How to determine your paint requirements

You can save yourself time and money by pre-determining the volume of paint you require before purchasing. This will ensure you do not run out of paint in the middle of your painting task and limit paint wastage from purchasing too much.

Before you start

Top quality paints not only give you easier and better coverage but are longer lasting and easier to clean than low grade paints. Budget for the best – it pays in the long run.

Similarly, good quality paint brushes and rollers will give you a better finish. Find out how to select the right brush or roller for the job.

Calculate the area of an unusually shaped room

If you need to calculate the area of an odd-shaped room, simply follow these steps:

  • First measure the height and width of each rectangular section to be painted. Multiply these figures to get the area, then add them together for the total area.
  • A stairwell often forms a triangular shape. For the area of a triangle, multiply the lengths of the horizontal and vertical legs and divide by two.
  • What about the trims and skirting boards?

    If you plan to paint the trim a different colour, calculate these areas separately. Simply multiply the length by width of each trim then add your totals together.

    A skirting board area is its height multiplied by its length (which is generally the same as the perimeter of the room).

    How much paint do I need for a door or window frame?

    Allow 2 square metres for each side of a door and 1.5 square metres for a single size window frame.

    How does coverage affect the total?

    When you know the total area you will cover, you have half the information you need to order paint. The rest depends on the covering capacity of your paint and the surface it must coat.

    If your walls are smooth, estimate on covering 14–16 square metres with a litre of matt or semi-gloss paint. Divide your area figure by that amount to arrive at the number of litres you need for a first coat. If you are using finishing paint on porous, rough or previously unpainted walls, a litre will cover considerably less than that. You can count on more coverage for the second coat.

    Always check the coverage information on the label of the paint can, as different types of paint have different spreading capacities.

    As an example, five litres of paint is generally ample for a 4m x 5m room with a 3 metre ceiling and smooth, previously painted walls. The ceiling of the 4m x 5m room would take 1.5 litres. Professional painters often allow for one quarter as much trim paint as wall paint but you can make a more accurate and economical purchase if you calculate the trim area as suggested above.

    How long will it take?

    Estimating time brings in a new set of variables. In one hour you are likely to cover about 7 square metres of an ordinary surface, or about 5 square metres of bare wood or plaster.

    You will probably be able to paint that 4m x 5m room with one coat in five to six hours. If you apply two coats, you must allow time for the first coat to dry. Allow four hours for water-based paint and overnight for oil-based paint (check the paint can label). You can safely reckon on two or three days to paint a room and clean up afterwards.

    Don’t guess, use our free paint calculator

    Also, check out our free paint calculator to help calculate how much paint you’ll need for your next painting job.
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