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Why is There Such a Difference in Your Painting Quotes?

So you've met with three painting contractors who all say they can do your project and have given you quotes. Now, it's time to make a decision. But WHY is there such a substantial cost difference between the quotes?

I'm sure everyone who has gone through this process has wondered what the answer is to this question, especially when it comes to paint jobs. But, have you ever asked one of these contractors, and has this person honestly answered in a way that makes sense?

I was recently asked this question by someone I quoted, and I wanted to share my answer with everyone else who might be wondering, too.

Hi Shawn,

We have received a couple of other painting bids, and I am surprised that there is a substantial cost difference. Could you shed some light on why there is such a difference? Is there any way to lower your cost? My husband likes you and would like to support your company, but I am trying to make sense of the cost differences.

Thank you.

Prospective Customer


Hi Prospective Customer,

Your question regarding the cost differences in various quotes is not just good; it's a very valuable one. Many customers have this question, and I appreciate you bringing it up. I can answer it from my 25 years of experience in this business, especially as a professional estimator who has taught many other painters across the country the best practices.  

The answer is usually one or more of the following reasons:

1) Estimating labor and materials for paint jobs is extremely difficult without a lot of experience and extensive job-costing data to draw from.  Over 90% of painting contractors are not professionally trained in estimating and generally just "guesstimate" as high as they think they can still sell the job and then hope to make a profit if they get it.  This is an ugly truth about this industry and one of the biggest reasons for the variation.  You can recognize this fact in that most painters do not list their labor hours and paint gallon amounts in their quotes. 

2) The hourly labor rate can vary greatly from company to company depending on whether they employ office staff or not (i.e. their amount of overhead expense.)  In the painting industry, there are basically two types of companies - the sole proprietor or "Chuck-in-a-Truck" and the larger company with office staff.  According to US Labor Department statistics, 95% of painting companies fall into the former category.  You can see this expressed in market data provided by resources like Homewyse which provide ballpark estimates for various home improvement jobs by geographical area.  

3) The Scope of Work (the actual surfaces or items to be treated and the methods of application) can vary greatly between painting companies. [Notice that in the Homewyse estimate above, the trim is "extra" and not included. This might be a small detail that is missed when trying to compare "apples to apples."] Even though the quotes might look the same, it's really hard to trust that every painting company will actually prepare surfaces and apply the paint to the same quality standards. Specifically, the level of preparation is where you'll see the most difference because this will usually not show up until years later when the paint fails, and the painter is long gone. That's why you will rarely see a warranty for over 3 years (if any at all) given by painting companies - because they don't expect it to actually last longer than that!   We not only follow the Painting Contractor of America's quality standards in everything we do, but we also provide a 5-year Iron-clad Warranty that we happily extend to 8 years for those that upgrade to premium paint (see next answer.)

4) The grade of paint is often not specified and/or is of low quality.  This is one area that is often overlooked because it doesn't matter what paint manufacturer you buy from; they all have different grades of paint, and most contractors use mid-grade or lower-quality paint in order to keep their quotes competitive or to help make their jobs more profitable. You can see this reflected in the paint cost shown in the Homewyse estimate compared to ours. 

Example: Two coats of paint for 3200 sq. ft. of surface area would take at least 20 gallons. Even at the "high" estimate of $1105, that would equate to $55.25/gallon. The only paint at Sherwin Williams that you could purchase at a non-discounted retail rate for that price would be A-100, which is their lowest-grade consumer line.

Our paint cost, even at below retail, is more than that because we ONLY use paint that at least has a Lifetime Warranty, is recommended by Consumer Reports [see below] or is top-of-the-line. 

Hopefully, that helps in making your decision.


Shawn Nagano, Arclight Painting

**If you would like to receive a quote for your project based on accurate labor and materials estimates and fair rates, you can schedule an estimate with me and I’ll come out and help you make an informed decision (whether that means Arclight Painting does your job or not.)


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