How to estimate drywall costs: Drywall estimating template

Learn what to consider when estimating drywall costs. 

Drywall, also known as sheetrock panel, may not be the most exciting material, but it is an essential component of many homes.

For contractors, drywall repair or installation can be one of the simplest tasks of any construction job. However, before the installation process, you must complete the sales process by estimating drywall materials and labor costs.

Estimating the costs of drywall installation or repair can be a complex task. Every job is different and most costs will have to be calculated based on measurements, so you will want to offer each prospective customer a custom estimate.

In this guide, you’ll:

  •  Learn what to consider when estimating drywall costs.
  • Discover the easiest way to finish drywall jobs.
  • Learn how to create a drywall estimating template.
  • Get a drywall estimate example for your personal use.

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Drywall estimating rule of thumb

As a drywall contractor, it is difficult to determine the average cost of a job and answer “How much drywall do I need?”, as there are several different variables that need to be considered based on our observations.

It may sound like a safer decision for your business to overestimate, but fair trades pricing is a top priority when it comes to creating an estimate.

Your customers are looking for a reliable drywall contractor, and presenting them with an accurate estimate is their first sign of your reliability.

Through our practical knowledge, as a rule of thumb for any construction job, you want your estimate to be as accurate as possible. Having the actual cost of a job differ from the estimated cost can negatively impact your business.

Overestimated costs means that your customer ends up paying more than necessary. If they notice that your estimate is inflated, they may choose not to go with your services, or your business may be eliminated from a competitive bidding process.

On the other hand, underestimated costs leaves no room for potential unforseen costs, which may end up putting you in a difficult position. Based on our firsthand experience, either your customer ends up blindsided by being told they need to pay more, or you cover the costs and your business stands to lose revenue.

An accurate cost estimate will demonstrate that you are knowledgeable in your field and will enhance your customer’s trust in your business. If you’re having trouble completing an accurate estimate, consult a general contracting pricing guide for help.

Let’s talk about how to accurately estimate the cost of drywall jobs.

How to estimate drywall jobs

To ensure that your prospective customer gets the full picture, you want to create a detailed drywall estimate. The final cost estimate of a drywall job will depend on a few factors, including:

  • Whether it is drywall installation or drywall repair.
  • How many sheets of drywall you need.
  • Cost of material.
  • Cost of labor.
  • Job size and job location.

Our findings show that these cost factors each have many different components to consider within them, which may prove to be a challenge when it comes time to price. As per our expertise, creating a drywall estimating template will give you basic pricing structures to help streamline this process.

If you’re a general contractor, make sure that your template is specifically designed for drywall. It may be tempting to modify the same template for different jobs, but a drywall estimating template will look completely different from a HVAC estimating template.

One of the largest determining factors in a drywall estimate is the size of the job. It may take longer to estimate a large drywall job, but it doesn’t have to be more challenging than estimating a smaller job.

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Estimating large drywall jobs

Generally, a large drywall job is one that requires more than 75 sheets. As a drywall contractor, it is best to use the square footage as the baseline for estimating the cost of the complete installation.

Remember, square footage refers to the surface that the drywall will cover, not the square footage of the house.

Estimating small drywall jobs

Our research indicates that for most contractors, a drywall job is considered small if it is for no more than one residential room. This may also include drywall repair, which can range from fixing a crack to replace entire panels.

Even if it is a basic project, it is still important to break down your estimate into labor costs and material costs to cover all your bases.

Depending how small the drywall job is, it may be more efficient to create your estimate based on how many hours the job will take rather than the square footage.

Cost of material

Detailing material costs will most likely be the bulk of your drywall estimating template.

You want to create as detailed of a drywall estimate that you can, requiring you to list each of the materials that will be required for the job. You want to do your research and stay up to date with the current costs of materials to help you create your estimate quicker and more accurately.

Let’s take a closer look at the materials you need for drywall installation, and how to calculate them and other costs.

What to include in a drywall estimate

A worker in a house renovating it.

Image credit: Milivoj Kuhar via Unsplash

Most of your drywall estimates will be detailing the materials you need to complete the job. The materials that you may need for drywall installation include:

  • Sheetrock panels (drywall sheets).
  • Joint compound (drywall mud).
  • Drywall screws.
  • Drywall tape.
  • Corner beads.
  • Tools that you do not already have.

Determining how much of each material you need is not too daunting of a task, but it requires you to see the workspace and take measurements.

As per our expertise, we’ve detailed all the measurements you need to take and explained how to calculate the amount of material you need.

Measure square footage

Our findings show that when figuring out how much material you need for drywall installation, the first thing you should do is measure the total square footage of the areas where the drywall will be installed. This may include walls and ceilings.

