Painting: DIY? The Answer Might Surprise You

Is It Cheaper to Paint Your Own House?

Nothing seems to breathe new life (and value) into your house quite like a new coat of paint. Whether it’s just one room or your whole interior, changing the color or even refreshing the current one can completely change the look and feel of the space.

While you might think you can save some money by painting your own house, it’s certainly not a job for the timid. Painting takes a lot of practice and patience, and unless you’ve already got some experience with it, you may want to consider paying someone else to do the job for you.

In this post, we’ll look at whether or not it’s cheaper to paint your own house or hire a professional to do it for you.

Painting a Room by Yourself

The Time It Takes to Paint

If you’re painting a room by yourself, a typical 12-foot by 12-foot room in your house, with 8-foot ceilings, will take approximately 5 hours per coat. From this, we can calculate that painting 1 square foot takes approximately 0.78 minutes, or roughly 47 seconds.

Paintable Area:

Room Size8ft Ceilings10ft Ceilings12ft Ceilings
8′ x 8′256 sq. ft320 sq. ft384 sq. ft
8′ x 10′288 sq. ft360 sq. ft432 sq. ft
8′ x 12′320 sq. ft400 sq. ft480 sq. ft
8′ x 14′352 sq. ft440 sq. ft528 sq. ft
10′ x 10′320 sq. ft400 sq. ft480 sq. ft
10′ x 12′352 sq. ft440 sq. ft528 sq. ft
10′ x 14′384 sq. ft480 sq. ft576 sq. ft
12′ x 12′384 sq. ft480 sq. ft576 sq. ft
12′ x 14′416 sq. ft520 sq. ft624 sq. ft
14′ x 14′448 sq. ft560 sq. ft672 sq. ft
Total Paintable Square Footage of Different Room Sizes with Different Ceiling Heights

Time to Paint (in Minutes):

Room Size8ft Ceilings10ft Ceilings12ft Ceilings
8′ x 8′200250300
8′ x 10′225281.25337.5
8′ x 12′250312.5375
8′ x 14′275343.75412.5
10′ x 10′250312.5375
10′ x 12′275343.75412.5
10′ x 14′300375450
12′ x 12′300375450
12′ x 14′325406.25487.5
14′ x 14′350437.5525
Total Minutes Required for One Coat of Paint based on Room Size

Since most consumer-grade paints require two coats or even a pre-application of primer, this means it could take as long as 10 to 15 hours for a single room.

In addition, if you also plan to paint the ceilings, trim, window frames, and doors, this can easily add another 3 to 4 hours to the project.

Since most people work during the day and might only have the nights or weekends available for painting, this means it could take as long as three 3 days to finish the room.

The Cost of the Painting Materials

Before you can get started painting, there are some materials you’re going to need.

Obviously, paint will be one of them (unless you have some leftover from a previous project). A can of typical consumer-grade paint costs approximately $30 each.

Additionally, you’ll also need the proper tools:

You can expect a full set of painting materials to cost anywhere between $100 to $200.

The Value of Your Time

Since the average median income in the U.S. is $63,179, we could assume that your time is worth roughly $30 per hour. The same would also be true for anyone who helps you with painting such as your spouse or a family member.

If we assume a room takes 15 hours to apply one coat of primer and two coats of a new color, then we can estimate the costs will be:

  • Labor $450
  • Materials $260
  • Total $710
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Hiring a Professional Painter

Costs per Hour and Job

Professional painters charge anywhere between $20 to $50 per hour with a median rate of $36 depending on the scope of work, experience level, and availability.

At those rates, you could expect the following costs:

  • 10′ × 12′ room $300 to $800
  • 14′ × 16′ master bedroom $700 to $1,300
  • Bathroom $200 to $600
  • Kitchen $180 to $550
  • Full interior painting $2,900 to $8,800

While the cost per hour may be somewhat comparable to the do-it-yourself option, there may be some other considerable advantages to using a professional

How Professionals Can Save You Time

Compared to the typical homeowner, a professional painter will take significantly less time to complete the project. For example, a 2,500 square foot house can be painted in just two days versus a homeowner who might take 1-3 weeks.

This is due to a variety of reasons:

  • Painting is the professionals’ primary job. While you’re at your job or busy with other activities, they will work full time until the job is done.
  • Professionals usually bring a crew of 2 to 4 people to help them get the job done quicker.
  • Depending on their level of skill, they may not even need to spend time taping off trim or other areas. 

Also, working with a professional has a lot of other benefits too.

  • Unless you’re skilled at painting, a professional is going to do a higher quality job than the typical homeowner. That means fewer brush strokes, streaks, or other mistakes.
  • Most professionals will also have access to contractor-grade paint. This is generally higher grade, requires fewer coats, and should last longer.
  • Working with professionals also means not having to buy your own materials. They will have their own supply of paintbrushes, rollers, etc.

Tips for Hiring a Painter

Before you outsource your next painting job to a professional, there will be a few things you can do to ensure the project will go smoothly. Here are some tips for hiring a reputable painter.

  1. Get recommendations. Don’t just hire a stranger. Reach out to painters who have already done some excellent work for your family and friends.
  2. Check their reviews. These days, nearly every business has some reviews or comments on Google, the Better Business Bureau, or other services. Check to see if there have been any complaints or red flags from previous clients.
  3. Get multiple quotes. The prices that a contractor will give you can vary wildly from person to person. Never go with your first offer. Invite out at least 3 contractors that you’ve already vetted and see what they give you for a price.
  4. Always get the quote in writing. The only way to avoid a price dispute when the project is over is to make sure it was officially negotiated ahead of time. To do that, you’ll need to make sure you receive your quotes in writing. Any legitimate business will be happy to do this. And if they won’t, that’s a red flag.
  5. Ask about their credentials. In addition to getting a price, be sure that your potential contractor is licensed and insured. If available, see if they have any photos of past jobs or references you can contact to validate their work.
  6. Beware of cheap painters. Sometimes painters will low-ball you just because they are hungry for work and then regret it later. When this happens, it can lead to poor quality jobs and possible disputes over the payment. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Again, make sure you do your homework ahead of time so that you know who you’re working with. 

Easiest Way to Find a Painter

If you’re new to an area or just don’t have anyone to ask for a referral, then your best bet is to source quotes from:

Final Thoughts

Although at first blush it may seem like you’ll save a lot of money if you paint your house yourself, you have to be aware of your availability and skill level. A professional painter is most likely going to do a much better job and get it done significantly quicker than the typical homeowner. Unless you enjoy painting or already have some experience, it may be financially advantageous and more time-efficient to leave it to the pros.

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