out.  Be sure to apply some pressure to the tape when you are smoothing it out.  

Your tape handy work revealed.  Remove the tape soon after the job is done at a 45 degree angle against itself.  If the tape is on too long the paint will dry and form a 'film' over the tape and painted surface which can cause the tape to pull paint from where you don't want it to - your nice paint job.  

For reference see: FrogTape and 3M Scotchblue

Tips, Tricks, & Product Information - Paint Sprayers

Would you frame a house with a sledge hammer or tack hammer? Does a drywaller use the same taping/mudding knife on each coat of drywall mud? I would venture to say that the answers to the previous questions is a resounding 'no'. So, why would you use same tool to spray the outside of a house and to paint doors/trim work?  Paint sprayers are designed to meet specific roles and uses. Let us examine the two most common paint sprayers in the residential painting market - airless paint sprayers and HVLP paint sprayers.

The popular airless paint sprayer is a very versatile and useful tool but can have it's limitations.  These sprayers vary in size but most residential painters have one that can handle around .25 GPM(gallons per minute) and can generate up to 3000 PSI of pressure. These sprayers need this pressure to spray thicker materials like latex, elastomeric, and other modern day paints. The airless sprayers can lay down a lot of paint quickly in a production setting. The airless prayer can siphon from a 1 gallon or 5 gallon bucket with 50'-100' of hose that can get you where you need to be. The tips on the spray gun can be replaced to match the material and fan width desired for proper product application. The downside is that they generate a lot of material pressure(even with the PSI turned down) which means it isn't as suitable in the effort to reduce overspray and product usage.

The other paint sprayer is the HVLP(4, 5, & 6 stage turbine). This machine is designed for a finer finish in those delicate applications. Typically, the material will need to be thinned a small percentage in order for the HVLP to apply it properly. The HVLP is more than likely a cup gun or gravity fed system which would hold from 16-32 ounces of product to be applied. The transfer rate of material from the gun to the surface is around 85-90% which translates into less overspray and less product used. This machine can be cleaned out quicker than an airless paint sprayer.

So, in my humble opinion, it would be wise to have both tools in your war chest if you are a professional painter that likes to apply fine finishes to certain types of cabinets, trim, or detail work.

Manufacturers: Titan Tool or Graco

Tips, Tricks, & Product Information - Sheen and Gloss

Matte? Eg-shel? Flat? Pearl? When it comes to choosing a sheen for your walls it can feel a bit daunting or confusing. Each paint manufacturer seems to have an endless line of paint with an equal share of sheens. In choosing the right sheen of paint for your project, numerous aspects should be taken into account - the room/area, lighting, the wall imperfections, traffic, and personal preference.

Let's us first examine the room/area in which you are painting. If the room or area is highly used, chances are you may need to wash the walls more frequently and would probably need a higher sheen from the 'satin' or 'semi-gloss' category. If the room is more formal, then one may consider a 'matte' or 'flat' finish. Trim and doors typically have the same or a slightly higher sheen than the walls in order to accentuate those features or make them more washable.

The lighting of the area may also play a part. The higher the sheen the more it will help reflect light into an area. A lower sheen can be used if the room has an abundance of light. It is also worth noting that tall foyers with windows will throw lots of light but may also help to show imperfections in the wall.

The higher the sheen level on the walls the more likely all those imperfections will show up. Older homes with imperfect walls might be better served by using a lower sheen paint so as not to have your eyes drawn to those spots. 

The higher traffic areas often demand at least a mid-sheen level finish. These areas often may need to be cleaned or washed more often than others. The areas that I am specifically talking about are hallways, mudrooms, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. The more formal or less used rooms could have a lower sheen applied due to the lower traffic patterns.

The last and most important is personal preference. This reason alone can trump the previously listed aspects. Some people really like the look of 'matte' or 'flat' on all the walls and a 'semigloss' for the ceiling. It comes down to what you like and prefer.

See what paint manufacturers say: Benjamin-Moore, Sherwin-Williams