Deciding whether to powder coat or paint can come down to something as simple as price. Either solution can yield excellent results using a high-quality product and proper application. There are other considerations, such as environmental impact, that might come into play. But we’re guessing average cost per square foot is your first powder coating concern.
We’re also guessing that there’s more to powder coating pricing than you realize. Keep reading for an explanation of what goes into deciding your costs to powder coat.
What Exactly Is Powder Coating?
Unlike paint, powder coating is applied dry and then cured in an oven, melting the powder and fusing it to the surface it’s covering. The resulting coating is highly durable.
The process can be used on not just metal, but also virtually every other material.
Calculating Cost per Square Foot for Powder Coating
The problem with figuring an average cost per square foot for powder coating is that every job is different. The actual costs can vary widely. For example, one online forum quotes prices ranging from about $4 per sq. ft. to $45 per sq. ft. These averages should be only a very loose guideline. So, with that caveat in mind, here’s a stab at the problem.
Here are some of the considerations that go into calculating powder coating prices:
- The kind of powder coating. Non-standard colors and metallics cost more than standard colors, so see whether your manufacturer passes on the extra cost to customers.
- Use of thermoset or thermoplastic coating. Thermoplastic is less expensive but not as durable or heat-resistant as thermoset.
- Specific gravity of the powder coating and thickness of the coverage.
- Size of your components. This factor determines how many pieces can be powder coated per hour.
- Number of components to be treated. Higher volume reduces the cost per component, especially if it’s ongoing, consistent business that’s easily repeatable.
- Cleaning, degreasing, sand blasting, etc. Preparing a dirty component for powder coat application can be time-consuming and, therefore, costly.
- Wages, benefits, rent, etc. The costs of running the shop also contribute to the price per square foot. Still better than buying all the machinery and doing it yourself!
Using these variable and fixed costs, among others, a company that powder coats minivan door slides estimates the price at $0.69 per piece. Each part is 1.7 square feet. So the average cost per square foot is about $0.41. Of course, that’s for 3 million parts per year, or 12,000 per day. There are likely price breaks a manufacturer will give you for such high-volume business.
Average Cost per Square Foot for Powder Coating
The cost per square foot for powder coating is most likely something between $0.40 and $4.
Though, as you can see from the calculation considerations above, it is difficult (if not impossible) to give accurate ranges without accounting for the many variables of the process.
It’s probably safe to say, though, that $45 is a bit steep.
A Word About Powder Coating Vs. Paint
Assuming near-perfect conditions and application practices, powder coating does appear to be less expensive than painting. Another calculation, based on coating 1 million sq. ft. of material per year, found that powder coating would cost about $0.23 per square foot. Painting would cost around $0.35.
Over the course of 1 million sq. ft. worth of finishing, the savings would amount to more than $12,000 a year.
The bottom line is that the best way to get the best price is to shop around. Talk to companies that provide painting and powder coating. Ask what goes into calculating the estimates they provide.
And beware if the costs exceed $40 per sq. ft. Unless you’re asking someone to turn the entire Great Wall of China metallic pink, you’re probably getting hosed.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published on September 24, 2018 and was updated on September 30, 2019 to reflect additional insights, resources, and considerations.