How to price kitchen cabinets

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Forum topic by Rushman posted 02-23-2010 10:11 PM 5770 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 3552 days

02-23-2010 10:11 PM

What would be a good method to price labor in building someones kitchen cabinets and islands? Do you figure it by the board foot or hours? Whats a good rule of thumb when pricing your work?


15 replies so far

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3339 days

#1 posted 02-24-2010 12:58 AM

If you’re in the business, you should already know your “shop rate” (i.e. what you need per hour to stay in business). With that number in mind, you need a design for the cabs – including wood species, stains and finishes, hardware, etc. Then, you need to think thru each piece of cabinetry and determine how much material it takes and how long it will take you to make it.

Then, multiply your estimated hours (hrs) by your shop rate ($/hr) to get the price ($$).

I’ve been doing this for a while, and my “thumb rule” ranges from $250/linear foot for a very basic set of cabs to to $450/linear foot (or more) for the really fancy stuff. Your mileage may vary – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View MarkBWV's profile


7 posts in 3298 days

#2 posted 02-24-2010 03:37 AM

Is that just for the cabs? Materials and labor for the cabinet construction only?


View Rushman's profile


13 posts in 3552 days

#3 posted 02-24-2010 02:13 PM

I’m just doing some work for friends. I’m way to slow to make a living at it. I just wanted some ideas on how to price my work to save them some money and make some money to support my wood working habit. Sawkerf..when you say $250 per foot do you mean you measure the completed cab. say from left to right?


View Joe Kimmell's profile

Joe Kimmell

32 posts in 3425 days

#4 posted 02-24-2010 02:46 PM

Any work I do, carpentry or woodwork, I calculate at material cost times three for starters. Then I usually go down some from that ‘cause I’m not that greedy! I find that trying to calculate time into the equasion can be frustrating because it always takes longer than I think, especially when I figure out at the end of a project that I only made $4/hr!!!! Just do a little research and see what the handbuilt market bears, and let your common sense be your guide! Good Luck…........Joe

-- Beer and Bandsaws just don't mix. Take my word for it!

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3339 days

#5 posted 02-24-2010 06:05 PM

Mark -
Those numbers are for the initial design work, materials, labor, finishing (usually subbed out), and delivery. Installation is extra. The linear foot numbers are only for “guesstimating” a budget number. If that’s out of the customers range, we all save a lot of time and aggravation. If it’s in their ballpark, we proceed with the details so I can develop a real bid.

The linear foot method is based on the width of each “box”. A 36” wide base cab with a 36” wide upper over it counts as six linear feet.

It isn’t about “greed” Joe – it’s a business. I’m completely legitimate and my shop rate ($XX/hr) reflects the cost of my wages, overhead (licenses, insurance, taxes, etc.), and profit. I can be flexible on the profit number, and maybe a little flexible on the wages, but I’ll pass on a job that won’t cover it’s own cost. It’s cheaper in the long run.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Joe Kimmell's profile

Joe Kimmell

32 posts in 3425 days

#6 posted 02-24-2010 08:16 PM

Hey Sawkerf! I wasn’t making commentary on your costing methods. It’s obvious you are an accomplished cabinetmaker. I meant no offense about greed, and sorry if you took that unkindly.
I suppose I was just trying to envision that Johnny is a guy like me: Finally got some tools and learning to work with them….Got a chance to do a project that challenges.
For me, I have to be aware that my learning curve, and tool limitations make my work worth less than someone who really knows his stuff. And in the end, what is my “amateur to midshipman” work quality compared to someone who has his shop and ACT together? I can’t charge the same as you ‘cause my work is not as good…Plain and simple…..But every chance I get at a new project is a part of my 50-yr-old education process! Learn something every time, and maybe get a little better with each project. ~Joe

-- Beer and Bandsaws just don't mix. Take my word for it!

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3938 days

#7 posted 02-24-2010 09:05 PM

By the linear foot is a pretty standard way to get a guestimate for the cost. Materials and hardware play a big part of that number. Just be aware that custom built kitchens are expensive because they are ALOT of work, especially for one man I have all but stopped bidding on them for that reason. Your friends will only be saving money if you work for free. Anymore you can buy a factory kitchen for the price of materials alone.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3339 days

#8 posted 02-24-2010 09:56 PM

Yeah Joe, I guess I’m a bit sensitive about that “greed” business. Too much of my work involves people who have a tiny bit of knowledge – usually from HGTV – but no real understanding of running a business.

