How to ask the question "More Money"

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Forum topic by Cornductor posted 04-20-2016 03:52 PM 1475 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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208 posts in 2691 days

04-20-2016 03:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

When building custom items small to large we run into various situations. Well this one of them. I’m building a custom natural slab kitchen table for a customer and have run into more unforeseen changes then expected. These changes were not based on customer but of a more in depth build. In depth to the point of when giving an estimate the twist of wood slab was not seen and and have had to trouble shoot numerous problems.

How and when do you ask the client for more money?

-- An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

28 replies so far

View jbay's profile


2333 posts in 923 days

#1 posted 04-20-2016 04:03 PM

If it’s not the customers fault, then you don’t.
It’s your job to know these things, that’s why the customer hired you.
Best you can do is give back any deposit and keep the slab and tarnish your reputation,
Or, pull thru and finish the job and take the loss and call it a school lesson but your reputation is in tact.

I have had many a school lesson and some weren’t cheap.

Just My Opinion

View Cornductor's profile


208 posts in 2691 days

#2 posted 04-20-2016 05:07 PM

Ill pull thru and eventually take a loss. Just curious if others have had similar situations.

-- An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

View ste6168's profile


255 posts in 1195 days

#3 posted 04-20-2016 05:59 PM

I don’t own a woodworking business, so I will put it in another perspective.

Say, I hypothetically hired a roofer to put a roof on my house, he quoted me XX amount, but once he got started, realized he didn’t buy enough shingles, or didn’t factor in the 5 dormers we have on my roof. If he came back to me, and asked for more money. I wouldn’t be very happy, nor would I plan to give him more money.

Alternatively, if he gave me a quote for 3-tab shingles, and halfway through the job, I decided that I would prefer to go with a metal roof, I would expect the cost to increase, and have to re-work the numbers. I wouldn’t expect him to just pick up the cost difference.

View bondogaposis's profile


4765 posts in 2375 days

#4 posted 04-20-2016 06:24 PM

How and when do you ask the client for more money?

I don’t think you can. It was your inexperience or lack of observation that lead you to making a an estimate that was too low. Chalk it up to a hard lesson learned. Education is expensive. Perhaps the good will that you generate with this customer will lead to more work. Raising the price will after the fact will work against you in the long run.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Cornductor's profile


208 posts in 2691 days

#5 posted 04-20-2016 06:27 PM

@ste6168 lets say half way thru the re roof he found rot in the plywood. This is a unforeseeable problem what does he do that’s fair?
As with the table cutting down a 4×16x3” slab into a 4×8x3” slab the unforeseeable came about. It twisted and if the twist was there I didn’t notice it.

-- An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

View ChrisK's profile


1972 posts in 3106 days

#6 posted 04-20-2016 06:35 PM

When the roofer did my house he had in his quote to cost to replace a sheet of bad plywood. I to have had a few costly lessons. I hope the cost is more in time and frustration and not wasted material.

-- Chris K

View jmartel's profile


7954 posts in 2174 days

#7 posted 04-20-2016 06:58 PM

@ste6168 lets say half way thru the re roof he found rot in the plywood. This is a unforeseeable problem what does he do that s fair?
As with the table cutting down a 4×16x3” slab into a 4×8x3” slab the unforeseeable came about. It twisted and if the twist was there I didn t notice it.

- Cornductor

Your example you eat the costs. That’s material that you selected and paid for so it’s your problem. The rotted plywood is different and would be on the customer because the contractor didn’t supply it. If it’s just one piece of ply, most roofers would eat that cost anyway.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View jbay's profile


2333 posts in 923 days

#8 posted 04-20-2016 07:03 PM

Let me just ask.
Did you warn your client that it could twist when you cut it?
Will you warn the next client?

Based on your new experience, it is now foreseeable and as an experienced woodworker selling a product, it was your responsibility to know.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2132 days

#9 posted 04-20-2016 07:09 PM

Going forward, you and your customer could allocate the risk of potential setbacks (especially arguably “blameless” setbacks, like an unseen twist) up-front, by making the quote subject to assumptions and requirements. To be belt-and-suspenders, I suppose you could try to issue-spot and list a wide range of potential setbacks, or get the customer to agree to a broad, non-exhaustive clause. Then, you could negotiate price accordingly – charging more if you take on more risk, and less if you take on less risk (i.e., are allowed to increase price if setbacks occur).

For example, in your scenario, you could have chosen (or let the customer choose) between including “no hidden defects in slabs” as an assumption for a lower up-front price, or excluding it but charging a higher price.

Admittedly, I base this entirely on my “day job” experience as an attorney, outside of the woodworking world; I don’t know what sorts of terms and conditions are typically standard/variable in contracts for professional woodwork. But it seems just as sensible for woodworking as it does (e.g.) for roofing, per Chris K’s example.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View clin's profile


851 posts in 1020 days

#10 posted 04-21-2016 12:13 AM

On custom work, you seldom nail the quote or estimate. With experience you will get closer. But part of it is padding the estimate some. There are almost always unexpected events.

