Am I Being Reasonable????


From original questioner:

Hi Folks. I'm a long time gleaner of your collective wisdom and this is my first contribution to this forum. I'll thank you all in advance for whatever your thoughts may be...and I truly value any opinion (happy or sad).

The photo link to Flickr displays enough images to demonstrate the details involved in a recent kitchen/vanity project.

For background purposes; I designed (no charge), planned (formal drawings and again, no charge), measured ( more gratis!), estimated and ordered the material (my time), milled all material from rough 4/4 (poplar, birch and cherry for drawer fronts, mortise and tenon-ed doors reinforced with dowel, dovetailed drawer boxes and vanity/kitchen island tops), milling/fabrication of birch plywood carcasses, finish prepped (sanding!!!!), finishing all surfaces (sprayed water-base, clear coats and Spar marine varnish), install all cabinetry on-site (handles and pulls I always install for free as a display of gratitude for the opportunity), touch ups, clean up and all done with a cheerful smile!

I work alone (my preference) and managed to complete this project in 606 hours. This reflects the actual time spent working on the project. I have a client whom believes this to be unreasonable.

What say you, my trusted colleagues?

Kindest regards, Ken Havinga

From contributor Ga


I'll bite. First off, from a business standpoint, why should your customer care how many hours you've got into a project? Unless this was some sort of time and materials project?!? Typically on a casework project, the client would receive a quote for the price, which they can expect to be honored (excluding any change orders). Surely, at the least there was a ballpark figure...If this was greatly exceeded I could see their issue. It's up to you as a professional to put out an estimate, and stick to it....

Btw, amazing work on your website, I love the Maloof style rocker.

From contributor Ma

For some reason your flickr link wont work for me but I would echo Gary's comment that your work is very very nice without a doubt.

That said, and again I cant see the images, it sounds like unless you were on a blank check time and materials job, the lack of even a rough estimate of cost may be what shot you in the foot.

I dont mean to judge based on your webiste but I begin to wonder if perhaps you are accustomed to working for people who profoundly appreciate a level of quality and have the means to pay for it (the dream for us all) and you simply ran up against a tough cookie, cheapskate, or any other thing. The simple fact of the matter is it sounds like you may not be protected by any form of contract or signed mutual agreement.

Im sure the exist, but I have simply never worked for a customer (even some of my best) who would allow me to work open-ended with absolutely no idea where the final costs may land. They have to have some idea, and I wouldnt feel comfortable working for them without giving them at least a reasonable estimate of my final price. Its one of the ways I am comfortable I am going to get paid and wind up with a happy customer as opposed to a resentful one.

I have some friends in other trades who swear up and down that they cant give a firm price because the job will just "take what it takes" and they have no idea what they will find or run into and I tell them point blank that if your good at what you do you can look at nearly any job and within just a few minutes have a number in your head. Needless to say these guys are perpetually moving to new areas because they have earned a reputation of coming in on a job that should have cost 20k and billing 50K. I just dont know how they do it.

I am a firm believer in a quoted price ahead of time. Changes are welcome, but I will not start a job without the customer having a price upfront.

From contributor Ma

Got the flickr to work. Very impressive with the sculpted/shaped work.

I guess I would have to say, for me, and just a gut shot, without those elements I would have a hard time with the 15+ week total but I can completely assume that given those details you likely took everything else to that level as well.

Sounds like you an your customer were just on different pages. Had you known what page they were on you may have walked away.

From contributor Ma

If anyone else has the trouble I did:

From contributor Ke

Hi Gary and Mark.

Thank you both so much for taking the time to respond.

I'll make this additional comment to clarify, yes this was a labour agreement with a GC who wanted to control the materials and agreed to pay me hourly for my time. All has gone well except for the last couple of weeks as his costs have been mounting.....but I am only delivering what he has asked for (with much value added as is my custom!)

He has received on-going time estimates over the course of the (evolving) project and I feel comfortable that I've worked with-in those parameters.

Having said all of this, rest assured this won't be happening again!!!!

Cheer's, Ken.

From contributor Ma

So are you saying the GC is the one with the issues or is the GC stating the customer has issues with the cost.

From contributor Ma

As an aside, can I ask what your rough process is for adding the sculpted lip to the pull-outs?

