Pricing Kitchen Cabinets

Price by the foot, or by the box? Cabinetmakers discuss the pros and cons of different estimating and pricing methods. May 20, 2006

I was trying to come up with an easy and fair way of pricing. This is a rough idea:
1. $125 for base boxes up to 48''
2. $100 for hanging up to 36"
3. $f.f., doors and drawers fronts x 2.5 (I sub these out)
4. $35 for drawers
5. misc. hardware x 1.5

A little info on how I build:
3/4 ply boxes
full extension ball bearing drawers
precat topcoat (glazing would be extra)

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)

From contributor B:
In my mind, you're making it too hard. Don't know where you are and what your competition is doing, but just figure a per foot cost. Mine are running $175/foot for base and $175/foot for 42" upper with adjustable shelves. Raised panel ends and backs are $20/square foot finished. Extras such as pullout trays or excessive drawer banks are extra. Normal kitchen includes a pullout trash drawer and bank of pot drawers. Oven cabinet up to 96" tall is $500. These prices are finished, full extension slides, and installed, including crown. I think it is much easier to figure a per foot cost than to go through all the figuring you've got to do.

On upper cabinets, I get the same for a cabinet with doors as I do for open shelving without doors. I don't stain the insides of cabs behind doors, but open shelving requires that the plywood be the same species as face frame and doors, and you've got to stain it.

From contributor G:
Too cheap. Go to Home Depot or your local big box, do-it-yourself store and get a price quote and see how you compare. I bet you are half the price of them. You will find out that things take twice as long to complete as you think at first and unless you have a lot of backup cash, you will not be in business very long. I know because I was too cheap when I started. I shut down a few years and then tried it again. A kitchen that I sold in 1995 for $3000, I would charge $9000 for today.

From contributor E:
Are those prices for cabinets only? What about finish and countertops? And do you build your own doors?

From contributor K:
I agree with contributor G. Find out what other places are charging and compare. I also agree to charge by the foot. When I first started, I was way too cheap. I got myself into debt that I'm still pulling myself out of. I got lucky and had a designer tell me what others were bidding on the kitchens she was designing. I built a kitchen for 10,000 that other bidders were going to charge 30,000 for. That almost ruined me. Now I'm charging about 22,000 for the same kitchen and am getting the work and making a living. Not getting rich, though. But I look at it this way - I may get more kitchens at 22,000 and will be busy; they may only get a few kitchens and then have a slow time. Of course, I get slow, too. So it depends on where you want to be. Cheap isn't good because when you start realizing that you aren't making money, you start to lose interest in the work, give out poorer quality, etc. Find a medium and run with it.

From contributor B:
That's finished and installed, no countertops. I'm in Louisiana, not Chicago or New York City. Prices vary greatly from area to area, and I know that. I just know that pricing per foot is the easiest way to price, at least for me.

From contributor J:
I do not think that pricing by the foot is accurate and because of this, it is not wise. We do not build a foot of cabinetry; we build a box. Pricing trim by the foot works well, but in my opinion, by the foot is for people who are only concerned with getting a price fast, not for people concerned with getting an accurate price.

I will give you an example. Customer wants 30' of base cabinetry. It works out that on this job, you can build ten 36" wide base cabinets. Let's say that these cabinets are oak with raised panel doors and natural finish. Price includes install, but does not include tops (they are by others). And let's just say that your price by the foot is $200 installed. That would be $6,000. If this same 30' of cabinetry is changed so that we have to build twenty 18" boxes, you would still be charging the same for twice as many boxes.

The way I do it and the way I think is most accurate is to price by the box, then add the things that go into that box, like doors, drawer fronts, drawers, hardware, finish per piece, finished ends, fillers, install, delivery. It sounds like you are close to being on the right track.

I figure that it is going to take us about 3 hours per box not including doors, drawer fronts, drawers, finish, finished ends, delivery or install. We charge $40 per hour as our shop rate. So I figure that one of those two door base cabinets will go like this.

Box = $120
Doors = $64 (We make these, but it is the going rate for doors in my area. We just put in our own door shop and are loving it.)
Finish = $24 ($12 for each door)
Install = $25
Box parts = $37 (we use white melamine, no face frame)
Subtotal = $270
x15% for profit = $310
Times this by 10 and add delivery and that is what I would charge.
310 x 10 = 3100 + 250 = 3350

Now if you take that same footage, but make them all 18" 1 door base cabinets, then it goes like this.
Box = 120
Door = 32
Finish = 12

Install = 25
Box material = 37 (notice this is the same for both boxes and is an average that works for us)
Subtotal = 226 + 15% = 260
$260 x 20 plus 350 for delivery and your grand total is $5,550.00. That is over two thousand dollars that you would miss if you did it by the foot.

