Door Pricing and Outsourcing

Here is a long thread about door pricing, kicked off by a cabinetmaker who gets sticker shock from a door vendor's bid. July 25, 2010

I just received a quote for doors and drawer heads and panels. I would like to think they could be finished in one day. Why would there be a $3200 charge $3200 for labor? Materials and shipping is around $700. I donít know how anyone can think this is profitable. The total bill was $4995 for $800 in material.

Iím going to buy another shaper and feeder and more pony clamps and hammer down. I would say that $4000 for two-three days work is pretty good donít you? Does anyone have any opinions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor W:
Want to tell us more about it? I've been making doors for many years, and I've never seen a situation where an individual can make $1000/day making quality doors with any kind of tools, period. There are about 25 steps to making a door, give or take.

We are half-way to state-of-the-art, have some of the best equipment and methods available, and $4000 of a typical stain-grade door order from us would take about nine or ten man-days, or about 80 hours, for a top quality product. It is very doubtful you could do in 3 days what an experienced person with gang-rips, RF gluers, 4-head wide-belts, shape/sanders (and much more) could do in 10 days. Making a door is simple, but it still is a lot of work. So either you went to the wrong company for a quote, or you are just unfamiliar with what building a good door involves.

From contributor L:
More power to you if you can make that kind of money for two or three days work. I used to make doors for other shops. I've got all the tooling, eight shapers, power feeds, profile sander, widebelt, SL rip saw, molder, CNC and a talented crew. When a job comes up needing RP doors I order them from Conestoga.

From contributor B:

Iím just curious if you have the square footage of the doors, drawerfronts, panels, and a piece count? Figure what you are paying (ballpark) per square foot and share the info. I only build doors if I am slow and donít have any other work to do. A good door shop is faster and less expensive than a good cabinet shop.

From contributor M:
At least for now itís still a free market and anyone can quote you whatever they want. If you think you can make more money making them yourselves, then have at it. Personally I agree with others - if you think you can do it for less yourself, you're shopping at the wrong places.

From contributor K:
We make our own, but for re-facing projects have gone the outsourcing route. Itís easy to price and install in-between other jobs. With Conestoga, you will more than likely have to deal with a regional rep. We are set-up to work directly with the company.

From contributor B:
I just got a quote back for a red oak raised panel "door". My cost was $304.00, I figure there is less than $65.00 in the 4/4 red oak. Labor would be $239.00 on a 10.3 square foot panel with 12 raised panels. Shop rate average cost is at $50.00 per hour and would leave four to five hours to build and sand and be ready for stain. I thought this one was a no brainer. The profiles were stock from my supplier, so no set up or knife charges.

From contributor K:
I have four shapers and outsource lots of doors. Locally you should be able to find a shop that builds good doors for a reasonable charge. Lots of them list their prices online. The big places buy lumber by the truckload instead of a few hundred feet at a time too. If you post your area, you will get more direction.

From contributor H:
How about a location? There's likely a shop near you that would appreciate the business. If youíre trying to build a set of doors with a couple of shapers and a 3x21 belt sander, I'm afraid you'll be going crazy for a while.

You might want to pick up a gang rip, RF gluer (or a bunch of pipe and pony clamps), a door clamp, one of those $300 headless pinners, a widebelt sander (get yourself several grits of those $50 belts to run on it while youíre at it). You might want to look into an edge sander (you are sanding the edges right?) which brings up the profile sander I forgot about (you don't want to be hand sanding the edge profiles by hand after expending all your energy hand sanding the raised panel profiles-you are sanding the profiles right?).

Now let's round up some cardboard to pack them carefully for some thrifty, nitpicking across the state and try to avoid his wrath because the shipper nicked one of the edges. Keep everything set up until your customer is certain he hasn't forgotten any doors on his order-he'll need those at light speed so he can finish and get his check and mail you one next month. Seriously, you need to shop around a bit-find a shop locally (within 50 miles) that can supply you with good service and quick turnaround. First off your supporting your local economy, second your saving the freight and minimizing shipping damage, third you'll probably find the pricing very competitive. Also if you find a shop with any depth of tooling it will expand your offerings of profiles for frames, raises, and edges.

From contributor Z:
One panel this size would cost me around $225 and as long as I had an order over $1000 they will bring it to my shop.

From contributor E:
I use Cabinet Components. They sell more than just doors. Items they sell include face frames, drawers, doors, and hardware. They even have a thing called Cabinet Pacs which is the whole cabinet system and all I have to do is take the parts to the job site and set it up. This saves me so much time and money I love it.

