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Painting your house's exterior is laborious, but makes a big statement. Photo: Getty Images

Many people don't enjoy painting: the taping, the monotonous strokes, the sore shoulders, the hand cramps, the mess. But there's one thing we all can agree on: Boy, a little paint sure makes a big difference.

So, if you're looking to make a big change to your home's exterior, what better way to do it than to give it a fresh coat of paint? Your house will look and feel brand new. We're talking major curb appeal, which adds to the value of your home.

So the question is: Is this a task that you're willing to DIY? Or would you rather spend a ton of money to have someone do it for you? Let's take a look at the costs of each approach. Then you decide: is it worth the sweat equity?

Painting your exterior is about a 3 on a difficulty scale of 1 to 10. Skill aside, the actual process is laborious and intense. First, you have to prepare the home for paint, which requires scraping off any old paint, power washing, and removing exterior fixtures like lights or shutters. This is the most trying part of the process, and the longest. Then, you have to wash it and of course, paint it. The tasks are definitely doable, but make no mistake: this is a job for a committed DIYer. And a brave one, too. If the idea of getting on a 28-foot extension ladder or standing on scaffolding all day makes you queasy, you might want to consider bringing on a professional.

If you hire house-painting professionals you'll likely pay somewhere between $1,500 and $3,000 for an average single-story, three-bedroom home, but for two-story homes up to 3500-square-feet can go up to more than $5,500. This is for labor costs, but you'll still have to spring for the paint, which is $25 to $50 per gallon. A gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet, so if you have a 1500-square-foot home, you will need about 5 gallons of paint and primer. That is at least $250, to start.

If you're up to the challenge, choose a day when low humidity, low winds, and temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Farenheit are in the forecast. Avoid painting areas of the house under direct sunlight; paint in the shade, and follow the shade as the sunlight shifts. Also, consider the time commitment: Removing paint, pressure washing, priming, and painting are the major steps in the process. All together, it can take anywhere from a few days to a week.

But the money saved can make it very worth your while. Painting the exterior of your house can easily be done for less than $1,000. If you can borrow the major tools and already have a lot of the materials, it can cost as little as a few hundred dollars! Let's break down the costs of DIYing this popular home improvement project.

airless paint sprayerAirless paint sprayer. Photo: The Home Depot

Tool Rentals:

To do the job yourself and save money, you'll have to rent some special tools. (If you have reason to believe you'll use these items again in the foreseeable future, then go ahead and purchase them.)

Pressure washer: Don't try to scrape every little last bit of paint off your exterior when this handy tool can do it for you in a jiffy. Plus, it gets all that extra dirt and grime off, too. About $50 to $70 per day. Or, you can spring for one for about $299.

Paint sprayer: Have mercy on your hands! A paint sprayer will save you so much time and pain when painting large expanses. Approximately $70 per day.

Scaffolding: For most two-story homes, a ladder just isn't going to do the job. Renting scaffolding will save you so much time and energy. About $15 to $50 per day, depending on the size.

Tool and Material Purchases:

Heat Gun:
These are pricey, but they'll get the bulk of your house's paint off effectively. $60

Paint Scraper: This hand tool, with interchangeable blades, will save you a lot of agony getting off some of that old paint. $28

Putty Knife:
This knife's long, narrow blade comes in handy for more scraping and evening out the surface and crevices. $7

Pole Sander: After removing all the old paint, attach sandpaper to this long-handled tool to sand the house's surface. This allows the new paint to better adhere to the surface.

Keep a generous amount of sandpaper on hand, so you can keep refilling your pole sander. Sand by hand to access tight spaces.. $3 to $10

Wire Brush:
This works for hard-to scrape areas and to help loosen thick, tough paint. $11

Extension Ladder
: (If you're not renting scaffolding.) Extension ladders come in all sizes, from 20ft to over 30ft. Choose the best size based on the height of your home.

Paint: Remember that the paint is going to take a beating, so it might be a good idea to pay the extra few dollars for better quality paint. Plan on spending $25-$50 per gallon.

Masking Tape: Just like you would for an interior room, grab a few rolls of masking or painter's tape. Consider that you're using a paint sprayer and over-spraying often occurs. $15 for 6 rolls

Plastic sheeting: Use this (with your masking tape) to protect surrounding areas, such as walkways, windows, decks, stairs -- just about anything surrounding the house. $28 for 400ft.

Caulk: Make sure to fill in gaps and openings using caulk before you begin painting. $2 to $6 per tube.

Caulk Gun: You will definitely want one of these because your hands will start to hurt without one. There will be a lot of caulking to do! Around $30.

So...are you ready to do it yourself -- and save?