The other factor is when doing enough jobs, some will go over budget and you absorb that. Others will come in under. If you do it right, over time they’ll average out.

And don’t go thinking if the job was easier than you thought, that this means you somehow ripped off the customer. On fixed price contracts, you are taking all the cost risk. They aren’t going to pay you more when you underbid, so no reason to feel bad if you overbid.

-- Clin

View ArtMann's profile


950 posts in 840 days

#11 posted 04-21-2016 12:46 AM

I have built all kinds of projects over the years that were unprofitable and in a few cases, cost me more in materials than I was getting paid. I remember one project in which i was hired to construct 4 forteen inch diameter, 16 foot long fluted columns for a 2 story porch. I worked on it for weeks and barely got enough money to pay for materials. It is not the customers fault that I was ignorant or misjudged a situation. Nowadays, if there is any doubt about the cost of a project with too many unknowns, I will tell the customer in writing that it is just an estimate and he might have to pay more. With such an agreement, I would consider charging the customer less if the job turned out to be simpler than I thought. If I give someone a firm, fixed price, I believe it is my moral obligation to do the job at the quoted price. I recall one instance in which the customer realized what was going on and paid me more than I asked for.

View JBrow's profile


1361 posts in 944 days

#12 posted 04-21-2016 04:25 AM


I do woodworking only as a hobby so I am not commenting as a pro. Additionally I may be old school since I try to do what is right, whether when doing something for someone or being someone’s customer.

I think just asking for more money would be ok, unless you have priced the project so that you will still make money in spite of the problems or you are asking the customer to pay for your mistakes, like cutting a board too short. If the customer says no, you are only worse off if you somehow frustrate or anger the customer. If the customer is a couple, having both present when asking is probably best.

Whether you get more money and/or anger the customer will largely depend on your people skills; that is what you say and how you say it. It is also a conversation best had in person, since most communication is through body language. Showing progress made on the project can reveal to the customer that the project is coming together, almost done, or whatever. Since you are building something with natural materials, the customer may understand the added cost. If the customer is old school, they may agree to pay more, especially: if they see the project taking shape and can picture a completed table in their kitchen, if you are only asking for the cost of replacing the bad behaving lumber, and you are providing the labor to remake the part. But then asking for more money on a table that already is costing several times more than a table available in the furniture stores or one that missed the estimated delivery date can serve to anger the customer and make matters worse.

No matter what you elect to do, avoiding these types of discussions are obviously best. Reviewing the pricing model and maybe the business model being followed could help avoid these unpleasant circumstances. I have no idea the value of custom furniture or other things made of wood, but it seems to me that one of a kind, handcrafted, well-made things of wood command a premium whose value is difficult to access. I have difficulty seeing how many standard pricing models, such as firm fixed pricing, time & material or even cost-plus work very well for the customer and/or the business when selling custom work using natural materials.

View JAAune's profile


1802 posts in 2341 days

#13 posted 04-21-2016 04:42 AM

Start working overtime to minimize the loss. It is possible to request additional funds and I’ve heard of people doing this. It worked out okay for one of them and the second guy got his money but also landed on the client’s blacklist thus ensuring he didn’t get repeat work.

I’ve had one commission turn into a total money loser. It hurt to lose 6 weeks plus a couple thousand dollars but it wasn’t the client’s fault I gave them the wrong price. I’d have asked for extra money if they had altered the project after signing the contract but that wasn’t the case.

-- See my work at and

View bruc101's profile


1200 posts in 3566 days

#14 posted 04-21-2016 05:01 AM

About 10 years ago I built a lady a very large Country French kitchen. When we were doing the deal I went through the usual “if’s” with her once I got started building her new kitchen. Usually when a shop prices a kitchen they should already know their expenses on the project and any overages are because a customer’s change request.

The kitchen was to be painted white and I had two coats of the white paint already on the kitchen. She came in one day told me I think I want to change the color of my cabinets to this green and showed me the color.

I asked her, do you remember when we were doing the deal on your kitchen, I told you that if you decided to change the colors on your cabinets after I’ve already started painting them, then to change the colors would be 1/2 the total price of the cabinets. She looked at me and said I remember and I sure do like my white cabinets.

As others have stated, I’ve had to eat things that went wrong and I lost money but I didn’t ask for more money from the customer and I finished the project. This is what I do and have done in the past and will continue to do.

When you’re dealing with wood, especially a slab, Murphy’s law can really bite a woodworker on the butt and you need to always try and have your butt covered before you agree on a price.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View Neilswoodcraft's profile


9 posts in 792 days

#15 posted 04-21-2016 05:36 AM

Ultimately I would eat the cost an get the job done. What I agreeded upon with the customer in the first place is what I will finish for that said amount. If the customer changes plans it’s a different story. I will keep my word to complete work I agree to even if I loose money. I would deffintily use it as a learning experience thoe.

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