Kitchen Cabinet Pricing Comparison

Cabinet shops compare price estimates on a basic kitchen job, and discuss the factors that influence their prices. June 5, 2006

Would any of you like to participate in a bid survey/comparison? How about a basic U shaped kitchen 12' deep and 10' wide. Everything average, no expensive slides/hardware, 30" uppers, 36" bases, straight top raised panel doors, raised panel exposed ends. Maybe one 36" x 84" pantry with rollouts. Paint grade material with no finish and no countertops. I'm in the Midwest, and my bid would be just under 7k.

I know I'll get the ol' standby answer of that's not possible without all of the details. How about just shooting a ballpark so we can all see where we stand?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor L:
$15.50 per lineal inch for the uppers, same for the lowers. Add in $100 for each door and each drawer. Add $35 for each false drawer front. Raised panel ends are $35 sq ft. No countertops, client supplies the pulls and knobs, you install. Construction consists of 3/4" B2 birch plywood using dadoed construction, 1/2" backs, poplar FF, poplar doors and dovetail drawer boxes using Accuride full extension ball bearing slides. Pull out shelves add $50 each. Installation is included. I am in CT.

From contributor M:
For unfinished, no countertop and no handle hardware, I'm at about mid $8-9K, delivered, depending on location and conditions. I'm in the south suburban Chicago market.

From contributor B:
Unfinished, no tops, raised panel doors, standard ends/drawers, no pulls right at $8K - Little Rock, AR.

From contributor I:
Here in Northeast Oklahoma, that job would sell for 4500.00 to 5000.00 unfinished and delivered, no install or crown and there are a lot of shops that will beat that price.

From the original questioner:
Where are you located? I'm in southeast Kansas about a mile from the Oklahoma line. My bid did include hardware, crown and installation for under 7K.

From contributor I:
30 min south of Tulsa in Broken Arrow. Been in business for 14 years.

From contributor W:
Now I know why some of the contractors in Manhattan outsource as much as 1,000 miles away. In my experience, the high-end market in Manhattan, built in the city, which usually means Brooklyn, as in my case, prices start at $1,000 per lineal foot. That includes lacquer finish, installation, and a show veneer, but on stock panels. Still, the prices quoted here are so low I can barely buy materials and pay the overhead, forget about labor. So I have to ask, are any of these prices using outsourced components, boxes, doors, drawers, or are they all custom? Are the shops responding to the question small, using conventional equipment, or larger, using CNC with sophisticated programs? And are there other NYC shops that care to respond?

From contributor M:
Well, if the original question was for the cabinets finished (not paint-grade and with stain/clear layers applied), then my price guesstimate would have been considerably higher. But this hypothetical situation is for a delivery of unfinished paint-grade product. I'm a 1-man shop using standard tools (no CNC), making everything myself and hiring an extra set of hands for one day for delivery and installation.

From contributor D:
Finished, hardware, and installation, I would charge between $7500.00 and $8000.00. Birmingham, Alabama metro area. (One man shop with low overhead.)

From contributor S:
$18,396 directly to homeowner
-15% discount to designer

Two piece crown included. Prime only. Local delivery. No install. No exterior hardware. Total of 10 drawers including 5 in pantry. Euro construction pre-finished ply boxes.

From the original questioner:
I'm a one man shop with part time help. 2,400 sq. ft. Traditional tools, no CNC. I would not outsource anything for that particular bid.

From contributor H:
V.C., birch ply, paint grade maple ff and shaker style door. Unfinished but installed. No countertop. 8-9K in Northeast PA.

From contributor T:
Poplar ff, solid poplar drawer boxes (dadoes not dovetailed), 1/2" UV pre-finished plywood case construction, lazy susan in each corner. No tops, pulls, install, or finish -delivered $5400 in NE TN. We are a 2 man shop, outsourcing doors only. (Soft maple would add about $700.)

From contributor V:
I suppose bidding for a raw $7,000 kitchen, when you have nothing else to do, helps pay the bills. Rather than bidding against bottom-dwelling, lowball cabinetmakers, look for a better off clientele and use your hard-won reputation to win class projects for real dollars. The bloodletting at this end is better contained and still profitable.

