Cabinet Installation Business Arrangements

A discussion of piece-rate prices, retainage, and other contract provisions for cabinet installation jobs. February 6, 2007

I have a friend that’s a ceramic tile and laminate floor installer and has been approached by a cabinet contractor to install frameless cabinets and some post-form tops in a big development they're remodeling. We're in MS and this property got whacked by Katrina.

Here's what they're offering him: $20 a box to hang the boxes and $15 a stick ( I assume 8' sticks) for crown, and $8 for fillers. They also want the filler strips mitered with the bottom filled on uppers and the gap to the top kick filled on lowers. He didn't have a price for the post-form. These are all "u" shaped kitchens. Everything will be on site. All the cabinets are already assembled and hardware is mounted. This contractor is also going to hold 10% of his pay until they get their final draw from the developer and then (theoretically) pay him the rest of his money.

I'm a residential cabinet maker and do my own installs on framed cabinets. I understand this is totally different game/market but I charge a lot more than that. I don't know a thing about the going rate for this type of install but what they're offering sounds low to me. Does anyone have any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor F:
I realize markets are different around the country but those rates sound low to me also.

From contributor J:
I am in Utah and those rates sound right to me. I also pay $20 a box and $8 a filler I pay $2 a foot for crown so the per stick is right on at 8' sticks. My installers say they make between $50 and $60 an hour for my stuff.

From contributor S:

Be careful with the 10% retention. If the contractor fails to do what is on his prime contract and does not get all his money, guess what you don’t get yours. I always change the wording to say my retention is due once the owner has approved my work, but there is also a time limit as well. If I think that may be a problem then my price goes up 11%. And if I get the retention it is extra money in my pocket.

From the original questioner:
To contributor J:
On filler strips for your upper cabinets, do you have your installers fill the holes in the bottoms by mitering the filler strip and running it back to the wall? Same question for the gap (up to the toe kick) on the lowers.

From contributor J:
No we do not fill those gaps. If I had a builder that required it I would charge extra filler for each of those. The filler between the bottom of the cabinet and the wall would have to be some kind of L shape so you could screw through the cabinet and still get the filler. Otherwise the bottom filler and the bottom of the cabinet line up and you cannot screw the filler in. If this needs to be done then the cabinetmaker should make this piece. I really think that filling these gaps is a waste of time and probably some builder’s pet peeve. I guess what I am saying is that I would not install these for the standard $8.

From the original questioner:
To contributor J: Thanks. You're the second cabinet maker that's recently told me the same thing about those filler strips - a waste of time to do the bottom. I build framed cabinets so I've never dealt with them, but it seemed a little over the top to me too.

From contributor P:
I do just frameless cabinets. I figure one hour per lineal foot, from the time I start to load the cabinets to deliver, until the last trim piece is installed, the c. top installed, the crown molding installed. Twenty dollars a box would be close, if it does not include c. top, delivery, or moldings.

From contributor B:
If I were looking for a job I’d be willing to do it for the money offered however the 10% would be a deal killer. I would counter a 15% up-charge with 10% later for my good will or he could just pay me all of it now.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor W:
I install Euro frameless cabinets at 1.1 hour per lin. ft of upper, lower and countertop as far as 10% retention that is common in commercial installation. Be careful - sometimes it takes a long time to collect your retention. The close-out filler on the bottom of the upper cabinets are a waste of time, but if they are required, before you install your upper cabinet screw a 3/4" X 3/4" thick backer plate 3/4" up on the outside of the cabinet. Then when you are ready install your filler you can either use some liquid nail to install that filler against the backer strip or use a small nailer and shoot a small pin and fill with a closely matched caulk. If you have a micro pin gun you will not be able to see the nail holes.