The Cost of Painting Yourself

My wife and I spent the better part of two weekends painting our 2 story foyer. We finally finished the painting this weekend and with the work complete we both still have lingering thoughts about whether it was worth the headache, although we are glad it is finally complete.

The previous owners had the space painted a mustard like color that neither of us liked. Ofcourse when were were buying the home we glossed over things like paint colors and minor updating as easy weekend projects. Well that was before children and now what were small home improvement projects seem like insurmountable obstacles in our hectic lives.

In the end we likely saved a good chunk of cash by doing it ourselves. While we had a lot of basic painting supplies, heres a quick tally of our associated expenses:

1 gallon of paint, brushes $ 24.84
22 foot telescoping ladder $ 129.54
paint roller, extension handle $ 20.46
1 quart of paint $ 11.29
Total $ 186.13

The big expense was a ladder we had to buy to help get to the upper sections of the walls even with an extension pole for the paint roller. The ladder was needed regardless for other house maintenance (such as gutter cleaning), but we had been putting it off indefinitely since there was no immediate need.

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Comments (11)

In all fairness I think you have to remove or dramatically discount the costs associated with the ladder, since that's something that you'll use for years and years and for many projects. I think once you do that you can appreciate the money you likely saved. When we moved in a couple of years ago to our home, we did most of the painting, but ran out of time and hired someone to paint the type of foyer that you're describing and it was around $150-200 if memory serves and that was on top of the paint, which we already had purchased.

I agree with both of you. you know have a ladder that you can use for years to come! DIY projects often become more of hassle than you anticipate, though once you are done, you have such an awesome feeling of accomplishment!

I think that it is a great idea to have done the painting yourselves. It is a good idea to encourage as well to think about the many tasks that could be done easily without asking for professional help.

However, some people do take this too far. They feel that they are capable of accomplishing any task without asking professionals to come in. This could end up costing more than expected.

Take plumbing for example, if you go to the hardware store and buy a few plumbing supplies and either find out that those were the wrong ones or that you have done serious damage to the toilet, sink, etc, then you will wind up paying more.

Take both options into consideration and weight the costs. Include the level of skill (an honest one of course) that you have too.


I didn't see where you accounted for your labor. What's your time worth?

recently faced the same conundrum except we have 25 ft ceiling which may be a little higher. Had it done professionally for $180 and it was done in a day, the paint was high Quality and costs about $45 a can, but it should last at least 10 years. We do all the rest of the painting, but I thought this was worth it as he was done quickly and his edging (on popcorn ceiling) was perfect.

Comment #4 is absolutely correct. You left out the most important part of your analysis. Sure, you saved money in what you laid out in cash, but you neglected to factor in what productivity you lost doing other tasks while tied up painting.

Sometimes you have do things yourself because your cash flow does not allow you to spend money hiring others, but even if you did not hire a "professional" to paint for you, a minimum wage laborer of any kind could have accomplished the same task and freed your time up to tackle more important items.

we used to paint ourselves...until we had kids....whining, crying, tipping paint cans over....paint on their fingers...on the the walls, etc....painful.

Hi, we painted ourselves to save the labour cost, but it took us double the time the contractor quoted us. If you take the opportunity cost, it would have been cheaper to outsource it.

Painting is one of those things that often make sense to hire out because it is relatively unskilled and often doesn't cost much compared to your opportunity cost (your time).

That said, I often feel like if I can do something myself, I should do it just to save the money. This feeling is something that my parents instilled me but frankly I feel like I'm missing the forest for the trees.

Interesting that people spend so much time on the opportunity cost here. The opportunity cost matters only if there is some other concrete way to use that time and get paid for it, and if you realistically would have really picked that other option had you not been painting. Of course, the other question is the price you put on your leisure time. If you have very little of it, you might price it high, but if you have enough of it, spending it painting - or doing anything else useful that you don't dislike - does not feel like any kind of sacrifice or lost opportunity.

So, my bottom line: not pricing in any opportunity cost for your work hours probably reflects the fact you considered the time well spend relative to the amount of money you saved. In other words, your implicit opportunity cost was low enough to make this a good deal for you - otherwise you probably wouldn't have bothered!

Painting is quite the task and i'd say you did muche better pricewise, by doing it yourself!

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