Kitchen Pricing for Newbies

So this guy's trying to figure out how much to charge for building a kitchen for a relative. Naturally, it's all relative. But beginners could begin to grasp the basics of pricing from this discussion. June 8, 2008

I do mostly installs (trim, cabinets, flooring), but work was slow and my sister was building a house... so I made the cabinets for her. I am pretty clueless with pricing a kitchen build, so if anybody would make a ballpark estimate on what you would charge for this kitchen (with installation, no tops), I would appreciate it. This is the second kitchen I've built.

The doors (unfinished) and drawers (pre-finished) are outsourced. I did all the finishing for the rest of it. 8 drawers (one of which is oversize at 24" deep and 12" tall), all Tandem with Blumotion. 1 trash can, 1 rollout soft close pantry, 2 spice pullout racks (behind white columns). Mixer lift, 4 tray dividers.

The white cabs are soft maple with white vinyl sealer, glazed, and then pre-cat. The island is red oak with a varnish topcoat. Two-piece Curtis crown, all the way around the room (matching cabinets where it touches the cabs, and paint grade for the rest of the room). Frame and panel finished ends on the refer and island. The baseboard is two piece, and the island is 4x10 and the wall cabs are about 15 linear feet.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
This topic as asked will open the Can-O-Worms. You will be told to calculate your overhead, labor, materials, etc. and then make what you can and then be happy with what you got. Are you working out of your garage? Do you have employees? Are you licensed and bonded? Do you have insurance? Did you provide your customer with a quote? Are you and your sister arguing over what you think you need to get paid? This is not the place for the easy button, although at times it could happen. You may get a better idea of competitive cost by taking a measured drawing to Home Depot and just asking for a price. That said, $19-24,000 in Northern California.

From the original questioner:
I read this site enough to know I am inviting a hailstorm. But no, I'm not a licensed cabinet shop, and I don't have employees. I can't really figure my overhead because this isn't what my usual work is. As I said, I am usually an installer, not a builder. I know I'm not going to get retail price for the kitchen, I am just curious as to what that might be.

From contributor K:
What did you charge?

From the original questioner:
Don't know yet. She just said let me know how much more I owe you. Anybody else care to WAG it?

From contributor R:
I'd be about 10k from what it looks like, but it's really hard to tell with what you've posted. Washington State.

From contributor J:
As you probably already know, it's difficult for us to tell you what to charge. It's even more difficult when there is not enough detailed information provided to give an honest appraisal.

My suggestion (for what it's worth) would be to figure out how many hours you have invested in it and charge by the hour. Materials obviously billed separately. The reason I think this is your best bet is that you're doing it for family and it's not your profession. By that I mean you're not trying to figure out how to charge for your work in general, just for this one job.

On a slightly different note, you probably don't want to let this happen again. I don't want to tell you how you should run your business, but in my opinion getting to the end of a job, regardless of what it is, and then telling someone what it's going to cost, is a surefire way to have some bad things happen. Figure out a cost ahead of time, even if it's paying by the hour, week, etc. You may end up charging your sister a lot less than you think it's worth, and still having her feel like it was too much! Hopefully this won't be the case, but the potential is there so be careful in the future.

My frameless kitchens start at about 18k in the NE.

From contributor C:
If it's for your sister, then she should just pay for the materials. Use the time for the next one so you will know how to bid it.

From contributor A:
If your sister offers you any money at all, take it, give her a peck on the cheek, and quickly distribute the beer money. You should thank the relative Gods that she's planning on paying you and you are still planning on speaking to her. It's obvious... T&M. Unless you didn't keep track.

From contributor O:
From what I can tell, I'd be about 15 - 20K. I would do what contributor J says about billing her a fair rate for your time and materials separately. This can be a tricky one, especially if it took you a lot longer than anticipated. By the way, the kitchen looks great.

From contributor B:
I would use the following as a simple way to figure it out. Figure out your COGS:
- Total material cost, and that means everything.
- Hours spent building, finishing, and installing and times that by what you pay yourself (or someone else) an hour (an example would be between 20-25 dollars an hour... just an average).
- Cost to deliver (rental truck or yours).
- Labor help (if any).

Add all that up and mark it up by 20-30%. That markup should borderline cover your business expenses (or at least until you do a few more and figure out that added cost) and make your company some profit. I know this is very vague and doesn't account for a lot of detail in business expenses, but based on your question and supportive info, it should get you started. Please, why don't you do us all a favor and figure that out and post it. It will only help you and some us as well (including myself). I see so many guys not even attempt to do this on jobs... Can't figure that one out.

From the original questioner:

Thanks for the replies. She's going to pay me for the job, and she's very pleased with the kitchen. Also she's pleased with the two vanities not pictured. I appreciate all the responses and advice, but I really don't understand people's aversion to putting a number out there. It not like I'm bid shopping, or I'm going to take the high number off of the post and ask for that. For what it's worth... The materials for the kitchen and baths cost about 8500. So far I have received 14500. I am thinking another 3000-3500 would be about right.

