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Interior Painting Costs: The Real Cost Of DIY And Professional Painting

Knowing how much interior painting costs is great for planning and budgeting, whether you’re curious about what your DIY painting project will cost or what a painting contractor might charge you. 

In this video, I will show you exactly how to figure out your DIY painting costs, from paint down to the tools you’ll need and what you can expect a painting contractor would charge.

Interior Painted Room
Finished painting a small room.

On Average, Painting a 12×12 Room Will Cost You $150 To Paint Yourself.

Hiring A Professional Will cost $384 For The same room.

If you want to know the details behind the numbers above and the price per square foot, keep reading!

Figuring Out The Square Footage Of Your Walls 

The first thing you will need to do is figure out the square footage of your walls. 

I don’t like to over-complicate this step. I simply measure the diameter of a room and then times that by the height of the walls. I do not subtract for doors or windows; they do not account for enough space to make a real difference.

To find the diameter of your room, take your tape measure and measure out the length and width of your room, add them together, and times it by 2. If your room is odd-shaped, just measure each wall individually and add those all together. 

Next, take the diameter you just came up with times the height of your walls. In most homes, the ceilings are typically 8 or 9 feet tall. 

According to a quick Google search, the average bedroom is roughly 12′ x 12′. So the diameter of a 12×12 room is 48′. If the ceilings of this room are 8 feet tall, then we take 48′ times 8′ wall height and get 384 square feet. 

DIY Interior Painting Cost

Ryan Prepping a Room For Paint

Now that we know the square footage of the walls you want to paint, we can determine the costs. 

We’re going to start with the DIY costs, but if you’d like to jump straight to the costs of hiring interior painting, We’ll mark the video below so you can skip ahead. 

First, let’s start with how much paint you will need.

The average gallon of paint will cover 300-400 square feet. Since we didn’t subtract windows or doors, I like to go on the high end and go with 400 square feet of coverage per gallon. 

Next, for this example, we will assume that the walls need two coats of paint. Some paints claim 1 coat coverage, but often even they need two coats. 

So if we take 2 coats times 384 square feet, we get 768.

Last, if we take 768 square feet and divide by 400, we get 1.92 gallons of paint. Rounded up, we need two gallons of paint. Side note: We always want a little paint left over after a project for touch-ups, so ordering two gallons when needing 1.92 is PERFECT. 

Next, we need to know the cost of the paint we plan on using. 

Behr, Sherwin Williams, and Benjamin Moore are a few popular options, so let’s look at those for this example. 

Behr Paints range from $30 up to $60 per gallon.

Sherwin Williams interior paints range from $70 to $115 per gallon (though honestly, they almost always have some sale going on). 

And Benjamin Moore interior paints range from $50 to $100. 

An excellent average for our example is $70 per gallon. 

So, if we take $70 per gallon times our two gallons, we get $140 for our paint cost. 

Tools and Consumable Needed

When painting, you have some tools you need to only buy once and can last you for years, such as roller handles, paint trays, brushes, and rollers, if you take good care of them. 

The only other consumable (besides paint) is the tape that gets used up every project. 

So let’s start with the one-time purchases. You will need:

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Even if you have all these tools above, you will still need tape. A roll of 1.5″ frog tape (my favorite) has 60 yards on a roll, which is usually enough for 1 room with two windows, a door, and a closet door. 

A roll of frog tape is roughly $9.

Side note: If you’re painting a room with high ceilings, you may need a taller ladder costing upwards of $300, so keep that in mind. Personally, I like the Little Giant 17′ multi-ladder.

Ryan painting high walls
Me painting a high ceiling.

Little Giant Ladders, Velocity with Wheels, M17, 17 Ft, Multi-Position Ladder, Aluminum, Type 1A, 300 lbs Weight Rating, (15417-001)

Little Giant 17′ Multi Ladder (my personal favorite)

Adding Up The Costs

Let’s add everything now and see what your DIY painting project should cost you.

Consumables, which are your paint and tape, should be $149 for our hypothetical room. Since our room was 384 square feet, we can turn that into a per square foot number for you to use on any size room or number of rooms you plan to paint. 

That number is $0.38 per square foot.  

DIY Interior Painting Costs $0.38 Per Square Foot Of Wall Space

If you have a whole house to paint, find the square footage of all your walls, then times that by $0.38, and you’ll have your number. 

If you don’t have any painting tools yet, make sure to budget extra for the costs of these tools. If you add up the tools list from earlier, that number should come in around $95 for a basic set of painting tools. 

Of course, you can always add in extra tools like an extension pole, which is worth it if you have a larger project to paint, or a 5-in-1 tool that is handy for pressing tape, cutting clean tape lines, and cleaning rollers. 

What Does A Professional Painter Cost?

Now that we know what your DIY interior painting project costs, let’s dig into what a professional would charge you for the same thing. 

When I price out a room for painting, I always price it by wall square footage because it is repeatable and accurate.

When I was a broke painter desperate for a job in my early days, I charged as low as $0.25 per square foot. Of course, paint was cheaper 20 years ago, but I made almost nothing. 

Eventually, I jumped up to $0.50, then $0.65, then $0.75, then $1 per square foot of wall space, and I was thrilled. 

In today’s market, the average price you’ll find professional painters are charging is $1 per square foot. Some will be charging more due to their reputation or their market, and others will be charging less. But if you plan for $1, you’ll usually be in the ballpark. 

So our 12×12 room with 384 square feet of wall space should cost you $384 to have professionally painted. 

If we want to break that number down a little further, we can see the “why” of $1 per square foot. 

Let’s go back to that hypothetical 12×12 room. 

Your painting contractor has consumable costs like you, though they probably get paint a bit cheaper due to contractor pricing. Let’s set their basic costs at $0.35 per square foot. 

They also have other costs to run their business, such as insurance, tools, transportation, marketing, etc. 

Let’s add $0.15 for additional costs. 

That means a professional probably breaks even around $0.50 per square foot. 

A 12×12 room will probably take a professional roughly 3 hours to paint from start to finish. That would include basic wall repair, taping, rolling out the room, and cleaning up. 

Next, we need to factor in the painter’s profit. Most painters want to make at least $50 per hour and up to $100 per hour on the higher end. 

That’s roughly $0.40 to $0.78 per square foot that a painter will add to their costs for profit. 

Add in their expenses of $0.50, and you get $0.90 on the low end to $1.28 per square foot on the high end for a professional painter to paint your interior walls.

A Professional Painter Will Typically Charge $0.90 to $1.28 Per Square Foot Of Wall Space.

Remember that there will always be variables to consider in every project (these numbers are not exact). 

For example, If you have 18′ ceilings in your entry, your painter will charge more for those walls because they require ladder work (which is slower and carries more risk). I often charge $2 per square foot for those types of areas. 

Do you require your painter to move a lot of furniture? They may charge for that as well. 

Wrapping Up The Cost To Paint an Interior

Well, there you have it. The average cost of DIY painting is roughly $0.38 per square foot while hiring a painting contractor is approximately $1 per square foot. 

Our hypothetical 12×12 room should cost $134 to paint yourself (plus any tools you don’t have) or $384 to hire a professional. 

Hope this helps!

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