From contributor O:
A little under 10k installed. If I get the gut feeling they are shopping, or I just couldn't get the good vibe, 8-9k. If another job I had lined up and fell through and I need the work to pay the electric bill, 7k. Minneapolis, MN.

From contributor N:
17K delivered and installed. Los Angeles... where the money is.

From contributor T:
I'm moving to LA! I think region plays a big part in pricing, obviously.

Anyone care to elaborate as to the average price for the kitchens you're doing most? Our average jobs run between $8000 and $12000. Maple, rp doors, installed with crown, no tops. Just beginning to get more jobs with dovetailed drawers, Blumotion slides, etc. here. I've always thought, make all you can, be fair, don't worry too much about what Joe's Cabs down the road is doing. Everybody always posts things like "find your niche," etc. Thankfully, our business and reputation for our area in the last few years has enabled us to price what we needed to and make a good profit while still maintaining the level of quality we're comfortable with (and most importantly our customers are pleased with). I used to worry about bidding so much higher than somebody else and losing jobs but have been able to get out of that mindset and price what it was worth to me, what the market would bear (for our area), and still stay busy as I wanted to. I'm happy with that.

From contributor E:
Private homeowner, 10 - 11K. Builder, 8K (very competitive up here, so I try not to work for them). Central Minnesota.

From contributor G:
When you say U shaped 12' deep by 10' wide, are you saying 2 12' sides and 1 10' back side that would equal 34 running feet tops and bottoms? I just need be sure I'm looking at the same size as you all.

From the original questioner:
You're correct, contributor G.

From contributor W:
Not how I would tally it. The depth of the two 12 foot sides must be subtracted for an accurate count. Since uppers and lowers are different depth, I use an adjusted depth of 18", for a subtraction of 3 feet, yielding 31 running feet total.

From contributor J
In the post-Katrina, Biloxi, MS area, this kitchen would cost about $14K. I didn't raise my prices and would do it for between $7500 and $8500 unfinished and without tops.

From contributor P:

I am in east Texas. I would do that job for around $5400. 3/4" luan plywood for boxes, 3/4" red oak plywood for exterior sides, 13/16 solid red oak for frames doors and end panels, KV 1260 drawer guides and Blum compact 38 hinges. Installed, stained, and finished.

From contributor B:
It's still surprising to see such differences. In north TX I would have gotten about $6K finished. Now (after refiguring), I'd get $8500 unfinished. When I built for less, it was not junk, ugly or anything less than anyone else's. I was simply giving it away. Just in case y'all are interested, Home Dopey's price (finished, no tops, not installed) would be about $6K. I always figured a custom shop should be twice the big box price, though I've never been able to come close myself.

From contributor Q:
Even in the boondocks of Oregon, that job would be between $11,000 and $13,000, finished, one lazy susan, nice drawer stack, full extension drawers, no install, local delivery. (Making note to self to stay out of Texas.)

From contributor C:
If I figured correctly, it would run around $5,500 installed with trim and install, laminate top included and installed somewhere between $6,500 to $7,000.

From contributor X:
What does that Home Depot price include? I've heard they're kind of sneaky or misleading with their pricing. In Virginia I'd go 'bout 10,500 uninstalled. $1000 extra for install (including putting customer provided hardware on).

From contributor R:
No wonder a lot of you guys are starving with your price and measurement structure. A 12x10x12 kitchen, assuming there are no windows, has 68 linear feet of cabinets. If you are measuring the two sides 10' because the back has 10' and the cabinets are two feet deep, then you are dead wrong. 45 or 90* cabinets take longer to build. Same for the corner uppers. Ask the granite guys how they measure - it's the same as what I posted. A few years ago I did one with the same measurements. Included were two pantries, Blumotion, nice drawers, granite. The final price was $27,000.00.

From contributor U:
Pre-finished 3/4 ply raised panel doors and end panels in lacquer, no crown, no counters - 17k to 19k. I'd bid 20 and drop to 1750 if I had to. South Florida. Oh, and I'd sell maple over paint grade, as paint grade is a pain.

