How much should I charge?

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Forum topic by brianh1965 posted 10-28-2009 02:40 PM 12232 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 3156 days

10-28-2009 02:40 PM

I am a finish carpenter currently working on an upscale home. I’ve been asked to build two Cherry built-in cabinets in the livingroom next to the fireplace. Although I have been “dabbling” in woodworking for years, I have never attempted anything this involved before.
Overall the opening is 56in wide x 108” H x 16in deep (x2)
There is a base cabinet with 4 (custom to match the kitchen)doors and drawers for CD’s & DVD’s. With three seperate compartments. It has a cherry top with dentil molding and 2 quarterd legs on the sides. (56”w x 24”d x 32”h) In one of the compartments is the speaker that the home owner wants to hear but not see, so I have to modify the door… the owner does not want speaker cloth! So it looks like I’ll have to build some kind of cherry wood weave .The circle top was provided by the local lumber yard because it had to be bent.
On top of the cabinet are 4 adjustable shelves with plywood side & back.
This is constructed with quality cherry plywood and solids.
I am just about done with the build and ready to stain & finish… this project is a Time & material agreement.
My problem is that I am not proficient, so it takes me alot longer to complete. As a finish carpenter I usually charge between $45-55. per hour but I’m thinking this is low for this kind of work.
My thinking is that you guys that do this for a living and have decent shops could probably build and install (one) in about a week with maybe 2 days to finish.
What would you charge?
I am looking for a labor charge only.

12 replies so far

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3192 days

#1 posted 10-28-2009 09:56 PM

My usual rule of thumb is your material cost x2 however this doesent always work as there are diferent variables with every job.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#2 posted 10-29-2009 12:40 AM

I always seem to under estimate time so I come up with a number for time and material and then go with some where between 2 1/2 times to 4 times what I calculate depending on how much detail and the customer. I’ve had them say that I must have forgotten something even when I’m going 4 times my estimate ,and of course I accommodated them and charged more. I think in the beginning I tended to under estimate the sanding and finish time the most.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3691 days

#3 posted 10-29-2009 12:59 AM

Never, never, never build anything for profit without a prior agreement on price and a contract to back it up. Being in the trade, I would assume you already knew that first rule of business. Surely the contractor or homeowner gave you some sort of price point.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View brianh1965's profile


3 posts in 3156 days

#4 posted 10-29-2009 04:22 AM

I gave the customer a ball park #. I told him that it would not be less than $3000.(each)
Sometimes in the home building biz solid numbers will hurt you or even break you. I know what you mean though…they usually say something like…”but you said…”
So far I have about $1100. in materials, not including the bent half round top.

View Rabbet's profile


35 posts in 3165 days

#5 posted 10-29-2009 04:27 AM

Call a couple of cabinet shops in your area and ask their hourly shop rate since these may be the people you will compete against for the job. Consider they have a lot of overhead to charge that rate and come in somewhere under that for your rate.

View langski93's profile


111 posts in 3457 days

#6 posted 10-30-2009 06:36 PM

Go to this web site. This topic is well covered by the pros.

Good luck.

-- Langski, New Hampshire

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3309 days

#7 posted 11-01-2009 04:12 AM

According to CabinetMaker Magazine, the average shop rate for a cabinet shop is about the same as what you charge. $45-55/hr. My shop labor rate is $50/hr (just wish I could get that all the time) lol. BTW, if any of you get CabinetMaker magazine, this month they will have the results of their annual pricing survey. They send out detailed drawings of a couple kitchens and a few other projects to shops through out the country and ask us to bid on them as if we were bidding on them for a customer. They break down the survey and show the different prices. I’ve done it for the past four years and it always blows my mind the difference in the prices for the same job. They don’t list us by name, but just from the state we’re from. If anyone gets it this month, just look for SC…....That will be me. I’m usually the only one from SC to enter a bid, so it’s easy to figure out.

-- John @

View brianh1965's profile


3 posts in 3156 days

#8 posted 11-02-2009 04:12 AM

Well, he doesn’t have a beemer but he does have a Mercedes, a Caddy and a 50K Corvette! I think I’m going to come in around $2,200. I did get a price on cabinets from the local shop that supplied the kitchen… they wanted $1,400. to $1,800. per cabinet.

View Tom Huntley's profile

Tom Huntley

50 posts in 3263 days

#9 posted 05-24-2012 04:18 AM

I’m not sure how old this post is. I look up (if possible) what a big box store sells the cabinets for. If it’s a custom solution, you should be able to get 25 per cent more. Like you, I tend to under bid. I’m doing a fireplace mantle and two book shelves with base cabinets in both sides. I gave the homeowner a price of $3400, and they said “let’s do it”. Now I’m wondering how much money I left on the table! Good luck!

-- Tom Huntley - Rochester Hills, Michigan

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3672 days

#10 posted 05-24-2012 06:04 AM

$400 lf for finished cabinet work in hardwood ply
at 86” tall = $2k.

That’s my kneejerk… the sort of pricing that drops some
jaws and no others. Real bidding is more nuanced and
most middle class clients will scream bloody murder in
today’s climate if you bill at $400/lf but it’s still accurate
to what it costs to do nice work and they should hire
a hack if they don’t like it. Many do and are disappointed.

I don’t know your area and prices vary regionally for custom
installations a lot. A nice clear finish is 30% of the labor of
a job in my opinion. Most clients do not grasp this factor
and it is tricky to tell them you can cut the price by 30%
if they want to finish it themselves… because they’ll hate
you for exposing them. Thing is, most fellows feel they
can paint a shelf and figure it’s not big deal…. until you tell
them to do it themselves.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3672 days

#11 posted 05-24-2012 06:06 AM

I went back and read your $1100 material figure and I don’t
know what to think. If the pre-fab parts make it an
easy project, double the price or something and get out,
but in normal shop work if you aren’t getting 4-6x material
cost you are probably being dumb.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3672 days

#12 posted 05-24-2012 06:07 AM

Sorry. Old thread. Hope somebody gets some insight from my
comments. I’ll let them stand.

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