How Much Does It Cost to Paint a House?

Painting your home is a wise investment in time (if you DIY) and money. Here’s how much it’ll cost you.

how much does it cost to paint your house image of a mid century modern home painted with bright and warm hues of yellow and orange with green accents and a dual sided fireplace as a focal point
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There's nothing like a fresh coat of paint to boost curb appeal and make an entire home feel fresh. But exactly how much does it cost to paint a house? 

Here's everything you need to know about the costs of painting your home’s exterior and interior.

Average Cost to Paint a House

House-painting costs can vary significantly depending on your home's square footage, where you live, and who is crunching the numbers.

But some pros can make a pretty good estimate. These are Fixr.com's ballpark figures for the average cost to paint a house, including labor and materials.

Cost to paint a house (both exterior and interior):

  • 1,000 square feet: $4,500 to $7,500
  • 2,500 square feet: $10,300 to $19,750
  • 4,000 square feet: $14,000 to $23,400

In addition to being affected by a home's square footage, painting costs can vary based on the type of paint the chosen, the paint's finish, the type of paint primer used, local labor rates, and the type of exterior siding.

How Much Paint Costs

The type of paint materials you choose greatly affects the cost to paint your home — not to mention how the paint looks and how long it lasts. To calculate how much paint will cost, start by understanding the different types, finishes, and quality of paint, and whether you'll need primer.

Paint Types

Generally, there are two types of paint: latex-based paint and oil-based paint.

Latex paint (also known as water-based paint) is the most common type of paint for home use, since it rolls on smoothly, dries quickly, is environmentally friendly, and tends to have less odor than oil-based paint. The main drawback, though, is it's less durable than oil-based paint, meaning it's more prone to scratches.

Oil-based paint is commonly used for high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and floors, trims, and moldings, since these areas take more abuse over time than walls do. Typically oil-based paints are less expensive than latex paints, take longer to dry, can create bad odor while drying, and contain more volatile organic compounds, which means they're less environmentally friendly.

Here's the cost breakdown for latex- and oil-based paints:

  • Latex-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon
  • Oil-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon

Paint Finishes

A paint's finish can also affect its price tag. There are five main types of finishes: flat/matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each finish has its pros and cons, and their costs vary. Both latex-based paints and oil-based paints offer the full range of finishes.

Two aesthetic things to consider when selecting a finish are how shiny you'd like the surface to be and whether you want to hide any imperfections on the surface to be painted. Generally, higher-gloss paint finishes reflect light better than lower-gloss finishes, like eggshell and matte. That makes them shiny and also causes them to highlight flaws in walls and ceilings.

High-gloss paint is the most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens. It's ultra-shiny, light-reflective, and hard (think appliance-paint tough). High-gloss paint has too much shine for interior walls; you'd find the reflections and drywall flaws distracting. It is a good choice for areas that sticky fingers touch, though, such as cabinets, trim, and doors.

Semi-gloss paint, which is slightly less durable than high-gloss paint, is well suited for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease are common and need to easily wipe away. This makes it appropriate for kitchen walls, bathrooms, and trim.

Satin paint has a lovely luster that, despite the name, is often described as velvety. Because it's easy to clean, it's suitable for high-traffic areas—including kitchens, bathrooms, trim, and chair rails—though it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes.

Eggshell paint falls between satin and flat on the sheen and durability scale. It's essentially a flat, low-shine finish with little luster, like a chicken's egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don't get a lot of bumps and scuffs.

Flat, or matte finish on the no-shine end of the finish spectrum. A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat or matte paint (the terms are interchangeable) soaks up — rather than reflects — light, has the most pigment, and provides the most coverage. It's good for adults' bedrooms and other interior rooms that won't be roughed up by kids. That's because it's tough to clean without taking paint off.

Generally, the higher the shine, the higher the cost:

  • Flat/Matte: $20 to $50 per gallon, depending on brand
  • Eggshell: $1 to $5 more per gallon than flat of same brand
  • Satin: $1 to $5 more per gallon than eggshell of same brand
  • Semi-gloss: $1 to $5 more per gallon than satin of same brand
  • High-gloss: $1 to $5 more per gallon than semi-gloss of same brand

Paint Quality and Other Factors

Paint quality also affects paint price. Higher-grade paints tend to adhere to surfaces better and last longer. They also tend to be thicker, requiring fewer coats. As a result, they cost more than lower-grade paints.

Major brands often offer a range of paint qualities. For example, Home Depot's Behr sells Behr Premium Plus, Behr Ultra, and Behr Marquee (its higher-quality paint). An example of the cost difference between a gallon of semi-gloss Behr Premium Plus and Behr Marquee in the same color is $40 versus $59.

Another factor that can affect paint cost is color. For instance, trendy paints may cost substantially more than classic hues. In addition, paint features such as mold and mildew resistance are important cost factors. Many mold-inhibiting bathroom paints, for instance, cost substantially more than ordinary latex-acrylic paint —sometimes close to twice the cost. Also, paints that come with warranties from the manufacturer may be more expensive depending on the length of the warranty. (A two-year warranty is standard.)