From contributor K:
I'm not going to address what you should charge or everyone's market conditions, as it's different for everyone here, but I would like to suggest that a lot of you are leaving money on the table that belongs in your pocket. Consider this... a lot of shops do not increase their prices from year to year to allow for standard increases in wages, profit adjustments, taxes, rent, increase in lifestyle, new equipment, etc., let alone increases in material costs. Instead, they'll eat it, rather than explain it to the customer or build it back into their pricing, as they think it will cost them business. It will, but unless you are in the high-volume, low markup side of the business, which is antithetical to the "custom, high-end" cabinetry that most of us say is our business, you do not need this type of customer! If you are a custom shop, the big box stores are not your competitor. This is the point where you educate the customer on the difference (craftsmanship, pride of ownership, unique characteristics of your product, materials, finishes, warranty, service-record, etc.) between what they are able to buy from the two different markets.

Put differently, try this... "Ms. Smith, just like all cars are not created equal, the same is true with cabinetry. I've been in this business for years, and in my experience, some people are able to invest between $3-$9,000.00 for basic production or apartment-grade stock cabinetry, the type that by its nature, needs to be replaced more frequently, and its warranty reflects it. You'll find these at most big box companies; however, more people are willing to invest between $10-$25,000 to get a decent set of cabinets with some of the bells and whistles that they hear about, and then (big smile on your face) there are those who recognize the value of true custom cabinetry, which use the finest materials and finishes, are custom tailored to you and your family's real needs, and are hand-crafted using old-world joinery and time-tested assembly techniques, which are made to last a lifetime and are heirloom quality, individual pieces of furniture, if you will, adorned with hand-carved corbels, and multi-step decorative moldings, and solid-wood, finished dovetail-joint drawers. These people are willing to invest $25,000 or more to get what most people were looking for in the first place, a gorgeous kitchen customized to what they were really looking for, rather than settling for second or third best. Which investment level do you think your family falls comfortably into?"

When presented this way, 8 out of 10 times they will pick the middle level. The other 2% will be split between the lower (doesn't have the money) and the upper end (those who like to show how they have the money). Try it and track the results. You'll confirm for yourself its potency. If they say $3-$9000, point them in another direction to a local shop with that kind of pricing, or to the big box companies. They are not your customer, as they will cause you to lose money! There is a point at which you will look at a customer and say "forget it, I won't work for that" to yourself.

What I am suggesting you do is to raise this bar, and your income, in increments. It is hard to swallow raising your prices dramatically, when you believe that you will lose business. So, instead of raising it 30% in one year, raise it 10%, which may be more palatable and easier for you to justify.

No matter what you put down for your bid in this forum, in real life, I want to challenge you to raise it 10% on your next 10 bids. If you track your closing ratio, you will be surprised to find that your ratio doesn't change that much. The reason for this is that if a customer is willing to pay $5k, they are willing to pay $5,500. Once you do this, your net income will increase 10%, as you are currently operating your business without this increase. I have insisted constantly over the years that you are professionals... be compensated as such!

From contributor P:
I agree with the point that as professionals we deserve to be compensated. And yes, I feel like I am giving my work away. But I also know that there are two other shops nearby that charge about the same price ($5400) and I can talk until I am blue in the face about quality and craftsmanship, but it seems that the money talks a little louder. Maybe it is time to move, but before I do that, I am going to try the suggestion of increasing my bids by 10% for a while and see how that works.

From contributor U:
Every town has its own market range. You need to do some walking and talking in your town to find out what that is. I have attempted to get some of the south Florida cabinet shops to get together, but it seems impossible to do. The only way you are going to find out what the other cabinet shops are bidding in your area is to let all the prospective clients in the area have your number right along with theirs. Then let your results on your estimates be your gauge.

It all hinges on marketing. You can sell the same product to a client that your competition offered, but your salesman ship could have trumped theirs, and thatís why you got the job. We are not in the produce market, so there is no national market price for what we sell - we sell custom work and as such, we will have varying pricing. It all depends on how you sell your work and how much the client is willing to spend. In order to find the clients that are willing to spend what you need to make, you are going to have to cast your net further. There can never be too much marketing for a product. Once you start the marketing, you will have the phone ringing off the hook (that's the plan, anyway).

