Estimating the Costs of a Commercial Painting Project
Breaking into the commercial painting market can be difficult since competition for these contracts is fierce. The extra effort is worth it, however, since landing even one contract can lead to long-term business security and profitability.
Employing good sales and marketing techniques, along with a little bit of ingenuity, can help you capture good commercial painting leads—but a lead does not automatically result in a contract. There’s also the bidding process to consider.
The key to winning bids is to accurately estimate commercial job costs. Estimate too high and you risk turning off the client. Sell yourself short and you may not even make a profit.
If you want to achieve a solid and consistent success rate with your commercial painting bids, then you will need to come up with a cost estimation process that you can apply to every prospective job—no matter how big or small, exterior or interior, etc.
Consider the following cost factors when estimating a commercial painting job:
What Material Are You Painting?
Unlike most residential painters, commercial painting contractors work with a wide range of materials. In addition to typical home-building material like wood and siding, commercial painters may deal with stucco, concrete, metal, and more.
Different materials present different demands and introduce different costs into the equation. A familiarity with all building materials is necessary for success in the commercial painting industry.
What Is the Size of the Project?
Business constructions—restaurants, hotels, offices, and so on—are generally larger than a home, and thus require more complex planning and bigger crews than the typical residential painting gig. Preparation isn’t just matter of scaling materials and equipment, but you may need to hire people who specialize in planning and organization to get the project off the ground and running smoothly.
How Much for Labor?
Calculating labor costs requires that you know the size of the business and how many square feet your crew can complete in an hour. From these two factors, you can deduce how long the job will take and then it’s just a matter of applying wages to determine the total labor cost.
Keep in mind that no prediction is perfect, no matter how meticulous the calculations, so leave a little cushion in your estimate in case of unforeseen variables.
Side note: when scouting the premises, bring your crew with you. They can alert you to aspects of the building that are time-consuming, so you can factor in the extra work.
What Supplies Will Be Needed?
Make a list of the costs of a gallon of paint, a gallon of primer, a tube of caulking, a roll of masking plastic, paint finish, etc. Then figure out how much of each material it takes on average to complete a certain amount of square footage.
Once you’ve figured that out, scale the numbers according to the size of the building and you should have an accurate estimate of your total material cost.
Side note: if you’re purchasing all your materials from a single vendor in bulk, you may be able to get a significant discount. Even if you haven’t been a customer for a long time, it never hurts to ask. The money you save on materials can be reinvested elsewhere or used as a cushion.
Will Extra Services Be Needed?
Depending on the type of facility and its building materials, you may need to provide special prep services that are usually not involved in residential painting. These services may include epoxy flooring or coating, sandblasting, power washing, or other types of surface preparation.
If the contract involves renovation or restoration, some prior maintenance work may be needed as well.
How Much Profit Do You Want to Make?
Once you’ve determined the total cost of materials and labor, don’t forget to factor profit into your estimate. It is the ultimate goal of business, after all.
How much you should mark up depends on the size and difficulty of the contract, how many employees you have, how expensive the materials are, and more. Rather than applying a standard rate to all jobs, you should approach each contract on a case-by-case basis, gauge the demand and the competition, and stick with a figure that feels right to you.
After determining all of the above, you should create a clear, easy to follow bid sheet that breaks down the charges by category.
Go over the bid sheet with the client to clear up all possible confusion and confirm the charges. If changes are made, make them in writing and have them initialed by both parties. The more thorough your sheet is, the less conflicts you’ll encounter in the future.