From contributor T:
I was getting ready to start outsourcing doors just to be able to compete with the scores of other shops doing this, and charging way less than I do for a kitchen because it's so inexpensive and faster than making them. Then the bid I lost last month came back and hired me because he found out all the other guys were outsourcing. I found a couple door companies I'd probably use for poplar or a budget kitchen that didnít matter but I can't seem to trust a door shops ability to grain match on a kitchen that matters.

From contributor L:
My thoughts on grain match - if the client is willing to pay more for a match and is given a choice I have no problem spending the extra time. However, if the client is unwilling to pay more for the extra time and material it takes then he gets quick match. Very few clients will know the difference or care. For those that do you get paid for your effort.

From contributor T:
"Very few clients will know the difference or care." That's unfortunately true. I usually have to point out to them that the same piece of wood carries continuously across the rails of each door in a line, etc. They're always excited when they can see it, but otherwise they'd never have a clue.

From the original questioner:
The door style is 2 3/4 style/rail. 1/4 bead inside edge, aspen raised panel, outer edge left sharp and a half round mould on the face. Five piece drawer heads. The top outlined is hard maple paint grade and the rest is select cherry. No pitch pockets and no sap wood. Paint grade sanded smooth and cherry sanded for stain. Panels only have to be flattened on the back because most of them get mitered and go against the carcass and are not seen.

From contributor F:
I am currently outsourcing my first set of doors. Usually I make them, but because of a rush I wouldn't be able to finish in time if I made them myself. I make my own doors mainly out of pride, and to have control of the delivery. I can pump out a door in a few minutes. I keep four machines dedicated to doors and drawers for the entire length of a project. Many a time I have closed the deal on a job by being able to deliver in a few days or a week, while my outsourcing competitors are still waiting for doors to be delivered. I have found that most customers like knowing that I am building the entire project in my shop. So long as I am getting my full shop rate while making doors and drawers, the only thing I see to outsourcing is freeing up shop time if you are really busy (few are these days). The other problem with outsourcing doors is what happens when you mess up a door; and we all have dropped, drilled wrong, scratched etc. I can turn out a new door in a half hour, I don't have to make excuses to the customer and wait five-seven work days to replace it.

In my opinion, shops that outsource doors, face frames and drawer boxes and many here tout are hardly cabinet makers. They should probably choose a yellow page listing under kitchen design or warehousing. When the economy is slow, you can get by on a lot fewer jobs and stay profitable by keeping most of the job in-house.

From contributor O:
I agree with you contributor F. Sometimes you can stay profitable but if you don't stay within your margins (too much time spent on fabrication/finishing) it can become a problem. I unfortunately have learned this first hand. Outsourcing (even if more expensive) can sometimes save money on a job and if youíre a small or one man shop like me, help with the time aspect as well.

From the original questioner:
This is the way it breaks down.

Cost for kitchen = $13650
Cost for material = $3000
Sales person = $1500

Letís say it takes four weeks= $2000 for bills= $6500 = $7150 divided by160 hours = $44.68/hr
Cost of kitchen = 13650
Cost for material $3000
Sales person $1500

Letís say three week build = $1500 for bills and $4000 for doors = $10,000 = $3650 divided by 120 hours = 30.41

Here is the thing - if I had the equipment like two more shapers a wide belt a digital stop on the chop saw a clamp rack and 10-20 more pony clamps. If I had a few more machines, not even digital fence and I got down to three weeks it would be $63.75/hr so $63.75/hr x 40 hours a week = $2550 a week = $1500 for me and $1050 for the shop. Please correct me if Iím wrong.

From contributor K:
I think the one thing that you may be wrong on is your estimate for the time it will take you to build them if you are not really set up for it. Also the cost of material you have the same on both estimates. Your overhead will be more to cover the extra machines. If you shop around you should be able to get that order for $2000 or less. If you change your numbers to fix these things, then it will be real. You can do whatever you want to, but this is just advice from someone that builds and buys doors.

From contributor L:
Interesting that your material cost remains the same - doors or no. Average cost of doors, drawer faces and panels $87 if outsourced ($4000/46pc.)

From the original questioner:

Ok so add $450 for material and add $712 for shipping. So i made $262. The total bill was $4995 with shipping. Even if I bought the machines for the cost of this one kitchen it would pay for equipment and I would own them outright. For $2,000 that is a no brainer.

From contributor K:
I agree with others that you should be able to get that order done for a lot less than what you quoted. We make our own also for our cabinetry and furniture, but buy from time to time (mostly for re-facing jobs and emergency jobs). We make our own because it's a pride thing. The companies we use for outsourcing doors when we do, Conestoga and Elias Woodwork, can literally have a replacement door to you in a day or two. If it was their fault, they eat the whole cost, including shipping.

