How to Estimate Your Commercial Painting Cost

Whether you’re a facilities manager or a small business owner, when it comes to getting a new paint job for your building, its cost can affect your year’s bottom line. A new interior or exterior commercial paint job is a great investment, but you should have an idea of how much your commercial painting job should cost per square foot before accepting any estimates from painting contractors. 

No matter what kind of commercial building you want painted, there are five major aspects to consider in order to estimate your painting cost: how much the paint itself will cost, the cost of the other painting materials, labor costs, the painting business’s overhead costs, and their markup to make a profit on the job.

How do commercial painters estimate a paint job?

In the painting industry, there doesn’t seem to be a standard pricing for a paint job. It can vary widely business-to-business, since every one can employ people of different experiences and backgrounds, and they’ll have different business costs and goals. Generally speaking though, if several businesses get an estimate for the same paint job, they’ll vary by about 20% between each other–and the pricier estimate will not be reflective of a higher quality paint job.

When considering a new project, a painting contractor will often visit the site, maybe with his painters, to get a sense of the area. This will help them in their estimate and let them know about any complexities that should be considered. This site visit will give the contractor and his employees a lot of information, including:

  • If any repairs need to be done
  • How easy the area is to be accessed
  • Any vegetation that needs to be removed
  • How different the new paint will be from the old–this will determine how many coats a wall would need
  • If the job comes with stylistic choices, like if there will be an accent wall of a separate color
  • How many door frames, windows, and edges of trim a room has


A painting contractor will also consider other things for the basic functionality of their job that won’t be reflected in the final price, like if there are any security considerations for the building, if there’s furniture that needs to be moved, where they can park, etc. 

Guesstimating vs. Measuring

After a painting contractor’s site visit, they’ll prepare their estimate based off of their relative calculations. They can also do this from building’s blueprints and other sources of information that could provide the same amount of info as a walk through. 

As mentioned before, there are no hard and fast rules for paint job estimates, but there are two logical ways that contractors can go about creating an estimate. These methods are guesstimating cost and measuring cost, and whether a contractor uses one or the other can depend on personal taste, complexity of a job, and size of your facility. 


Admittedly “guesstimating” sounds inherently inaccurate, but it actually involves a fair amount of math. Guesstimating is most commonly used for small commercial projects that aren’t very complex.

To guesstimate cost, a painting contractor will consider the following:

  • Number of days needed to complete project
    • This will depend on the size of the building being painted, hence the contractor’s site or building drawings
  • Average daily cost multiplied by expected days to complete project
    • Daily costs can include labor cost, company overhead and their profit margin, as well as they project’s overhead
  • Paint cost
    • This is done by adding a percentage to your overall cost: 15% for cheaper paint and 30-50% for premium materials. 
    • They can also estimate this by considering the price of paint and then multiplying it by the amount they’d need.

The contractor takes all of this, adds it up together and then presents their paint estimate in the form of a bid.


Measuring is the most accurate way for a painter to estimate the cost of a paint job for a medium- to large-sized commercial painting project. Without precise calculations in these larger facilities, painters can run the risk of over or under-estimating a project which can be bad for the painter’s profits and your budget. 

This method will precisely calculate all the necessities’s prices for the size of the area. The process can be conducted as follows:

  • The first step in measurement is to calculate the size of their area they’ll be painting
    • Painters do this by multiplying the height of each wall by its respective length, and then adding al; of these together. The final step is to subtract the area of the area’s windows and doors.
  • Then they’ll need to determine the amount of paint required to complete the project. 
    • On average, one gallon of paint can cover 400 square feet of a smooth surface, and 300 square feet of a textured surface. Thus, they can divide the size of your area by these numbers to get the number of gallons needed. They’ll then double this number if two coatings are required, triple for three, quadruple for four, etc.
  • Next, they calculate the total cost of materials.
    • Painting contractors have to consider the cost of paint, brushes, rollers, paint trays, drop cloths, and other painting necessities in their total cost.
      • Premium paint can be between $35-$80 a gallon, depending on the brand, quality, and contractor discount
        • You’ll also want a high quality paint, since they’ll have more resin, which contributes to a paint job’s longevity
  • Then comes labor cost based on how many hours they expect a painting project to last
    • A painter can cover about 150-300 feet in an hour, including prep work like scraping, caulking, and cleaning. 
      • It’s important to consider how much prep work a crew would have to do in this calculation. Prep work includes painting a priming coat, cutting down any vegetation coverage, and any repairs the walls will need.
    • They’ll multiply the number of hours the job will need by the hourly painter rate.
    • This can also include markup for the painting contractor to earn a profit. 

The final estimate will include all of these calculations added together. 


As a business owner, manager, or otherwise, when considering hiring a painting contractor for your job it’s highly valuable to understand commercial painting cost per square foot. By knowing what prices to expect for your paint job you’ll know how to choose the best painting contractor for your job.