I have a job to bid on in East Texas. I have to build 124 feet of upper and lower cabinets with raised panel doors made out of red oak. Also need to bid on all the trim work for a 3925 sq. ft. house with 9 ft. and 13 ft. ceilings. What is a good price for the finished cabinets? On the trim work, my customer doesn't know what kind of trim they want (paint grade or stain). What is a good price to just install and a good price to purchase and install? Is it better to bid on linear feet or sq. feet on the trim work?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor C:
If you are having to ask these questions, you need to walk away from this job. I am not being ugly here, just to the point. In East Texas there are some very good shops that can do this work, and do it brilliantly, for prices that would send the rest of us running for new careers. If this is not a negotiated contract, walk away, mate.
Pricing Cabinet Installation Work
In '81 and '82 I also worked in a cabinet shop (3 man shop with basic equipment) where we regularly built red oak and ash cabinets. Even then, cabinet jobs with raised panel doors and ends were going for over 10K... unfinished. Most of ours were for a builder that moved from Longview to Red Oak (south of Dallas) and were installed in 3000 to 4000 sq ft homes. Homes in and around Longview went for a little less, but not much. So you're saying that in 25 or so years, prices haven't increased at all?
Lets say Builder A pays .50 sq ft (a very unrealistic price in my opinion) to set all doors, trim all windows, run base and install crown in 3 rooms. Builder B, for the same house, also pays .50 sq ft but, in addition to the previous work, expects chair rail, crown in 5 rooms, and closet shelving installed.
This isn't fair to you because you are being asked to do more work for Builder B without being compensated for it. It isn't fair to Builder A because he is getting less work performed for the same money. Builder B is making out like a bandit because you're giving him free labor. You don't know if you're leaving money on the table or being taken to the cleaners.
The only fair, equitable, and profitable solution is itemized pricing. Everything you do needs to be itemized. Per door, per window, per ft of crown, per ft of base, per cabinet box installed, per door lock installed, etc. If Builder B wants chair rail, you get paid for it. If Builder A doesn't want crown, he isn't charged for it. Yet you are charging the same amount per item to each builder. To estimate and/or bill for the job, you simply add up the items you installed and charge for them. You get paid for everything you do and the builders don't pay for some obscure work that may or may not be included in sq ft pricing. I know that if I absolutely *had* to price per sq ft, I wouldn't touch it for less than 1.50 sq ft and that would only be for the very basics. (I just billed today for a house we just completed. I took my total and divided it by approximate sq ft. It came out to 2.51 sq ft for a 3100 sq ft house. Paint grade executive trim, cabinet installation, 2 stairs.)
Are these supposed to be shop built or site built cabinets? Are you providing materials and labor? Or can you have a real cabinet shop build and install them for you? I have a good friend I went to school with that has a very successful cabinet and millwork shop in Longview and could probably build, finish, and install them in less time than you could cut out the parts by yourself. You could be trimming the house while the cabinets were being built, assuming, of course, that his schedule and your budget can come to an agreement. But I can assure you, 124 ft of cabinets will be more than $9500. On second thought, if contributor D would build them for around $9500, maybe you could get him to build them. Then you could add 50% and still give the customer a discounted rate.
Your other advice to the questioner is excellent! He should heed well. Price each item of work and come up with a total that works for you. If your builder is not bright enough to work out the square foot pricing from your quote, you can offer to show him how to use the calculator. Sorry... a bit of a jab at this kind of builder. Price the job for you to make money and if he takes it, great. If not... even better.
If basic trim starts at .50 sq ft, this means the 3925 sq ft home would be 1962.50. If he is like me, working alone, a house that size would take about 3 or 4 weeks to do. That works out to somewhere between $12 and $16 per hour. Take out workers comp, liability, and taxes from that and you're down around $8 to $12 per hour. Not to mention tools, supplies, repairs, gas, vehicle expenses, etc. It wouldn't be worth the trouble for this price in today's economy.
As far as the cabinet pricing, $9500 is only around $75 ft. Perhaps this is for labor only? When I'm trimming a house, that's about what I charge now for on-site cabinet work such as built-ins, niches, etc. with the materials being provided by the builder. Surely to goodness $9500 isn't materials, labor, and installation?
It's been 20 years since I moved away and the economy there is one reason why I will probably never move back, although I still consider it home. My mother still lives in Longview. I have friends that still live there, and I sort of keep up with things with the online newspaper. But I still find it hard to believe that prices could be as low as those mentioned above.
I did post the bids:
Cabinet work @ 210.00 ft.
Trim work @ 2.25 per sq.ft
Thanks again for the feedback and I did get the jobs.
Someone suggested that you ask around to see what other guys are charging. I wish people would ask me that more often in our area. In Toledo, for a house that was described, I start around $3 p/s/f and $125 l/f for cabinets, unfinished, no drawers or doors, but you also need to look at the whole project, crown mold, open stairways, curved stairs, and so on. The builder will take advantage of anything they can, so be exact in what you are bidding and what you are not.
But the prices do seem to be all over the place. Are we sure we're comparing apples to apples? Metropolitan areas are usually higher than rural areas, but the opposite seems to be the case here (at least as far as this thread is concerned). What does your $400K house in Dallas include? What does the original poster's 3925 sq ft house include? Can't get trim work in DFW for $1 ft, yet the questioner lands the job in rural East Texas for $2.25 sq ft? Cabinets starting in DFW for $55 to $60 ft, but going for $210 to $600 ft in East Texas? Something ain't right.
Even taking into consideration the importing of cheap cabinets from China and the cheap labor available from illegal immigrants, I can't see how plywood (not pb or mdf) cabinet boxes with ash/oak rp doors can start at only $55 to $60 ft. I'm not even sure if that would cover the cost of materials, much less assembly and installation, no matter where you're located.
Of course we all know there is no magic bullet that will guarantee us profitable work. It is a free market for everyone, legitimate or not. All you can do is make the best of what you have, and if that isn't good enough, look somewhere else.
He used to case the whole window, sides and front. Now it is just window stools and apron with returns. Builders stopped paying for it. That's my gripe. Everybody wants to squeeze every last penny out of these McMansions, but the quality and craftsmanship has been taken out of the picture. People are amazed to see how much house they can get when they move here. But what they don't realize is how little house they get.