How much does it cost to paint the exterior of my house? 5 cost factors

Image source: HouseLogic

Jack Wisniewski

By Jack Wisniewski

October 15, 2021

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Painting a house exterior can cost anywhere between $600 and $12,700. Per square foot, you can expect to pay between $0.50 and $5.00. The national average cost to paint a house exterior is $3,480.

Pricing for house exterior painting

As you can probably tell, the cost to paint the exterior of a house ranges drastically.

To help homeowners know what to expect, we fleshed out the five main factors that play into exterior house painting costs from painting area to siding material to whether you hire a painting company and beyond.

After we help you narrow in on a more constructive price range, we provide three straightforward tips to minimize costs when it comes time to put the paintbrush to work.

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Exterior paint cost factors

The scale of the exterior paint job arguably plays the most impactful role in costs. The larger the area, the more primer, paint, and prep work the job necessitates. It also takes more time to paint larger areas. In turn, painters charge more to paint a larger home.

Paint cost by square footage

Painting area (sq ft) Cost range
1,000 $500 – $5,000
1,500 $750 – $7,500
2,000 $1,000 – $10,000
2,500 $1,250 – $12,500
3,000 $1,500 – $15,000
3,500 $1,750 – $17,500
4,000 $2,000 – $20,000

 

Painters use square footage when discussing job size, but the painting area does not equal the square footage of your home. It's the square footage of the exterior walls you wish to paint.

How to calculate the painting area

Multiply your house perimeter by the house height. If your home has gables, multiply its width and height and divide by two. Don't forget to include extra items if you seek to paint trim, fascia, and gutters.

Add all of these area calculations together.

Finally, subtract the area of each window and door. The difference provides a rough idea of the painting area.

You can then use this figure to estimate the costs to paint a house per square foot ($.50 to $5.00):

Painting area = (house perimeter x house height) + (gable width x gable height ÷ 2) + (linear feet of trim and gutter area) - (total area of windows and doors)

Bear in mind that you can't buy paint by square footage. Instead, manufacturers sell paint by the gallon.

Cost of paint per gallon

A gallon of gray paint with a dipstick resting in it

Image source: Clare

Exterior house paint and primer cost between $15 and $80 per gallon.

Pricing depends on whether you opt for latex, acrylic (typically less expensive), or oil (typically more expensive).

For paints, which sheen you choose impacts costs. Low-grade sheens, like "flat" and "eggshell", typically cost less than glossy, high-quality paints that deliver improved durability.

How many square feet does a gallon of paint cover?

Blue paint being painted on the side of a house

Image source: The Paint People

One gallon of paint covers between 250 and 400 square feet of siding.

Based on the typical coverage, you can gauge how much paint will contribute to total costs with simple math.

  • Divide the square footage of the project by the expected coverage of one gallon of paint.
  • Multiply that quotient – how many gallons of paint you need – by the price per gallon.
  • Multiply that product by the necessary number of primer and paint coats. For a typical job, you need one coat of primer and two of paint. That's three coats total.

This final number should roughly equal how much you will need to pay for paint and primer alone.

Paint costs by stories

Home size Estimated price range
One-story $1,500 - $5,800
Two-story $2,800 - $6,500
Three-story $3,100 - $10,000+

 

Not every square foot is equal when calculating painting costs.

Specifically, it takes far more time and effort to paint the upper walls of a multi-story house than the ground level because painters need to reposition ladders and scaffolding.

Expect to pay more to paint a 2,000 square foot two-story home than a single-story home with the same painting area.

Paint cost by siding material

Siding material Price per square foot
Vinyl $.40 - $3.00
Wood $.47 - $3.00
Metal $.27 - $2.50
Brick $1.45 - $5.25
Fiber cement $1.25 - $3.25
Stucco $.93 - $4.00

 

The type of siding influences costs due to each material's distinct preparation process, paint coverage, and compatible types of paint.

Preparation process

Although all types of siding must be cleaned, repaired, and primed before painting, some materials involve added stages that add time and costs to the painting process.

Wood siding, for instance, includes several unique phases during preparation.

