How To Estimate Exterior Commercial Painting

Accurate cost estimates are necessary for the successful completion of any project. When it comes to exterior commercial painting, professional painters must be able to calculate the costs associated with labor, materials, equipment, and miscellaneous items. For the best results, estimates should be flexible and adaptable to project modifications.  

Estimating Exterior Commercial Painting Costs

To come up with an accurate cost estimate, you need to assess the scope of the project along with the technical implications. Below are a few things to consider when estimating the cost of a commercial painting job.

// The size of the area: To calculate the area you need to paint, you must multiply the height by the length of each wall. Then, add the figures obtained to get the total square footage. You must also calculate the areas you don’t need to paint, such as windows and doors, and subtract their total square footage from the total square footage of outside walls. To give you an example, for a building with 4 exterior walls, each wall being 30 feet wide and 20 feet high, the total square footage is 2,400 (4x30x20). If the building has 8 windows (each 5 feet wide and 6 feet high) and 1 exterior door (6.5 feet wide and 8 feet high), the total square footage you need to subtract from the wall footage is 292 (windows: 8x5x6=240 square feet; door: 6.5x8=52 square feet). Therefore, the total square footage to be painted is 2,108 (2,400-292).

// Determine the amount of paint needed: Usually, one gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet of smooth surface and 300 square feet of textured surface. If we consider the aforementioned example, you need about 5.5 gallons of paint to cover 2,108 square feet of smooth surface and 7.5 gallons of paint for textured surface.  If two coats are needed, you will double the amount of project listed above.

// Calculate the total cost for materials: Since good-quality exterior paint costs about $25 to $40 per gallon, you’ll have to pay between $140 (5.5x$25) and $300 (7.5x$40) only for the paint. You may also want to add brushes, rollers, paint trays, and drop cloths.

// Determine labor cost: To calculate labor costs, it's essential to establish how many hours a worker will need to complete the job. Make sure that you also include wall preparation tasks, such as washing, scraping, caulking, treating problem areas, and applying a primer. If a worker, for instance, can prepare 50 square feet and paint roughly 150 square feet per hour, the project will take about 57 hours (2,108÷50=42.16 hours to prepare the area; 2,108÷150=14.05 hours to paint the area). Then, you need to multiply the number of hours by what you pay your workers. If you pay $15 an hour, for example, the total labor cost is $855 (57x15).

To get a rough estimate for a commercial painting project, you need to add the costs for materials and labor. In our case, the project will cost between $995 ($140+$855) and $1,155 ($300+$855). For a more accurate estimate, you should also include overhead costs (power-washer rental, fuel, insurance, etc.) and additional costs (rollers, brushes, paint trays, drop cloths, etc.).

One important thing to keep in mind is that cost estimates increase with the size of the area to be painted. For this reason, painters price their work according to the square footage. Since certain things, such as the intricacy of trim details, difficulty of prep tasks, safety tasks and outdoor obstructions can complicate a painting job considerably, most painters also factor in these details. 


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Hanhan Commercial Group is a team of commercial real estate professionals affiliated with Compass. Compass is a licensed real estate broker, operating in the state of California under the following license numbers: 01991628, 1527235, 1527365, 1356742, 1443761, 1997075, 1935359, 1961027, 1842987, 1869607, 1866771, 1527205, 1079009, 01272467. No guarantee, warranty, or representation of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of descriptions or measurements (including square footage measurements and property condition), such should be independently verified, and Hanhan Commercial Group expressly disclaims any liability in connection therewith. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, building permitting & zoning, or other professional advice outside of real estate brokerage. 

Jonathan Hanhan DRE Lic. No. 01800203.

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