The Basics, Process, and Best Practices in Painting Estimates
The Basics, Process, and Best Practices in Painting Estimates

The Basics, Process, and Best Practices in Painting Estimates


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Many painting contractors in the construction industry are highly concerned about estimating, and rightly so. You don’t want to overcharge your clients and assess the paint job excessively, but you also don’t wish to underestimate the job and not generate any money, or even worse, lose money.

Construction painting jobs come in varying shapes and sizes. The same goes for your painting estimates; they can change in style depending on the project’s demands. A well written and coherent estimate can help you win the job and help the client clearly understand its role in the undertaking. Like in any aspect concerned in managing construction, it is worth remembering that an estimate, in any trade, is not a favor. They only serve as a tool to help you with a painting job and clearly communicate project goals with the client. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about painting estimates to help you improve your quoting processes and streamline your construction operations.

What are the Basics of Construction Estimating?


The purpose of construction estimating is not to secure a project or win a job. That is the work of your sales methods, your reputation, and the quality of the projects you deliver to the clients. The real purpose of estimating is to compute the correct price for the final quotation. This price will depend on the variable cost and your target profit margin at the project closeout.

The price you come up with should be competitive with the current market, but it also can generate a decent profit for your hard work and excellent output. Winning many jobs due to offering the lowest price from your competitors is not the way to run a business. The best way to obtain jobs is by improving your sales processes, but curtailing your bidding amount should not be a common practice to handle your business.

To develop a competitive and fair construction estimate, you need to follow these three points:

1. Determine your variable costs 

Variable costs are the labor and material costs required to get the job done. Labor cost can be calculated by multiplying total hours by the labor rate. On the other hand, the material cost includes the supplies needed for the job, such as paint and brushes.

2. Establish your fixed costs

The rule of thumb in construction is the bigger the company, the larger the fixed cost. These costs comprise the employee salaries, warranty, and building lease.

3. Decide how much profit you want to generate for a project.

Small construction companies should aim for no less than a 30% profit margin after adding the variable cost. Meanwhile, more prominent names in the industry should target no less than a 50% profit margin after considering the variable cost.

The larger the business, the bigger the cost. Moreover, apart from the big companies’ capability to deliver, they would be expected to produce better projects with more value to justify their higher rates.

The Step-by-Step Process of Quoting for a Painting Job


Estimating a paint job precisely is not exactly an easy task. When it comes to job-estimating, having previous experience is hugely influential. If you’re a newbie in the painting industry, consider working with a few experts before making your estimates.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you write better and more accurate estimates for your painting business:

1. Meeting the Client in Person

Some professionals tend to do their quotes over the phone––and you can too. However, you have an advantage if you make an effort to visit your client’s space and come up with an agreement in a face-to-face setting. Skipping this step is like losing the chance to meet the client and develop a relationship with them. 

More so, meeting the client gives you a higher chance of getting client referrals in the future, good customer service feedback, and overall business growth.

2. Inspecting the Condition of the Space

Do yourself a favor and inspect the site first before you start your painting estimate. There could be several factors you’ll discover during the inspection that will up your final price, such as the poor condition of walls. More paint is needed for darker walls. Multiple accent walls and different color varieties will take more time.

In addition to that, take the initiative to measure the space for yourself or assign someone who can do it accurately. Ask the clients if they want the walls painted, or with the ceiling as well. Inquire if they have preferred brands, specific custom mixed colors, or whether they will provide their paint and supplies. Asking all these questions beforehand will produce more accurate painting estimates and save you trouble down the line.

3. Estimating a Realistic Construction Schedule

Your team’s amount of time to complete a job is a critical step in factoring in the project’s total cost. Coming up with a realistic construction timeline relies heavily on the estimator’s experience, for there is no established number or calculation for this matter. It’s strictly based on how efficient you can operate, how long a similar project has taken you to finish in the past, and the number of painters you are working with to complete the job.

However, if you’re starting and uncertain about how long a project will take, it’s a good idea to begin tracking your tasks using time-tracking software so that you will have a reference for your future projects.

4. Compute Total Cost with Material and Overhead Cost

The cost of your labor depends on how much money you want to make per hour. This will need to be computed before factoring in the material cost. Additionally, you can also consider your workers’ level of skills and expertise, for these elements will shorten the schedule deliberately, which means lesser cost and better output.

After calculating the material cost, you can now include the overhead cost. Most professionals stick with an additional 15-20% on top of their total estimate to account for overhead costs. Like plaster, ladders, and brushes, the price of supplies can be taken into account as an overhead cost. Make sure to also incorporate the typically forgotten items in your construction operations:

  • Taxes
  • Transportation cost considering the mileage, distance, and gas
  • Phone and internet bills

Wrap things up with the services tax or sales costing, do the math, and there’s your painting quote!

5. Incorporate Construction Software to Streamline Your Process

With construction technology, there are various software choices available to automate some steps for you. For example, like Pro Crew Schedule, a crew tracking software enables you to designate tasks to your team virtually, even by using your mobile phone. You can also use it to track the time you consumed for every task so that you can have a trusted reference for your next project quotation.

Some of the Best Practices in Painting Estimate and Quoting


  • Work with suitable clients

A great quote is useful, but if you’re proposing it to a customer who is not a good fit, then your quote won’t take your business very far. If a client starts to lower your price right off the bat, you may run into other problems while working with them on the project. This will cost you not only more time and energy but also unnecessary frustration along the way.

  • Avoid giving your client a messy quote

Nothing seems more unprofessional than handing a client a messy handwritten quote or an unorganized quote that is hard to understand. It reflects that you don’t invest in your business’s image or branding, which might translate to sloppy service.

Before you meet with a potential client, ensure that you have a painting quote template ready at best. If you have to handwrite the quote, make sure it’s clean and neat–– although we don’t suggest this route. Quoting software is your best bet for looking professional with your quotes, keeping track of client information and accounts, and automating the follow-ups necessary.

  • Stay organized and always follow-up

A detailed painting quote, a reasonable price point, and excellent customer service are only half the battle in any trade-in project management for construction. If you are committed to having groundbreaking records, you need to be organized and adopt the habit of constantly following-up with your clients on your quotes.

If you don’t have time to follow-up on every sent quote, try to follow-up with the best potential leads you think are the best fit you’re your company and seem like the most profitable sale.

Key Takeaways

A comprehensive estimate is a unique way to stand out from the crowd. Be accurate in your information, including as much detail as possible, and try to answer the client’s questions as they come up. With all the learnings on the basics, processes, and best practices of painting estimates, incorporating them in your business will surely help your quotation shine.

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