One question I get asked over and over is “How long does it take to paint a room?”.
I get asked this question from potential clients, other painters and friends looking for a favor.
The reason people want to know how long it takes to paint a room is typically they want to know if their painter is charging a fair price for their time or how long they should plan out for their own project.
My answer is typically it depends, and really it does.
How long it will take you, or a painting contractor to paint a room is going to depend on a number of factors. But with the info I am going to give you here, you should be able to easily come up with a rough estimate of how long it should take you, or someone you hire, to paint a basic room.
The Size Of The Room To Be Painted
The first thing we must determine is what is your definition of “a room”?
For the rest of this article, I am going to use this as my standard. I will give you a per square foot time estimate at the end of each section so you can use this to determine how long it will take to paint your room based on the actual square footage.
You can take my Per Square Foot number and times it by the actual square feet in your room to come up with a good time estimate for your project.
The first consideration is your prep work.
Are there holes in walls, pinholes, quarter size holes or even fist size holes?
Assuming there is no major drywall repair work to be done, I typically estimate about 10 minutes of basic nail hole filling and mud work for a normal (432 sq ft) sized room.
Before I move onto sanding, I wipe down all the trim work with a damp rag to remove dust and grime and to allow my tape to stick properly. 5 minutes for an average room.
Once the trim is cleaned, you will need to tape the floor trim, window trim, door trim and remove outlet and switch covers. This can vary drastically for people with different skill levels. Personally, I can tape an average room 20 minutes while it may take my wife an hour. So a good estimate here is 40 minutes to tape a room for painting.
Pro-Tip: While it may cost more, a high-quality tape like Frog Tape will save you time and sanity in the long run. A poor quality tape will not stick properly and allow paint to leak behind it and get on your trim and other protected areas.
Next, the walls will need to be sanded smooth with either a sanding sponge or a sanding pole. Obviously, a pole is going to be faster. Once sanding is complete, you’ll want to remove the dust from your tape and walls with a dust brush, rag or shop vac. A safe estimate is roughly 15 – 20 minutes for this step.
Your last prep-work step is going to be laying out drop cloths and setting up your brush, roller and paint tray. 10 minutes for an average room.
TOTAL TIME TO PREP AN AVERAGE ROOM: 80 Minutes / 0.185 minutes per square foot.
Cutting In The Ceiling and Trim
Cutting in the ceiling involves painting next to the ceiling with your brush to create a sharp clean line in the corner where the walls meet the ceiling.
This is another step that highly depends on your skill and experience level. With my 15+ years of experience, the time it takes me to cut in the ceiling of an average room is roughly 20 minutes for the first coat and 10 for the second.
For an average person, you can expect roughly 40-60 minutes to cut in the first coat and 30-40 for the second coat.
Pro-Tip: Rather than carrying around a paint can with you while you cut in the ceiling and trim, invest in a Handy Paint Pail. This simply painting bucket is perfect for use with a 2.5″ brush. It allows you to easily dip, clean your edge, has a handle strap on the back and a magnet to hold your brush. It is incredibly handy and worth the roughly $10.
Cutting in the trim is similar to cutting in the ceiling but you have the trim already taped off, so it should much quicker. Along with brushing next to the trim, you’ll be brushing around the outlets, switches and in corners where a roller cannot get to.
Cutting in trim should take roughly 30 minutes per coat for an average room.
PRO-TIP: in order to speed up your brushing/cutting in time, use a high quality 2.5″ – 3″ angled brush. A brush of this size holds a lot of paint and allows you to move much faster than a 2″ or smaller brush.
TOTAL TIME TO CUT IN CEILINGS AND TRIM: 140 Minutes / 0.32 minutes per square foot.
Rolling Out the Walls / Painting the Walls
This is the final step in painting a room and is quite easy if you have done everything else right.
Rolling is something that really doesn’t require much skill to be good at. When I am training in a new painter, this is where I start them and I give them this advice: Every 3 feet, stop and look back over your work. Are there runs, streaks, sags or light spots? If so, roll back over it until it is smooth and even.
Typically it should take the average person roughly 40 minutes to roll out each coat the paint in an average room.
TOTAL TIME TO ROLL OUT WALLS: 80 Minutes / 0.185 Minutes Per Square Foot.
Pro-Tip: In order to go fast and have the best looking walls as possible, you need to use the right equipment.
A 2′-4′ extension pole will save your back and allow you to paint much faster.
The Handy Paint Tray holds one gallon of paint, has convenient handles on both ends and a magnet to hold your paint brush.
The Wooster Roller Frame is the highest quality and most durable roller frame I have used. It holds up to pure abuse.
A 3/4″ nap Purdy White Dove roller cover will combine the best quality and speed for your walls.
Cleanup & Touch Up
The final step to any paint job is the cleanup and touch up.
This is where you pull the tape off of the trim, cleanup up your dust, fold up your drop cloths, put outlet and switch covers back on, and then inspect the room for any missed spots, light areas, paint on trim or paint on the ceiling.
The cleanup/touchup time can vary depending on how thorough you were during the painting project. Typically, give yourself 30 minutes to put the room 100% back together.
TOTAL TIME FOR CLEANUP: 30 Minutes / 0.07 Minutes Per Square Foot
Determining The Time For Any Room
Now that you have a good idea for the times it takes for every step of painting a room, you can apply these times to any size room for a good estimate of the time it should take you to paint a room.
- Prep Work: 0.185 Minutes Per Square Foot
- Cutting In: 0.32 Minutes Per Square Foot
- Rolling Walls: 0.185 Minutes Per Square Foot
- Cleanup: 0.07 Minutes Per Square Foot
Total Time: 0.76 Minutes Per Square Foot
How To Use This Information
In order to use this information for your own project, you will need to find the square footage of your room and multiply that by 0.76 to get the total minutes it will take to paint your room.
If you have a 20′ x 15′ room with 9′ ceilings, to get the square footage you will add up the perimeter of the entire room. The perimeter is the total length around the room. So in this case that is 20+20+15+15 = 70 linear feet.
Next, take the perimeter and multiply it by the height of the room to get the total square footage: 70 * 9 = 630 square feet.
Finally, multiply the total square feet by the time it should take per square foot: 630 * 0.76 = 478 Minutes or 7.98 Hours.
One Last Note
Obviously, like I said earlier, everything depends on skill level, tools and how fast you like to work. The examples I gave here are for the average homeowner. Many professionals can paint a room in half the time it takes an average homeowner.
Good Luck With Your DIY Painting Project!
Curious how long it would take to paint the trim in a room? Check out my post on painting interior trim to find out!