From contributor ja

Is anyone else having trouble seeing the images, neither link works for me

From contributor Ma

I dont know why its not working for me either and the pasted link isnt working here either.

What I had to do was to right click the link above, copy the link address, open new tab, paste the address into the address bar, then delete everything back to www. (the https://http) and it loads...

Likely wont work again but the copied working link from my browser is:

From contributor ja

nope still no joy but thanks for the help Mark

From contributor Ki

In most reasonable, professional shops, the 606 yields almost 50k in labor/sales. Does that include or exclude design, draw, site measure, install - the things you like to 'give away' as gratitude (for what, exactly?). Your real costs may be much more that the 606 hours.....

Add in materials bought wholesale and marked up, and you are close to $70,000, minimum, without the freebies. Nice kitchen, and it may be worth it. But the fact that your customer did not expect that price is 100% your fault.

Did you receive a budget? If not, then use that as leverage to get all you can. My guess is that the builder hoped to get a novice to build a $35k kitchen for $25k. No wonder he is reluctant.

When 'giving away' things, you still must account for them in your anticipated cost structure and ensuing income. There is no free lunch. Your altruism will not be rewarded on those points.

Some people are so eager to be a woodworker that they give away the farm long before it produces its first product. The evolutionary laws bound in Capitalism takes them out first and fast.

From contributor Ke

Hi all. Please try this link

I've tried to change it in the original post, but I can't seem to access....Webmaster help please?

A note to Kilgore, I live in a small affluent town (near a major center) in Canada and would never achieve anything close to $50,000 to 70,000 you are suggesting (though I wish that were the case).

My 'eagerness' could better be described as a passion for exceptional workmanship and I'm happy to deliver just that. I've been doing this on and off professionally for 35 years.

I appreciate all that you have said and will continue to improve my protocols based upon all that this forum brings to the table.

From contributor ja

its an interesting project but i get the impression that you have enjoyed this a little too much :) and may have got carried away in the process, I have done the same on many occasions, my portfolio is a testament to that, I give these design details away because most of the time the client cannot afford it, or cannot understand it, until its delivered of course, and really I do this extra work because I want to and I enjoy doing it.
did they give you a free hand and unlimited budget? I am guessing not, I personally would suck up the detail time charge for a high end kitchen, and use the opportunity provided by this client to show off your skills to pursue bigger and better.

keep it up though the industry needs more creative out of the box thinkers
love the lips on the drawers by the way

From contributor oz

Nice work, Love the drawer lip, I am not sure how i did end up become programer screen to machine.

From contributor Pa

You haven't given us enough information to know whether you are being unreasonable, like how much you asked for this, or what your hourly rate was. Or whether there was a budget, or whether the project was delivered late, or whether the customers had issues with what you showed up with, or what they were expecting in the first place. Or whether anyone signed off on your drawings and samples, and what was in the contract. Or whether you have the skills and equipment to efficiently complete the very long list of steps you went through to complete this project. But the fact that you omitted these very important facts make me think that yes, you are being unreasonable. Just because you have been in and out of the trade for a long period of time doesn't mean that you actually know anything about being professional. Sorry to be harsh, but you asked. Good luck with resolving this with your client.

Paul Downs

From contributor ja

Paul raises the obvious question how much are you charging per hour?
this determines whether you are being reasonable or not

you are giving away your time for free on prelim work and install, as a thank you for the opportunity of the work???
why do you feel you need to do that?

you need to price every job you do its fairer for you and your customers
and decline any other kind of deal, this is from personal experience! that way if it takes a long time to finish its your problem not your customers which is fair

plus if priced correctly it motivates you to quantify and schedule your time better and hopefully make more money and give away less

rules I wish I could follow myself

From contributor ri

What kind of written contract do you have? They can be unhappy with the amount of time, but if you have a good contract, they will just have to remain unhappy while they pay you the full amount. I was not happy with what my doctor charged me for my last visit either, but I still pay my bill.

From contributor Pa


You are going to have to negotiate this to an equitable agreement.

Even if you have a decent contract, unless he agrees to pay legal fees (if he loses, which from what I can see is a big if) and interest on the money. The lawyer fees will eat up the money in a hurry,

Maybe meet him half way between what you are asking and what he wants to pay.

But I would go ahead and lien the job for some leverage.

