• Commercial
  • Commercial flooring
  • Commercial painting
  • Food and beverage
  • Food safety audit compliance
  • Industrial cleaning
  • Industrial flooring
  • Industrial painting
  • National accounts
  • Worker safety and environmental health

Thriving since 1982, learn about Painters USA’s people, culture, mission, and values.

As a certified female business company, Painters USA is a Tier 1 and 2 business provider that supports diversity goals.

Proud of the highly trained and committed workforce we call family.

Regional and national coverage and national account support from offices in Illinois and Texas.

Read what some of our clients have said about working with Painters USA.

The latest about our company, people, events and other announcements.

Delve into commercial / industrial cleaning, painting, coating, and flooring topics.

Causes we support through financial and material donations and volunteer time.

If you have an active project, click here to request a quote or speak with a sales representative.

Get the information you need about working for Painters USA and view current job openings in our Illinois and Texas regions.

Click here for any other questions or needs. Based on your request, we will direct you to the appropriate person at Painters USA.

Good pay and benefits with training and support at growing commercial / industrial paint and coating contractor.

Put your business skills and experience to work at the values-driven culture of Painters USA.

Safety comes first with OSHA 10/30 card-carrying equipment and services that enhance workplace safety.

Quality delivered with certified equipment in the latest equipment, products and techniques in the industry.

Dedicated to raising mental health awareness by fostering open dialogue, providing resources, and organizing events to support the well-being of our employees and community.

Estimating Costs for Exterior Commercial Painting: 4 Key Factors

One of the first questions our sales reps get asked about any painting or coating project, including the exteriors of a plant or warehouse, is “How much will it cost?”

The standard two-word answer is: It depends. 

We know this is not the answer you want, but thanks to the number of cost components and different variables within them, it holds true.

The cost of an exterior painting project ultimately comes down to the size and complexity of the project. It could be anywhere from a few dollars to several dollars per square foot depending on variables across the four key cost components: 

  1. Labor
  2. Materials
  3. Equipment needs
  4. Facility condition and details

Let’s discuss the most common variables and where they sit on a scale of 1-5, low to high, in terms of their impact on pricing. We hope this information will guide your planning and budgeting decisions and empower you to compare competing bids more effectively.

Cost Component 1: Labor

Crew size

The number of people needed to complete the project as efficiently as possible will be based on the project size and complexity, along with deadline requirements. Obviously projects that are large (based on metrics like total square footage and number of equipment pieces) can get done faster with bigger crews, which means that a contractor with the ability to add workers as needed is valuable. While increasing labor increases costs, large, well-coordinated crews save time and can be less costly overall.

Advanced preparation

Some of the advanced preparation like hanging protective sheeting or masking areas must be done by the contractor. But some steps, like moving equipment and otherwise clearing the area that must be done and could be done by your own internal people will save the expense of the contractor doing it. If this work is not discussed or included in the estimating or bidding process, it could add additional surprise costs.

Travel requirements 

Travel expenses may include mileage to and from the work site, along with lodging and food if longer distances are involved. While working with a single vendor could increase T & E expenses, that cost is offset by the value of consistent processes and outcomes and single point-of-contact ease.

Contractor credentials

When soliciting estimates and comparing bids, the contractor’s business credentials are never a line item, yet they should be part of the decision-making process. By credentials we mean crews that are experienced and OSHA-10 trained for safety, the contractor’s financial and operational stability, adequate insurance and licensing, strong safety records and procedures, relevant experience, paint and coating expertise, knowledge of applicable regulatory or inspection requirements, and any other qualifications you desire like minority or woman owned business certification for reaching diversity spend goals. 

Credentials matter most on projects with large, detailed size and scope, when deadlines are tight, when worksite hazards and risks are a concern, and when high-quality, long-lasting performance is a priority. Credentials can cost more in the moment, but they save money and add value in the long run and in other ways.

Factors Lower Cost Higher Cost
Crew Size Small crews (but maybe more time) Large crews (but maybe less time)
Travel Requirements Close, easy to reach site Distant remote site
Contractor Credentials Poor / no safety credentials OSHA 10 training, good TRIR/EMR
Crew Experience Poorly trained, inexperienced crews Well-trained, experienced crews

Cost Component 2: Materials

Paint and other coating products are the primary material expense. Low prices here could mean the use of inferior products or applying fewer coats than industry standard recommendations, both of which are something to look out for. While they save money upfront, they usually end up costing more money and time in remedies. 

Coating quality

A variety of coating products are on the market, including cheaper options from companies without the expertise and technologies of leading manufacturers like Sherwin-Williams. Exterior painting, particularly on structures that experience heavy operational wear or extreme weather conditions, should be done with quality coatings that will hold up and last longer. Also look for warranties, and ensure the contractor meets manufacturer specifications for using and applying them, otherwise any warranty could be void. 

Number of coats

Most commercial / industrial surfaces require at least two coatings in some combination of primer, paint, performance coating and/or top coat. Drying / curing time is another factor that could be a problem if the contractor hasn’t considered this in their estimate or bid and doesn’t manage the project for time-saving efficiency. Missed deadlines, rework, and low quality results increase costs.