  • Adam

    I'm about 9 months into my exterior paint job. I've got a 2700 sq foot single story. It has required significant preparation, including power sanding every surface, including the huge eves inside and out! I'm 1/2 way done. At this point I'm committed so all I can do is keep going. If I'd known the prep required I would have hired it out. I'll be out about $1500 for paint and several hundred more for tools. I'm buying SW Duration which is like armor once it's up and has a lifetime warranty I intend to use. I'm generally buying at a 25% discount, so it's under $50/gal. The result I'm getting is amazing!
    It would have been a $5000 paint job in this area.

  • Icehawk


  • N. Ky. Painter

    Well if your house was built before 1978, the cost to have someone else do it has about tripled thanks to our beloved EPA. They have changed the rules regarding lead based paint. All outside contractors are required to test for lead, take a certification class to test for lead and have someone who took the class on premise at all times. If lead is found, then there is a whole other set of rules to follow which will add a great deal more to the cost. Painters caught not following the rules are subject to a $32,500 fine for first offense! I won't even bid on a house built before 1978 now, it's just not worth the hassle. However, I don't think homeowners are required to test, they can do whatever they want. Got to love our government!

  • shadow7777

    as a painting contractor all I can say is it is not as easy as you think. you also forgot to mention dropcloths, primer for bare surfaces,a respirator if it is lead paint ( pre 1078) for a lot of houses and the general fatigue associated with going up and down a ladder all day. For smaller houses you will also need a stepladder or two, approximately 75 to 150 dollars.

  • Brian

    Too many people make the mistake of using the Square footage of the home as the square footage of the area to be painted, wrong ! You will need to calculate the length x width to get the actual Square footage of the area to be painted.

    As a professional Painting & wallcovering Contractor in the D.C. area,

  • Kevin

    Brian, using just length and width to determine area to be painted you are losing money. You must also include the height of the wall!

  • Brian

    Kevin, Your right, I should have said ; Length X Height

  • Damon Spradling

    dont paint yr house waiste of time& money instal vinyl siding a real change over a real curb apeal or simple call kanawha valley siding thats me u call we install

  • Nancy

    Thank God I live in a brick house!

  • Percheron1

    You still have all the trim to do

  • Nancy

    Thank God I live in a brick house!

  • steve


  • Patience

    I think it is funny when people cheap out on the final touches or the up keep on there home. When you hire some one with good credentials you will get a quality job that will last much longer than you as an untrained person could accomplish. Your paint is what everyone sees on your home,if you want your home to be visually appealing I believe you should hire a professional to do the job right. I read the comment about the guy going on 9 months on completing his exterior,give me a break. I had my house painted before and it took them a little under a week and it looks fabulous. So save up and have it done right, you will be pleased with the out come.

  • Boatbuilder

    I'm a 30 year experienced paint contractor and I've heard this "the paint has a lifelong guarantee" thing before. There is no such thing, even with the best prep and paint. Being exposed to the climate, paint deteriorates. Period. Any paint that advertises a lifelong paint is selling a gimmic. Pay for a good job and good paint and expect about 5 to 7 years before you need to do it again.

  • Big D

    As a 30 plus year Paint Salesman, it is much more cost effective to spend more on a higher quality exterior product. Material costs are much less than labor- using a paint that lasts twice as long saves a ton of labor in the long run. Two coats are also critical to acheiving the maximum performance from exterior acrylic latex, even with higher solids "lifetime" paints like the one mentioned. But- with the proper preparation and correct application, a top quality paint job should result easily in 10- 15 years of service, depending on color choice. 5- 7 years would be what you could expect from 1 coat of a medium grade product, in my experience.

  • george

    Just finished painting every paintable surface inside my house including ceilings. It's much less cost than outside. It took 8 days (included cleaning all wall items, A/C vents, etc) and 9 gallons of paint. Total cost for paint, brushes, tape, dropclothes, etc was about $140.00. One technique for outside to go back to original wood surface is using a blow torch to burn off years of paint build up, then orbital or belt sand the wood surface for a smooth surface, then paint the new surface. The end product will "BLOW YOU AWAY". Allow half the summer for this project and of course be careful not to burn the house down, but it is an awesome look when finished.

  • Chuck

    SW Duration which is like armor once it's up and has a lifetime warranty. Uh ok
    No paint last a lifetime, unless you're 99 yrs,

  • susi

    We just finished painting our 113 yr old wooden house . It took 5 weeks. one full week was preparation,scraping pressure washing,caulking removing storm windows, replacing boards and making repairs. Then painting with a brush 2 heavy coats of Al00 Sherwin Williams paint used 34 gallons including the garage, Was worth it saved 4k and the job was done right. We are very proud of all the hard work. We had to use a 20 ft ladder on top of porch for the highest eave

  • 18 Comments / 1 Pages

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