As a painting contractor I find that most contractors charge between $20 an hour and $45 an hour plus paint and materials pending overhead here in Pennsylvania i figure $30 an hour is a safe bet. figure a good painter should be able to prep a 12 x 12 to a 12 x 15 room, caulk, apply 1 or 2 coats to the ceiling 2 coats on the walls and 1 coat on all baseboards, trim, doors and crown moulding in an 8 to 9 hour day. This is with minimal or minor spackling repairs like nail holes and nail pops, not cracks and peeling tape. Thats extra paint is usually  $30 to $70 a gallon pending quality. A room this size will need 1 gallon for the ceiling 2 for the walls and maybe 1 gallon for the trim, doors ext... the square foot price is $1.50 - $3.00 as far as asking for money up front I never ask. If the home owner buys the paint there is no need for money and if your buying the paint and your an established contractor you have an account with your supplier's.  any ways that's my input and guidelines 
This all comes down to the rules.....1. references....does the contractor have them??? I ALWAYS furnish all my prospective customers them....no excuses...2. insurance....again, I always furnish proof....3. Read the proposal carefully...I ALWAYS list materials down to tape used, the brand, the grit of sandpaper, the manufacturer, etc....its INEXCUSABLE to not list all of these items....I am a member of the PDCA, the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, the foremost authority in the coatings industry and they also approve of what I listed....if you do not follow these guidelines, you will NOT get a job reflective of "professional". Look for the PDCA where any painting contractors are, if they are not a member, RUN!
Minor repair and maintenance activities that disturb 6 square feet or less of paint per room inside, or 20 square feet or less on the exterior of a home or building. (Note: Window replacement, and partial and full demolition activities, are always covered regardless of square footage.  Activities designated as “prohibited” are prohibited regardless of square footage.)
IF the average cost is $1700 to paint an interior, then that means the cost of paint is approx. $200 (12% of the job).  Or better said 5 gallons of paint (if the average cost is $40 retail).  The average room takes 1.5 gallons which will cover 3 average rooms.  Doesn't sound to average to anyone with knowledge of this industry or a average house.  You are misleading consumers and should do a better job in your research.  No wonder so pay people think prices to get work done by professionals is high.  Its not high, its actually average which is more like $3700.

House Painter Co

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