Cabinet Doors: Outsource Or Build?

It's hard to beat the cost of outsourcing. April 10, 2005

We are a mid-size cabinet shop looking into the idea of building our own cabinet doors instead of outsourcing. At this time, we would have to build about 75 doors per week and have looked at several different machinery options to meet this production level. Looking at 100 to 150,000 investment in machinery. In looking at some job costing reports, it appears that we are not producing a high enough profit margin on cabinet jobs where we outsource the doors. One option would be just to raise price, but we are not the cheapest shop in town and at some point, we will price ourselves out of the market. Just looking to see if other shops have been down this road and experienced greater profits or just higher overhead and more work when building doors in house.

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor B:
Have you shopped around for doors? Sounds like you're using a few more doors than I am every week, but my profit margin is much higher when I outsource. There is no way I can make a raised panel door for $26, or a flat panel door for $17, or even a CNC'd MDF door for $14! Those are delivered prices! I fax them an order, and they deliver my doors on their truck. I don't even have to unpack them - just help unload them from the truck. I don't have to stock the lumber in umpteen different species, don't have to prepare the lumber that I don't have to stock, don't have to cut to length, glue up panels, and the list goes on. They build a better door than I do, too. I've shopped around, and not all door companies are the same.

From contributor G:
I think 75 doors a week made in house could make you money. But I question spending that kind of money for that volume of doors. We build about 150 doors a week with seven Weaver shapers, a SLR saw widebelt sander, JLT panel and door clamps, 18" Powermatic planer, Omga mitersaw, downdraft table, 10 hp compressor, RO sanders, 15 hp dust collector and misc. small stuff. Some bought new, most bought used for a total investment of about $65,000 not counting shop space. We make decent money on our doors, but your results may vary.

From contributor C:
Also, don't forget that you will be limiting your customer to the styles that you can make. Most door manufacturers have a selection of 50+ door types. You would need a whole company devoted to doors to produce that kind of variety.

From contributor U:
I can make a nicer door than what I can buy. It is not cheaper, nor does it make more money. There are always two sides to the coin. I get what I want when I want it. When I started building cabinets, there weren't any door companies to buy from, so I bought the machinery and learned how. I can buy a door for about what it costs me in materials. If the caliber of the house warrants it, I build them. If not, I buy them. If I was starting over and did not have the machinery, I would just buy them. Most customers really don't know the difference.