Estimating Sheet Quantities for Cabinets

Advice on "guesstimates" and more precise calculation of the number of sheets needed to build a set of cabinet boxes. September 7, 2006

I've been asked to bid a large job (about 75 cabinets). I was wondering if anyone knows of a formula to estimate sheets - 3/4 for sides, tops, bottoms, shelves, and 1/4 for backs of cabinets. I understand that there are many variables, but I am trying to get a ballpark figure.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
I find it is easiest to let the design software produce a cut list and optimize my sheet stock. I can't imagine a simple formula that can answer your question unless you want a grossly inaccurate estimate that leaves you making cabinets for free or losing the job because your bid isn't consistent with the market. For 75 cabinets, you might want to invest some design effort. For small projects, it is easy to SWAG the materials required based on cabinet size and features.

From contributor O:
I made up a sheet of paper with 12 rectangles on it scaled to a 4 X 8 sheet and made tons of copies and when I do a job, I get my cutlist made up (about 1 hour for 12-15 cabs) and then start drawing on the sheets, starting with the biggest pieces first and filling in the rest. Separate the 3/4 and 1/4 pieces on the cutlist. I always label the size and what piece it is so that when I'm cutting, I can just check it off. I do run e-cabinet software and it does have a cutlist option on it, but I haven't learned to trust it yet. I mainly just use it for renderings to get the look that I want and sell the job and the sizes aren't always exact. The way I mentioned takes some practice, but if you always do things the same way, it gets so quick. Also, with the e-cabinets cutlist, it sometimes runs the grain in the wrong direction.

From contributor A:
Look at a program called Cutlist Plus from Bridgewater designs. It's not expensive and works well for panel layout. I'm sure it does more. You can download a trial version from this site in the software sections.

From contributor J:
SWAG 2 sheets for one standard base, 1 sheet for one standard wall cab, and 4 sheets for one standard tower. The question will be what is standard. Also look at some of the sheet optimizer programs available for free or next to free. They will help minimize your waste factors and reduce your costs.

From contributor P:
One ballpark way I've used to estimate sheet goods is this:
Base cabinets:
3/4" material: sides, bottom of cabinet, stretchers on top of cabinet, one shelf, drawer sides and ends (one drawer per cabinet).
8 sq. feet for every lineal foot of cabinets.
1/2" material (I use 1/2" material for the back of the cabinet and the drawer bottom.)
4 sq. feet for every lineal foot of cabinets.
Wall cabinets, 30" high, 12" deep.
3/4" material: sides, top and bottom, and two shelves.
4 sq. feet of material for every linear foot of cabinets.
1/2" material: cabinet back
2 1/2 sq. feet of material for every linear foot of cabinets.

These figures presuppose the average base and wall cabinet is 2' wide. I have another program which computes each piece, by actual size, much more complex.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor R:
Once you have established the cut list it is a simple matter of entering the list into a cutting optimization program to determine the exact sheet stock required. I can't imagine doing this manually. You will save tons of time and probably many trees by using an optimizer such as The Itemizer or the inexpensive Mini-Mizer.