How To Start A Profitable House Painting Business
If you would like a service business that will keep you busy,
house painting is the one! A truck or van, ladders, brushes and
some drop cloths are the main mechanical needs; you are the other
ingredient needed for a thriving business. This is a business
where you can get by with the bare minimum investment at first,
then build slowly as your business increases -- adding sir
compressors, electrical paint rollers, and other fancy equipment
as you need and can afford it.
The easiest way to keep busy (probably snowed under would be a
better term) is to do work for real estate and rental agencies.
They have lots of work but do not necessarily pay the best -- buy
they do usually pay on time.
Most commercial interests are looking for economy: they want the
inside walls painted "any color, so long as it is off-white" and
don't care so much about long lasting jobs because tenants damage
the best quality paints almost as fast as the lower priced
Besides, the places look and smell fresh and clean after they are
painted. These jobs you can do fast and not worry so much about
matching colors to rapidly changing minds.. In fact, if you want
to learn the house painting business and need income right away,
this is the way to start.
To start your painting career with commercial work, contact
several real estate companies and rental agents. tell them what
you do, about how much you charge, and ask them to try your
Always leave your card with them a telephone number that someone
will answer. You have a wide choice of arrangements - who
supplies the paint, whether you charge by the hour, square
footage, room or job.
You can undoubtedly find a paint supplier who will sell you paint
on credit,,, however these sources may only handle higher priced
paints that your customer will not pay for. You can do the same
with ladders and brushes -- and, you can rent equipment that you
will not ordinarily need (or can't afford).
Commercial accounts require careful management of your time. When
they call you for a job, they are usually in a hurry. A tenant is
complaining or they need the place painted in order to rent it..
You should always be in a position to tell them when you can get
started -- and you MUST SHOW UP when you promise! Not showing up
will lose you more accounts than sloppy work!
If there is a problem and you cannot get there when promised,
call the customer and inform them a problem has arisen. They may
gripe over the phone, but they will appreciate the fact that you
didn't "stiff" them (they know things like this happen). If you
run into problems in this area and have any helpers, at least
send a helper over to start the job.
When doing commercial work, you will be tempted to accept smaller
jobs by individuals -- that pay better. Doing small jobs between
big ones is one thing; doing them INSTEAD is another. Decide what
kind of work you want to specialize in and make that your first
Commercial accounts have one additional advantage over private
jobs -- they are continuing. That is, they keep sending you on
job after job as long as they are satisfied with your price and
Normally, each private job is one-time thing. Although references
to friends and relatives and word-of-mouth advertising can be a
tremendous help to a successful painting business, each rental
agent or real estate account represents a continuing series of
Contracting to paint for private individuals generally (but not
always) is much more profitable than commercial work. But, it
usually requires more time and effort because there are more
individuals to please.
You will have to estimate the job, submit a bid, wait for a
response, then start the job and undoubtedly modify details as
you go -- private home owners frequently change their mind about
colors or just what does and does not get painted.
One contractor sizes up his prospective clients and adds 10% to
his bid for those he suspects will want a lot of modifications.
When the job is completed, you will hopefully be paid in full.
Here is where you can get into trouble! You have already paid for
the materials and your helpers (or owe them), and the owner wants
to pay you "next week."
One or two cases like this will teach you to
get a clear understanding of payment BEFORE
you start the job!
As long as you can take care of the paperwork, you can hire
helpers to do much (if not most) of the actual painting. Consider
hiring high school and college kids during the summer, and don't
One entrepreneur went to a senior citizen's club and found a
group of retired men who would go out and paint his houses
without supervision. They did excellent work, kept their own time
records, and did the jobs for less than half what a painting
contractor would have charged!
Take a good look around your area and determine what kinds of
painting jobs are needed (wood, stucco, one or two story,
weatherability, styles, etc.), and adjust your efforts
accordingly. When you see a need, make sure the affected people
know you can provide the solution.
After a while, you will be able to "eyeball" a house and know
just what it will take for the job. Until then, it is best to
know what you are getting into before committing to a price.
Measure the square footage of the surfaces to be painted. For
example, a wall 8' high, 50' long is 400 square feet. Subtract
for large doors and windows for the exact amount of surface for
Do the same for all other walls, ceilings and offsets and
subtract for the openings for the overall surface to be painted.
