Cabinet Finishing Labor Time

Some thoughts on how long cabinet finishing should take (and does take), and ideas for speeding the work up. January 27, 2008

Sometimes I feel like the grass grows faster than we can finish a kitchen. Just wondering how long you other shops estimate finish time on an average size kitchen. Maybe a tall fridge cabinet with end panel, about 7/8 lowers, and maybe 7/8 uppers. Painted and glazed. Paint the interiors of the boxes. No paint on drawers. We use ML Campbell Clawlock and Amazing Glaze, Krystal topcoat. We have been painting and glazing one for 4 days now. It is cooler outside now, 45 degrees. 20 doors and 8 drawer fronts.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I just finished 41 doors, 9 reeded pilasters, 3 decorative carvings, and misc. mouldings in Clawlock and cloud white Resistant. No glazing. I had 17 hours total. My contractor does his own cabinet edges and such.

From contributor J:
A kitchen that small should take less than a day to finish.

From contributor E:
I take it you are a supervisor, not a finisher? Honestly, it depends on a lot of things...

The substrate (wood, species, MDF?).

The finish you are trying to obtain. (Are you trying to hide the grain, requiring more priming and sanding?)
The skill level and attitude of your employees. (Notice I did not say finisher, as production requires the skill and co-operation of all employees.)
The environment of your shop, equipment, etc. (Do you have enough space, decent tools, temperature and humidity controls?)

Think of the big picture when trying to determine production holdups.

From contributor G:
A side note here - when the temp is lower, it does not mean you have to wait longer for the Krystal to cure. It means the Krystal will not cure until it gets warm enough to cross-link. It sounds as though you are glazing the Clawlock, then topcoating with clear. Is that correct?

From the original questioner:
Actually, we put 2 to 3 coats Clawlock (seems like some areas soak it up more than others) sanding with 220 between coats, then topcoat with Krystal, then glaze, then topcoat with Krystal again.

From contributor B:
I charge between 20-30% of the cabinet cost. So how long does it take you to build your cabs? You could extrapolate from there.

From your schedule, you're doing a lot of sanding. I try to limit my sanding to two full
sand jobs (not including pre-finish sanding). And before you glaze, it's got to be well sanded and evened out with syn-wool nice so your glaze looks natural. So you're not just whipping out a stain and a clear.

As a one man band, I would say that size kitchen would take me 4-6 days. Two days to shoot the toe kicks, upper and lower cabs, panels, etc.; two days for the doors and drawer fronts; and one day for misc mouldings, filler panels, scribe, you name it. And one day if any $%& happens, as it usually does. And I would charge somewhere between 2 and 3 grand.

From contributor G:
Don't shortchange yourself. Finishing price is minimum 1/3 the price (1/4 of the total price) of the cabs before countertops and installation.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I did notice some people out there can get this done quick. I would like to see the quality of the finish job. I am a two man shop - one finishes and the other builds. I had another employee that was good, but he had to go back across the border, if you know what I mean.

Our biggest bottleneck is the finishing. It seems like every job we have gotten lately is paint and glaze. I am so ready for a stain job.

I am not a supervisor - I am the owner/builder/installer/etc. We have a 1,000sf dedicated paint room, 2 Kremlin systems (1-paint, 1 clear), another Kremlin HVLP, and several misc. sharp HVLP guns. I am not sure what contributor E meant by proper equipment, but I do have good equipment as long as we are not talking about automated paint systems. That would be nice.

I would love to go to someone's shop and just be a fly on the wall and see how other people get it done. We hang all our doors, usually 15 each cycle, and then change out for another batch, sand the first batch while the others are drying. We also finish our face frames off the cabinets if possible so we can keep things rolling.

From contributor O:
You need to quit hanging and start using some door racks. Put the door on a pedestal and spray. Keep the rack behind you in the booth. Take a look in the Shop Gallery for pictures of my spray area. With my finisher and a helper we would have that done in less than a day. The schedule is two coats pigmented CV, glaze, clear topcoat.

From the original questioner:
I looked at your shop - very nice. Just a curious question. I know you spray your doors on the pedestal, but you feel like that is faster than hanging them and getting both sides at once? I don't know the answer, that's why I am asking. Sometimes we get caught up in our own ways of doing things and can't see the forest for the trees. I am willing to try it any way possible, I just would think it would be faster if both sides are sprayed and drying at the same time. We do a similar thing, but hanging. We screw eyelets into the top or bottom of the doors, whichever end will not show, and hang them on hooks in front of the booth. Spray one, hang on 20' tubing behind us, spray another, and so on.

From contributor O:
Well for one, you can get a better build when you spray on the flat. When you have the doors on the racks like the ones in the picture, you can spray everything without having to stop to reload the batch every time you spray your 15 doors. The finisher keeps spraying and the helper keeps the parts moving. When the first rack is done, we roll the rack out of the booth, then the helper is scuffing and the finisher is still spraying. When the next rack is done, we do it again. And so on. There are times when they are both scuffing when the finisher gets ahead.

I can see an advantage to spraying both sides, but then you have the time that it takes to screw in all of those hooks. I have seen it done that way in a production factory with a finishing line. They stapled a piece of wire to the back of the door where the hinge cup would go and hung the doors from that. They have since replaced the line with a flatline finishing system. They said that they get a better finish and build when the doors are sprayed on the flat.