Setting Special Order Minimums


From original questioner:

I'm wondering how other shops handle special order minimums. Specifically I'm bidding a job where the wood grain melamine requested will have to be ordered and the minimum is a full lift. I've only done this once before and it was on a residential job where cost was less a concern than the client getting what he wanted. In this case it's a commercial job where the cost is going to be somewhat of a concern.

So the job itself will use up about half of the full lift. I have no immediate needs or jobs that I could use the remaining balance of material for. How do you present it to the client? Do you just add the cost of the full lift of material into the cost of the job and figure out what to do with the rest later? Do you present them with the details of the situation and let them decide what to do? I'm not sure they want that much detail in a commercial bid? I'm just not sure what standard practice is in this situation so I figure it's best to ask?

As a side note I find it amazing how little information distributors have on the products they rep.. I talked to 2 of my local reps yesterday and had to convince both of them that they could in fact order both the melamine I needed, and the laminate to match:>0

thanks, JeffD

From contributor D

A few ways to look at it but , your cost is a full lift to do the job going in . When we do a job and buy say 500' of lumber but we may only use 350' that material belongs to us . Unless you are selling them the materials then the extra belongs to them . Are you talking $500 or so ?

You could let them know how much extra you have to purchase and offer it to them for other projects , they will have paid for it one way or the other the way I see it .Off it on craigslist .

From contributor Ma

No first hand experience but I dont see why a brief single line explanation in the quote (not even noting the full lift issue) with a possible suggestion or comparison for a stock substitution wouldnt work.

Specified material custom $xxxx.xx Stock material $xxx.xx


Special order material at +xx% ($xxxx.xx)

Of course much better crafted than that but at least it gives them the option consider less costly alternatives (or not) when they see the cost of the selection.

Not that its a bad thing, but for me it would be a burden to have to inventory a half a unit of material though Im sure you could move it on other jobs.

From contributor Je

Thanks for the responses guys!

D, with lumber it's a bit different as, well, it's lumber. I can use most species on multiple projects unless it's something very unusual, and in that case I wouldn't purposely buy so much extra. With the melamine I'll have about 20 extra sheets of a very specific color that someone else may or may not want? Altogether cost wise it's going to add about $1200 to the job over the cost of a stock maple sheet, and they have no problem with the extra cost. (That includes other products like HPL and PVC banding which are also more expensive than stock). In terms of just the melamine it's probably about a $700 difference. I mean there's always going to be some extra material left over on a job and I have no problems with that. I just wouldn't ever buy double what I need on purpose expecting to keep it.

Mark, we did initially have maple as the "finish" spec'd and priced out. However they decided to look at other options so I brought them the Uniboard samples. I explained that there would be additional costs for that as well as other changes they wanted to make, and as of this morning everything cost wise has been approved and moving forward.

I just have to believe this is something others doing commercial work run into routinely? With residential I'd approach things differently and lay everything on the table. But in commercial they want the product and have no use for a bunch of extra material. In the end I figured I'm giving them the cost to do the project, including the full lift of melamine, and the cost is either acceptable or not.

Anyway the good news is this project is going ahead so the cost was not a problem after all,….I'd still like any feedback from how others deal with this situation though.

thanks again,

From contributor Al

We just plan on using matching laminate if it is available, otherwise the credit for not using the premium order material as a VE alternate. The problem with the credit is the other guy may not know it has a minimum quantity and bid it as off the shelf

From contributor Ma

Sounds like you found yourself a solution! You just landed yourself a free 1/2 lift of melamine. Hopefully you can move it to another customer at the cost of stock and put the money towards a trip to Hawaii.

From contributor Je

Well the wide has been after me to build some closets at home…..

You know how it is, never have time to work on your own projects!


From contributor Br

JeffD, does she know you call her "wide"?

I'd charge, at cost, the balance of the material you had to buy but didn't use to do the project.

From contributor Je

No, but if she did I'd probably have a "wide" lip:>0 Just my fingers not being able to cooperate with the keyboard again;>)

I included the cost for all of the melamine with tax and delivery, but no markup on any of it. Didn't seem right to markup the half they were getting, so I just did the whole lift at cost.