Pricing Example: Bath Vanity

An emotional, but informative, discussion of cabinet pricing based on one bath vanity example. September 23, 2006

I'm a one man operation and am fairly new to contract custom cabinetry, having done it as an employee off and on for about four years. I'm being asked to bid on what would be my third contract master vanity and am wondering if the pricing I've won on so far is reasonable… or too reasonable. I'm operating in the suburbs west of Boston, so prices are high. The general contractor is asking me to price the following vanity cabinet. (I would likely outsource drawer boxes and fronts):

- 54" wide overall by 32" high by 22" deep, paint grade, unfinished
- installed
- 22" wide sink base with single false front and two doors
- two 3-drawer base cabinets to either side of the sink base
- slab fronts for the top operable drawers and false front
- shaker style doors and four drawers, plus shaker end panel on one side
- left side of vanity scribed to wall with 1.5 filler
- frameless
- pre-fin maple interior
- 4" toe kick with furniture base on right end (below end panel)
- dovetailed select maple drawers (two at about 4" high, 4 at about 10" high) -- all 18" deep.

- all six drawers on Tandem undermount slides.

Rough prices, anyone?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
Twenty-seven hundred.

From contributor P:
$1750, not including installation or exterior finish, in a pretty high-priced area... Installation around $400.

From contributor L:
Off the top of my head, I came up with $2700.00. And that was before I scrolled down to the first answer!

From contributor Y:
2150.00 installed, no tops.

From contributor T:
Here is the pricing formula we use.

4 1/2FT. x $125ft standard eurobox = 575.00
6 dov't drws with slides x 140.00ea = 840.00
6 heads Conestoga mdf x 50.00ea = 300.00
2 doors x 100.00 ea = 200.00
1 finished end plant door 125.00
wall scribe 40.00
total $2080.00
This is using Conestoga MDF pre-primed
Shaker doors and their dov't soft maple dwr boxes. tw10716 paint grade maple doors.
Add 175.00 for shop primed.
Edgebanding 1MM stock white
prefin ply interior on level legs/clip on toe
day rate (builders) deliver/install 400.00
homeowner (DDI)-design/del./ins.35%of
cabinet price = $728.00
Having done hundreds of these…

3hrs office processing/talk plan fax
2hrs batch cut EB line bore const. bore
2hrs hardware/assemble
1hr hinges/heads
6man shop - all the CMC-
If you are just a Unisaw, no eb, no boring stuff… Double the time at least.

From contributor F:
Where do you people live, with those prices? If I used that price for that type of work, I would never get any work.

From the original questioner:
Thanks to all. I particularly like the above formula and applying a lineal foot price to the basic eurobox. Before posting this message, I was coming in at about $1900 installed, but without any finish (not primed), but my reservations are that these little jobs are often losers (or "break eveners") and my time is better spent working for that next kitchen contract instead… Or maybe it isn't; I'm not sure at the moment. I think I'll bid it at $2000 even primed, and not care too much if I don't get it.

As for the comment about the Unisaw, I'm split between doing it on my Unisaw and Festool line boring setup (not fast by shop standards, but perfect) and subbing it out to a CNC, which is my standard method for anything large like a kitchen or walk-in closet. For full custom work, CNC blows everything else out of the water as far as I can tell.

From contributor P:
One little lav, outsourced drawers/doors, and you're going to have it run on a CNC? Bet you can cut, bore, and assemble it with the Unisaw faster than you can drive to wherever the CNC is! We build these 6-drawer units all the time for a big account (frameless melamine, melamine drawers, and RTF faces). Typically takes me about 1/2 hour to cut/band; my helper assembles in about an hour on a single unit; multiples go faster. Slider, double-row L.B., good bander, construction borer.

From the original questioner:
I definitely wouldn't do this one little job by itself on the CNC. I have a couple kitchens to combine it with, so at that point it makes sense to lump it into the other projects, particularly when it's the same material as one of the other kitchens.

From contributor K:
I just finished two just like this drawing for $750 each. They were 60" wide. They were paint grade, soft maple for face frames, doors and end panels. The drawers were low end Baltic birch, rabbeted. This was installed. Tops, sinks, faucets and pulls were not included.

From contributor R:
Posted by: Redneck 7/4 [ #13 -- Re: vanity pricing help ]
$885.00. Most of the quoted prices sound like BS.

From contributor P:

I stay really busy building and selling stuff at these prices. I don't get into competitive bidding situations, work by referral, make a decent, though not top-of-the-food-chain living, and turn away between 1/4 and 1/3 of the work that's offered me. For my area, I'm extremely fairly-priced in comparison to other shops producing similar work. Oh yeah. I've been licensed for 28 years, worked exclusively in cabinetry for the last fifteen.

I've spent a lot of time figuring out cost-efficient building techniques, and take a lot of pride in running a pretty lean operation. That said, with shop overhead, liability insurance, work comp, $3 gasoline, I can't build and install a 5' lavy for $750 and break even, let alone make a profit.

Out of curiosity, what're you low-end guys paying yourselves? What kind of overhead/profit margin are you figuring? What does your help get paid? What's your labor burden? Rent?