Just chalk it up to Ken_havinga_bad day.

From contributor ja

I have a Motto " Do not Fall in Love with the work, It is not yours" not saying if that applies here.

But that is some real nice work !!

From contributor Ke

Hello to All and thank you for taking the time to respond. I had no idea that my question would result in so many comments!

I was commissioned by a GC to build something "special", his words not mine in his 'spec' home, one he hopes to sell quickly, as he is the owner/builder of the project. He wanted to control the materials and agreed to pay me hourly. All has gone well with no hint at any the contrary, he has been most complimentary through-out, with weekly visits to my shop to gauge progress. Only when I gave him my final invoice (150 hours for three weeks, the final 'push' so to speak) has he balked at paying me. Time lines and budgets have been discussed along the way, and again, no hint at any trouble.

I'm grateful for all the input here Folks, I am all too aware of the mistakes made and will not entertain this type of arrangement again....however, I'd like to return the focus of this thread back to my original question which is, the length of time I needed to complete the pictured project, 600 hours??? Yes or no?

From contributor Ma

My vote in s yes.

From contributor Ev

600+ hours seems like a lot..I'm a one man shop too, and once I get the dust flying I'm probably around 100 hours for a small euro kitchen with slab doors. That's with buyout drawer boxes and a CNC of course.

It's pretty clear where all your time went, your work is more like fine furniture. A far different product than mine.

"What we have here, is a failure to communicate!!" --some guy in a movie

Part of a GC's job is "cost management", which he seems to have failed at. However, just as it is ethical for him to point out possible errors in a sub's bid, it is ethical for you to ask for a budget for your work.

I think you need to negotiate and come to an agreement, if not on your own then look into mediation.

From contributor ja

Yes make him pay (Cheapskate)

From contributor Be

It does seem like far too many hours to allocate to a project that size, unless all the other details of the house are heirloom quality too.

From contributor Sc

Your work is beautiful. By the hour is supposed to be good for both the customer and the person doing the work But a contract takes away any of this type of problem. I have found people are less and less willing to pay for your type of quality. If you have found a market for it you should only work for those who will pay for it. Drop the builder.

From contributor Pa

Can you give us a breakdown of what is in the scope work, on a spread sheet?

From contributor Br

What are the exact dollars and cents we are talking about? To me 606 hours puts it a little over 45K plus materials???

From contributor Da

Being reasonable in your question would include posting your labor rates per hour, the budget amount discussed and the total charges, as requested several times.

Including what he wants to pay vs what you want him to pay would also be part of 'being reasonable'.

Another part of being reasonable would include clarification of what you gave away, and the value of said giveaways.

Giving away installation, or design or carving or fine examples of your craft are all fine and dandy, but you should realize that a 'free' anything is purely an artifact of modern marketing. While you are doing that free install, you are not doing work that you can bill for, plus you are eating, using supplies, driving, and adding costs all the time. In fact, I believe you are losing twice - once by not charging a fair price for what your are doing, and two by not doing another project for a fair price. Of course, if your shop rate is inflated to cover lots of freebies, then it is not a realistic number in the first place.

It used to be a weekly mantra around here that someone would say "know your costs" as the most basic part of a business. Knowing your costs (in a realistic, commonly accepted business sense) will help you generate a real cost per man hour for shop work. That is real.

Beyond that, you can charge whatever you want.

From contributor No

600 hours for a kitchen and bath with that level of detail is certainly not unreasonable.

From contributor Je

My only comment is that it really doesn't matter. If he agreed to the arrangement and was updated along the way and was willing to work it that way, then it's reasonable. In reality it may take someone else another 100 hours to do the same kitchen. Or someone might be able to knock it out in 500 hours. So there's really no way to quantify whether or not it's reasonable as it's merely opinion. He wanted to work that way and was apparently in the loop beginning to end so in my mind it was reasonable to him as well…..up until the bill came anyway!

good luck,

From contributor Sk

As I see it - it appears the final 150 hours are the questionable issue. You stated the contractor had made weekly visits and was apparently satisfied with progress - did this include him seeing those final 150 hours and what actual work was involved in those particular hours? I have to say, though your work appears impeccable, I personally don't see 600+ hours - that's almost 4 months work (based on a 40 hour work week). Your cabinet boxes (which appear to be basic boxes), shaker style doors and drawer faces should have been completed in 3 weeks max (given a shop equipped with at the minimum, a sliding table saw, 2 dedicated shapers for door work, horizontal boring machine, a wide belt sander, edgebander, jointer and a planer). I'd be hesitant to pay a cabinet maker T&M with any less than this equipment - otherwise the labor would definitely be going over the top. Sure - your dovetailed drawers, solid wood tops, extraordinary pullout faces and such would added probably another months worth of work. But still, I fail to see 600 hours myself. Then again - everyone has their own pace and work output per week...