Paint Primer

Most paint jobs will require a layer of paint primer before paint is applied. Primer seals in stains, creates a more even finish, and ensures the paint will better adhere to the surface. However, not all wall surfaces call for primer.

Applying primer over new (read: bare) surfaces is a good idea, since it will seal the original material and prevent the paint from soaking into it. A layer of primer is also beneficial when painting walls with water damage, mildew stains, or greasy patches, since this will enable the paint to mask these surface stains.

Conversely, if the walls are in decent shape or the new paint color closely matches the old one, you can probably get away without primer.

Some paints are two-in-one paint and primer products, or so-called "self-priming paints." These paints are designed to seal and cover surfaces in one coat. But, here's the secret: There's actually no primer in the mix. What you're really working with is just a thicker paint that often doesn't perform as well as using separate primer and paint.

The moral? Though two-in-one paint can help you save time, it's wise to opt for a separate primer in advance of most paint jobs.

The three types of primer are oil-based, latex-based, and shellac-based. Their costs are as follows:

Oil-based primers: $25 to $84 per gallon. An industry standard for decades, oil-based primers are ideal for unfinished or bare wood. They seal the porous surface of wood, enabling the coat of paint to better adhere to the surface.

Latex-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. Ideal for preparing unfinished drywall and softwood (like pine) for painting, latex-based primers are less brittle than oil-based primers. That makes them less susceptible to peeling and cracking.

Shellac primers: $20 to $60 per gallon. Excellent at blocking stains, shellac primer works well on walls that are susceptible to water or smoke damage.

Though all three primers can be used under latex paint, it's best to use a latex-based primer for a latex paint, oil-based primer for an oil-based paint, and shellac primer for walls with stubborn stains.

Average Cost to Paint Interior of a House

According to Fixr.com, interior painting costs will depend largely on your home's square footage. Here are their estimated averages:

  • 1,000 square feet: $3,000 to $4,000
  • 2,500 square feet: $7,500 to $10,000
  • 4,000 square feet: $12,000 to $16,000

Average Cost to Paint the Exterior of a House

Likewise, exterior painting costs will vary depending on the size of your home:

  • 1,000 square feet: $800 to $3,200
  • 2,500 square feet: $2,100 to $8,400
  • 4,000 square feet: $3,400 to $13,400

However, those figures don't account for siding materials. Some sidings cost more to paint than others because of their texture and the type of paint required to properly cover them.

Here are painting estimates for the five most common types of siding based on 1,000 paintable square feet:

  • Steel siding: $1,500 to $2,500
  • Concrete siding: $1,200 to $2,700
  • Vinyl siding: $500 to $2,500
  • Wood siding: $1,000 to $3,000
  • Stucco siding: $1,500 to $4,000

Labor Cost to Paint a House

While some professional painters will charge a flat fee for a painting project, most charge an hourly rate — about $40 to $60 per hour on average. Most painters will charge more for last-minute jobs (think 48 hours' notice or less), travel costs (if you live far away, the painter may want extra money for gas), or intensive prep work (such as removing mold or stains before painting). Also, depending on the painter, the rate may or may not include the cost of paint materials such as paint, primer, and supplies.

Repairs and improvements can also increase your painting budget. Painters may offer some of these additional services, but you may need to call in a specialist for others:

  • Drywall repair: $200 to $500 per room
  • Repairing plaster: Average is $500 to $1,000; simple repairs, $250; large repairs, $1,200
  • Mold remediation: $1,500 to $4,000 based on the size of the area and level of mold infestation
  • Patching holes: $60 to $200 for holes; $60 to $230 for cracks
  • Repairing drywall: $60 to $70

Two more factors that can affect a painter's labor costs are the number of stories and the condition of the home. Generally, the more stories a house has, the higher the labor costs. And, if a home is older, prep work such as scrubbing siding or sanding aging wood could be more time consuming for the painter.

How Much Paint Supplies Cost

Although you can save big bucks by not paying for someone else's labor, there are downsides to doing the work yourself. For one thing, you'll have to buy supplies such as drop cloths, tape, ladders, brushes, and rollers.

Drop Cloths

You can choose from different types of drop cloths to protect furniture and floors while painting. Here are the types and price estimates.

Canvas drop cloths: $31 for 9 feet by 12 feet. Canvas cloths are the most expensive, but they are virtually indestructible. Buy them once, and they'll last for many years.

Plastic drop cloths: About $2l for 9 feet by 12 feet. Paint-proof, lightweight, and economical, plastic drop cloths are good for protecting furniture and cabinet covers. They can also be used to protect lawns and landscaping during painting.

Paper drop cloths: $7 for 4 feet by 15 feet. Paper drop cloths are a cheap way to cover furniture or windows while painting small, indoor jobs, such as touching up window trim. They're absorbent and textured to hold paint. When you're finished, you can just fold them up and throw them away. However, paper cloths are not the best option for protecting floors, since they can tear easily.

