Walnut Street Finance Blog

Fix and Flip Pro Tip: Watching paint dry is a whole lot more fun if you save money doing it

Posted by Bobby Montagne on Mar 2, 2017 11:13:00 AM

We've all done it, don't worry. You get jazzed about the idea of refreshing your walls with a new coat of paint and run out to the hardware store without taking the time to fully measure the room(s) you will be painting. Whether you're a weekend warrior or fix and flipper, it's important to plan right so you don't leave extra dollars floating around in your leftover gallons of "Cream Puff" high-gloss paint.

Let's take a look at the basics for measuring the right amount of paint and choosing the best finish for your next project.

PART 1:  The math. Yes, it comes in handy now and then.

  • Add the length of all walls together:measuring-for-real-estate-investment [wall 1] + [wall 2]+ [wall 3]+ [...and so on] = [total length];
  • Measure total height of the room;
  • Find the area by multiplying the total length by height: [total length x height];
  • Subtract 20 square feet per door and 15 square feet per window from your total square footage.

Go ahead and whip out the calculator - no judgement.

The resulting number is the net surface area – the area that requires paint. Divide this number by the square feet per gallon coverage indicated on the paint can or company’s website. You might want to add some buffer (say, 10%) for spills or to have a bit of paint leftover for future touchups.

Say one gallon of paint covers 350 square feet. Simply divide the net surface area by 350 and the quotient is the number of gallons you should buy. You may need to top off your paint supply with a copule of quarts.  (Friendly reminder: 4 quarts in a gallon.) It’s better to have less leftover paint than partially-used gallons that take up storage and are likely to dry out.

If applying multiple coats of paint, increase the number accordingly.  For example, two coats of paint will double the amount of paint you need to buy.   

You apply the same principle to ceilings, doors, and windows.  And voila!  You'll end up with a freshly painted room and a small amount of "touch up" paint. Money in your pocket and less clutter on your storage shelves = win-win! 

If a pen and scratch paper to do the math isn’t your thing, here are links to some of our favorite online paint calculators:

The point is to buy only what you need. For home owners or fix and flip real estate investors, minimizing expenses is key to optimizing returns!    

PART 2: It’s all about the finish!

Not only can the color of paint set the mood and tone of a room, but finish, or sheen, is equally important. A high-gloss bedroom would be a major faux-pas! Read on for an easy to remember breakdown of paint sheens and best-use applications.

You’ve got 5 Choices: fix-and-flip-painting

  • High Gloss
  • Semi Gloss
  • Satin
  • Eggshell
  • Flat / Matte


This is the most durable and easy to clean option of all the sheens. It is optimal to use where sticky (and sometime less than clean) hands touch – like cabinets and doors. You would not use this finish on interior walls, as the shine would be too much. Keep in mind that high gloss tends to show bumps and divots on the surface, so paint prep and patch work is a very important step.

  • Where to Use: Kitchens, doors, window trim


This durable paint finish is good to use where moisture is prevalent as well as where drips and/or grease stains tend to occur. Painting trim and chair rail with semi-gloss paint is a great idea too, as smudges and marks are easier to wipe off.

  • Where to Use: Kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails


Satin paint is still on the durable side and is easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas. It does tend to reveal application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. On that note – always make sure to use high quality painting tools to avoid shedding and leaving remnants of your brushes or clumps of your roller embedded in your walls for eternity.

  • Where to Use: Family rooms, foyers, hallways, kids’ bedrooms


Eggshell paint finish falls between satin and flat on the sheen scale. This medium-durability finish is named in such a way because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster, like… wait for it, an egg! This paint finish covers wall imperfections well and is a great option in spaces that don’t get a lot of high traffic.

  • Where to Use: Dining rooms, living rooms

Flat or Matte

Matte finish is a wonderful option for walls and surfaces that have seen better days. Flat/matte paint soaks up, rather than reflects, light, so wall imperfections won’t be as evident. Another bonus is that it has the most pigment and will provide maximum coverage, which translates into time and money savings. Score! Something to consider though is this medium-to-low durability paint is tough to clean and paint may rub off when you throw a little elbow grease into rubbing out a stain on the wall.

  • Where to use: Adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that are in low traffic areas. 😊  ** Pro tip: don’t use in a kid’s room ** 😊

Additional Pointers – it’s your lucky day!

  • If you’re opting for a dark and rich paint color but you don’t want your walls to look like a shiny bowling alley, bump down a level on the sheen scale. The darker and richer the paint color, the more colorant it has, which tends to amplify sheen. This concept also applies if you’re painting a large or imperfect wall. The higher the sheen, the more imperfections will show, so meticulous paint prep in these scenarios is crucial.

  • Extra sheen equals extra cost – add an additional dollar or two per gallon.

Bottom Line: The shinier the paint, the easier it is to clean and the more durable, too.  Therefore, the higher the sheen, the better for high-traffic areas. Think about the “busyness” of a room when deciding on a sheen level for it. In addition, paint sheen combined with color and lighting effects, contributes to the atmosphere of a room.  A flat or matte finish has a calming effect while high gloss stimulates the senses.

Essential Math For the Fix and Flipper  

Topics: Fix And Flip Advice, Real Estate Investing Tips, Home Renovation & Design Tips

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