What exactly did that last 150 hours entail that he balked at? Yea, you do need to give us a bit more info here. Apparently he saw the first 450 hours and possible thought completion was close to end, and then got knocked off his feet with the additional 150 hours.

Please don't take affront to any of my time estimates here - I really don't know your shop, your layout, your machinery, spray booth, etc. For instance - if you are in an 800 sq. ft. shop vs a 4,000 sq. ft shop - of course that could equate to a huge difference in labor hours. If you are making your shaker doors on a table saw with a mortise jig, or a router table vs two dedicated shapers with carbides stick and cope cutters - another huge difference. Hand cut dovetails vs a pneumatic machine? Portable belt sander vs a wide belt? Hand iron for your edge banding vs an edgebander? Hand planing vs a power planer? Do you have a Ritter boring machine or did you hand drill your dowel holes on your doors? Not being harsh nor demeaning here - but is this labor "old world" craftsmanship or modern machinery? I guess you could say it would come down to your hourly rate. A lower rate for mostly hand work, a higher rate for modern machinery. A slider would have those box parts cut up in a day, a regular table saw maybe double or more the hours. A CNC just a couple hours.. A small 6' open spray booth vs a 25' spray room? Moving a ton of pieces across a 6' open faced booth would take a lot more hours than working your way around tables set up in a large spray room. You give us no info so how do we properly judge a fair estimate for your 606 hours?

I've had many projects that are billed at T&M. Clients love to come in and watch their work being done with most of the machinery I've mentioned above (no CNC) and have no issue with my shop rate of $88.00 per hour. I'm sure they would balk if they saw me using a router table or table saw to do my door mortises instead of the 7 dedicated shapers I have set up for various door work, or hand drilling my dowels with a portable jig vs my Ritter horizontal boring machine. They absolutely love watching us going through pallets of plywood on the 10' slider, I'm not sure they'd be as pleased to see us struggle through those same procedures on a regular table saw. Get my drift?

Decades ago there was no issue with hand labor - that was the true sign of real craftsmanship. But today, to compete, you can't be charging $80-$110 per hour to cut up regular plywood boxes with a cabinet saw vs CNC or slider, routers vs shapers, etc..

Long answer, short message: more info needed! 606 hours at $45 per hour are easier to swallow than 606 hours at $80+ per hour. And what did the last 150 hours cover?

That all being said, regardless of your shop size or machinery collection - nice job! :-)

From contributor Ma

Hi Ken,
Nice work but 606 Hrs seems pretty steep to me if the finish on #029 is anything to go by.


From contributor Pa


It doesn't look like you are being forthright here, just looking for ammunition to use for your argument.

From contributor ja

Hey Ken
You should really answer some of the questions asked, re rate of pay etc

From contributor Ma

Wow.. What a crowd.. Guy posts a situation, with pictures, his real name, a web site, and now its troll and not being forthright? Zowie.

Maybe he's busy? Maybe he doesn't want to be berated for his hourly rate when others are charging 80+ an hour (I have no problem with the fact that I'm no where near that number and thankful for it and profitable to boot).

If the guy had posted anonymously and never replied to a single reply I could see it but gosh.

From contributor ja

Hey Mark B

his first question was

Am i being reasonable?

that requires qualification

this was then followed with is 606 hours reasonable

people then asked what his setup was, seems fair to ask

"He has asked for our opinions"

then its fair for us to ask more questions and if we cannot then any advice that he has received thus far is entirely irrelevant
without more info.

