Pricing Crown Moulding Installs

Estimating and pricing crown moulding work: by the foot, by the number of corners, by gut feeling? February 17, 2011

What is the going rate for installing 7 1/4" crown mold? Is $4.00 a foot fair?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor D:
Think about charging by the number of corners. You could have ten feet of crown with two inside corners and a couple of outside corners and this could take the better part of a day to do. Charging by the foot would not work very well - the straight runs between corners take no time at all, except if there is a scarf joint, and in that case I look at it like an outside corner.

From the original questioner:
Okay, so what do you charge for an inside corner and an outside corner? Let's say you charge $20.00 an inside corner and the room is 14 x 14. You are going to charge $80.00 to put up crown?

From contributor D:
I charge two hours for a coped inside corner and one hour for each outside corner or scarf joint.

From contributor J:
I charge 65.00 per run per room based on standard 2 1/4 or 3 3/4 crown and up to 10' ceiling, and that's 5-6 year old pricing. Blocking for stack crown is figured on same price, two runs of crown and one run of blocking = $195.00. An entry or breakfast nook would also count as one room, same as a living or bedroom. Adjust based on project complexity and attitude. Over that width or height the addition starts. 7 1/4" wide would be a definite add.

From contributor E:
I don't price it by the foot, unless the linear footage will cover the day's wage. I simply estimate how long it is going to take to do it. So a small square 12 x 12 room would probably be something like 1.5 hours to drive and set up tools, 1.5 hours to nail it up, and another 1.5 hours to cleanup and drive back to the shop. On larger jobs where I know I will be there for more than a day, I can price by the foot and know I will be covered (whole house for example).

From contributor B:
Two hours for a coped inside corner!? You're fired.

From contributor O:
You have to look at each job and all of its variables. Why should someone wanting their entire house done pay the same rate as someone wanting one room? Also, are you quoting paint or stain grade? Two hours?

Try a jigsaw with coping foot or coping jig. It has greatly increased our speed.

From contributor E:
He didn't say it takes him two hours to cope a corner; he just charges two hours. Makes sense to me.

From the original questioner:
So what does he charge per hour? I admit the straight runs are easy, but you still have a lot of ladder work, furniture to work around, fill nail holes, scribe wavy ceilings.

From contributor E:
Let's assume he charges $50 per hour. That small 12 x 12 square room with 4 coped corners would get him 8 hours. That's more than the 4.5 hours I would estimate it at. Depends a lot on your area. You may price yourself out of jobs at that price unless it seems to be the standard.

The best way to make money and be fair with your client is to estimate time. For example, the going rate in our area from a local trim shop is $3 per foot install for 4.25" MDF pre-primed. At that price they will nail, caulk, and fill holes, but no painting. That 12 x 12 room would get them $144. At $60 per hour I would charge $270 for that same room. So I probably won't get that job, nor do I really want it, as it's more of a pain in the rear than a money maker. Now on a whole house where we may have 600 feet, they would charge $1800 and I would estimate 3 days and I would charge about $1500. So I would most likely get this job and make some decent money.

That said, I don't do much trim. I mainly build and install cabinets, but I do the odd trim job if I can squeeze it into my schedule. I am quite familiar with what the local guys are charging and I can pretty accurately estimate my time, as I have done enough of it to get a good guess.

You really have to look at the job to make sure you don't lose. Are we talking pre-primed MDF that can be smacked up and caulked, or are we talking an unfinished wood that someone will come back and stain and clear, or are we talking about a pre-finished solid wood? The solid wood stuff will typically need to be scribed to the ceiling, where the paint grade can just be caulked.

Estimate your time and if you are accurate, you will do okay.

From contributor D:
The two hours allows for set up tools, take down tools and ladders, fix mistakes, re-cuts, etc., and hopefully leaves a little profit when the job is done. This is also for pre-finished hardwood molding, and I want to see a very good corner, or it will be redone.

I did not invent this method, but learned it somewhere else - I think here on WOODWEB - and it has worked okay for most jobs as a fast way to price crown molding labor.

From contributor W:
Why are people still doing scarf joints? When joining two lengths, we do a butt joint with a biscuit. The joint is shorter in length, so it's less likely to be seen and less likely to move and open.

From contributor E:

The point of a scarf joint is the same as a cope joint. When the material shrinks in a cope joint, the gap is half that of a miter joint. When the material shrinks in a scarf joint, the idea is that the material will slide so there is no gap, just an offset that should be less noticeable than a gap, assuming you have finished the end grain.

Also, the eye tends to pick up vertical lines quite easily, and can't pick up a horizontal line as well, so the angled joint should be less noticeable. That's the theory. Executed with care, either method is fine.