Pricing Cabinet Installs

This thread on installation pricing takes an interesting approach: Compare with what the big-box stores charge. December 2, 2006

I have been installing displays and kitchen/bath cabinets for about four years. I did it mostly in Home Depots. I worked for a small company. Bidding for these jobs is nothing like the way it's done in residential jobs. I have read about bidding jobs here, and the information is very good, but I was wondering what you would say the average per cabinet would be. I understand that this may be difficult to figure. I ask because I contacted a guy today about being hired as an employee. He told me that he hires subs. As we talked a little more, he ended up asking me what I charge per box for an install. I told him I will have to get back to him. Per box includes toe kick, scribe, fillers, and small crown.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor J:
I would go with the Home Depot installer rate, which I think is either around $99-$120 per foot basic install. Then they add everything else as extras - crown, light rail, etc. If I remember correctly, the average kitchen would be at least 3k just for the install. If you're interested in making money, get your contractor's license, insurance and install for H.D. Those guys make good cash. I still have days I think about making the switch. As to how much per box... No idea, sorry.

From contributor F:
Contributor J had some good advice. I install for a couple of Lowe's outlets in Los Angeles plus some other cabinet companies. I can't give you a price per box, as that information is confidential, but I actually have a better idea. Prices vary all over the country, so I suggest you go to the installation manager at one of the HD stores you do displays at and ask the install manager what their points are per box and the going rate per point. At Lowe's, all the extras such as trim are based on an 8' stick of trim. So that's kind of hard to break down per box, although that's what we would charge if it really was only one box.

A word of caution. The big box companies can book us out 3 months in advance with work. So we're talking volume here. Price differently for a shop that can't match that kind of workload. As I can see you're aware by your post, installing in a residential setting is a lot more difficult. Plumb, square, straight and level are the goals and you will fight to balance every install. That takes time. You've got a great head start knowing how they go together and a lot of experience with built up trim. A good plus, so charge for that knowledge. Now just make it all fit in an imperfect world!

One more note, adding to what contributor J said. Get your license and go legal. It's a ton of paperwork and insurance to install for the big boxes, but small shops will want you to be covered, too.

From contributor E:

The thought of working for Home Depot and having to install the poor quality cabinets they sell makes me cringe. You can't do a quality installation with the trash they sell. Per box price is variable by the state you live in. I charge 22 per box, and I get more work than I can handle. I am self-employed and in ten years, I have never advertised, just let my work do the advertising for me. The trick to being a successful installer is you have to be meticulously anal. Everything must be detailed to perfection, every time. No cutting corners, no half-assing it. 110% perfection, 24/7. Great service is also a quality of a successful installer. Show up on time, get the work done, and always offer follow up service.

If you're trying to get your name out there, but have no referrals, shoot for $13 a box to start. Do excellent work every time. (I can't stress that enough), and word will get out that you are a top notch installer. Word of mouth is really big in this industry - use it to your advantage. As the work starts lining up, you can raise your price per box. Builders are willing to pay if they know you are going to put up a masterpiece in the kitchen.

From contributor O:
I used to do a major percentage of cabinet refacing for Home Depot in San Diego and the crap materials and prices they charge are unbelievable. I used to advise people to just buy new cabinets and I would install them. I would charge between $28 and $35 per box and that included toe kick, scribe, fillers, and handles if they bought them. I now live in Taos, NM and I just install cabinets. I usually charge $35 per box for a single home and on big condo or apartment jobs, I will charge between $25 and $30 per box and that includes everything.

From contributor J:
I wanted to update my last post. While talking to my friend yesterday (one who is a manager at H.D.), I was informed that my pricing was way behind. Even though I only left about 5 years ago, the pricing has increased rapidly. The $3k average I remember when I worked there has increased to $4-$6k.

I must say I feel enlightened, as I have been charging my clients about half that. I'm sure this varies from region to region, but I have to say I can't imagine charging less than $100 per box, and being able to make any money. At $50 or less per box, a small kitchen with say 10 cabs would net $500. Plus extra if there is molding or anything else. That would barely cover labor for me and a laborer, never mind overhead expenses.

Like I said, different areas are getting different rates, but if guys are that busy, maybe it's because you aren't charging enough? I'm not trying to question anyone's business practices. If you can do it for those prices and make a profit, then by all means keep it up.