I will retract my support and say 606 hours is way to much for a guy running 2 cnc's and charging $100 per hour or possible not, who knows

Posters wanted to give helpful advice, as always on Woodweb, Pat is probably right I bet this info is sitting in front of the GC right now (after editing)

From contributor Sk

Mark B,

Why would he be berated for his shop hourly rate? Who's to say what rate is fair? Around my area - $80-$100 per hour is the going rate. If you think that's unfair - I doubt you have the $1 million dollar investment into a business like many of us do. We spend our hard earned money on high quality machinery (no China import), we've invested in purchasing our own buildings (yea, in my case - 6,800 sq ft), we pay our men very fair rates ($24-$36 per hour), give great vacation, sick time packages, personal days, health care, etc.. Show me a shop with that investment charging less than $80 per hour and I'll show you someone who is probably struggling to keep afloat.

I don't see any of the responses here as belittling nor sarcastic, nor in any way demeaning. The OP asked a couple of questions - they need to be expanded on for us to give a quality, responsible and accurate answer. Why are you being so defensive? Wouldn't you want the answers to be as legitimate as possible with quantified facts? Sigh..

From contributor Ma

No one said 80 an hour was unfair.. I own my own commercial building (4.5k sq'), property, and equipment outright. I'm doing what I choose to do just as you should and the OP should.

I have no issue with asking questions, the simple fact is the dollar amount he his billing is irrelavent in the context of his scenario (and yes we only have his side) and question. Whether another shop could have done it in a different number of hours is irrelavent. Whether he got too carried away with the details is irrelavent.

What seems to be relavent is that he has stated he had regular contact with the GC throughout the project and the last 150 hours is at issue. I don't think anyone here is disagreeing that 600+ hours is excessive. It seems to me that likely both parties got a bit overly attached to the project and operating outside of a budget and a contract it got away from them.

The dollars and cents are irrelavent.

From contributor Da

Shop rates are real, rational and most importantly, objective numbers based upon the reality of the shop. Any competent business person can look at the financials and determine the shop rate. Several individuals looking at the same numbers would arrive at the same, or very nearly the same, shop rate.

Historically on Woodweb, when someone says their shop rate is 'only $28 per hour' it speaks to the fact that the writer does not know how to calculate that number. The opposite would be true - if it were inflated to be able to afford giveaways, then the rate just has a much higher profit margin than usual, or one could call it giveaways or whatever on their financials. Again, knowing one's real costs and therefore shop rate is fundamental to a successful business in the common parlance.

600 hrs, right or wrong is a subjective question (especially with all the variables/giveaways being included or excluded), and the answer is just a matter of judgement - quite different from the objective shop rate. The simple (Goldilocks) answer is that for some that is high, for some it is low, for others, just right. Therefore not too meaningful.

An examination of the real costs in the light of the shop rate would give the clarity to move the subjective to the objective. But that does not appear to be happening.

From contributor ja

When I use 75% of my pre set data on my phone contract I get an notice of where I am, I treat my clients the same way by billing them at those "Preset" and agreed marks in the critical path.

the relevant issue I see is Dollars as when the Cabinetmaker sticks his hand out and the GC does not stick his out as far then you have a "Dollar" Issue.

That Kitchen is absolutely Beautiful, a real work of trade, we have "soooo" few here in the south at that size kitchen who could appreciate it that we no longer build kitchens or furniture. Quality and hours in it are Reasonable. like has been said we could build it in half that time but we have those means, the test is from a Basic 101 business law class, "what is a Contract" Definition: "An agreement creating obligations enforceable by law" Sometimes known as "Intent, Intent and Acceptance". the best Lawyer I ever Employed on the Issue looked at a contract as "A roadmap or plan to success" if these elements are not pre-established. then one is in "fo a Heap "O" Mess"

the key here is what the GC was told and what he accepted. what is reasonable to the Cabinetmaker is a bit Moot at this point. I feel for the Cabinetmaker.

I had to learn some hard lessons in Clarity. Got sued once and when I finally got tired of Paying for 2k motion hearings I gave the guy the Kitchen, a new set of doors and full refund as well. I was Soo friggin Mad, it was as close to Long term Jail as I have ever Been (I did get took),,, My Good lawyer took me for a walk and sat me on a bench he told me that I may not see it now but this would be a blessing in disguise and that I would not see it now... (I wanted to Pop him one too at that moment) But Actually he was right, I became a better business man, Got better at contracts and specifications Mad a heck of a lot more Money as time went on, Lots less hassle and collecting money is Far simpler !!

