$8K Paint Estimate?!

49 Replies

Hey everyone,

My wife and I are working out the budget on our first rehab and are taken aback by the paint quotes. Everywhere we read says we should be paying a max of $2 per square foot for interior and around $1.5 for exterior. The below quote from a painter came in at $8800. Painting kitchen cabinets is included, but for the exterior only the front needs to be painted as the rest is vinyl siding. 

A second painter estimated $8200. 

The house is a 3/2 split level that's approx. 1600 square feet. There aren't any unique characteristics about this house that I know of that would cause it to be more expensive to paint.

Am I missing something?


all walls throughout the home... including closets and garage walls.

Wall paper removal in bathroom, kitchen, master bathroom.- should come of walls ?

Prime over and prep wallpaper in dinning room.

Mud and sand all nail pops, holes...

2- coats of Sherwin Williams Satin Finish


Family room ceiling- prime water stains, paint.

Back bedroom ceiling- paint.

Basement ceiling- patch holes and paint.

Garage ceiling- paint


Kitchen Cabinets- Prime, sand, caulk all seams, paint.


- all trim throughout the house

Prime, sand, caulk all seams, paint.

All doors to be sprayed with paint. Approx. 12 doors

Paint interior of front door trim color

Exterior of Home

Power wash vinyl siding (sides and back)

Paint front body, trim , front door, wrought iron hand rails.

Power wash deck, stain with a clear coat stain/sealer

Those bids do sound very high. I have found contractors have huge ranges, with painting having some of the largest spreads I've seen. 

My advice is pretty basic, but get more bids!

@Mitch Rice

It doesn't sound too far out of line, especially if two people were in the same ballpark with their bids. 

Keep looking for referrals to find more painters. Also check these guy's references. 

For a flip, I would recommend using flat paint. Hides imperfections and looks cleaner on the wall. You're not worried about durability or cleaning the walls if it's being flipped.

Also, no mention of what type of paint. Low-end, high-end? I would recommend Painter's Edge Flat, there's a wide range of stock colors that are good for flips, and it's about $12/gallon. Those guys could be pricing off $30/gallon paint which is driving the cost up. Same thing goes for the exterior obviously. 

A former S-W employee myself.. I would go down to the local store, tell the manager what you're doing and ask him for the best painter for the job. 9 times out of 10, they'll be able to point you in the right direction.

Good luck. 

Yikes. At first I was going to go into some of the contractors. But you've really got the entire gamut of painting jobs here.

Its tough for me to gauge painting estimate because my wife does all the interior painting and I rarely paint ceilings. When I do, I typically do it myself.  

But I would say for a 1,600 sq ft house, a 2k painting bill for the walls is not crazy. Ceilings another 1k? Trim. Cabinets, Exterior front. Basement ceiling.

Its adding up here. I don't know if 8k is really that out of line. I will say that I recently hired a professional painter and he painted all the ceilings for $600. 

But here's what I would say. If you really think its overpriced, throw out your number (say 6,500) and whoever meets it, gets the job.  Then you'll know if its out of realm of possibilities.  If nobody touches it, then you're just not going to get it done.

But man, that is a monster paint job there when you start talking ceilings, walls, trim, cabinets, etc.  And if you're painting the garage, then you should count that square footage there. Same with the basement. Also, prime and paint in some places is going to be extra as well. 

I really went into this post assuming I was going to ding the painters. But man, its a lengthy list there.

I still go back to an easy negotiating tactic. Put your number out there and see what you get. The one thing about painting is that its almost all labor. A 5k pay day for a couple weeks worth of work seems like an awfully good deal. But you probably have 3 weeks worth of work there. I don't think its as easy as it sounds. :-)

@Mitch Rice

How many square feet of painting is the painter quoting? Only then can we help you get a feel if your quotes are out of line.

for new construction, we are paying $4.25 per ft. He does everything, labor and materials(Sherman Williams quality paint), the job his crew does is excellent. For rehab it could be considered more difficult and thus somewhat more expensive. If you are dealing with professionals, the quotes you have seem fair to me. 

It really depends on what you want:

Excellent and perfect for a new home or flip

Or just get it done so I can rent it. 

This quote is way high for painting. Norms are 1-2 per square feet. If the house is 1600 sqft, one could do the math.

What is really labor intensive is removing wall paper and redoing the cabinets. You might want to ask the contractor to break down the estimate for you.

Hope it helps.

@Arlan Potter

New construction here pays $1.50/sf (labor and material) if you're lucky. $4.25 is very, very high. Might want to check that number.. 

I don't think this quote is as high as you think...you are doing a lot more than just interior painting at $2 /sf

Walls, ceiling & interior trim paint - $3000

Exterior Painting (power washing vinyl, trim & door paint) - $1,000

Deck staining - $1,000

Kitchen Cabinets - $1,500

Skimcoating at Wallcovering/Drywall prep/patching - $500 to $1,000 or so...

