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February 12, 2020 3 min read

Like the unicorn of the design world, a paint job estimate is something that’s part myth, part mystery and part misunderstood. Where does it come from, what goes into it and how, exactly, does it magically appear?

It’s important to know that a good contractor will never pull numbers out of thin air. The truth is, a lot of time, expertise and a careful calculation of materials and labour goes into figuring out how much a painting project will cost.

For an expert opinion, we went straight to a contractor to help demystify how contractors know exactly how much to charge long before the first coat of paint touches the wall.


What kinds of things get factored into a typical painting estimate?

Contractor: When creating an estimate, many factors are involved in arriving at the final price. First, the customer needs to explain which surfaces they would like painted, if there are accent walls or other specific items they are interested in. Once those details are decided, measurements are then taken of those items to be painted. We will also need to know how many colors will be used and if there are major color changes (i.e. from dark colors to light colors).


What should customers always look for on an estimate?

Contractor: A proper estimate should include: a) the name of the company, b) the customer’s name and address, c) the items or areas to be painted, d) the type of paint to be used, e) a payment schedule and f) a warranty, which is a promise that the contractor stands behind all of the materials and labour that goes into completing your project.


How important is good communication between the customer and contractor?

Contractor: Extremely important. I believe the best way to provide an estimate is to be very clear about work requirements and expectations. Personally, I like to detail out all items individually on my pricing proposals to ensure everyone is in agreement about the work to be done and that we’re on the same page before the project begins.


Why are there price variations between contractors for the same job?

Contractor: When you hire a professional paint contractor to work in your home, the price should include all labour and materials to complete the project. But it’s also important to know that legitimate businesses should also have liability insurance and WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) coverage to protect you, the homeowner, and this will factor into the price as well. I would also add that when it comes to hiring a contractor, overall quality is directly affected by the labour involved. Quality tradespeople will come with a certain price tag and this will always result in a better finished product.


Is there anything a customer can do to save money on an initial estimate?

Contractor: If they’re looking to reduce some of the costs, the homeowner can move their own furniture into the centre of the room or allow us to paint while they are out of town. The quality of paint also has an effect on price. The amount of wall surface repairs (patching, sanding, shaping, smoothing out imperfections, etc.) needed before painting begins will also impact the price, so reducing the amount of prep that your contractor needs to do is another way to lower the estimate. Customers may want to buy their own paint, but generally, that will not change the overall price of the project.


Should homeowners get several estimates before choosing a contractor?

Contractor: Choosing a contractor is hopefully about more than just price – it’s also about working with someone you have trust and confidence in and can communicate with throughout the project. However, I understand that value is certainly a high priority for many homeowners. Whenever I discuss a project with the customer, I always mention that if they are looking for other quotes to make sure contractors are using the same quality products and performing the same tasks. This ensures the homeowner is comparing apples to apples and that contractors are able to compete on the same playing field.


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