Now the way I see it you have two Choices--- 1) you can let it cost you a cool 100k like my lesson cost or 2) you can take all of what these Trolls are trying to help you with and let it cost you a lot less than that,,

Either way the result is probably the same

From contributor ja

I don't understand how you can see rates and hours as irrelevant that is how we all do business is it not?

He asked the question "am I being reasonable"
and has asked for us to with little to no info to assess whether his timing are excessive
with all the things given away for "free", this project is that in real terms it must be near 800-1000 hours what with install designing etc,etc who thinks that is reasonable?

what then is the correct answer?
without some kind of valuation either of the finished product or the time and materials to complete!

he has not asked us to provide a valuation of the work for obvious reasons

From contributor Ke

Hello Gentlemen. Wow....What a s--t storm (Canadian term for ruckus) I have created!!

Thank you all once again for your clear the air, I work alone in a small 800 sq. ft. shop, well equipped (no cnc) for furniture making and general woodworking. I generally avoid kitchen's, but will agree to do so for the right customer willing to pay for the quality that I take great pride in delivering. Yes, I take longer then production companies and my customers are all made aware of this fact. No-one has complained until now...but I didn't hear of it until I was finished (save touch-ups at location)!

My reluctance in divulging numbers simply stems from the reality of our different geographical/economic locations. I'm amazed at some of the numbers being thrown about, I can only charge what my market will bare and I can assure you it is nowhere near the numbers being suggested.

Anyhoo, as some of you are more than just a little conspiracy minded, I'll ignore the trolling and rely upon the truly worthwhile comments. I don't profess to be the best and never will.....I love learning and my only goal is to continually improve as a woodworker, father, husband, human being and business man.

Well, I'm back to work (having to recover the $6000.00 I've been swindled).

All the best, Ken Havinga

From contributor Mi

Ken, that's a great response!

The numbers are geo/ego/market determined.

If your production is consistent, then you set your own price, charging for unique pieces and work. But testing the market, for it's ability to appreciate your detailing is a never ending process.

A builder, building a spec house(?), Wow, he must really love your work. It is easier to sell the "one off" design to a qualified customer ( maybe a home owner who appreciates art , has good taste and a healthy bank account). This is neither here nor there, but your design has helped set the stage for the eventual resident of the property. Will your market bear a premium home price? I ask re your shock at the stated numbers, like $80 shop rate.

Take care not to price yourself out-of-the-market, but by all means, keep producing unique work; as your market will bear.

Now, please, share your 3d drawer front construction technique, as I am sure we are all lurking here to learn.

Best wishes, and learn from your own history...

From contributor Ke

Just to clarify my above figure, this would be 5,000 plus our super cool 15% tax on everything!


From contributor Pa

"Just to clarify my above figure, this would be 5,000 plus our super cool 15% tax on everything!"

So you now see yourself as a victim?

You still are not forthright enough to supply enough information to draw a logical/professional conclusion.

It looks like you are in the vicinity of 14-20 hours per box? That would seem to be a lot to me, even for the quality, which is good.

I would loose the victim shtick, and adopt a professional perspective if I were you.

From contributor Ke

Hi Pat.

'Victim shtick' would be a great name for a punk band....

Thanks for your 2 cents, Ken.

From contributor Ri

I think I'm coming in at the end here but I've got to say that the hours expensed seem extremely high to me. Using an easy for math rate of $50 an hour (where I am the rate needs to higher to make a profit) is $30,000 plus materials, etc. I'd guess that makes the project costs about $40k. That seems significantly too high to me. I'd guess the hours would be more like half of what you are talking about, if not less. That being said we are a well tooled shop so cutting on a smaller saw, etc would increase the hours and reduce the shop rate becuase of poor efficiency.

From contributor Jo

Your work is not the fault. Your contractor is doing what most contractors do, cheat there sub-contractors. This is how most of them make there money. Some will say most contractors are honest. Well in my 37 years working working as a cabinetmaker I have found a few honest ones, most are not.