Look on the paint can to see how many square feet a gallon will
cover to estimate the amount of paint.
Nest, figure the smaller surfaces (woodworks, window sills, trim)
that will be painted with gloss latex or enamel. Some guessing
may be necessary for this type work, but the amounts involved are
Some painters base their estimates on the square footage alone --
they just consider the "savings" of doors and windows against the
paint and extra time needed for small surfaces.
If the job is about average, they balance out. If the job has
more or less openings, a percentage is estimated. This technique
is much faster than measuring all the surfaces, but is not
difficult for an experienced paint estimator.
Next, consider any expendables that might be involved, such as
tubes of color, paint mixers, plastic drop cloths, and any
special tools. Finally, it is time to estimate the labor.
If you have ever painted the inside of a 10 x 12 foot room you
know about how long it took perhaps 2-3 hours with a roller, plus
another hour for set-up, trim, and clean-up. Then, do the same
with the trim and "close work" and add the two.
Although you will soon develop your own gauge, you can use a
temporary formula for now, based on rooms, square footage and the
amount of trim.
For outside painting, the surface to be painted will have a lot
to do with what it takes to paint ir properly -- some surfaces
are more porous and require much more paint, some will need
scraping and/or sanding, and still others require primer, sealer,
and/or extra coats to cover dark colors.
Unless you already have some experienced in this area, it would
be a good idea to bid those first few jobs by the hour until you
can more accurately estimate them,
Although rates vary drastically in different parts of the country
and even neighborhoods, an arbitrary rate for normal size inside
rooms (including materials) would be about $100 each; outsiders
of single, smooth surfaced dwellings, about $500.
Don't forget to consider how many coats of paint the job will
take, whether primers or "color killers" are needed -- and a
biggie: surface preparation.
Many frame houses have peeling or blistered paint that must be
sanded or removed; some have mildew that should be sprayed with a
chlorine solution (Clorox - or any brand, washed and let dry.
Inside walls may have cracks or holes that need to be repaired,
and there may be places where part of the surface is missing or
rotted. Every painter has a supply of putty and normal cleaning
materials, but some jobs obviously need more than a normal paint
When bidding on or accepting a job, look it over thoroughly and
agree on what is to be done about any special problems like
Tip: An easy (and cheap) way to spray for mildew is house a
garden sprayer. Pour household bleach into the plastic sprayer
jar, turn on the hose and spray the water and chlorine mixture on
mildewed walls and eaves.
After an hour or so, rinse. Check for any stubborn spots and redo
them. When rinsed and dry, paint right over. Note that you should
not wear your best suit while spraying chlorine, and avoid
breathing the fumes.
When submitting your bid, always figure it with good quality
materials and let the customer know that you did.. If he wants to
scrimp for a better price, let it be his decision to use cheaper
This is not to say that should you choose the most expensive
paints -- only good quality. Since you are now a business
person,, you can probably get a discount on all your painting
supplies. If one store won't give you a discount, go to another!
This is extra profit -- you need not share this savings or
information with your customers, even if you cut the contract
To help sell your services, compile a photo album of before and
after pictures. Take the before and after pictures from the same
angles, and it won't hurt if the afters are in a little better
The main pitfalls in this business are over extending -- taking
on more work than you can handle, or jobs that are too
complicated for your talents and/or equipment at the time. These
are clearly important because in order to be successful you must
earn a reputation for keeping your word.
You can avoid over extension by looking over each job carefully
before accepting it -- and keep your reputation by making good on
all promises, whether to big or small customers (either can hurt
you if you "do them wrong"). Pay your bills, keep your word and
do good work, and you will do fine.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF PAINTERS & ALLIED TRADES, 1750 New
York Ave.,8th Floor, Washington, DC 2006. Write for information
DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.,31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11051.
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QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700,
312/634-4800. Office supplies.
NEBS, 500 Main St.,Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office
IVEY PRINTING, Box 761, Meridan, TX 76665. Letterhead: 400 sheets
plus 200 envelopes - $18.
SWEDCO, Box 29, Mooresville, NC 28115. 3 line rubber stamps - $3;
business cards - $13 per thousand.
ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards (raised
print - $11.50 per K) and letterhead stationery. Will print your
copy ready logo or design, even whole card.
WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short
run business cards, stationery, etc. Good quality, but no choice
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