So by my calculations, that's about $7,000 

Agreed with the above.  $2/sf is fine for just straight painting.  But, when you add in wallpaper removal, a bunch of priming, sanding, cabinets, garage spaces, water stains, etc., it's not surprising that the price is a good bit higher.

Now, that said, I still think $8K+ is too high...

@Mitch Rice LOL, with that scope, nobody will accept the price, $2/sf only covers repainting, no prep work, so removing, skimming, ceiling, cabinets are of different price. Remember it is $2/sf of painted surface, it is not based on floor space. You need to calculate all wall perimeters times height of the work that is just repainting you could not deduct doors and windows too, add prep work, probably just a % of all walls, add drywall texture also, another issue is your cabinets, they're not part of your $2/sf price but are priced based on complexity of what you want to do with it, I like it sanded and sprayed, so it costs more. Another factor is their discount scheme on paint might be different for sherman williams than other brands, I do have 55% discount on Glidden, but I only have 10% discount on dunn edwards and frazee. It is your expectation that's wrong, not their pricing, go too cheap and you might end up paying twice for the same job.

As the first responser said, painting contractors have a huge range. Monolo sounds like he wants to justify paying a premium which may be justified for high end house. for mud to low end you can find much, much cheaper for little difference in quality. sorry guys painting isn't that skilled like HVAC, plumbing, or electrical I'm not paying a premium for it

Thanks guys I really appreciate the feedback. One of the painters is a friend so I'm going to meet with him today and walk through the quote to see what work needs to be cut to get to around $5K.

The items that immediately come to mind when thinking about cutting are the garage walls, powerwashing the vinyl siding and deck. Worst case we could also consider doing some of the painting ourselves and leaving the skill work to the painters.

There are two things I'd love everyone's opinion on. This is a longterm hold in an A neighborhood ($1500 rent) w/ opportunity for appreciation and periodic rent increases.

  1. 1. What type of interior finish is best? flat is cheaper but satin will be able to be cleaned easier.
  2. 2. Trim and cabinets are a huge expense but are currently stained wood with scratches and wear. I think painting them white will have a significant visual impact on the house, allowing us to maximize rents. Am I off base?

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Your punch list is long and there is probably 2 full days worth of prep depending on the condition of the deck, wallpaper, trim, etc. This isn't a normal 2/3 day spray job. Trim, doors, cabinets and decks take a lot of time to prep, prime, paint, dry and paint again. Like Mike H, I was expecting to rip the painters until you posted the details. Those bids are probably fair. If someone bids much lower they are going to have to work very quickly and the final product may not be very good. There are good painters and there are fast painters.

Removing wallpaper can be very time consuming.  I had a house with four different papers in four different rooms, possibly put on at four different times but all being up for at least 20 years.  One room came off easy one full strip at a time.  One room the outer layer came off easy and I was able to access the adhesive and use chemicals to break it down and easily remove it in big swipes.  The other two rooms nothing was easy, I could not get any large pieces to come off, and ended up scraping just about every inch of it after scoring it and spraying it.  Good luck with your project.

Sounds like 2.5 weeks of work.

1 Foreman * ($35/hr) * (8 hours) * (13 days) = $3,640

2 Helpers * ($15/hr) * (8 hours) * (13 days) = $3,120

Material $1,000

Subtotal $7,760

OH&P 10% = $776

TOTAL = $8,536

Not sure what the labor rates are in Kansas....but this passes the giggle check with me here in Boston.  The numbers might be a little off, but its the rule of large numbers.  I don't see this quote being out of whack at all IMO.

Oh- it's a rental!  I'd go with a satin sheen or at least eggshell for easy cleaning. Just stain the scratches in the trim with the best match you can.  Don't remove the wallpaper. Rough it up, patch where necessary, prime and paint it.  Do absolute min in garage.   Post an ad on craigslist for the pressure washing and sub that entirely. Get a pro to do the cabinets if you don't have the time. Good luck @Mitch Rice !

@Mark Gallagher

No offense but $1.50 is nuts. For a 2200 ft house, quality materials and supplies run at least $1.00/ft if not $1.50. It takes a crew about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks to do the job. Professional. I have had a "Mexican crew" do it for $2.25 per ft but I have to supply all the paint and supplies. And their job was OK but I have not used them again, nor will I. I saved maybe $1,000 but not worth it trying to sell a new home and the paint not being perfect.

I said that you could get cheap jobs for rentals and for cheap flips, but if you want an excellent job, it is not cheap. And also if you hire professionals they have their own insurance and trucks and supplies, bookkeeping,

Like it or not "no-one" can or would paint and entire new house, 2000 ft, exterior, interior, ceilings, trim, cabinets, and supply the materials for $3,000. 

Do the tedious stuff and let them do the major walls.  They have the equipment to breeze through large areas without obstructions very quickly.  If you take care of bathrooms and small work etc it will save them a ton of time and you lots of money.