From contributor K:
Contributor J is right on. Price per foot could get you in serious trouble if you overlooked a few small details. You are on the right track about pricing every cab you make. Don't lowball.

From contributor A:
This may not help on your first kitchen, but in my opinion, pricing by the foot in my area is generally used by the shops that have a generic line of cabinets that they supply to the average and economy builders.

I have been using eCabinets for my design and pricing for 3 years now. The software is in continuous development, and there is some learning time involved, but it is free to the cabinet shops and for free, it is a very powerful tool.

You set up the material lists in the software and account for price per square foot of sheet goods and price per linear foot for solid stock. You set the markups in the software and add a waste factor for the percentage of cutoff that gets left on the floor. You pick the hardware and doors and set the markup on these as well, which they supply you with pricing for items such as hardware and doors. You figure your overhead and profit margins that you need to make money.

Then with all of these variables plugged into the software, when you design a cabinet or a whole kitchen, with the click of a mouse, it will tell you a complete breakdown for every piece of material, give you overhead, and profit margin and ideal selling price. It will also give you cutlists and nest the sheet goods for you so you will be able to get the highest percentage of material out of a sheet.

It also allows for a very nice presentation to the customer, by showing what the finished kitchen looks like. Many times my prices are a little more than the competition, but I still win a high percentage of the jobs I choose to bid on, in large part because of my presentation to the customer.

From contributor E:
How about this... Figure your cost of making a 24" base cabinet in an above average cost species. In my case, about $61. Take that times your labor rate and the amount of time it took you to build that cabinet. $40 x 3 or 4 hours… say $140. 140 + 61= $201 / 2 = about $100 for 1 foot of bare bones base cabs. Add in your profit, overhead and components. Is this the type of per foot pricing that you guys are referring to as not accurate enough? I don't see how this won't work.

From contributor B:
All I know is this. I build every run just as big as I can, and I don't build 20 18" cabinets if I need 30' of cabinets. I'll build 30' of cabinets in 3 or 4 boxes. That's the way I do things. I've got an average price per foot. That's what it is… just an average price per foot. I may give up a dollar or two or make an extra dollar or two. My average price per foot is based on a kitchen. I'll have a sink base with no drawer, and a bank of pot drawers. I'll have a trash pullout. I price it per foot. Now, if somebody spec'd out that I build 20 cabinets 18" wide, I wouldn't use a price per running foot, cause that's not my normal system, and I'd upcharge it. I guess everybody's got their own system. I just don't want to have to spend hours and hours pricing every job. Measure the number of feet, add the extras, and know the cost.

I don't charge for every drawer bank in a bathroom vanity. Just an average price per foot. I build lots of vanities with no drawers because they aren't wide enough. Any vanity wider than 38" will have a drawer bank. They are all priced the same per running foot. Why? Cause it all averages out in the end. If they get two drawer banks in a vanity, that's an extra. I work for builders who can take my pricelist and know what I'm going to charge them for a job. I don't spend an hour or two on an estimate. They look at the plans, look at my price schedule, and know what I'm going to charge them. They know what my extras are, and what I'm going to charge them. Keeps life simple!

From contributor D:
I agree with contributor B. Pricing by the foot is easier and will average out it the long run. My only question is where do you people live to be able to charge the prices that you do? Here in east Texas, I do good to get around $100 a LF for an average base and the same per ft for uppers. I would love to get more, but if I tried, then the other cabinet shops in town would get the job.

From contributor B:
It all depends on where you live. I normally get $85/foot unfinished for base with butt-joint drawers with epoxy coated hardware or 36" upper with adjustable shelves. Those are unfinished but installed prices. The $175/foot I mentioned above is a couple of jobs I've picked up recently in Slidell, Louisiana. They are post-Katrina rebuilding projects. Those are finished prices with dovetailed drawers, full extension hardware, and full overlay doors. Uppers are 42" with some extra molding at the top. The Slidell area brings much more money than the Baton Rouge area. I can actually drive the 90 miles and charge Slidell prices and come out better than working here in the Baton Rouge area. What does the realtor say? Location, location, location!

From contributor J:

The reason that pricing by the foot is not as accurate as by the box, plus all the stuff that goes on the box, is this. It takes as long to build a 12" box as it does to build a 36" box. As for building boxes as long as you can, great, but don't tell me that a 60" upper takes you five times as long to build as a 12" upper. And there are more times that you have to build 12" uppers than there are times that you have to build 60" uppers.