I can tell you we've done the numbers on this, and it is more profitable to outsource, as you can have more jobs go through your shop. Ask yourself this, which is quicker - making the boxes or the doors? Kind of a no-brainer. What are the two main bottlenecks in most shops for cabinetry? Doors and finishing. If you outsource those, you have removed the two main bottlenecks from your shop, and can process more jobs.

As far as outsourcing your doors meaning that you aren't a true cabinet shop, I don't buy that analogy, because that is like saying that if you don't personally make every aspect of your project (down to mouldings, corbels, cabinet accessories, etc.), and an employee makes it instead, that it is not a cabinet. An outsourced project from a company is an employee of your company that you don't pay employee costs for. The main difference is if they screw up, they are responsible and eat it, if your employee or you screw up, you eat it. Add to it, you don't have employee costs associated with it.

From contributor Y:
Just for a price comparison, using your sheet above, my numbers came in at $1963.23 FOB my shop near Florence, SC. We are a small cabinet shop (three man) but do process doors for other shops, contractors and individuals. This order would take me approximately 3 1/2 days to produce. We process using three dedicated shapers, a widebelt, 20" planer, a panel saw, and lots of pipe clamps. Everything is random orbit sanded to 120 grit. Size tolerance is 1/16". We also use the CNC to process MDF doors and special profiles in wood.

From the original questioner:
Contributor K Ė hereís the thing. I know that I need to outsource, I truly do. But at these prices or even $3500-$4000 it wonít work.

Never the less I could not even sell an average size 12"x30" to a customer for $113. I know it will give me at least a 50% gain in profits a year but not with totally unreasonable prices. I too have a heartfelt feeling for building my own doors, but for now outsourcing will help me reach my goal faster.

From contributor K:
I think I see the problem now. What are you basing your prices on? Anytime I see unreasonable prices a red flag goes up.

From the original questioner:
If a one man shop gets a bad deal once it will be shut down or will never have a chance to grow!

From contributor K:
When I hear "unreasonable prices" in my opinion that means that you don't have a clear understanding of your costs and what you need to charge for a product. I don't care if you are a one-man shop or have 25 employees, the basics do not change, just the scale. Every time I have encouraged someone to raise their prices, I always hear that they can't get more. There is someone in your market right now, who is not only charging more, but getting it. There will also always be someone less expensive.

In either case, what you charge must support what you need to make and that includes a profit for your business, which is above and beyond what your costs are (which includes your pay). If you are standing in front of a potential customer and they cannot afford what you need to make, listen closely Ė they are not your customer, unless you want to sell them a lower quality brand, where you can make a little money for pushing paperwork for someone elseís product. But if you play the pricing game of lowering your prices, you should not lower your prices below the threshold of what you need to make, just to gain a client (this is known as "buying business") until you have a customer that can pay what you need to charge. Your job 100% of the time is finding that next customer who can. They are out there.

As we can see in this thread, you gave away a huge chunk of change by not knowing your prices - call it a learning experience. Now, this money must be made up somewhere or it comes out of the only place it can Ė your pocket.

The next time you have a potential client ask for a discount look them straight in the eye and tell them "my prices reflect a fair price for an excellent product, and they already take into consideration the current economic environment. I want to work with you, so it may be that we need to look at something a little less substantial that is more in your pricing comfort zone". Then show them the brochure for the cheapo brand. It is very important that you do not budge from the pricing you were at for your regular product at this point. All that does is open it up to question how much more they can get from you.

You should treat the price you charge as a line you won't cross, because every time you do, the money must be made up somewhere, because all your other costs do not go down, so that leaves only one place - your families pocket. You can negate a lot of this by telling your potential customer at the beginning of your meeting - "this will either make sense for you or it won't, but you won't have to worry about me trying to sell you or play pricing games. The price is the price and my customers choose to work with me because they see a fair price for an excellent product (and then with a big smile). Isn't that a refreshing way to do business?"

From contributor W:
The critical issues I see that increase the cost of this order:

Custom stile/rail size of 2 3/4" (our standard is 2 3/8").
Custom widths on several other pieces.
We don't have that panel cutter in stock.
Color matching/Grain matching on cherry.
No sap on back of door, if required.
Euro size tolerance (1/16 is ok for full overlay of course).
5 piece drawer fronts with raised panels.
Shipping of cabinet back, the rest can fit on a pallet I believe.
Moulding on the face of the door.

Without having the final number in front of me, I would say yes, the price could easily by two or three times the price of a job without these requirements, not even including the price for a custom panel cutter if required. Custom is lots more work!