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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Table of contents

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.

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.

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. 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.

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. 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

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

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.

To help you out, we’ve detailed all the measurements you need to take and explained how to calculate the amount of material you need.

Measure square footage

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

A 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 that 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?”, and the answer is probably more than you think!

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 16 feet.
  • The perimeter of a 4 x 12 sheet is 20 feet.

Using the previous example, if you use 50 4 x 12 sheets, your calculation will look like this:

50 x 20 = 1,000 feet

For this project, you need at least 1000 feet of tape. If your rolls are 500 feet long each, then you’ve determined that you need to add the cost of 2 rolls to your estimate.

However, to account for potential waste, it is best to add the cost of an extra roll, for a total of 3 rolls of drywall tape.

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

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.

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

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.

The easiest way to calculate how many drywall screws you need is to estimate one screw per square foot of drywall installed.

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

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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Labor costs to finish drywall jobs

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.

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.

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