As for the pricing averaging out in the long run, this just isn't true unless you are getting all the jobs that you bid. The ones that you would make a little more on go to the shop that prices by the box and the ones that you make a little less on you get.

I have written a spreadsheet for my pricing and can price a whole house in about 10 minutes. It really is much easier than you think and at the end of the bid, I have a budget for the doors, the boxes, the labor, the drawers, the finish, and the install. This way I know if I am making money on a job because I have a target number to shoot for on each job.

P.S. I am in Utah but do much of my work for other shops that goes out of state.

From contributor N:
Please don't forget that there are many more benefits that you can tout to your clients to increase the value of your work and therefore the price you can charge. Do you always deliver on time? That is worth something. Do you guarantee your work? For how long? That is worth something. Can you indulge the whims of your clientele (i.e. stay flexible) due to your local presence? That is worth something. Are most or all your customers absolutely delighted with your work? That is worth something. If all you do is compare your boxes to their boxes, then the price becomes the big idea. If you bring your professionalism and your service and whatever else besides the boxes to the bargaining table, that adds real value to your customer's overall experience, price doesn't steal the show and you should be able to put more money in your pocket than the other shops around you who are less professional, less dependable, etc.

From contributor S:
Start lower than most and work your per linear foot pricing up until you get about 70% hit rate on estimates. A low hit rate means you're too expensive and a high hit rate means you’re too cheap. You want to work smart, not hard, so getting less work for more money is where you want to be at. Every market has its acceptable rate. Your market area might be paying less than other areas for same work. You want to find your pricing range in your area. Marketing plays a big part. If you get an opportunity to estimate on 10 jobs and you only get 7, you're doing well. If you're doing 1000 estimates and you still only get 700, you can pick the 7 best and do even better from those 7 than you would have from the first 7.

From contributor R:
LF pricing is fine as long as you price it as a bottom of the line kitchen, then add for every little extra that they want. A corner base with a lazy susan gets 3ft one way, then another foot going the other way. That's 4 ft at 125-200 depending on how they act and if I want to work for them. Then at least a 200 dollar upgrade on top of that. 600-1000 dollars isn't bad for a 36'' cabinet with a little 12'' 90 degree offset.

People that trash LF pricing act like we just build whatever the customer wants and it's 200 bucks a LF measuring the wall. LF pricing is a great starting point. Now I just ask them what they want in a set of cabinets, estimate the size of the kitchen, and shoot them a price. Why pull out a tape when you can guess within a foot or two of the size of the entire kitchen, then round up a couple of feet? I don't make money doing estimates. I can't measure a kitchen, then draw them a picture detailing how it will look when completed. I just say small kitchen, RP red oak or maple doors, matching FF and cheap epoxy slides, birch boxes, finished with nitro lacquer and installed, 7K without tops. Same kitchen in a nicer neighborhood with a Lexus in the drive may cost 12 K. Do any of you just jack up the price for fun?

From contributor O:
I have, on occasion, jacked a price a couple of grand because of the new BMW in driveway. And I felt lousy about it, so I did a killer finish and gave the guy a new DeWalt cordless drill and his wife got a Thomas Kincaid painting. Came to about $900 altogether. Then they referred me to two more gravy jobs! Now I just straight bid and give the homeowner a fancy bottle of wine. And I agree - per foot pricing with add-ons charged at cost plus.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor H:
I find a large national cabinet manufacture that makes cabinets similar to mine. I then get a price book from that manufacture and go from there. If I have to make adjustments from their price I use percentages. Sometimes I will deduct 20% from list and still make a nice profit and the customer thinks they are getting a discount. These guys have their prices pretty much to what the market will bare and they usually are competitive with other similar manufacturers.

Comment from contributor I:
I am in California and am constantly bidding against Home Depot and other big cabinet suppliers. I order all of my doors and drawer boxes. The way I bid it out is I start with a base of 35 per sq. ft. of face frame. Then I add another 4 dollars per sq. ft. to the cost of the door I pay for. The finishing I do myself and charge about $6 for clear lacquer and $10 to $12 for a stained lacquer finish. Drawer boxes are always solid maple with a dovetail finish. They last forever so I don't use anything else.

I charge about $125 per box because they are pricey and it includes the Blummotion drawer guides I use. My kitchens are built with solid hardwood face frames with 3/4 inch melamine or whatever they want in 3/4 with half inch backing. That way there are no styles visible on the inside. All doors are solid hardwood with dummy doors on all sides of cabinets. The price I use makes me pretty good money, and I am still out bidding the big cabinet stores. Square foot of face is the most accurate way to bid.