A fresh coat of paint will not stick to wood unless you scrape away the old, loose paint. Additionally, weathered wood and sharp ridges do not cling well to paint, which is why you should smooth out these areas by sanding.

Paint coverage

The area a gallon of paint will cover ranges by the type of siding.

Specifically, textured materials like stucco, wood, and brick require more paint per square foot. The irregularities on the exterior, as minuscule as they seem, definitively increase the surface area of the siding. In turn, a gallon of paint covers a smaller area of stucco than that of a smoother material like vinyl or metal siding.

Porous materials such as wood and brick also call for more paint per square foot. Just like a sponge with absorptive holes, these materials tend to soak up paint. Therefore, you need to properly prime and seal the surface to ensure you achieve efficient paint coverage.

Paint and primer types

Each material also works better with distinct paint and primers, which can vary in cost.

As an example, vinyl siding works best with lighter colors to curtail heat gain that could lead to warping.

Metal siding, conversely, tends to look best with low luster paints to hide unsightly dents.

Paint prep work costs

Old white paint being chipped off the exterior of a house

Image source: DIY Network

It may seem unnecessary, but preparing the surface ensures the paint applies evenly, lasts for the long term, and, of course, looks professional at the end of the day.

In order, the prep process usually entails:

  • Cleaning the surface
  • Making repairs
  • Protecting adjacent areas with drop cloths and painters tape
  • Applying a coat of primer to the surface.

Prep work can take as much as 50 percent of the time spent on the job. In turn, how you approach each of these steps influences costs.

If you power wash the surface yourself, for example, you could pay between $40 and $100 per day to rent the necessary equipment.

DIY vs. pro

Labor costs

Since you don’t need to pay for a professional house painter, you could save a pretty penny by painting the exterior of your home by yourself.

Winner: DIY

Time and effort

For a DIYer, painting a home exterior could block out multiple consecutive weekends. A pro team, on the other hand, should complete the strenuous prep work and painting within a few days.

Winner: Professional painter

End product

Although painting requires little technical expertise relative to many other home improvement projects, it isn't unheard of for things to go wrong.

An experienced painter has seen everything. Therefore, they should know how to handle your home’s unique challenges and deliver according to your expectations.

3 simple ways to reduce exterior painting costs

Do as much of it yourself as possible

A homeowner painting the exterior of their home

Image source: The Spruce

Even if you don't intend on getting your hands dirty, performing some of the work yourself will accelerate the process for professional painters and reduce your bill.

Much of the prep work, such as patching damaged siding with caulk or cleaning the surface, can be done yourself with relative ease and without the need for expensive equipment.

Similarly, painting peripheral features like trims, doors, and shutters requires relatively little effort while potentially saving significantly on the cost of labor.

Doing it yourself also provides the priceless satisfaction and bragging rights that you brought such an arduous undertaking to fruition.

Choose a similar paint color to the existing coat

Radically different color changes, such as from red to blue or black to white, typically require more than two coats to sufficiently neutralize the original shade.

By keeping the new color close to the existing tone, you can get away with fewer coats of paint and maintain affordable painting project costs.

Don't wait too long before painting

A homeowner painting the exterior of their home

Image source: Green Mountain Painters

Once paint wears away, damage to the siding in the form of mold, rust, and efflorescence can take hold. Damaged siding only calls for more prep work and adds to costs. If severe enough, you may need a comprehensive siding replacement, which costs far more than a straightforward paint job.

Consequently, the best time to repaint the home exterior is before the current coat chips or fades away and exposes the underlying siding.

That's every 4 to 20 years, depending on the siding material, quality of paint and primer used, as well as how much sun your home receives.

Is it worth painting your house exterior?

Yes.

According to a 2019 survey of more than 900 real estate agents, the estimated return on investment for painting a home exterior is 51 percent.

The firmly positive ROI should come as no surprise as repainting your house is a surefire way to enhance curb appeal.

To minimize costs, try to complete some steps yourself, don't deviate too far from your current color, and, perhaps most importantly, paint your home before potential decay can start.

Get in touch with a local contractor today.

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