Finishing As A Percent Of Cost

Breaking out the cost of finishing. April 10, 2005

I'd be interested in how other small shops that do their own finishing have calculated finishing into their quoted costs. Assuming in-shop finishing for paint grade, and then stain grade work. Do you simply add up the hours and material? Do you put an adder on for stain grade work because of perceived value over paint grade? If a built-in was $X painted, what would you upcharge for stain grade?

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor B:
I'm probably weird, but I don't make much of a difference between paint grade and stain grade for one reason. When something is stain grade, the grain of the wood hides a multitude of sins - people don't expect an absolutely smooth finish because of the grain of the wood. When something is painted, any and every little thing shows. I fill all holes and sand everything before it leaves the shop - paint or stain grade. On stuff I finish, I can stain and clear coat quicker and cheaper than I can paint. I'm really finicky about my finishing, but I spend less time on stain grade stuff than I do on painted stuff. When I figure finishing prices, I add up materials and estimate my labor. Then I pad my labor so I know I've covered myself because it always takes longer than I anticipated.

From contributor T:
We build and finish both paint grade and stain grade. The case work materials are a bit cheaper, but there is more labor in paint grade filling any and all imperfections in the case work. Also, the finish costs more for painted cabinets Thus, we charge more.

From contributor M:
I agree with contributor B. We charge the same for paint grade as stain grade and then even more for a glazed finish. It all has to do with the number of steps required for each process.

On the pricing side of things, we price our cabinetry like this. In our design software there is also a pricing package. We base all our prices on how long it takes to finish something, broken up in pieces. For instance, 60 min for a door, 30 min for a drawer face, etc, etc. I have all of these figures in our database. Our software calculates how many pieces there are in a certain project and calculates a total from there. Oh yeah, and we change the min figures to $$$'s based on our hourly rate. For materials, we just add what it will take to complete the job based on experience. For example, "this kitchen looks like it will take four gallons." Then when we're short every time, we call up and order more. Then when the color doesn't match quite right, we yell (notice my sarcasm).

From contributor S:
I have an excellent finisher I've used for years, and am getting a little more brave about doing my own finishing. I use his per-foot pricing, but don't add in the markup I'd ordinarily put on his price. I break out my cabinet and finishing prices so clients can buy my cabinets and use their own finisher if they don't like the price or are really keen on a specific finisher.

Mostly what I'm finding is that for basic stain and lacquer stuff, my finisher has been making bank. I'll probably feel the same way when I get more confident and capable at the more specialized stuff.

I haven't tried painting yet. I see cabinets I've built with what look like roller paint jobs on them and they look like crap. I'd rather get good at this and go with opaque lacquers.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the input. This is without a doubt the best forum for support of us guys trying to make a living at wood.

From contributor H:
I use a different approach to pricing finishing. All my finishing supplies are calculated into my overhead expenses. Every 3 months, overhead expenses are broken down to an hourly rate. For me, finishing takes about 30% to 50% of the project's time depending on its difficulty. Time estimated for finishing becomes part of the total hours to complete the project. This total is multiplied by the overhead hourly rate (covering materials). Wages and profit are a separate hourly rate which is also multiplied by the project total (covering labour). Overhead total+ wages/profit total= project total (plus tax).