Two semi-amusing anecdotes:

One customer had an idea of material costs and decided that my bid at ~3x the materials cost was going to put a pile of cash in my pocket. He rather indignantly informed me that he made nowhere near what he thought was my hourly “wage”. I suggested that he talk to his boss and find out what his employer charged for his time. A couple of weeks later, he couldn’t wait to share his newly found knowledge about what he actually cost his employer above what he got paid.

When another customer was complaining about my “profit” over the material cost, I asked him who took care of the service on his new BMW. When he replied “The dealer, of course”, I asked him if he had read the hourly rates posted at their shop (required by CA law). He signed the contract when I told him that my shop rate was well below theirs – and I made house calls. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Sarit's profile


551 posts in 3411 days

#9 posted 02-24-2010 10:31 PM

I think in your case you should make a list of the material/finishing/installation costs and then estimate how long it should take you to build it. Then work with your friend (client) on what a reasonable hourly wage should be given your level of experience/productivity. As long as you both find it reasonable you’ll do well. Bear in mind that a pro shop can have CNC machines, clamping tables, dedicated tables for each task, etc so they can achieve quite a bit more in one hour than a one man garage workshop. Even if you are short changing yourself now, remember that you are building reference-able customers, which may be worth more than you could have charged them to begin with.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4164 days

#10 posted 03-02-2010 04:51 PM

I can purchase a kitchen, finished, all hardware, packaged to prevent damage, delivered to my door, for less money then it would cost me to purchase raw material alone….........and there not bad cabinets with 5/8” melamine box and back, blum hinges and drawer guides.

That said and reading what you wrote might I recommend what many do. Charge an hourly rate foryour labour and have the client purchase all the materials for you…........this way you cant loose.

I charge 1,000 a ft….........sometimes 1,500 ft…...sometimes more. Anything less I send them to Ikea.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 3355 days

#11 posted 03-02-2010 05:23 PM

Sawkerf Everything you said, ditto! As to greed inferences, they usually come frome uneducated hobbyist, no offense to anyone.

The problem with Rushman’s request is our work is much more complicated than people realize. The choices of woods, hardware,drawer and door styles to name just a few, can change cost dramaticly. These choices can make for a cost range of $225-$650lf from me. Like you said a ballpark educated guesstimate.

I don’t judge “what the market will bear” in setting my prices. That is to arbitrary and will bankrupt you.

My price is based on real cost, overhead and expected profit. I sell not on price but reptutation.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3339 days

#12 posted 03-02-2010 05:42 PM

Moron -

If “stock” cabs will work, they’re not bad, and I always tell my “looky-loos” to check them out first.

My sales pitch, however, is based on giving them a set of cabs that will meet their specific needs and uses every bit of available space.

I just sent a set of preliminary drawings to a customer for a very small, awkwardly laid out kitchen space. From their feedback, they’re totally on-board with custom v.s. “stock” now. There’s only one small area of “dead” space – and I have some ideas of how to make that useful, too.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3325 days

#13 posted 03-02-2010 05:51 PM

Yep, I have the problem of knowing what I need to make and then “working” with my customers on “profit”. Something I am slowly learning to stop.

I had some customers in the past explain to me that they knew I was getting rich off of their job, because of the length of time it took to build it. (1600+ SF composite deck with hidden fastener system, multi-tiered with angles) I began to explain to them the cost to me, of paying my guys, paying my insurance, gas, tool use, cost of tool rental, etc. By the time I was done, I told him I was ready to quit, as I was being severely underpaid, to which he promptly agreed.

--, Making design and application one. †

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3339 days

#14 posted 03-02-2010 09:30 PM

Dennis -

Very few contractors I know will ever quote their labor rates. My quotes are always “firm price” with language to add change orders as necessary. Yes, the change orders can reduce the price, too.

When some customers demand to know what I’m making, I just tell them that my prices reflect my legitimate status (licensed, insured, etc) which works for their protection as well as my own. I deliver a product and a service just like any other business which means that I have to recover my costs and make some amount of profit. That usually satisfies them, but if it doesn’t, I disengage. They aren’t customers I want to work for.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View mnguy's profile


218 posts in 3669 days

#15 posted 03-09-2010 06:22 PM


Back to your question :) If you are an amateur (like me) and you are doing the work for friends, I’d suggest charging them a flat fee for labor and shop supplies, and having them pay retail for materials. I’ve done that with a couple of friends; give them a firm number for labor, an estimate for materials, and they pay the actual material cost. I also encouraged them to get a bid from a professional; they chose not to. I made a little mad money for new shop toys, learned a lot, and my friends are happy and tell everyone who made their cabinets.

As to the pro’s comments above – I totally agree; pro’s need to make a living, and running a legitmate business and using quality materials costs money. If customers don’t understand that, you don’t need those customers.

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