From contributor J:
I don't think you understand yet, but don't worry - a lot of guys don't. Without knowing every detail of your kitchen plan, we really can't give you a number. Every little detail and nuance affects the cost. What you've given us is a handful of info not nearly enough even for the ballpark figures you've gotten. When I get a kitchen it sometimes takes me half a day to work up the final quote. That's knowing every bit of information I'm going to need. How could I turn around and say you should charge xyz for your kitchen?

For some reason people seem to think the cost of a kitchen just magically appears in our heads when we have a picture to look at. Many of us have to sit down and spend time figuring it out. In reality you're asking us to do your work and price out a job. I think most of the guys on this site are pretty generous with their time as is, most of us are glad to help with advice. But I also think most of us draw the line at doing others work for them, which is essentially what you and others are asking whether you realize it or not. At least that's my point of view, and hopefully it makes sense.

From contributor Z:
You didn't mention bathroom cabinets. How can we quote what we don't know? That said, that kitchen should net about $15,000.00 for a one man operation like mine in central coast California. Figure about $250 a linear foot installed and finished for bath vanities. Another thing as mentioned is, it is your sister. Do you like her? If you do, then we cannot tell you how much to charge for family. I do family jobs and when I am done I don't have much money to spend.

From the original questioner:
I wasn't really looking for info on the bath cabs, just the kitchen. I apologize, but I thought that with the picture most folks could guess at the price. I know that it is not the same as an estimate or quote, because it's just a guess.

From contributor A:
Post 25 good photos of interior/exteriors and we will give you a price +/-20%. Things are priced either fixed price or T&M. We would all like to build something, figure out exactly what it cost, mark the labor and material up 30%, and hand the bill to someone. In my opinion you should bill her T & M plus 20% material markup. Why do you deserve to markup the whole project? You took no risk in pricing it in the first place.

From contributor B:
As per my last post, it looks like you're on the way to getting your price. $8500 is good. Okay, now give me an idea as to how many hours you put into it in total? I'll assume $200 for delivery. The amount of time you're spending reading and answering these posts, you would have already been at your number, but let's work through it, okay? At the end I'll give you my numbers based on your numbers, and then you'll have a number that reflects a good comparison. This way it'll get you going in the right direction for the next beautiful kitchen you build.

From contributor D:
$8,500 for materials sounds way up there. I would have expected materials to be more like $3,000.

From the original questioner:
The 8500 includes the materials for the two vanities as well. Pre-finished domestic plywood, outsourced doors and drawers, Blumotion Tandems, and that big rollout pantry. Hardware included, and they are face frame cabs. It adds up quickly. Again, I'm not asking anyone to do my job and price this out. I didn't submit a detailed layout and all the specs. Just an educated guesstimate is what I was looking for. Also, I have no idea how many hours are invested at this point. I meant to keep track but I didn't.

From contributor H:
Between ten and thirty thousand!

From contributor E:
I am always curious to see what others think cabinets should cost. Customers are usually in need of an education in this area and that is to be expected. Pros, on the other hand, should have some rhyme or reason to their estimates, which if done correctly should be a reflection of the actual cost of the job. I always estimate the time going by every little detail and this takes some time and effort on my part, but in the end I can be confident that the final cost is a fair price. The materials are relatively easy, as it is conceivable that you can be dead on as to what the quantities are and if you're up on what your material costs are, then just do the math. I never price cabinets by the foot, even though it would be a quick way to come up with an estimate. I think it is highly inaccurate. Sometimes you are high and sometimes you are too low, in the end nobody is getting treated fairly. Good luck and be aware that it can be an expensive learning process.

From contributor S:
Take those drawings to HD or Lowes and have them figure it. Tell them the home is under early stages of construction so they can't come to the home and measure them, just give them the drawings and even offer to pay their $50.00 measure charge. Tell them that at this stage of the construction, you easily shift a wall or move a door if needed to work with their modular sizes from 9'' maybe up 60''. If they accept the $50.00 detail fee, that's fine; if they don't make you pay it, then when you pick it up, just shove 20 bucks into the pocket of the poor guy who spent his time pricing it just hoping to make a sale. When you get that price it will fit the market that you're in. They price shop the market when they set up their pricing. I know because I helped Lowe's establish their prices in the Nashville, TN area. It will be a great way to not screw your sister or yourself. Show sis the price from Lowes or HD, then knock off a little because she's your sister. I have two sisters and they are great and I hope you're as lucky as I and have a great sister.

From the original questioner:
As far as timeframe goes, it's really hard to estimate because there was some starting and stopping going on for different projects. What I do know is that it took way too long. The shop where I was working is a glorified garage. I had to contend with the weather for spraying outdoors. So basically I had no workflow. It seemed like all a series of starts and stops. If I did know my exact hours it wouldn't really help because I couldn't really charge for the learning curve hours. As an aside, I went into it thinking that maybe I would like to transition my business into this type of work. However, now I'm not really interested in that. I enjoy cabinetmaking, but I'm not going to try to do it for hire again unless I am far better set up. That's why I'm not really trying to analyze my overhead, etc. Obviously, with this being the second kitchen under my belt, I'm not really qualified to give a price. However, if I were being put on the spot (and I am), I would lean towards 17000-18000 for the kitchen (not including the bath cabs). I am thinking of asking for that and telling her that the bath cabs are a free bonus.