Pricing Feedback on a Built-In Entertainment Center

Cabinetmakers offer their guesstimates on a reasonable price for a typical built-in. April 21, 2008

This is a unit I already built. I did it for under 6 grand. Felt like I lost my butt on it. Am I too slow or too cheap?

Click here for higher quality, full size image

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor J:
Without any details, it's difficult to put an estimate on a piece. What materials, construction method, area (market), paint included? I will say, however, it's most likely a combination of the two. For myself it's almost always a question of being too slow. Luckily I'm at a point where I can charge enough to make a profit, even when it takes a little longer than expected. And from what I've seen in the past pricing questions, there will be some here who could do it for half as much, and some for three times as much. So basically raise your prices so you can afford more coffee to work faster :)

From the original questioner:
Ha! Thanks for the input. But I already drink two pots in the morning... Now what? I do have a tendency to nitpick a lot. I'm my biggest critic.

From contributor B:
If you provided it installed and painted, I'd say you were too cheap. If it was just cabinets of MDF with someone else doing the installation and paint, it would work for me.

From contributor M:
Do you know how many hours it really took? That's the only way to know if you were too slow or cheap. I built a similar unit to yours last year, and tracked all my hours - planning, ordering, building, spraying, installing, filling nail holes, etc., and I had 105 man hours in mine. The only difference was mine had curved fronts on the shelves and countertops, which I cannot tell if yours does or not. I also made my own crown molding on my W&H.

So I try to get 55 per man hour, which would be 5750 for labor, plus materials, which would be maybe 2000 max, plus a little profit, so I would charge about 8500 for something like you are showing, painted and installed. That would be for about 14 lineal feet, which was my project. I cannot tell how many feet yours is, but I would guess it is about that much.

It is really important to track all your time on these jobs to truly know your costs. It is the only way to be sure you charge enough for your work.

From contributor T:
$6500, fabrication only, no delivery, no installation, good design with basic drawings supplied. I'm in a big city (Toronto) Canadian market that is very hot right now. Your location can make a big difference. If you install, try to get away from those jobs. It took me quite a while. Now half my business has their own trucks and installers. Hardly use the van anymore. I'm considered "very competitive" by my clients and am fussy about quality too. I'm also fussy about my production process and am getting faster all the time. Last several months have been record highs. Wish I started this when I was a teenager, as I'd be way ahead today. Wasted my youth. Coming up to 15 years clean and sober next month. I'm 51 and should be slowing down, but I need to catch up.

Beautiful work and keep at it. It's fun when you're winning. My grandfather used to say that guys like us could make more money sitting at our desks than in the shop. In other words, do your calculations!

From contributor A:
Nice design. Price was way too low. Depending on how busy, I would price that in the $8k-$10k range. That's pre-primed, installed. I hope you didn't finish it. That's a lot of painting.

From contributor S:
It's very hard for me to tell. Depends upon how it was built. My gut tells me based upon how I would build it, that you're about $1500 too low, but that's my shoot from the hip price based on how I would do it, and shouldn't be your price, except by chance. One thing we've recently started considering is that if you're going to do a nice white painted project of any size, the finishing costs more. White is such a pain, especially in open shelf bookcases where every stinking joint seems to show a black line where any two pieces of wood come together. I'm not talking about FF joints as much as where the back and sides join, etc. Although FF joints do get special attention compared to a stained or darker colored paint job. We've even joked that it would be better for us to "roll it on and brush it out" than to spray, because at least then all the joints wouldn't scream. On a project like that one, I'd figure roughly one more day due strictly to it being painted white.