Pricing Solid-Surface Countertops

      To make money fabricating and installing solid-surface counters, be sure to charge for all the incidental costs. September 23, 2006

I have a new shop in Western Massachusetts. Recently I was asked to bid on some solid surface countertops for a commercial job. I have done them before when working for a large shop. I'm curious to know what you guys charge per linear foot. I worked it out via estimated shop time and my estimate seems low. Also, do any of you estimate this type of job via square foot if the counter is greater than 25 inches? Also how do you figure back splash and end splash? Letís just assume the basic radius and minimum detail. Also there is an under-mount sink.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
Why does it seem low? If you have added cost of material, estimated shop time based on your experience, allowed for overhead etc., the price is what it is. What youíre really asking is for us to tell you how much you are leaving on the table as compared to your competitors. If it is that important then take your plans to another shop and get it quoted. Send your wife, uncle, employee etc. Itís done all the time. If you shop is new and you want the job then you will need to be less expensive by enough of a margin to get the quote. Just be sure you have covered yourself as far as costs go.

From contributor B:
After reading your post, I am wondering if you have really figured all of your costs. Only you would know of course, but a couple of things to consider. As an example, for solid surface, we charge by the square foot (ranges from $45/sf and up) for the base price which encompasses certain edges that are included in the base price (those commonly on-hand, and labor worked in), as well as simple backsplash, removal of old countertop, disposal, templating, materials, fabrication, installation, commission costs, company profit above costs and administration.

Coved backsplash, tile, inlays, edges beyond what we offer (i.e. - bit needs to be purchased), sinks, dishdrains, extended edges (i.e. - islands), cut-outs (i.e. - garbage holes in islands), splay corners / end of runs, full backsplash, etc., all are extra. From what I've seen over the years, a lot of shops do not figure certain costs into their figures, which robs them of real profit, such as:
1. Adminstration (sales paperwork, phone calls, fax/email, etc.)
2. Templating
3. Removal of old countertop AND disposal costs
4. Profit margin above costs
5. Buffer for incidentals
6. Plumbing disconnect and reconnect
7. Travel (increased cost in gas is usually eaten by the shop)

We're guilty from time to time of undercharging and not covering some of these costs like we should, but it is rare now. There will always be something that makes you re-evaluate your pricing schedule. If you work everything above into your pricing and still come out less, put a smile on your face, as you are in a unique position to buy-up market share.

If you are indeed still less, I would find out what your market is bearing (the big-box companies will give you a start), and either offer something more than they are getting from someone else, or charge 5% less than what the market is bearing, while you are building your shop. Think of the 5% as an advertising expense to buy market share. Once word of mouth has done its magic (anywhere from 6 months to 3 years, depending on service levels, market conditions and how you work their warm market), you'll find that you can actually charge more for your work, and be compensated as a professional. The average yearly median income in the USA is in the $40's. I know lot of woodworkers, furniture makers, and countertop shop owners who make less, and some a lot less. My guess, however, is that after figuring in all of the above, your price is going to change and come more into line with others pricing. That being said, you could still utilize the 5% strategy while building your shop, as it can be offset easily through productivity increases on the job.

From contributor C:
It depends on local market of course, but around here 2.5 times the material costs will land a job. One or two companies tried selling rock bottom and didn't last very long. Solid surface does have a lot of hidden costs that the previous poster mentioned. They will bury you if you don't charge a good price. You got some good advice on the five percent for starting out. Most guys in our area use the sheet a day per experienced worker to figure the labor on a simple job, and most charge for material ordered to do the job, not net size of the top. The big box stores charge for net size but start out a lot higher in footage charges. Splashes are charged at a slightly reduced rate, maybe ten dollars a foot less but only if it is purchased in addition to the sheets needed, not scrap resulting from cutout, which is included in the price if there is enough to do the splash. Under mounts are priced by adding 50 to 100 dollars to the price of the sink, for glue, labor, and supplies. The best advice was from contributor B - charge plenty and make a decent living. Our thought is if we get more than one out of five jobs that we bid, we are leaving money on the table. Once there was a time when I thought that I had to have every job that came in the door just to survive. That mentality left me with no time for the truly profitable jobs when they showed up. Also raising the price allowed me to do the jobs right and survive the slow times.

From the original questioner:
Since posting I have talked to a couple of counter top guys in the area. It turns out that I was charging on the low side. It seems that the going rate is around $50.00 per linear foot as well as extra for sink mount, cut out, bullnose profile and of all things, the color. More that one shop told me that they charge extra for solid light colored counters as well as higher gloss. It seems that there is a much higher profit margin in the solid surface business than in custom kitchen cabinets, maybe because the big shops are mostly on an even playing field with the small guys as far as automation of the process.

From contributor C:
The profit margin is a little higher but the risks are way higher. Most people expect perfection from solid surface but it can be done if you are careful. Plus, the low end, fly-by-night companies and inexperienced are kept out of the market by the certification requirement of most reputable solid surface distributors. There is plenty of competition in our area, but not if you have done your marketing and sell certainty of quality, not lowest price

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