Paint is one of the fastest and most fabulous ways to completely change the look and feel of a room. Whether you want to repaint your bedroom, give your bathroom a boost, kick butt with your kitchen, finally love your living room, revamp your guest room and office, or create an appetizing dining room, a fresh coat of paint makes your dreams come true. The cost to repaint your room will vary based on the size of the room and the level of detail required. You can certainly do your own room painting; just make sure you have the proper tools and the time to complete the project. If you are pressed for time in your schedule or are worried you might end up with streaky walls or splatters on your carpet, hiring a professional painter is an affordable way to ensure a perfect finish. Professional painters can help prep your walls, patch or repair holes, protect your furniture and flooring, consult on color as needed, and then paint walls, trim, doors, window frames, molding and ceilings as requested.
Hiring a pro doesn't require a massive multi-room painting project; you can hire a painter even if you just have a small space that needs a new look, like a tiny guest powder room. You can even hire a professional painter to touch up scuffs and signs of wear and tear.
The square footage of the room, local labor cost, ceiling height, complexity of the trim work, type of paint and special finishes requested all affect the average total cost estimate.
Type of paint
The grade and brand of the paint you choose will affect the overall cost of your interior painting project. Celso Silva of CS Painting and Wallpaper in New York City explains that a gallon of interior paint can range from $30 for simple latex flat finish to $100 or more for name brands such as Farrow & Ball. Some paint brands cost as little as $20 or less per gallon, but pros say these paints usually are not as good and that choosing paint based on price alone can leave you with lackluster walls. Typically, a single gallon of paint can cover 250 to 400 square feet, depending on the texture of the wall (smooth walls need less paint) and the brand of paint. If you're renting a house or apartment and have to repaint rooms when you move out, you may not want to splurge on high-end paint when a $30-per-gallon commercial paint will perform just as well, says Silva of CS Painting and Wallpaper.
In addition to brand, the paint's properties will determine your choice and affect cost. Here are several things to consider.
- Oil-based paint: Oil-based paints are more durable than water-based (many people opt for oil-based on trim and other heavy traffic areas) but it is also more labor-intensive to apply and can be odorous.
- Water-based paint: Water-based paints are more affordable, have vibrant colors that last over time, and often don't smell as strongly as oil-based paint. Water-based paints are usually referred to as latex or acrylic paint. Latex paint doesn't contain latex, but has synthetic polymers that mimic natural latex. Acrylic paint is_ _a type of latex paint, though latex and acrylic are often listed as different choices.
- VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are chemicals added to paint that help it bond to your wall and have a longer and stronger life. VOCs can be toxic; the Environmental Protection Agency lists health risks as respiratory problems, fatigue, dizziness, asthma, allergies, nausea and more. If you or your family members have health concerns, look for low-VOC paints specially made for home interiors.
- Mildew-resistant paint: To prevent the growth of mold and mildew, you can purchase paint specially created with fungicides and mildewcides that prevent the growth of mold. Bathrooms and basements benefit from this added protection, as do homes in hot and humid climates. Higher-gloss paints also have a tighter surface that helps prevent bacteria from creeping in, while flat paints are more porous and more susceptible to mold growth.
As a rule, the larger the room to be painted, the higher the cost. Silva of CS Painting and Wallpaper says that in New York City, if clients want to use commercial-grade paint, the cost per square foot can be as low as $1-$2 per square foot.
- The cost to paint two walls in an 8-foot by 12-foot room (with 8-foot ceilings) using entry-level paint is approximately $200, which does not include painting the trim, doors or ceiling.
Size does not always dictate cost, though. Silva of CS Painting and Wallpaper says that a high-end client recently completed three rooms — living room, nursery and bedroom. Silva used Farrow & Ball paint at $100 per gallon, performed detailed work on the trim and applied wallpaper. The total cost was $11,000.
To help get a feel for cost, you can measure your room size before talking with pros. To find the square footage of your room, measure the height of the room and the width of the room and then multiply those two numbers. The total is the square footage of your room. The actual square footage can be higher or lower if you have uneven dimensions in a room, such as an angled ceiling. Knowing the square footage of your room will also help you determine how many gallons of paint you will need, which can help you predict cost.
Doors and trim
The cost to paint doors and trim varies greatly and is usually based on paint quality and cost as well as on the level of detail in the work. Silva of CS Painting and Wallpaper says that in New York City an antique or specialty door requiring intricate detail and high-end paint can cost as much as $300 to paint. In general, if you are going to paint your room you should also paint the trim. Even if your trim seems like it's in relatively good shape, once a new coat of paint is on the wall, dingy door trim will really stick out. Plus, fresh paint on your trim makes your new paint pop. Here are more examples of costs from CS Painting and Wallpaper:
- Standard baseboards: $1-$1.50 per linear foot to start
- Doors and window frames: $60 each to start; prices go up depending on the design and the paint
The cost to paint a ceiling is based on the square footage, height and texture. Textured ceilings cost more than smooth ceilings because they require more paint to cover the added surface. If you want to change the texture of your ceiling, that will also have an added cost. A popular request is removing "popcorn" texture on ceilings. You'll have to pay extra for the pro to manually scrape the texture off the ceiling and restore a level surface.
When considering your goals for your room, don't underestimate the color of the ceiling. Ceiling paint can add a lot of character to your room, playing either a starring or supporting role. If you're going dark or bold in your room, consider adding a bright white to the ceiling to really create contrast. For a contemporary but elegant approach, try painting your ceiling the same color as your walls, or even painting it one shade lighter or darker. CS Painting and Wallpaper charges $1-$2 per square foot for basic ceiling painting using commercial-grade paint.