Supplies 

Supplies include masking materials like tape and sheeting to cover fixed objects or non-painted areas like windows or fixed signage, filling and sealing compounds, sanding paper and discs, and gloves and masks to protect workers. As a necessity, experienced contractors know how much they need and how to keep these expenses as low as possible without compromising quality or creating worker safety and productivity issues.

Factors Lower Cost Higher Cost
Building Size Small building Large building
Architectural Details Limited architectural details Details requiring handwork
Climate Moderate climate Extreme weather / climate
Paints and Coatings “Generic” paints and coatings Brand-name coating products
Number of Coats Standard (2) coats More coatings
Roof Coverage Roof excluded Roof included

Cost Component 3: Equipment needs

Aerial lifts / MEWPs / Scaffolding

Due to the size (both height and length) and large surface expanses of commercial / industrial buildings, the use of equipment like aerial lifts and scaffolding will be required. These items are generally secured locally from vendors like United Rentals and the costs will be incorporated in the project price. In some instances, we have been able to use a client’s in-house lifts, which can save money and time. It’s worth discussing to see if it’s a viable option for your project.

Cleaning / surface prep equipment

Good exterior painting begins with good surface cleaning to assure strong adhesion of all coatings. This generally involves power washing, but additional expenses may be incurred if there’s a need for greater surface preparation work requiring methods like abrasive blasting.

Factors Lower Cost Higher Cost
Building Size/Height Small building Large building, extreme heights
Location Accessibility Close, easy to reach location Distant, remote site location
Cleaning Requirement Minor cleaning Major cleaning
Surface Repairs Minimal surface repairs Surface repairs needed

Cost Component 4: Facility details

Calculating the square footage of your project in advance, and knowing it will generally cost between a few and several dollars per square foot, you can start getting into the cost estimate ballpark for planning purposes.

Surface area

The total surface area to be painted is the main driver of all costs–time, crew size, amount of coating product and supplies, equipment needs. 

Painting contractors will take precise measurements of the height or length and width of each surface to be painted, including roofs if they are part of the project, minus windows or other space to be excluded. For commercial / industrial buildings, a laser measuring tool is the easiest way to get the most accurate surface area measurement. 

As for material costs, a rule of thumb is that one gallon of paint or other coating product will cover approximately 300 square feet with a single coat. Therefore, a plain wall 20 feet high by 60 feet wide (1200 square feet) will require approximately 4 gallons for one coat.

Surface details

Exterior walls that are windowless and featureless, like many modern warehouses, require more coating product but the work can be completed more quickly using spraying equipment and MEWPs and coordinating crews around the circumference. It’s details like fixed signage that require masking or different types of surface conditions and materials that add time. Anything that requires handwork or changing gears, so to speak, will add some time.

Surface condition

Surface cleaning and preparation work can be the most time-consuming part of the process, but it’s a vital step to ensure strong adhesion and durability. Evidence of peeling or blistering paint and other signs of wear and tear will require remediation. And if cracks or signs of corrosion like rust are evident, the assessment of a certified coating inspector should be sought to identify and assess issues as soon as possible, to avoid further deterioration and future problems that could be more costly and time-consuming to fix.

Facility Environment

The weather, climate and other environmental factors like air pollution can impact the costs by necessitating more extensive cleaning and surface preparation. Material costs may be higher as performance coatings that offer greater protection from UVA rays and moisture intrusion could be more expensive. Buildings that are subject to extreme weather like hurricanes in the Gulf coast region of Texas or blizzards in the upper midwest need protection from these forces to maintain the value and extend the lifespan of the facility. 

Factors Lower Cost Higher Cost
Building Size Small building Large building
Building Maintenance Well-maintained Restorative measures needed
Building Class Lower building class Class A building
Surface Area Plain, homogenous surface area Mixed materials, architectural details
Surface Condition No signs of corrosion Signs of rust, blistering, other failures
Weather Moderate weather Extreme weather
Roof Coverage Roof excluded Roof included

Miscellaneous considerations

While exterior painting costs are largely determined by labor, materials, equipment, and facility circumstances, other miscellaneous expenses could be part of the final cost. They may include such items as holiday scheduling, permit requirements, disposal fees, and any other unique requirements.

Cost of deferring exterior painting

Paint, sealants, and other coatings play an important role in protecting the exterior elements of a building by preventing moisture intrusion and deterioration of building materials. They also enhance the appearance and value of a building. 

Yet it’s easy for exterior painting to fall to the bottom of long maintenance priority lists. 

Interior maintenance issues like those for HVAC or plumbing systems can be like a heart attack: acute and requiring immediate attention. Exterior surface issues don’t often have that kind of urgency. They’re more like a cancer: insidious and slow-moving, but deadly if left unchecked

We understand the reality of competing priorities, but be aware of the long term risks of deferred exterior painting maintenance. Timely attention can prevent further and more costly damage and deterioration and extend the building’s lifespan. 

Putting this information to use

Ultimately, it’s prudent (and often a requirement in many organizations) to obtain at least two quotes from reputable commercial painting contractors for an accurate cost and time estimate. 

Being well-informed on the major cost components of labor, materials, equipment, and facility circumstances–and the variables involved for each one–will prepare you for discussions and help you assess the estimates and bids you receive.

We hope the information in this article will help you make the best decisions for meeting your budgetary and operational needs. We are here to make all your painting projects a success!

Additional exterior painting resources and information

English - EN