PaintPRO, Vol. 8, No. 1
January/February 2006
PaintPRO, Vol 8 No 1

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Other articles in this issue:
Applying Low-VOC Paints
Clear Wood Finishes
Contractor: Fine Painting & Decorating
Technology: Concrete Toppings
Technique: Glazed Finishes
Business Strategies: Marketing
Estimating, Etc.
Toolbox: Measuring Devices
Finishing Touch
Paint Industry News
Product News
Product Profiles

PaintPRO Archives

Pricing Repair Work, Estimating, Etc.

by Len Hijuelos

Several articles ago, we commented on using a pricing system based on square feet of floor space. This appears to be a subject that won’t go away. A recent posting on the Painter’s Chatroom seemed to suggest that a lot of people use a figure of $3.65 per square foot of floor space for pricing repaint work. Whether this was referring to the residential or commercial market is not clear.

A blanket statement can be made that this is a very risky way to price a job. Unless you are doing jobs of a very repetitive nature, such as tract housing or national “big box” stores, there is really no relationship between floor space and the actual quantity of paintable surface.

There were several postings replying to this suggested formula, most of which were somewhat caustic. A fellow who signed himself Harry, and who turned out to be Harry Carter of Carter’s School of Estimating, had the most interesting and informative reply. His response really put things in perspective and pointed up the fallacy and potential pitfalls of floor-space pricing. In his example he used rooms of varying sizes and priced out painting the walls and ceilings and then compared that price with what the floor space pricing would be. Without going into the breakdowns and rationales that Harry provided, a synopsis of his examples follows:

Room: 15x12
Pricing walls and ceilings: $362.00
Floor space — 180 square feet $2.01 per square foot

Room: 18x14
Pricing walls and ceilings: $429.29
Floor space — 252 square feet $1.79 per square foot

Without even considering trim, such as base, the possibility of crown moldings, doors, windows, etc., these examples reflect a difference of 22 cents per square foot of floor space. That just doesn’t compute.

Another way of looking at this is to look at the ratio of floor space to wall/ceiling area:

  • Room 12x15 has a ratio of 3.4
  • Room 14x18 has a ratio of 2.09

Either or both of these examples should very clearly demonstrate that there is no relationship between the floor space and the actual paintable surfaces in a room, house, building or whatever. As another post said, as professional painting contactors we paint ceilings, walls, trim, etc. — not floor space. I don’t want to seem snide, but my feeling is, and I’m quite sure that there are many other contractors who share this feeling, that if you cannot do some kind of take-off or day labor, or some method that will provide a realistic basis for pricing, then perhaps you should not be in this business.

Way back, when I first started these articles for PaintPRO magazine, I made two statements, which were based on surveys I ran across:

First, painting contractors have the highest business failure rate in the construction industry. Second, for every 10 contractors that start a business this year, only three will be in business two years from now, and of those, two will be only marginally successful.

A lack of estimating skills is a major contributing factor to this failure rate. This is not an easy business, in fact it is very difficult, and it is really sad to see people go into business and fail. I would suggest, and I have tried to make this clear in these articles, that it would behoove anyone planning to start his or her own business to get some education in basic estimating and management skills.

If you have a specific question or problem area you would like to see discussed, contact Len Hijuelos at P.O. Box 2585, Gretna, LA 70054 or e-mail.

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