Measuring square footage is also a good time to check out the area for any obstacles, such as any electrical work or plumbing that may get in your way.

To measure the square footage, multiply the width times the height of each wall area, then add them all together. This gives you the total square footage and a jumping off point for estimating the total cost of materials.

If the job is drywall repair, then you have to measure the area where you will be either filling in with joint compound or installing a new piece of drywall sheet.

Many ask, “How many square feet does a sheet of drywall cover?”, and this depends on the size of drywall sheet. A 4 x 8 sheet covers 34 square feet and a 4 x 12 sheet covers 48 square feet.

Estimate drywall sheets

Our research indicates that point of confusion is often “How to calculate how many sheets of drywall I need?”. Here’s how to calculate number of drywall sheets needed:

  • If you use 4 x 8 sheets, you will divide the total square footage of the area by 32.
  • If you use 4 x 12 sheets, you will divide the total square footage of the area by 48.

For example, if your total square footage is 2,000 square feet and you’re using 4 x 12 sheets, your calculations will look like this:

2,000 square feet divided by 48 = 50 sheets

The resulting number is how many full sheets you will need to complete the job. In terms of pricing,  it is best to factor the cost of drywall sheets plus an additional 10% for waste and odd cuts. In the above example, this would equate to 5 extra sheets, for a total of 55 sheets.

The same rules apply to ceiling drywall sheets.

Estimate drywall tape

Those new to the industry often struggle with “How much drywall tape do I need?”. Based on our observations, the answer is probably more than you think!

Our team discovered through using this product that most rolls of drywall tape or joint tape contain 500 feet, but you will most likely need more than that for a substantial drywall project.

Measure the perimeter of each drywall sheet, then multiply it by the number of sheets needed.

  • The perimeter of a 4 x 8 sheet is 24 feet.
  • The perimeter of a 4 x 12 sheet is 32 feet.

After putting it to the test, if you use 50 4 x 12 sheets, your calculation will look like this:

50 x 32 = 1,600 feet

For this project, you need at least 1,600 feet of tape. If your rolls are 500 feet long each, you’ve determined that you need to add the cost of 4 rolls to your estimate.

Based on our firsthand experience, to account for potential waste, it is best to add the cost of an extra roll of drywall tape.

Pro-tip: Use formulas like the above to determine how much to charge for drywall mud and tape.

Cost per square foot for mud and tape drywall jobs

On average, the labor and material cost to mud and tape drywall is between $1.50 and $3.50 per square foot.

Our findings show that, there are three factors that influence drywall finishing costs:

  • Room size: Larger rooms will have more drywall to finish and become more expensive.
  • Finishing type: More elaborate drywall finishes are typically used when preparing the wall for paint or wallpaper and may cost more.
  • Local material costs: Material prices in your area may vary, so adjust your finishing rates according to local averages.

Estimate drywall mud

Once you have figured out how many drywall sheets you need, you can estimate how much of your joint compound, or drywall mud, to use.

Our investigation demonstrated that every contractor has a preference when it comes to estimating drywall mud. The amount of drywall mud you need may vary depending on a few factors:

  • The type of tape that you use.
  • Whether you are doing drywall installation or drywall repair.
  • The amount that you typically apply.

To estimate the total amount of drywall mud you will need for a job, multiply the amount you estimate that you need per square foot by the total number of square feet you will be applying it to.

If you don’t already have an amount of drywall mud you’re used to applying, a general guideline is to estimate 0.053 pounds of mud per square foot of drywall. Here is what the calculation would look like if you’re putting up 2,000 square feet of drywall:

2,000 x 0.053 = 106 pounds of joint compound

Sheetrock mud calculator

Drywall mud per sheet

Every square foot of drywall usually needs 0.05 pounds of sheetrock joint compound or “mud”. This comes out to around 1.5 to 2 pounds of mud for every 4×8’ drywall sheet.

Based on our firsthand experience, if your drywall has texture, then you need to provide extra mud. Generally, every 50 to 150 square feet of texture needs one extra gallon of mud. Keep in mind that heavier textures tend to need more mud than lighter textures.

An easy way to account for how much drywall mud you need for a project is to count how many sheets of drywall you plan on installing. For instance, a room with 12 drywall sheets would require up to 24 pounds of mud.

Estimate drywall screws

The cost and number of drywall screws will be determined by a few factors:

  • The framework spacing.
  • Whether there are metal or wood studs under the drywall.
  • The length of the screws needed for the thickness of the drywall.

Through our practical knowledge, the easiest way to calculate how many drywall screws you need is to estimate one screw per square foot of drywall installed.