From contributor Q:
I wouldn't get out of bed if I was selling that for only $750. Some jobs aren't worth getting, let alone doing.

From contributor P:
Contributor R, without casting any aspersions, I'd like to see how you figured this job at $885, per specifications, including installation, and included a profit.

Contributor K, you actually built/installed two of these at $750 each with rabbetted drawers. How did the numbers turn out? Did you make out at that price? Would you do the job again?

This is kind of like the "Cabinetmaker" magazine survey where they throw out a set of specs for various projects and everyone estimates them - the same kitchen can be $6000 or $40000 depending on who and where...

From contributor I:
My bid for that cabinet would go out at $1900 for unfinished and installed. I'm not sure how some of you others could do it for so little. The drawer slides alone would cost me about $160 just to get them in my door.

From contributor T:
Contributor K, were those carved corner posts? Conestoga's, Art for everyday's, Enkabol's? I'd be at least $400.00 each corner plus the cost of the vanity.

From contributor W:
I would price the vanity at $2,798.00, plus tax. Our price reflects the quality and service we provide. There are plenty in my area who are always cheaper. We hear complaints about them all the time from their former customers, and they've made it very easy to sell our higher priced cabinetry. The same specs don't always mean the same level of quality.

From contributor E:
I built two yesterday. 21d, 30.5h, 39w for $300 each. These were somewhat cheap, to the customer's request. Frameless, melamine, no end panels, and rtf doors. 22" w sink base with false drawer front plus 1 door. 16" base with 1 metabox drawer and 1 door. Mel toe kick. 1" scribe to wall. Bottom line is about $95/ft. Milling, assembly and install should be about 6 hrs for both. I am a little slow :-)

From contributor V:
To the original questioner: I'm a small one man band myself in Connecticut. Our markets are pretty much the same. Unlike a lot of rural areas of the country, we are lucky to be able to command a higher price for our products. If we price our products too low, we don't get the job. I just recently priced out a modest sized kitchen to the tune of $42,000. I was almost embarrassed to give the price. I lost the bid to another shop who quoted $51,000. So go figure. Contributor T's formula is a good one for our areas. Sometimes here, pricing becomes more of a marketing strategy. You know what it costs to produce, you know how much profit is in your normal sell price, then you look at McMansion and think "what does he expect to pay for this?", then Bada-Bing - you start adding numbers to it. There's no way to justify it sometimes.

From the original questioner:
I too am shocked that anyone could want to sell the vanity contributor K so beautifully illustrated for $750, no matter what the construction.

I offer a service which is in fairly high demand and the market determines my prices, just as the market determines the price for a pair of Nike shoes. You might say that it's outrageous that Nike should ask $125 for a pair of sneakers. Nike asks what people are willing to pay, and if so many people weren't willing to pay $125, I can assure you Nike would drop the price.

I work full time, own a decent house well away from the city, drive a 12 year old Toyota, pay my bills and contribute to my IRA each year. Maybe a vacation every few years. That's how well off I am charging these prices.

From contributor K:
Those were pretty low-end vanities I did for a builder. For a homeowner, they would bring a bit more. They were 3/4 MDF boxes with full dado construction glued and screwed with 1/4" MDF backs. Face frames and door/drawer stiles and rails were soft maple. The door and end panels were MDF. Drawer boxes were just rabbeted 1/2" Baltic birch with 1/4" plant on MDF bottoms and 3/4 extension epoxy slides. The machine carved legs were $60 each. No corners were cut on construction.

Pricing comparisons on the internet are usually a waste of time. Pricing is subjective. It is determined by your location, and the economy in that location. It is determined by the volume of work available, which in turn determines the size of your plant, the type machinery you need, and the number of employees it takes to keep up with your work load. If there is a great deal of work, you have a greater flexibility to set your prices to whatever level you want and still keep your shop busy. In areas with little volume of work, pricing becomes more difficult. You can't afford to lose any job, as there just aren't enough to go around. As the volume of work available for you to bid increases, prices can go up because you can then afford to lose a percentage of the jobs and still stay busy. In other words, I think I am in a different market than the guys that get $2700 for something like this.

From contributor P:
Did you make out on those lavys, or were these fill-in break-even jobs that, at least, kept you busy? What did your materials cost? How much time, and figured at what price?

From contributor K:
These vanities were built to get my stuff in front of a new builder here. I took out all the profit and overhead calculations when bidding them to insure that I got the job. It was a good job to do this on because it is just a small remodel. It was better to lose profit on two vanities than a whole kitchen or house.

If I add those calculations back in, the vanities come in at just under $1000 each, which is still way under what many of the others posting here would get.

These vanities took
4 - 3/4X49X97 MDF
2 - 1/4X49X97 MDF
2 - 1/2X60X60 Baltic birch ply
45 - bd. ft. 4/4 Select and Better soft maple hardwood
(all of the above include waste)
12 - pair Hafele 3/4 extension epoxy coated slides
8 - Blum 120 degree clip on concealed hinges with face frame mounting plates
1 - Rev-a-Shelf Tip out tray kit split between the two vanities
Various glue, screws, staples and sand paper

All of this ran $543.60 for the two vanities together. This includes shipping charges for the hardware and my time and expenses getting materials. (I have to drive around 140 miles round trip to meet a truck and get hardwood and plywood. There are no suppliers that serve my area selling in less than full unit quantities. I usually have no less than four different species in the shop and I can't afford full units of each.)