Paper/poly drop cloths: $6 for 9 feet by 12 feet. The best of both paper and plastic, these cloths are low-cost and disposable. They absorb paint drips while better protecting what's underneath. They also provide some protection from slipping. Plus, you can cut paper/poly drop cloths to fit the space. But, like paper, paper/poly drop cloths can rip more easily than plastic or canvas.

Upcycled drop cloths: Have old shower curtains, drapes, or other sturdy material lying around? Both your wallet and the planet will thank you for hanging on to them for painting projects.

Painter's Tape

Painter's tape is a must for protecting areas that should not be painted, like crown molding. It costs about $5 to $15 for a roll of 60 yards. Delicate surfaces, such as wallpaper or ceiling tiles, will require a lower adhesion tape than ordinary walls and trim.

Ladders

Ladder prices vary based on size — though most homeowners can paint the interior of their home using a 16-foot extension ladder, which generally costs from $218 to $314. Folks in houses with low ceilings may even be able to get away with a step stool, the prices for which vary widely, from $15 to $55, depending on height and durability.

The right ladder to fit your exterior painting needs will vary by the size of your home. But generally, the job will require an extension ladder, which can run from $218 to $314.

Brushes and Rollers

Of course, paint brushes and rollers are also important line items on your budget sheet. A 3-inch-wide paint brush costs an average, $7 to $12, though you'll likely need an assortment of paint brush sizes for trim, corners, and narrow surface areas. Brushes come in a variety of bristle types and qualities, and each has a different purpose. Some are intended for specific paint types, finishes, and surfaces, so be sure to buy the right brushes for your painting job.

You'll also need a set of paint rollers. Paint roller kits that include paint trays cost about $13 to $20. Like brushes, rollers are sold with different textures to suit different surface types, such as smooth or rough. 

How to Save on Painting Your House

Having a professional paint your home from top to bottom, inside and outside, has a number of advantages. For starters, it'll save you a ton of time by not having to do the work yourself. In addition, you won't have to be concerned about safety issues, such as climbing a ladder to paint your house's gutters. Best of all, you can expect a clean, attractive finished product from a professional painter.

DIY Some of the Work

You can lessen the load on your wallet in a variety of ways, including DIYing some or most of the job yourself. These basic tasks will help speed up the process for your painter:

Prep rooms for painting. This requires moving furniture away from walls, covering furniture and floors with drop cloths to protect them from any spilled paint, removing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and cleaning dirt or grime off the walls.

Prep the exterior for painting. Outside, you'll want to trim bushes, trees, and shrubs that are near the house so the painter will have easy access to your home's siding. Then, scrape any loose or peeling paint, sand rough spots on wood siding, caulk any cracks or gaps, and clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, mildew, or mold.

Test different paint swatches. The last thing you want to do is paint a whole room and then decide you hate the color (yes, it happens). Try different paint colors on the surface before choosing the paint you want. Buying sample sizes will help you save money. The caveat: Paint color samples aren't real paint, so if you try to finish or touch up a project with samples, the paint will fade.

Do the cleanup. When the painting is done, send the painter home and do the cleanup work yourself. This will include rolling up drop cloths and collecting scrapings; removing painter's tape (use a hair dryer on low heat to soften the adhesive); cleaning paint brushes, rollers, and other tools; replacing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures; and sealing any leftover paint cans and storing them in a dry, temperature-controlled location.

Find a Competitive, Skilled Painter

Of course, the painter you hire will be handling the lion's share of the workload. Take these steps to find a reliable painter — someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price.

Get quotes from at least three painters. To answer the ultimate question, how much does it cost to paint a house, you'll want to start by obtaining several bids. Have the painters view your property in person before they write you a formal bid. This way, you won't have any surprises when the painters show up to perform the work.

Compare offers. The painter offering the lowest rate may not always be the best painter for the job. Indeed, the total cost isn't the only factor in choosing between multiple bids. You'll want to look at contracts side by side to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison. Are the same materials being used? Are the same services included? Does the painter provide a warranty?

Ask the right questions. Before signing a contract, make sure to ask a painter these questions: How long has your company been in business? Do you use subcontractors? Do you have proof of business liability insurance and worker's compensation insurance? How much wall prep is included in the estimate? How do you communicate with your clients?

Interview past clients. Talking to former customers is always a good idea. But, to help you get honest feedback, ask to speak to the painter's three most recent clients. When you speak to them, ask about specifics. Find out whether the painters showed up on time, protected furniture from paint spills, kept the house clean, completed the project on schedule, and of course, what it cost to paint their house.

In addition, ask the painter if there are other things you can do to trim expenses. Often you can get a discount for doing multiple jobs at once. So, if you're thinking about painting your entire house, inside and out, there could be a benefit to doing it at the same time. 

Photo of Daniel Bortz smiling in suit against gray backdrop

Daniel Bortz

Daniel Bortz is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., whose work has appeared in "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "Money" magazine, "Consumer Reports," "Entrepreneur" magazine, and more.