Start with a pricing structure per linear foot that your clients will bite on, but that makes you money. Youíll have to know what your operation costs you to run to know what you need to make. Monitor your estimate to sell ratio and when you get more hits than you can handle, raise your price and thin the herd. Keep doing this until you get to a comfortable flow of work that pays you more than you need to make. Now, you can either lower the rate a little, raise the work ratio for a marginal lower profit ratio per job, but increase the amount of jobs so you actually make more in the end and expand, or stay where you are and enjoy your work while making a more-than-you-need income.

You are going to find that there are people out there that will underbid you just to get the work, but you have to remember that work is easy to get. Youíre here to make money. Donít feel bad for a client who goes with the low rate and gets screwed for it. Youíre not here to reform the industry; you are only here to sell your work. If you have a big pool of clients to draw from like fish, you can toss the little ones back. It's all in the marketing, and finding the market range for the work you do. Then again, I'm not doing so well myself, so donít believe everything I say, either. This all sort of just came to me as I was reading the thread. I'll let you know how this theory works in a month or two... ha ha.

From contributor Q:
The guys in Oklahoma and Texas, can you give me a quick down and dirty price range you pay for materials? For example, a sheet of A-1 oak plywood, US made? A board foot of red oak 13/16? Assume qualities purchased in the amount to complete the above job. (Counting my blessings in Oregon.)

From contributor K:
I agree that this is all relative to your market, which is why my remarks were directed towards the 10% increase as an exercise... That said, no matter what market you are in, no matter what state the economy is in, no matter what your perceived competitors are doing, someone is charging and making more money in your market (and mine for that matter) than you are currently earning. Without going into all the factors behind this, the salient point is that the money is there, and a large factor in getting it is changing your mindset about your ability to get it, as well as your deserving to get it.

But above all else, resist the temptation to throw in the towel on this crucial issue. If your pricing remains static year to year, with all of your base costs increasing, and you're convinced that you can't charge more, it is just a matter of time that this disparity will catch up with your business. In my opinion, you are better off changing your mindset now. Otherwise, if you are just in it because you love working with your hands and/or woodworking, you can still satiate this desire working for someone else, and leaving the challenges to them.

From the original questioner:
Contributor Q,
3/4 oak ply - veneer or lumber core = $55
FAS Red Oak at 13/16 s3s = $2.20
I'm probably close enough to Oklahoma that our prices will be similar.

From contributor P:
3/4 veneer core red oak $45, 13/16 red oak 2.15 bf.

From contributor S:
Didn't realize it was U shaped. I misunderstood as L shape. Price is way more. Really tough to bid exactly without drawings and specs. The thing to do to make sure it is as close to apples to apples would be to have a floor plan, elevations, and cross sections with spec sheet so we could all bid the same. Or better yet have everyone bid the projects in the next Cabinetmaker Magazine pricing survey.

From contributor A:
Someone mentioned 68 linear feet. For me in CT, that would be $400 (per ft of lowers and also uppers) * 68 = $27,200. Installed, no counters.

This business is easy. You guys need to raise your prices. Be afraid to lose a job. I rarely do. Probably because the ones I do get, I stop at nothing to make them happy. No change orders, nothing. Make the customer happy and they will pay, and then they will tell others to come get you. There is no better advertising than to stop at nothing to make them happy (even if they are a pain in the ass). I have been in business for 8 years, and this year I finally got some business cards. It all comes from referrals.

From contributor C:
I guess I need to be charging more for my cabinets, except that the area I live in is largely agricultural, and with the loss of tobacco a few years ago, many of the families in my part of Kentucky simply do not have the money for higher prices. The other side is my overhead is for the time cheaper than some of the guys I compete against. I am slowly getting more for my cabinets, but it will be awhile till I get my reputation well enough established to command a higher price. I do hate leaving money on the table.

From contributor S:
You are a professional. Charge for it. If your current market will not sustain your business, change market areas.

From contributor C:
Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done. Family issues will not let me move. So here I am. Just have to work smarter and harder for a period of time.

From contributor S:
Where you fabricate and where job sites are located are not important. My shop is located 1-3 hours away from 99% of the homes we do work on. On projects where we will be doing installs, we do as much as possible in house so install times are at a minimum. When someone else is installing, we do not do any extra and just drop off as normal. There are many shops that have markets much farther away than we do. I know there are shops that are shipping many projects out of state.