As a professional painter, I love seeing the smile of satisfaction on the customer’s face when they take in my finished paint job.
Their smile means that I captured their vision and transformed their home with a few cans of paint.
Recently, the customer was so pleased with how her home looked, she invited her friends over to show it off. Naturally, I love this, too, as it usually means more business.
In this post, I’m going to discuss the various aspects of painting the interior of your home. I’ll be providing tips for pros as well as advice for homeowners looking to save money.
Let’s get started first with how much on average it will cost to paint your house interior.
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Average cost to paint a house interior
In general, painters charge anywhere from $1-$3 per square foot. So if you have a 2,000 square foot home, it could range from $2,000 to $6,000 (not including paint cost).
There is also the cost of the paint. Some contractors include this in their overall bid (they’re purchasing). In contrast, users like myself do not include the price since we have the customer buy the paint. I’ll go into more detail on this later.
I learned my painting technique and business model from a seasoned contractor here in Middle Tennessee.
Unlike many other companies, he based his bids not on square footage but on the estimated time to complete a room.
As I would learn working with him and on my own, the square footage of a home isn’t an accurate qualifier to determine the labor cost.
For instance, a 2,000 sq. ft. ranch-style home is much easier to paint than a 2,000 sq. ft. home with a 30’ foyer.
Bathrooms and kitchens with many angles to cut or trim to navigate around take longer than those with simpler architectural designs.
The other factor to consider is how fast a painter can finish a room. Potential clients sometimes ask what I charge an hour, which, for the record, I never disclose.
Instead, I advise them that the more important question is this: “How long will it take me to complete the job?”
In other words, you may think you’re saving money with a pro who charges $20 an hour over one that’s $30-40, but if it takes him twice as long, you’re not saving any money at all.
Because I’ve learned to be efficient, fast, and detail-oriented, I outshine contractors who lack these qualities. I also earn more.
How Much Paint Will I Need?
This is a difficult question to answer. Sure, the short answer is to look on the back of the can (or a company’s website) to see the estimated coverage.
Most gallons claim to cover around 400 sq. ft., which is a good starting point. So why isn’t this good enough?
Here are some factors:
- What is the existing finish? Walls painted with top-end paint in an eggshell-like finish will not absorb as much paint as duller finishes, so the 400 sq. ft. rule should work. Conversely, suppose you have a new build with inexpensive, contractor-grade paint in a flat finish. In that case, you can toss that formula out the window! Those walls will drink up the paint! In those situations, I advise the customer that I really cannot estimate until I start painting.
- What type of paint are you applying? The higher quality paints cover better because they have more pigment and thus cover better than cheaper paints.
- Don’t believe the “one coat” propaganda. I’ve addressed this in another post, but don’t buy into the advertisement that promises a paint and primer will cover in one coat. The color may, but the sheen will not. Always factor that you will need 2 coats to get a uniform sheen and color throughout.
Because I don’t base my bids on square footage but on visual inspection, I’ve learned by trial and error how much paint will be needed.
For a bedroom that’s 20 x 20 with an existing eggshell finish, it takes about 1 gallon + 1 quart for 2 coats. If the same room has the original contractor-grade flat finish, it may need 2 gallons.
Who Purchases the Paint
Homeowners, let me give you an insider tip into the world of contractors purchasing your paint.
Contractors typically mark up the paint they are buying. Horror stories abound of shady contractors promising to buy top-grade products but purchase low-grade paint and transfer into empty top-grade paint cans. They mark it up and further rip you off.
My method is that the homeowner purchases the paint. Here’s why:
- The client knows what they’re getting. I eliminate the worry or fear that I’m going to swap cheap paint for good. I also have them choose the color. I NEVER select the color, as this could come back on me if they don’t like the color.
- They get my discount. As a contractor, I pass along my discount to them. This customer service has benefitted me more in the long run with repeat customers than if I’d marked up the product.
- Cash flow. I don’t have to ask for an advance or take money out of my account to purchase paint. With the horror stories of contractors getting advances and never showing up, it’s a win-win in confidence-building.
This final tip is for homeowners. If your paint contractor is purchasing the paint, ask if he’s marking it up.
If so, you may have the means to negotiate the price in your favor. The other option is to purchase the paint yourself, so you know what you’re getting.
What Paint Manufacturer Should You Use for Interiors?
Before I painted professionally, I assumed “paint is paint.” In other words, the products at the big box stores are just as good as those from Sherwin or Porter, or Benjamin Moore.
I was wrong. My go-to paint of choice is Benjamin Moore. Their higher-end wall paint, like Regal, has what they call Cross-Linking Technology and Gennex Color Technology.
