Pricing Cabinets

Basic ideas on estimating cabinet construction costs. January 9, 2006

I know that there are many ways to bid cabinet pricing, and I am not looking for anyone to tell me how to price my product. I would like to know what methods others are using, such as lineal footage, square footage, cubic footage, cost of materials plus labor, etc. I am also wondering how others deal with each species cost difference, and a raised panel versus flat panel situation. I guess the real thing I am looking for is a way to streamline my estimating, as well as making it more accurate at the same time. Less time spent doing paperwork means more time in the shop producing the final product. Thanks for the input.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor G:
I am a proponent of material and labor estimating. In my opinion, that is the only accurate method of figuring custom cabinetry. We've developed Excel spreadsheets to take off and price jobs. Each item is priced breaking down materials, buyouts, finish materials, hardware, shop labor, delivery, drafting/pm time, finish labor, installation labor, etc. For common items, we have predetermined formulas in the spreadsheet that make them quick to price. Then we add the oddball work to the spreadsheet by adding the material and labor for those items. Our spreadsheets are linked to material sheets, so we can keep material costs updated. We can also change quickly from one material to another.

As far as raised panel vs flat panel, our labor factor would be changed for that particular door style. Material costs would also change, depending on if you're using a plywood panel or solid wood. With solid wood, our material factor would not be effected.

It's important to know your material and labor rates/margins to price with this method. But that is something you should know, anyway. That is one of the reasons I don't like square or lineal footage methods. There is really no reflection of labor rates in those methods. There is also no way to job cost (actual vs estimated). For instance, how many hours has someone bid for 8 lineal feet of cabinets, if that bid is not broken down into materials and labor?

From contributor B:
The above is right - you must know your cost. But I disagree that ln. ft. pricing isn't accurate. If you know your cost, it's simple enough to break that down into footage, too. Of course, with ln. ft. pricing there are lots of variables that affect pricing, so bidding by cost + labor does make a lot of sense.

I price per cabinet ft, then add drawers, doors/fronts/panels, crown, trim, extras, etc. But I usually check that number against my total cost to make sure I'm in line. I only use one type of plywood, one type of hinge, and two types of slides, so knowing cost is easy. To price accurately per ft, each bid must be done according to species, door style, panel style, etc.

I have 7 different materials libraries in CV. Each reflects the different species of wood used. If 42" uppers are requested instead of 32", price p/ft. of uppers is higher, of course. For specialties, such as island with bunn ft., I simply take added cost and multiply by 2.5, so $10 bunn ft. costs $25, etc.

Most of my work is simple cookie-cutter stuff (boring), so pricing isn't difficult. But when doing custom, such as a dining room or bedroom suites, I know no other way but to do job cost + operating cost + labor (per part).

From contributor S:
I'd just like to throw my support behind contributor G's method. It's how we've done it for years. After you've done it for a while, you'll start to see similarities between bids that will help you set up "default" bids. They'll only need a little fine tuning for specific customers. It's a great timesaver to set up these defaults. It eliminates a lot of unnecessary repetitive input. Of course, there are always those customers that you'll have to start from scratch on.

From contributor J:
I believe that per box pricing is the most accurate and simple way to estimate. I also use an Excel program to do my estimating.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. There are a couple of things that make perfect sense that I just had not thought of. I am going to try to implement them. Hopefully I can find a happy medium somewhere out there.

From contributor N:
I agree that knowing your cost of product and labor is critical to bidding profitably. I have used CW for years to price and found that over the course of time, our actual costs have been within +/- 3-4% of the bid price on CW. I put all bids into the program and let it calculate everything. All files are loaded for the variations that the job may have and I just pick and choose.

Here is the real advantage. If the customer wants to add or delete something, I just make a quick change and have the new price. But best of all is getting a bid report that shows me a complete breakdown of all the cost elements. If I have to negotiate some, all the info to make an informed decision is right there. I can review labor or materials quickly to see if there is any room for improvement or bulk pricing opportunities that may exist. This doesn't seem to take any longer than by hand or spread sheet, and nothing is left out.