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How Much Does It Cost to Paint a House in 2020?

Feb 20th, 2020 | jfinney@talktotucker.com

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to boost curb appeal and make an entire home feel fresh. But exactly how much does it cost to paint a house? 

House-painting costs can vary significantly depending on your home’s square footage, where you live, and who is crunching the numbers.

But the pros at the trade organization Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) can make a pretty good estimate. These are their ballpark figures for the average cost to paint a house, including labor and materials.

Average Cost to Paint Interior of a House

According to PDCA, interior painting costs will depend largely on the square footage of your home. Here are their estimated averages:

  • 1,000 square feet: $1,500-$3,000
  • 2,500 square feet: $3,750-$7,500
  • 4,000 square feet: $6,000-$12,000

Average Cost to Paint the Exterior of a House

Likewise, exterior painting costs will vary depending on the size of your home:

  • 1-story 1,000 square feet: $1,000-$3,000
  • 2-story 2,500 square feet: $3,000-$5,000
  • 3-4-story 4,000 square feet: $4,000-$7,000

However, those figures don’t account for siding materials—and some sidings cost more to paint than others because of their texture and the type of paint required to properly cover them.

Here are painting estimates for the five most common types of siding, in order of least to most expensive:

  • Metal siding: $1,500 per 1,000 square feet
  • Concrete siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Vinyl siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Wood siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Stucco siding: $3,000 per 1,000 square feet

Average Cost to Paint Interior/Exterior of House

Cost to paint a house (both exterior and interior):

  • 1-story 1,000 square feet: $2,500-$6,000
  • 2-story 2,500 square feet: $6,750-$12,500
  • 3-4-story 4,000 square feet: $10,000-$19,000

Paint Types

In addition to being affected by a home’s square footage, painting costs can vary based on the type of paint the chosen, the paint’s finish, the type of paint primer used, local labor rates, and the type of exterior siding.

Generally, there are two types of paint: latex-based paint and oil-based paint.

Latex paint (also known as water-based paint) is the most common type of paint for home use, since it rolls on smoothly, dries quickly, is environmentally friendly, and tends to have less of an odor than oil-based paint. The main drawback of latex paint, though, is it’s less durable than oil-based paint, meaning it’s more prone to scratches.

Oil-based paint is commonly used for high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and floors, trims, and moldings, since these areas take more abuse over time than walls do. Typically oil-based paints are less expensive than latex paints, take longer to dry, can create bad odor while drying, and contain more volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which essentially means they’re less environmentally friendly.

Here’s the cost breakdown for latex- and oil-based paints:

  • Latex-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon
  • Oil-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon

Generally, the higher the shine, the higher the cost:

  • Flat/Matte: $20 to $50 per gallon, depending on brand
  • Eggshell: $1-$5 more per gallon than flat of same brand
  • Satin: $1-$5 more per gallon than eggshell of same brand
  • Semi-gloss: $1-$5 more per gallon than satin of same brand
  • High-gloss: $1-$5 more per gallon than semi-gloss of same brand

Primer?

Some paints are two-in-one paint and primer products, or so-called “self-priming paints.” These paints are designed to seal and cover surfaces in one coat. But, here’s the secret: though it’s called a paint-and-primer-in-one product, there’s actually no primer in the mix—what you’re really working with is just a thicker paint that often doesn’t perform as well as using separate primer and paint.

The moral? Though two-in-paint can help you save time, it’s wise to opt for a separate primer in advance of most paint jobs.

There are three types of primers: oil-based, latex-based, and shellac-based. Their costs are as follows:

Oil-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. An industry standard for decades, oil-based primers are ideal for unfinished or bare wood. They seal the porous surface of wood, enabling the coat of paint to better adhere to the surface.

Latex-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. Ideal for preparing unfinished drywall and softwood (like pine) for painting, latex-based primers are less brittle than oil-based primers, which makes them less susceptible to peeling and cracking.

Shellac primers: $40 to $63 per gallon. Excellent at blocking stains, shellac primer works well on walls that are susceptible to water or smoke damage.