Over time, we found that a common questions is “How many drywall screws per sheet?”. The answer: You should expect to use 32 screws per 4 x 8 drywall sheet, or 48 screws per 4 x 12 drywall sheet.

So for 2,000 square feet where you will be using 50 4 x 12 sheets of drywall, you will need 2,400 screws.

48 screws x 50 sheets = 2,400 screws

As per our expertise, in the case of drywall screws, the more the better. As with all other materials, add 10% for waste.

The formulas for drywall sheets, drywall tape, and drywall screws can all be incorporated into your drywall estimating template.

Estimate corner beads

To finish a drywall installation, you will need to apply corner beads to the corners of walls to make them crisp and professional looking.

You can estimate the corner beads by counting the number of outside corners for the entire job. Plan to use one full corner bead per corner, using either an 8-foot or 10-foot bead.

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Hours to finish drywall job

Based on our observations, drywall finishing jobs take three days to finish with around six to seven hours of labor.

Most drywall finishing jobs are multi-day processes. Taping and mudding drywall joints take a short time to complete, but you need to let the mud dry for 12 to 24 hours before applying the next coat.

Labor costs to finish drywall jobs

Our findings show that while the cost of material is somewhat standard, the drywall labor cost is what differentiates your business from the competition.

The drywall cost per hour for labor can add up quickly, so it’s important to estimate as accurately as possible beforehand to avoid any surprises to your customer.

Here are some factors to consider when estimating labor costs:

  • Time: The amount of time that it takes to complete a drywall job is essential towards determining total labor costs. If you’re going to work on another project at the same time for the customer, such as roofing, make sure you separate how much time each job will take in your estimate.
  • Type of job: You may charge more in labor for complex drywall jobs that require advanced skill rather than completing a simple drywall repair.
  • Number of workers required: A drywall job is typically performed by a crew of 2, but a larger job may require more workers.
  • Pay: The amount you pay your workers isn’t the only factor to consider, but how you pay them as well. Their pay may differ depending on if you have employees or use subcontractors. You may choose to pay your workers a lump sum for a smaller job, or a drywall contractor hourly rate for a bigger job.

To estimate labor costs, you charge based on the square footage of the area on which you will be installing the drywall. However, depending on the size of the job, this way may not give you as accurate of an estimate as you should aim for.

A more accurate way to include labor costs of a drywall job in your estimate is to use your workers’ hourly labor rates to establish a base rate.

For example, let’s say that you estimate a large drywall job is going to require 6 hours of labor, and it will take 2 workers to complete the job. If you pay each worker $20 per hour, your base labor rate is $40 per hour.

Your calculations will look like this:

$40 base rate x 6 hours = $240 in total labor costs

If you have employees, you will also have to consider the cost of labor burden, which is the cost of each employee outside of their hourly wage. These costs can include:

  • Payroll taxes.
  • Insurance.
  • Benefits.

Calculating labor burden depends on where you live, what your company offers as a benefits package, and how much each worker makes.

Calculating labor costs may sound complicated, but using software to create a drywall estimating template will make this process much easier.

Other costs to consider

Basic materials are not the only costs to consider. There are many other costs that you may accrue depending on different factors, such as equipment delivery and the current building codes.

Miscellaneous costs that you may also have to apply include:

  • Transportation costs to travel to and from the job site.
  • Cost of project supervision.
  • Cost of debris removal and cleaning.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Permit fees and insurance.
  • Paint costs if you are also being contracted to paint over the drywall area.

Markup and overhead

Once you figure out the costs of materials and miscellaneous items, add your markup for profit and overhead costs.

Overhead includes the soft costs of your business that are not associated with any specific job. This may include:

  • Trucks.
  • Tools and equipment.
  • Marketing and accounting.

Profit, of course, is what is leftover for your business after you pay all of the costs and the overhead for the job.

The markup for profit you set depends on a few factors:

  • Location.
  • Job size.
  • Size of your company.

In general, smaller businesses set a markup of 15-25%, but it is up to you to determine the markup percentage for fair profits for your business

How to find a drywall contractor

Here’s how you can find a good drywall contractor whether you’re a homeowner, property manager, or general contractor:

  • Ask around friends and family to see if they have recommendations.
  • Search online for drywall contractors for hire.
  • Put out a call for drywall contractors in online and offline media.

When you have a pool of candidates to choose from, you need to make sure that they’re the right person for the job. Consider these factors when selecting your contractor:

  • Level of experience: Look for a contractor with at least five years of experience. This ensures they have all the necessary skills to finish your project.
  • Quoted price: Don’t choose a contractor simply because they bid the lowest. Compare quotes from several contractors and choose the one that gives you a reasonable price for the work that needs to be done.
  • Personal factors: Ask to meet the contractor and have a chat before deciding on hiring them. This helps you identify and smooth out any personality conflicts before the work starts.
  • References: Ask for references from previous clients. Be thorough and ask about the contractor’s quality of work, timeliness, and post-work cleanup.