Moving furniture out of the way before the professional painters arrive is one way to save on painting costs. Bring the furniture to the center of the room and cover it with dropcloths or sheets, leaving the perimeter of the room accessible to the painters. If the ceiling will also be painted, remove all of the furniture from the room. Some pro painters will move furniture, but may charge more to cover that extra labor. Some painters, such as CS Painting and Wallpaper, increase the price per square foot to cover the additional labor, while other companies charge a flat fee or an hourly rate for moving furniture. Moving your furniture could take an hour or more, which means less time they can spend painting your walls or working on another job.
If you don't do wall repairs or other prep work before painting, the damage it will be all the more obvious once the new paint is on. Drywall cracks need to be resurfaced, damaged trim needs to be replaced, sagging ceilings must be supported and so on. Many painters provide these repair services and charge by the hour for the work (plus the cost of materials such as new drywall). Others may refer clients to a handyman or contractor depending on the work needed.
Another major issue that should be addressed before new paint goes on is mold removal. Mold is often found in hall bathrooms, master bathrooms or converted basements. Even if you are choosing to apply a new, mildew-resistant paint, the fungicides and mildewcides won't kill what is underneath. Painting over moldy walls can lead to a much bigger, much more expensive problem later on. If you do have mold, either do a thorough cleaning or hire a mold removal expert to do the dirty work for you.
Geographic region will affect the overall cost of interior painting. Painting prices are higher in areas such as New York City or San Francisco because the cost of living, employee wages, transportation costs and rents are all higher than in rural or more affordable regions.
You can choose from multiple finishes, or sheens, when painting your room. If you're overwhelmed by the choices, professional painters or an interior designer can advise you on what finishes work well in different rooms in your home. Finishes include flat, matte, eggshell, semi-gloss and high-gloss. The finish type indicates how reflective the paint surface will be. A matte finish will have the lowest level of reflection, while high-gloss will have a lacquer-like shine. Here is a quick summary of which finishes perform best in which environments:
- Primer: The primer goes on white and preps your surface for the paint. It helps ensure a smooth finish. A primer is not always necessary, so talk with your painter about what is best for your walls. If you are painting on new walls that have never been painted, you'll definitely need primer for an even outcome.
- Flat finish: This has a modern, completely non-reflective effect that hides wall imperfections but doesn't stand up well to smudges and stains. It's hard to clean, so keep it out of hallways and kids' rooms. Flat finish is often used on ceilings.
- Matte finishes: Matte has a very minimal reflective quality. Matte finishes are quite friendly to imperfect walls, as the lack of reflection hides cracks, dents and other surface blemishes. Like flat finish, matte is not as easy to clean and is more likely to absorb water and bacteria — meaning it's usually not the best choice for bathrooms.
- Eggshell finish: The subtle sheen of an eggshell gave this finish its name. This slight sheen makes it easier to clean than matte or flat, and is a good choice for kitchens and entryways.
- Satin finish: Satin finish gives you a hint more shine, is easier to clean, and performs well in a variety of rooms. From bathroom to kitchen to hallway, satin finish paints are a crowd pleaser.
- Semi-gloss: This paint has more shine, which looks great and also means easy cleanup. Semi-gloss finish is also great at repelling mildew. The downfall of semi-gloss is that it shows more of your wall's imperfections, so you'll want to fix any faults before application. Semi-gloss performs well in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways, but can be used anywhere.
- High-gloss finish: This has high-impact shine that really pops. It's statement paint when used over walls or cabinets. Because it's so reflective, it shows every flaw in the wall, so consider having a pro apply it to ensure an even application. High-gloss cleans off like a champ and does a great job of fighting mold growth.
Usually, the painter will purchase the interior paint on your behalf and come prepared with all the appropriate equipment to do the paint job on the indicated start date. It's your job to let your painter know the exact wall color, trim color, paint properties and finish for each area to be painted far enough in advance to order your paint.
Choosing paint colors
Is there anything harder than choosing the right paint color? Probably, but the existential crisis feels real. Learning about finishes can help guide your choice of color and sheen for different rooms. Don't ever use the tiny paint chips from paint stores, or virtual "paint chips" online, to pick a paint color; paint looks wildly different on your wall than it does on the tiny chip, or on your computer screen or phone. The type of artificial lighting you have in your room, the type of natural light your room receives, and other factors (carpet color, artwork, etc.) really shape how colors look on your walls.
To make sure you'll love your choice, pros recommend buying pint-size sample paints. These usually run $5-$8 per pint, depending on brand. You can paint the sample colors directly on your wall, painting swatches at least 1 foot by 1 foot to get a feel for the color. It's best to paint a swatch on each wall to see how the light will affect it throughout the day. Wait overnight, then paint a second coat on the swatch before you make your decision. Paint color deepens as it dries, and most professional painters will apply two coats, so you'll get the truest representation of how it will look from a two-coat, two-night test.
How to handle a painting contract
Having a positive relationship with your paint contractor is all about clear communication and a contract that covers everything in writing. Here are some suggestions for handling your contract:
- Make sure your contract includes specific details about what you want painted to avoid being overcharged or not getting all the work completed. Clearly specify whether trim and ceiling will be included.
- Clarify paint brand, color name, sheen and number of coats that will be applied in each room.
- The contract should outline total cost and how much has been paid as a deposit.
- Have both parties sign to ensure everything is understood before any money changes hands.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right painter for your project. For more, check out these tips for smart hiring.