What does this mean in scientific terms? I have no idea! But as a painter, it translates into:
- No banding. Banding happens when you cut the walls, perhaps let it dry, and then roll the wall. The cut portion may look slightly different in color and looks like a band running around the top of the walls. With the Regal, not only can I let the cut-in dry on extremely tall walls, I’ll actually cut it in twice before rolling to eliminate my ladders. The paint always blends in; no banding.
- Last-minute Patching. With other paints, if you find a nail pop afterward, it’s next to impossible to patch without the paint sheens flashing and the paint not looking seamless. With the Regal, I can fix after the fact, and the paint color and luster blend in with the already dried paint. For me, it’s a game-changer!
Sherwin Williams has some quality paints like Cashmere, Emerald, and Duration. I’d avoid their lower-tier paints and especially those sold at the big box stores.
Porter (now PPG) also carries some reputable paints, but I’d avoid those at the big box stores as with Sherwin.
Since we’re on the topic of big box stores, I’m not a fan of their paint. In fact, I don’t know a professional painter that is!
Customers sometimes challenge me with, “but it’s the #1 choice by Consumer Report.” It may be, but regarding the application, it’s like painting with pancake syrup.
It also is prone to sagging after cutting, and the sheens are not close to what the other companies use. My counterargument is that my discount gets them within that price point and that I can only stand behind my work based upon the paint I use. That usually settles the argument.
About Trim Paints
Trim paint needs to be mentioned at this point. Although oil products are still around, there are other options to choose from.
Because of these innovations, contractors like me never touch oil paint anymore. Here are my top choices:
- Command by Benjamin Moore. “Command” paint is a water-borne, low VOC acrylic urethane that dries to touch in 15 minutes and adheres to anything (if appropriately prepped.) It settles well (eliminating brush marks) and is exceptionally durable.
- Advance by Benjamin Moore. “Advance” is a water-borne oil with low VOC that dries to touch in about an hour. It too adheres very well, is incredibly durable, and settles like a dream. In some cases, it looks like you sprayed it on.
- Pro Classic by Sherwin Williams. This paint comes in an oil or latex product, and I use latex. Although not as durable as the aforementioned, Pro Classic settles amazingly well to give that sprayed look.
How Often Should You Re-Paint Your Home’s Interior?
Unlike exterior paints that take a beating from Mother Nature, interior wall paints can last substantially longer. However, suppose your wife discovers the vogue color on Pinterest or your kids take penalty shots in the stairwell. In that case, you may be painting sooner than later!
I recently painted a home that had not been repainted in 15-years. Yes, the paint color was dated, and the walls had scuff marks and nail pops, but all in all, the paint had not faded and was not bleached by sunlight.
To be honest, there is no rule of thumb per when to paint as there is outside. Quality paint that is professionally applied will survive until the next color fad sweeps the neighborhoods.
When water damage or other outside forces affect your ceilings and walls, those need to be remedied and painted. But this may only require the repaired wall or ceiling repainted, not the entire home.
On another note, kitchen and bathroom cabinets can be painted to give a more updated look. This is a big job that I’ll need to address in a different post.
Some Pro Tips On Saving Money
Here are some money-saving tips homeowners can use with their paint contractors.
- You purchase the paint. I’ve already discussed this, so I won’t belabor the point. You can also talk to your local pro paint store to see if they will give you a similar discount your contractor gets. You never know!
- Have your contractor tackle the problematic areas. Stairwells and tall foyers are challenging even for pros, let alone homeowners. See if your paint contractor is willing to paint these problem areas, and you paint the remaining rooms yourself.
- Patch and prime. This one is a double-edged sword. You may save money with your paint contractor if you tackle patching any nail holes and caulking any splits. However, suppose your idea of patching is shoveling drywall compound on a wall to look like Mt. McKinley, or your caulking looks more like modern art. In that case, your contractor may actually bill you more for fixing your mess.
- You may not need to repaint if moving. The rule of thumb for homeowners selling their homes is that you have to repaint the entire house. Some paint contractors feed off of this and will gladly take your money. I, however, advise homeowners to first get advice from their realtor. If the market is in your favor, you may not need to do anything. If the market is cold, then you may need to paint. I also advise owners to paint only damaged or soiled walls and do so with the original paint color. This saves you labor and product cost. If you have a funky paint mural or some wild color for a bedroom, you may want to tone it down with a neutral color. Repainting the baseboards (and skipping some walls) goes a long way to making rooms look clean and new. Not only is my advice greatly appreciated by homeowners, they typically call me to paint their new home because I’ve earned their trust.
I hope this clarifies some of the mystique surrounding painting the interior of a home and gives you money-saving tips.
Lastly, regarding paint contractors, most are honest and dependable. When in doubt, ask around and check social media for what your neighbors are saying.
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