First Estimate Too High?

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Forum topic by TDog posted 07-31-2012 03:03 AM 2566 views 1 time favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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235 posts in 2351 days

07-31-2012 03:03 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question pine milling finishing arts and crafts rustic

OK, So I did an official paperwork and spreadsheet itemized estimate for a customer today.
It is for two solid pine 6 ft tall by 4 ft wide built in storage shelves and a wall organizer rack
for his garage storage room. It will all be sanded and stained. I plan on including a wooden back on both shelves.
In the picture is the style I am shooting for on a smaller scale…only the 4’ wide by 6’ tall set of two installed.

So I quoted the client including all materials needed and labor about $900.
I factored 4 eight hour days of labor to be sure I did not under figure my time.

Any experienced cabinet builders out there your experience is welcomed!

I am open to advice and if I am in the ball park on this or not as it is my first estimate for a job
and not working “by the hour”.

Thanks for your input if you so chose?

Trying to Get R Done…

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

39 replies so far

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717 posts in 3394 days

#1 posted 07-31-2012 03:27 AM

If you think that it would take you four days to build, then stick to your guns. Don’t cheapen your bids because they are not accepted.n That is a slippery slope that you don’t want to ride!

If you overbid and you get the job, you can always cut back on the final bill. I’m sure the customer would be elated and probably come back.

It’s when you underbid and either have to suck it up or charge more than the bid that will lose you repeat customers.

Best of luck! Cheers!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

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8363 posts in 2698 days

#2 posted 07-31-2012 03:31 AM

Good advice from Dave.

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235 posts in 2351 days

#3 posted 07-31-2012 03:35 AM

Dave thanks a bunch,

My uncle who is a professional cabinet maker for a while now encouraged me with similar words. You’re so right as I am restoring a buffet right now and underbid it. Sucking it up is right. I must have sanded 3 hours today and that’s my second day of prep work. Wood repairs tomorrow and then the stain etc. Took a lump on that one. I did not do a spread sheet itemized estimate and … ouch, but hopefully keeping the original bid with them and delivering a good finished piece of work will help with word of mouth and more jobs.

Still lovin woodworking though, Can’t believe they pay me to do this…LOL

Thanks again

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

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2387 posts in 3668 days

#4 posted 07-31-2012 03:36 AM

I normally charge 200.00 per LF for open book shelving up to 8’ tall. Not every bid is identical and many factors exist that determine final price.

-- .

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Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2596 days

#5 posted 07-31-2012 03:39 AM

It all depends on the quality of job you plan to do. If you will be doing dados for the shelves, rabbets for the backs, and a truly impressive job of staining and finishing then $900 is a fair price. If you plan on using pocket holes or plugged screws on the sides and a quick stain finish job, then you over bid. I guess it all depened on what your customer requested.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 2351 days

#6 posted 07-31-2012 03:39 AM

Jerry, did you say 200 dollars? Just checking. Want to get all the advice I can for the next time I work up an estimate. My client said they wanted shelves that would help the resale value of the house so I did not want to skimp on materials etc. I wanted to do them right and well the best that I can with good wood etc.

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

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1740 posts in 2930 days

#7 posted 07-31-2012 03:42 AM

You price is certainly inline. Your at 112.00 lf. I would probably bump it up another 20 to 32 per ft for the unknown. The unknown in this case is the additional waste you may not have allowed for using solid pine. On a deal that small you may experiance a 30 % plus waste factor. Sounds like a one day build for sure and a day for stain and finish with plenty of breaks. Good luck on it ! JB

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235 posts in 2351 days

#8 posted 07-31-2012 03:47 AM


I’m planning on dados, and rabbets etc, the whole nine yards with a good sanding, preconditioning for stain, etc and good stain job with sturdy installation. I figure if he gets a few other quotes from full time professionals, it will make a difference also as I am doing a business start up and want to start it right with good quality sturdy work.

We’ll see.

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

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235 posts in 2351 days

#9 posted 07-31-2012 03:48 AM

Thanks JB, If I get the job,
I will have to put some updates on how it goes and some pics.

The above pic is just an idea for the customer I found on the internet.

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

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Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2596 days

#10 posted 07-31-2012 03:51 AM

I wish you luck TDog,

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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417 posts in 3065 days

#11 posted 07-31-2012 05:27 PM

Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get a job you bid on.

If you did get every job you bid on, you probably aren’t making any money as your bids are too low.
As Dave said above, you never want to underbid the job.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3769 days

#12 posted 07-31-2012 06:21 PM

I’d say you are too low, but a lot depends on how refined you are going
to make it look. Pine shelves can look real rustic with cupped boards
and pitch pockets and stain that looks like the pine was sprayed with
dirt… there’s some ugly pine stuff out there and some people really
like it, so what your customer is expecting matters most.

Be sure you get the customer to sign-off on the material
grade and the finish before you build the thing.

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 3488 days

#13 posted 07-31-2012 06:47 PM

I would agree with Loren. It seems pretty low to me. Let’s assume you have $200 in material costs leaving you with $700 for 4 days work. That leaves you just over $20/hr with no overhead for the shop, utilities, time to get the materials and any problems you might encounter, etc.


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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3090 days

#14 posted 07-31-2012 06:49 PM

How are you buying your pine? Rough sawn/pao/laminate sheet?

What depth is the unit?

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779 posts in 2386 days

#15 posted 07-31-2012 07:42 PM

I’m just adding to what everyone else here has said because it’s been solid advice so far.

Don’t forget to factor in things like storage space at your shop, transporting the work to the site (if you build offsite) or transporting materials, etc.

If everyone begins accepting your bids without question as said above, chances are you’re not charging correctly.

Quality takes time and money.

If or when you get this job, write down how you spent every minute. You’ll quickly begin realizing where you are and aren’t charging enough. For example, some people forget things like getting all the materials out and ready for finishing. You have to clear space. Set up the materials or project for finishing. Get all your finishing products out and mixed. Then you have the actual time spent finishing. That’s followed by the clean up time. All those keep you from doing something else so all of them apply to finishing.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

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