From contributor St

Ken, welcome from the other coast. I'm not able to wade into all of the details here, most of these business men here on woodweb are better at this than myself, but I would like to add a couple of cents, or maybe it should be a nickel now.
I see your work as being slightly higher quality than mine, and I am a one man shop operating in 1200 square feet, so I feel I can honestly say that I believe you are at 600 hours for that job. There are custom handcrafted details on top of custom designs, this gets very costly. If asked to do the same work as the above, I imagine I would be quoting very similar to where you're at in terms of time. I have long since given up working for time and materials. Its final cost / quoted cost. Sometimes I lose a little when I mess up a quote, but usually it cuts down on the questions at the end of the process.

I would consider meeting with the GC and asking him at what point he became concerned. If you can walk him through it, he may agree that it wasn't until the last 150 hours that he started adding up the bills and realized he was spending too much. On a T+M job, wouldn't that be his problem, not yours? He is acting as the boss after all. Also, maybe if all else fails, draw up a contract that explains the outstanding balance and that it will be due within 30 days of the spec house selling. That will let the GC out of a tight spot and he might be more willing to pay when his bank account is full. You can explain to him that this is much nicer than putting a lien on his house (something I have no experience with). Might not work, but its worth a shot instead of losing money for work you performed.

From contributor To

Regarding last post about a lien, without a contract I don't think that is likely. And it's pretty obvious there is no contract involved here. Since we've been made to sleuth for details I'll venture to guess based on Ken's recent post that the GC is balking on the last 150 hours which Ken says he's being "swindled" out of for $6000. That would make his hourly rate $40. (Feel free to correct me Ken.) Maybe that's not bad for a low-overhead one-man Canadian operation, but as others have said, not really the point. It IS unreasonable to expect to be fully paid for every hour of work when you don't have a contract, a budget, or a clear agreement on terms. Did the GC even know or agree to your hourly rate? That would be an important factor. Equally important, did he agree to each detail that you lavished hours on? Seems like you may have gotten caught up in the woodworking-as-art dilemma. The builder is presenting a spec house so he deserves to get out of it what he puts into it, including your charges. Unless he's willing to take a loss in hopes of future commissions. Maybe that's how you need to think about: here's my artistic woodwork and (on future projects) here's my price. And that should be part of your negotiation with him--your work is going to help sell the house. You should be proud of the fine work, and use good photos and marketing to get more work. I hope you can get paid fairly for it.

From contributor Ja

This situation happens a lot with builders in my area. Never leave more then 3-5% on the table with a T&M contract especially with a builder. Most builders are horrible at there jobs when it comes to finance and when the end of the job rolls around they figure out what they will actually make. The problem was that YOU needed to insulate yourself by leaving a small amount on the table at the end. My experience as limited as it might be is to never blame a problem on the client but see how you could have changed your system to avoid the problem. Placing the blame on yourself helps one look at a solution you can control in the future.

Great work by the way.

From contributor MR

The items I'm seeing as being very time consuming:

-Island top supports
-pullout front detail
-a little extra time in drawer joinery

Although I saw a handful of other unique detail, nothing warranted a substantial time accumulation.

I don't know what you used for door joinery, or any other joinery, but I suspect if there was a lot of extra time spent on those types of things, it was unwarranted (i.e. while it may be fun to do, the customer doesn't want to pay for it)

In looking over your project, it would be possible to achieve this level of quality (supposing the finish is really high quality, no orange peel, sags, really flat) in roughly 150 hours max, including design, engineering, shop construction, finishing, and installation on all items except the 3 things I mentioned above. This would be you would need to justify approx 450 hours for those 3 details.

Is there any outstanding unique items I missed?

From contributor Ke

Hello Everyone,

Thank you all for taking the time to respond. Your insights have certainly given me plenty to think about....

All the best, Ken.

From contributor Ke

Hello Mr.D,

Thank you for your input.

With all due respect, I can't accept your contention that the project being discussed could be completed in 150 hours max....

Can you tell me how this would be possible for a one-man operation?

Regards, Ken Havinga

From contributor Ja

I have to agree with Ken Regarding Time. I'm sure other shops could get it done faster then but I suspect they are better equipped with machinery, man power, and shop space. Even if "they" could do it in less time the added overhead should demand a higher hourly. As I dive more and more into this business I realize how cheap some shops will work. Personally I can't work for any less. Although my rates are determined by my efficiency and overhead which means a much lower rate then the larger shops per hour.