I agree with @Steve Vaughan - don't bother painting the trim.  You can get wood stain repair sticks that are like a pencil for small repairs. To me it sounds like you are putting a lot more into a rental rehab than you need to. I live in a pretty nice middle class house/neighborhood and my trim isn't caulked... I could easily rent it for $1500+

I would have your painter guy do the hard stuff - ceilings, cabinets if you really need to. If the color isn't offensive and there aren't stains, why paint the ceilings (eg the bedroom you referenced)? And why are you painting the garage ceiling???! I wouldn't even do that on a flip unless it was stained badly.

Paint the cabinets if you really think you need to, but be really careful with painting the trim. Sometimes it works great, sometimes not. I had a (skilled/experienced) painter friend do it in a place I'm just finishing up and wish I would have just replaced it. The stained wood just didn't take the paint well in some places even with good prep work and a quality primer. Sure we could have sanded it all down, but labor gets expensive fast and you probably have to take it off and reinstall it anyway to do that. I will probably be replacing it all over the next few years now anyway. So, if you just want white trim, it's probably a lot cheaper to replace it (and the doors) - buy the pre-primed stuff, paint it and install. Plus you have brand new trim.

Also, if you have a decent handyman, have him paint the walls - he probably won't do as good of a job as the great painters, but it will be 1/2 the cost, and should be plenty good for a rental. It shouldn't take him more than a couple hours to paint a room on average, $25/hr + paint should be just under $100/room. 

I bet you can get your painting bill down around $2-3k, maybe $4k if you do the cabinets. You might get $25-50/mo less, but it takes a long time to recover $4k+ in cashflow. Maybe consider doing this work in phases if you have a vacancy after a few years.

I think it's the wallpaper removal that's skewing the bid.  There's usually at least surface damage with wall paper removal, requiring a drywall or plaster subcontractor to repair/recoat.  Where I am paint crews only do the most minor of wall repairs.  So painting is cheap but the drywall and plaster crews are specialists and not so cheap.  They are fast though.  Given what you've described I'd try to get the job done for $4500 or less.  If it were me I'd GC it myself because I have access to separate crews for the wall paper removal, repairs/recoats, and painting.  You're going to pay more if your painter GCs the whole job.  

If it's your first house I highly recommend to paint yourself, you will learn so you'll be able to inspect a good quality job and negotiate better in the price.  Just get a handyman to help you with things that really don't wanna mess.   For bathroom and kitchen cabinets I use self made chalk paint.  Very easy to apply, fast and super cheap. Especially young people likes the cozy atmosphere that chalk paint creates.

Ask for pricing back up. I routinely work with commercial painters in the Washington D.C. metro area around $3.00 Sq Ft. on the high end, (high) labor and (high) materials . New construction base price for my market averages .47 - .50 Sq. Ft. including caulk, putty and base single coat paint and associated base labor. Again, that is commercial pricing. Add $1.00 square ft new residential. Add .60 to that for rehab cover up or "knock" down work. I would say your estimated KC market difference to be about 10% less

Ask all your contractors for pricing back up, especially change order (added scope) work. Should you have the time, you can cross compare retail (big box store) pricing and or the competitors. 

I find that some of my sub contractors will over bid a job because they don't want the work or the headache! If the inexperienced owner / investor obliges, he who has the gold makes the rules.

That brings up another question. Are you sure all the ceilings need to be painted? Also, is the flooring being replaced?

Knowing that its a rental, you can get away with a little more. As long as the ceiling doesn't have any marks or isn't something other than white, leave it. 

As for the trim, does all of it have to be repainted? Cut back on some of that if you can as well. There are certain types of trim that I have to replace (i.e. 70's dark brown). But if you have a stained trim and its just got some marks, leave it.  If it has some old paint on it, clean it. If its beyond cleaning, then paint the trim white in that one room only.

Having white trim definitely makes the house pop more. But not at the expense of an 8k painting tab.

And why are you painting the garage at all? Thats just wasteful. Its a garage. Leave it.
Same with the basement ceiling. Unless its an upscale neighborhood that you are trying to get big rents (2k/mo), the house doesn't need to be perfect in certain areas. Basements, utility rooms, garages, you don't need to be pretty there.

Cabinets. deck, some of the worst trim, some of the worst ceilings, and then the walls throughout the house.   And I might do the trim and ceiling in the master and living room/entry room just to make sure that pops.  But thats about it.  Its a rental. You don't have to do it all.

One last thing though. I have zero skills at all when it comes to doing any of the rehab work. But even I can paint the trim. That may be something you do yourself. But its not very fun, let me tell you. 

And thats why I asked whether the flooring is down. Spraying the trim and walls etc is much easier than having to cut everything in and do it by hand.  So quoting new construction rates doesn't really apply to most rehabs.  New construction is easy. They spray it and back roll without having to do as much prep as you would if you had flooring down.  And they can paint the walls without the trim already being there. 

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