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How Long Does It Take to Paint a Room?

Make painting your next room a breeze with these quick tips.

[Updated: Feb 04, 2021 ] Apr 24, 2020 by Liz Brumer
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Painting a room is an easy way to update a home and give it a personal touch. Interior paint is much easier to apply than exterior paint, which is why many homeowners are open to doing the work themselves rather than having to hire a painter. But how long does it take to paint a room for a homeowner versus a painting contractor, and what is the average cost to paint?

Before jumping in on your next interior house painting project, here are a few tips to help speed up the process of painting a room, even if you aren't an experienced painter.

How long does it take to paint a room?

For most nonprofessional painters, painting a room will take a full day to complete from start to finish. There are a lot of factors that will impact the time needed for painting, including:

  • Whether you have painted before.
  • The age of the house.
  • The paint color and the type of paint (latex paint can be recoated much sooner).
  • Whether there is a bright or dark color on the walls to begin with.
  • The texture of the walls.

Ceilings generally only need one coat of paint, while walls typically need two coats (even with the paint and primer in one). But painting over dark colors can sometimes require up to three or four coats of paint, which can significantly increase your paint time. Choosing more than one paint color per room will also increase the time it takes for painting.

A 12-foot-by-12-foot room with 8-foot ceilings will take approximately five hours to paint, with an additional three to four hours to do the doors, baseboards, and windows.

Activity Minutes Per Square Foot Example: Minutes for a 384-Square-Foot Room
Prep work 0.185 71.04
Cutting in 0.320 122.88
Rolling walls 0.185 71.04
Cleanup 0.070 26.88
Total time 0.760 291.84

Data source: Chart and calculations by author.

How to paint a room quickly

It's ideal to complete a painted room in a day. This reduces the time spent on painting and allows you to set up the room for everyday use. Here are a few ways you can speed up the process while still getting good results:

  • Purchase all of your painting supplies such as drop cloths, paint trays, gallons of paint, blue painters tape, paint rollers, and brushes in advance so you're not having to run back to the store.
  • Take care of all the prep work ahead of time by moving the furniture away from the walls and covering it with drop cloths, wiping down all of the walls, and filling any holes.
  • Spackling compound needs drying time before sanding, so make sure to take care of that prior to when you'd like to paint.
  • Skip the ceiling paint if it's still in good shape; it doesn't have the wear and tear like the interior wall paint does.
  • Only use a brush for trim work and a paint roller for the rest of the wall. An 18-inch roller will paint the walls twice as fast as the standard 9-inch rollers.
  • Have a game plan. If you make a plan ahead of time, you can tackle another room if needed after you painted the first coat and are waiting for it to dry.

While this may not work for everyone, skipping the painters tape will speed up your painting time dramatically. Instead, use an angled brush. Using your entire arm (rather than your wrist or hand), make one smooth, steady motion with the brush until the paint is about halfway used up. Dip the brush into the paint again, and make one more pass closer to the edge. Keep a wet rag nearby to clean up any drips as soon as they happen. You will end up with smooth, clean lines just like a true painter without the hassle of painters masking tape.

How long does it take a professional painter to paint a room?

Professional painters are generally twice as fast as a homeowner would be due to painting experience, bringing in teams if needed, and having professional tools like a paint sprayer, which can greatly speed up the process. There is also an efficient painting process that most painting contractors use. For example, painting the ceiling first prevents you from having to touch up the walls afterward from splatter.

It might be worth hiring your paint job out if you are looking to paint a house or have unusual features like a cathedral ceiling, which can be time-consuming to paint. It can also work to your advantage if you do choose to have the entire interior painted at once because there is usually a price break for multiple rooms.

According to HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI), the average cost to paint is $3.50 per square foot, so for a 1,600-square-foot home, you are looking at around $5,600, depending on your paint choices. Keep in mind that the type of paint will affect the length of time for the paint to dry and the total cost for the paint:

  • Water-based paints should be dry to the touch in one hour. Recoat after four hours.
  • Oil-based paints should be dry to the touch in six to eight hours. Recoat after 24 hours.

Painting a room in summary

A freshly painted room in a nice semi-gloss paint can instantly brighten up the look of your home, and interior painting is something that most homeowners can accomplish if they're willing to put in the time. But don't expect to paint a house by yourself in a weekend. Talk with the professionals at the paint store to see if they have any recommendations for your specific painting project that might help speed up the process.

Take care of as much of the prep work (like sanding) ahead of time as possible, as this can be time-consuming on painting day. Mimic the painting process the professional painters use, and have all of your materials handy. You will have the room painted before you know it!

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Liz Brumer-Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.