My shop rate is $40 an hour and approximately $15.00 an hour of that goes to pay for the shop building, utilities, taxes and insurance. (Not much left for me and Uncle Sam.) I don't really know what time these took, because they were thrown in with another paint grade job I was doing at the time.

From contributor W:
Contributor R, why don't you show us how you are making the vanities available for $885.00, and making 38% net profit?

If contributor K's figures are accurate, and I don't doubt they are, $543.60 for materials doesn't leave much of anything for labor and overhead. And contributor K figured epoxy slides, with Baltic birch drawers (not Blum Tandem with solid maple drawers, as the questioner's specifications indicated).

So $885 with 38% net margins leaves $548.70 for material, labor, and overhead. How does your cost break down? If we use contributor K's material figures (which should be lower than yours, because he's using Baltic birch and epoxy slides), you would have $5.10 for labor and overhead (probably doesn't cover the cost of gas to even make a delivery).

From contributor K:
To the original questioner: Okay. The price of your cabinet should be $1819.36. I averaged the prices of all the posters ($20013.00 total) and that is what I came up with. This price should be good anywhere in the US or Australia, sold to any demographic group. Or maybe we could all just stay in bed, like contributor B.

From contributor V:
My basic cabinet construction (and I don't offer a cheaper version): All my casework is 3/4" pre-finished maple, either full or blind dadoed, screwed and glued. All my face frames are dadoed 1/4" onto my casework, glued and brad nailed from the side walls. All my drawers are finished maple, dovetailed, 1/2" maple ply bottoms. I don't particularly like the Tandem or Metaboxes in lieu of the dovetails, but I always use the Blumotion slides. The only place I try to economize is by using MDF for the center of my paint grade raised panel doors. I use no particleboard, no melamine, little MDF. The only thing I buy from HD are the stick-on door bumpers. There's my product in a condensed version.

Before I sit down and hard price a kitchen for a customer, I give them an estimate using a linear foot price. Lately I've bounced around between $750.00 and $900.00/LF for uppers and lowers. At $750 that translates to about $450 for lowers and $300 for uppers. Pantry boxes about $1200/LF. Islands! Man, they run the gamut, I start them at $600/LF of cabinet face, so if your 4' island has a 24" front box and a 12" back cab facing away, that's still 8LF of cabinet face. And then there's our all time favorite topic of vanities. They start in their basic form at $600/LF and as we speak, I have one in the shop that is a specialty cab with a bamboo leg design and distress finish, 22" x 36" x 30, for $2600.00.

Can I justify some of these costs? No! But let me tell you I lose bids at $750/LF. I'm too low, so I must have an inferior product, is the thinking. This is not rule of thumb throughout CT, but in lower Fairfield county, and I'm sure up in Boston where the questioner is, you throw away your cost sheet and make profit.

From contributor K:
This has been an interesting thread for me. Like contributor R, when I saw some of the prices quoted, I thought they were ridiculous. The reason pricing comparisons on the internet are basically worthless is because we never take the time to actually compare apples to apples. That takes actually bidding the job to spec. I threw up an example of a cabinet that was approximately the same size as the questioner's, but that was the only similarity. On top of that, it was from a job that I was doing at basically cost to get in the door with a builder (which, by the way, worked - I have four houses in the works with her).

Out of curiosity this morning, I bid the questioner's cabinet as close as I could with the info he gave us. I don't do frameless, so I calculated this job outsourcing the boxes to a CNC shop, which would cut them out using blind dado construction and edgeband for me. This ran approximately $96 dollars, which is about what it would cost me to cut them out and machine them myself, so I don't see this adding anything to the cost of the project.

It took 3 sheets of pre-finished ply to do the job any way I cut it, nesting on router or ripping through a saw. There was a lot of usable off-fall, but I let this customer pay for it in this experiment.

I used Blum 120 degree hinges and Blumotion 18" tandem slides.
I outsourced the doors to Conestoga. (I don't have any of their Shaker styles in my system, so I used the hard maple CRP-10 with a machine edge, square bead and reverse G-Cove panel.) I also used one of these doors for the end panel.
I outsourced the drawer boxes to Conestoga also (dovetailed 5/8 pre finished hard maple with 3/8 bottoms, bull nosed sides and notching for slides).
I also put in a Rev-A-Shelf tip-out tray kit behind the sink front, as this is just standard with all my cabinets.
I also outsourced one 8' piece of hard maple colonial base from Conestoga for the end.
My total material cost was $1351.67
My total labor cost for pickup, assembly and installation was $407.67
Overhead $67.58
Profit 202.99
Total cost to customer for the vanity below $2029.91.

My shop is a very small one man shop. All equipment is paid for (such as it is). I have no employees, so they get paid nothing, and I get almost twice that. The moral to this story is that I can see where the prices are coming from, but I couldn't begin to sell that vanity for even half that price in this area.