Finishing Prices

Calculating pricing for finishing services

We are a custom cabinet company and are looking into finishing for others. We do quality work, and I have a new finish foreman from the custom furniture world. I need help on pricing. How do finish companies charge - per square foot, per linear foot, or hourly?

Forum Responses
We charge 70 cents per square foot, per coat of varnish. Be sure to figure both sides of doors and the interior of drawers. If the project is a small one, like spraying one entry door, charge for materials used and time for spraying and cleaning up at your standard shop rate.

The price of 70 cents per square foot seems a little low. I charge $4.00 per square foot but include the number of coats to get a good job, usually 2 or 3, using pre-cat lacquer. This would be for flat cabinet parts and doors, not house trim and such.

If I understand you correctly, you would charge $133.00 for a house passage-way door (2/6 x 6/8)? (16.63 sq ft per side x 2.) Do you make any distinction between panel and flush? How do your charge for jambs and jambs with pre-applied casing? I'm nowhere near that kind of money. For whatever it's worth we spray trim packages for home/remodel jobs in addition to our cabinetry. We do not spray cabinets for others.

You missed the part where I stated that this does not include house doors and/or trim parts. Also the price would include two sides or one side, no difference.

I'm trying to track the time and material for doors and jambs separately. For 6 panel doors, the last job took 1.35 hours per slab to sand, seal, sand and 2 topcoats, plus .17 gallon sealant and .25 gallon lacquer. My time got messed up on the jambs, but they were about $20 each, which includes time to disassemble and reassemble hardware.

How do you figure for finishing trim?

I've been at $.38/lf for base and casing to 4". I'm going to raise this a little. It's been a little while since I've been able to get an accurate time; but I'm thinking that I was about the same amount of time but for jamb and door. Where we haven't been doing so well is the disassembly and assembly. Again, I've been trying to get times but somebody usually forgets or combines a couple of operations and the validity/reliability flies out the window. Is anybody else willing to share their numbers?

I've been getting $.66/lf to sand, seal, sand and two top coats for mouldings. Most of the trim I do is 3-1/2 to 6" wide. Itís been awhile since I've kept track of the staining labor, but it's probably around $.20/lf for trim and mouldings. By the way, this is in Northern Indiana for high quality custom trim.

So far you have gotten answers on trim and entry doors. I think you are interested in kitchen cabinets or entertainment centers or bookcases. Is this correct? There are some instances where you can charge by the square foot, some where you can charge by the percentage of job, and some where you can charge by lf.

I came up with a standard measurement for kitchen cabinets. This standard can be applied on other work, like bookcases and entertainment centers with a little modification. Here's how I start: Your average height on a base cabinet (kitchen) is approx.36". Some are lower, but say between 33" and 36". That's one measurement. Then measure the width. Say that's 48' or 4'. I then multiply that footage by a factor. This factor is determined by the type of finish and what you want to charge for that type. Say it's a pigmented color--I would get $30 a foot for that job. So 4x30 is $120.That's the price for inside, all doors, trim, etc. Now say that the sides are finished. Then you would charge by square foot. That could be 3, 4 or 5 dollars a foot--your decision on this depends on type of finish and work involved to get the quality you want.

So, the more involved the finish, the more money per lf or square foot. It also would depend on your finished product quality as judged by your customers. Multi-layering, distressing, glazing, and spattering all add to base price. But you have to have a standard from which to start. As you do taller pieces, apply the same measurement for the height. For example, if the piece to be finished is 72" high and 5' wide, and a stain and glaze finish, then I would multiply 5 by $35 to get $175.Then multiply that by 2(36x2=72) for $350. This includes inside and all doors, drawer fronts and trim. If it is finished on both sides then do a square foot charge. If you do melamine insides and only the edges are finished, then this measurement could not apply. Then you have to come up with something else.

There's one other way you can do this--a percentage of the job. This also is controversial, as some percentages are not figured the same. But if I am working with a cabinet guy and he doesn't want to wait for the quote and wants something immediately, then I tell him that finishing is 30% of the job that it takes to build it. This does not include the installation cost, but the building cost. As you see, this can vary greatly, as some guys may get $50 a foot to build, while others may charge $65 or more. You will put the same finish on it, regardless. So this is something that you and he will have to work out, but if you use the above standard, you can come close with a 30% figure, but not always. There are some exceptions.

This is one of the most difficult areas to deal with in finishing. You have to make your finishing pay for itself and make a profit. Even if you are the builder, don't shortchange yourself and your finishing department with a losing quote. Cabinetmakers cut their finish price before they cut anything else in order to get the job. Then they rationalize that they're giving the finish away for next to nothing, so they shortcut the finish schedule. They wind up with a sloppy job. If people don't like the look of your finish, you won't get referrals.

I would sit down and either figure out the time and material on the job and mark it up my usual markup or do it time and material if it is someone I know and who knows our work. There are so many variables in finishing, conversion varnish, pre-cats, priming, glazing, shading, etc. You could literally have a pricing catalog for your customers or just figure out each job. After a while you just get a feel for how long things will take and therefore how much you can charge. This may sound kind of by the seat of the pants but I don't have time to sit down and calculate every molding, door and cabinet part.

A simple rule of thumb is this. Take your material price and multiply that by two. If there are extra operations to be done, such as unwrapping, pickup, wrapping, repairs, charge that by your regular hourly shop rate.

Comment from contributor M:
$.60*sf*sealer*top coat*top coat*2 sides = $3.60 per sf for clear finishes on double sided items.

We charge .60 for each square foot of doors, drawer fronts and cabinet parts. We figure doors are usually 5 sf and charge each side. This is per spraying step. Sealer, top coat x2 is standard. For stain, we charge per spray step: sap stains and wipe stains alike. Glazes are charged differently: the application of the glaze is charged normally, but we charge a step for the wipe/scrub of the glaze.

For example, if someone wants a stained maple door with a glaze, the calculation would be this: .60 for 5sf*2 sides = $6 per average door per step. $6*sealer*sap stain*wipe stain*glaze*wiping glaze*top coat*top coat = $42 per door.

Flat cabinet parts are usually not glazed (there is no relief).
For more than 4 steps, we add $100 for materials to cover the extra cost of stains or glazes.

I don't know if this is too little or too much, but it keeps us in business in Idaho, and we ship all over the country.