House Painting Costs

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Few home improvement projects can transform a room or a home's exterior, as quickly and inexpensively as applying a fresh coat of paint. One of the best things about painting is that it's very DIY friendly. So, even if you've never picked up a paint brush in your life, within a weekend you can probably paint with confidence.

Still, there's more to painting than just slapping color on a wall. How do you figure out which paint to buy and how much to budget for the project? Perhaps as important--if you bail out halfway through your project to sit by the pool, how much will it cost to have a painting contractor finish the job?

What you're painting can effect painting costs

There are numerous variables that can effect how much paint to use for your project and how much it's going to cost to purchase. These conditions are worthy of consideration when adding up the tab:

  1. Location--Interior and exterior paints normally have different compositions that can cause price variations. Exterior paint must be able to hold up under extreme weather conditions and drastic temperature changes.
  2. Surface--A porous surface, such as old wood, usually soaks up more paint. So, you're going to get less coverage than you would painting sheetrock.
  3. Paint grade--Benjamin Moore, Duron and most paint manufacturers offer several grades of exterior and interior paint. Many factors make one grade better than another, but in general the better grades are designed to last longer before repainting is required.
  4. Primer--A primer paint is a less expensive method for applying the first coat of paint over a porous or hard-to-cover surface before the more expensive regular coat goes on. Some modern paints have a primer added in, which may reduce the number of coats you have to apply.

Paint manufacturers' websites can provide a lot of good information on which type of paint to use for your project and what kind of coverage to expect. If you need some general budget numbers for your projects, figure about 25 cents a square foot for a coat of primer, and two coats of latex paint for exterior work. Interior painting consisting of a coat of primer and two coats of latex paint should be about 20 cents a square foot. Add a dollar a square foot to each, if you hire a contractor for the projects.