Lately, I’ve been cautiously stepping out into the “custom work” field. I’ve avoided custom work in the past due to space/time constraints and lack of confidence in my own work. With 2.5 years of experience, a large work area, new tools, and a near-empty garage, I felt it was safe and reasonable to offer painting as a service to help guarantee some cash flow.
The retail model of painting and waiting for things to sell has historically worked out well, but with the hours I’m able to dedicate to working, that sometimes means I have 2-4 pieces for sale at any given time, which drives me nuts because I have to constantly worry about my kids damaging furniture while I wait on a buyer.
With the openness to custom work, I have had the opportunity to provide quotes for several inquiries, most of which haven’t gone anywhere – and I am totally fine with that. The reason for publishing this post is not to go on the defense; it’s simply to help customers understand what it really costs to do a high quality paint job, and to inspire other painters not to sell themselves short when offering custom paint as a service. While I haven’t published any price lists for painting (until today), I do have one that I developed over a year ago and refer to for custom quoting – so I promise, there is a method to my madness!
Taking a step back, when I price my furniture for sale on a retail basis (my vision, up for sale), the formula for pricing is: initial investment on furniture + gut feeling. What do I think this piece is worth? How bad do I want to sell it? Am I okay keeping it for several months – holding out for the price I want? Am I okay if it never sells? All of those things are decisions I make, somewhat arbitrarily, to come up with an asking price.
For custom painting on client owned furniture, I am completely un-invested. I may or may not like your piece of furniture. I may or may not like your vision for the furniture. But none of that matters – my goal is to advise you on the best products and professionally implement your vision on your furniture at a fair price. Whether your furniture is MDF from Ikea or solid hardwood, my custom price formula is the same.
Here are the primary factors that shape my pricing:
- I run a legit, on-the-books, business. I have since the start of PR in January 2014. I collect sales tax (or deduct from total price of retail sales via CL), I pay and report self employment tax, & federal tax. If I was running illegally under the table, like many, my prices could be much lower. But, I want to comply with the law and stay out of jail. If you paint furniture and you’re wondering about running a business on the books, read this post.
- I have invested a significant amount of money in supplies, tools, knowledge and experience to offer the best finishes I am currently capable of – and I am always trying to get better. I used to paint furniture in my dining room with a $14 purdy brush, $1 piece of sandpaper, and a $16 pint of paint. Back then I could afford to paint your 9 drawer dresser for $250-300. I now have a dedicated workshop, sophisticated tools, I spray all my finishes, I obsess over perfection, I work with paint that is nearly impossible, projects sit in my booth for 2 weeks, minimum – holding up other work, and my paint costs alone are $60-120 PER project! If you paint furniture and want to know about set up costs for high gloss paint, read this post.
- Because of my experience, I know the time/headaches associated different features on furniture, and my time is not free. For example, cabinet doors and ornate surfaces are significantly more challenging than a simple six-drawer box style dresser.
- I have hired help. No, not for my painting business, but for my kids. This isn’t a direct cost, but it’s a fact, and it’s the only way I’m able to custom paint at all – therefore, that is part of the equation.
Cost of DIY vs. Hiring Experienced Painter
Let’s say you get a quote from a painter and feel it is too expensive and decide you want to DIY your project. Most clients that contact me are looking for that high gloss finish – so I will use that as a example. The set up, prep, and tools for a water based finish are basically the same (read about my process here), however, I charge more for oil because of the skill required, the health risks, and the time it takes.
|DIY Supplies for High Gloss Oil Finish|
|Package of sandpaper with grit variety for orbital sander||$15|
|Pneumatic Sander (or you can sand by hand! Have fun!) J||$80|
|Filter and regulator||$180|
|Full face mask||$130|
|Compressor (30-gallon, minimum – depending on CFM)||$400 (new)|
|Tools for rubbing out finish – not required, but best results||$300|
|Endless mistakes, redos, sleepless nights, stress, pain and suffering, and unprofessional results (most likely).||Priceless|
Okay, I concede that you might be able to skip the spray gun, compressor and air tool accessories, and attempt to paint with a natural fiber brush, but I’ve tried brushing out this paint and the results were inconsistent and undesirable, in my nitpicky opinion.
So instead of the money and headache, I can custom paint your dresser starting at $400 + product + tax for a 60 inch lowboy. There’s 20% upcharge (aka pain in the ass charge) for oil based or lacquer products. If you back out taxes, supplies and tool maintenance I don’t nickel and dime for, and overhead … and then divide by many hours of hard work – well, it’s a wonder my prices aren’t 2x as high …
You do the analysis: decide what is most important to you. I have customers in both camps; those that feel my prices are more than reasonable, and those who are shocked (or I assume they are) because I never hear back. I completely understand if my prices are more than you expect and more than you can budget. I get it. I’m sharing this to help customers and fellow painters understand the value I place on my work, knowledge, and time – not to try to convince you to pay for something you can’t afford. There are finishes that require little to no skill/experience/investment that you can easily DIY (I don’t offer them), but please do not expect a luxury finish for $200 out-the-door.
So without further ado, I am publishing my custom price list for reference (edited 5/2017).
Thanks for your support and interest in my work!
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