Drywall estimate FAQs

How do I calculate how much drywall I need?

To calculate how much drywall you need for a drywall installation, you will need to:

  • Measure the square footage of the surface.
  • Determine what size drywall sheets you will be using (4 x 8 or 4 x 12).

To calculate how many drywall sheets you need, divide the square footage by the perimeter of the size sheet you choose (divide by 32 for 4 x 8 and divide by 48 for 4 x 12). The result is how many drywall sheets you need.

Here is an example using 4 x 12 sheets for 2,000 square feet:

2,000 square feet divided by 48 = 50 sheets

Should I use a drywall estimate Excel sheet?

Using Excel is a great way to create an estimate. However, when using Excel, it is worth creating a drywall estimating template for consistency and to reduce error.

For the most accuracy, it is best to use a drywall estimate template or estimating software like Method.

Drywall estimating software allows you to:

  • Share more accurate drywall quotes.
  • Create estimates on the go.
  • Save time on double data entry.
  • Quickly convert estimates to invoices.

Using software will streamline the process of estimating so that you can deliver your estimates quicker and start working with your customers sooner.

If you don’t see the download form, download template here.

How do you bid on a drywall job?

To bid on a drywall job, you need to submit an offer to the employer/client.

Bidding on a drywall job is one of the best ways to land a contract as a drywall contractor, but you may need to contend with other contractors to get the job.

To boost your odds of landing a drywall contract, you need these three things:

  • A short description of how you can fulfill the client’s needs.
  • Details on your past drywall jobs, including testimonials and references to demonstrate your experience and quality.
  • An accurate estimate of how much it takes to finish the requested job.

Out of all the above, your pricing estimate will likely be the crux of your client’s decision. That’s why you need to make sure your price estimate is both reasonable and can still net you a profit.

Here’s how you can accurately calculate hourly rates for your drywall jobs:

  1. Calculate your monthly operational and business expenses.
  2. Determine your expected monthly revenue and profit margin.
  3. Define how many hours you expect to work monthly.
  4. Add your expenses and margin, then divide it by your work hours to arrive at an hourly rate.

How much drywall do you need for a 2000 sq ft house?

You need roughly 150 to 160 4×8’ sheets of drywall for a 2000-square-foot home. In total, that’s about 8,000 to 9,000 square feet of drywall.

However, this number can increase or decrease depending on the client’s requirements, how many rooms are in the house, and the presence of basements or additional stories.

Since more drywall sheets mean more drywall to tape and mud, you also need to calculate how much materials you need to finish the job.

Since every drywall sheet needs around 1.5 to 2 pounds of mud, you may need up to 320 pounds of mud for a 2000-square-foot home. If the client requests more texture work, you’ll need even more mud.

How do you calculate sheetrock for a room?

You can calculate how many sheetrock or drywall sheets are needed for a room by dividing square footage by the measures of your sheet sizes.

For instance, a 10×15-foot room with a 9-foot ceiling has a total area of 600 square feet. If you’re using 4×9’ (36 square feet) drywall sheets, you’d come up with the following equation:

600/36 = 16.67

Rounded up, you’d need 17 sheets. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to order extra sheets – in total, you need 19 to 20 4×9’ drywall sheets to cover an area measuring 600 square feet.

Fortunately, you don’t need to calculate all of this yourself. There are many web-based drywall layout calculators that you can use to estimate how many sheets you need to complete a job. However, you should always buy extra sheets just in case mistakes happen during work.

Writing an estimate for drywall services

To recap, whether you are going to install or repair drywall, your estimate should include:

  • Material costs.
  • Labor costs.
  • Miscellaneous costs.
  • Overhead and profit markup.

drywall estimating template keeps you consistent and makes sure that you don’t forget to factor in any costs.

Prospective customers may not accept your estimate without some negotiation, but having a detailed drywall estimate puts you in a good position to demonstrate why choosing your business is the best choice.

If you’re participating in a bidding process, writing a compelling drywall service proposal may be your only chance to convince a potential customer to choose your business.

When writing your proposal, be sure to follow the guidelines set out by the buyer, and ask any clarification questions if necessary.

Whether your potential customers come to you, or you’re submitting a proposal as part of a bidding process, presenting an accurate and competitive estimate will be the defining factor in turning a prospect into a customer.

No matter the circumstances under which you need to present an estimate, using software to create a drywall estimating template makes this process quick and efficient.

Even if you’re a general handyperson, empowering your estimates with technology is the best approach.

Image credit: stokkete via AdobeStock

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