Labor Cost to Paint a House

While some professional painters will charge a flat fee for a painting project, most charge an hourly rate—about $25 to $100 per hour on average. Most painters will charge more for last-minute jobs (think 48 hours’ notice or less), travel costs (if you live far away, the painter may want extra money for gas), or intensive prep work (e.g., removing mold or stains before painting). Also, depending on the painter, the rate may or may not include the cost of paint materials such as paint, primer, and supplies.

Repairs and improvements can also increase your painting budget. Painters may offer some of these additional services, but you may need to call in a specialist for others:

  • Drywall repair: $115 to $380 per room
  • Repairing plaster: $60 to $90 per hour or a fixed rate of $200 to $300 for minor to medium jobs.
  • Mold remediation: $500 to $6,000 based on the size of the area and level of mold infestation.
  • Patching holes: around $10 per square foot for resurfacing and repairing holes and cracks in the wall.
  • Sanding: around $1.80 per square foot.

Two additional factors that can affect a painter’s labor costs are the number of stories and the condition of the home. Generally, the more stories a house has, the higher the labor costs will be. And, if a home is older, prep work such as scrubbing siding or sanding aging wood could be more time consuming for the painter.

How to Save on Painting Your House

Having a professional paint your home from top to bottom, inside and outside has a number of advantages. For one thing, it’ll save you a ton of time by not having to do the work yourself. In addition, you won’t have to be concerned about safety issues, such as climbing a ladder to paint your house’s gutters. Best of all, you can expect a clean, attractive finished product from a professional painter.

DIY Some of the Work

However, you can lessen the load on your wallet in a variety of ways, including DIYing some or most of the job yourself. These basic tasks will help speed up the process for your painter:

Prep rooms for painting. This entails moving furniture away from walls, covering furniture and floors with drop cloths to protect them from any spilled paint, removing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and cleaning dirt or grime off the walls.

Prep the exterior for painting. Outside, you’ll want to trim bushes, trees, and shrubs that are near the house (so the painter will have easy access to your home’s siding), scrape any loose or peeling paint, sand rough spots on wood siding, caulk any cracks or gaps, and clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, mildew, or mold.

Test different paint swatches. The last thing you want to do is paint a whole room and then decide you despise the color (yes, it happens!). Try out different paint colors on the surface before choosing the paint that you want. Buying sample sizes will help you save money. The caveat: paint color samples are not real paint, so if you try to finish or touch up a project with samples, the paint will fade.

Do the cleanup. When the painting is done, send the painter home and do the cleanup work yourself. This will include rolling up drop cloths and collecting scrapings, removing painter’s tape (use a hair dryer on low heat to soften the adhesive), cleaning paint brushes, rollers, and other tools, replacing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and sealing any leftover paint cans and storing them in a dry, temperature-controlled location.

Find a Competitive, Skilled Painter 

Of course, the painter you choose to hire will be handling the lion’s share of the workload. Take these steps to find a reliable painter — someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price:

Get quotes from at least three painters. Just like any other contractor, you’ll want to obtain several bids before deciding who gets your business. Have the painters come to view your property in person before they write you a formal bid. This way there will be no surprises when the painters show up to perform the work.

Compare offers. The painter offering the lowest rate may not always be the best painter for the job. Indeed, the total cost isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing between multiple bids. You’ll want to look at contracts side by side to ensure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison. Are the same materials being used? Are the same services included? Does the painter provide a warranty?

Ask the right questions. Before signing a contract, make sure to ask a painter these questions: How long has your company been in business? Do you use subcontractors? Do you have proof of business liability insurance and workmen’s compensation insurance? How much wall prep is included in the estimate? How do you communicate with your clients?

Interview past clients. Talking to former customers is always a good idea. But, to ensure you’re getting honest feedback — not just feedback from people who have been handpicked by the painter to sing their praises — ask to speak to the painter’s three most recent clients. When you speak to them, ask about specifics. Find out whether the painters showed up on time, protected furniture from paint spills, kept the house clean, and completed the project on schedule.

In addition, ask the painter if there are other things you can do to trim expenses. Oftentimes you can get a discount for doing multiple jobs all at once. So if you’re thinking about painting your entire house, inside and out, there could be a benefit to doing it at the same time. 

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