Pricing Trim Installation

GC's may ask for a square-foot price, but pricing by the piece or by the cut makes more sense. September 3, 2005

We have always trimmed homes by the man hour. All the GCs supply the trim, doors, and shims. We supply the labor and nails for our own guns. Some of the larger home builders have asked us for an all around price per sq foot of home price. I've been told most trim installers bid this way, but is it a good way to bid?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
I would say bidding this way is inviting abuse of your time. If you give a sq ft bid, what kind of trim does it include? You can possibly have the same bid for a house that is just going to have base board, window and door trim and a house with crown chair rail and other moldings. What about the complexity of the room? A square/rectangular room would be great for you. But a room with multiple bump outs and a lot of 45 walls is a different story. I would say a LF of trim would be a better measurement to give a bid by than a sq ft. Don't let the builder dupe you into giving your work away.

Years ago I priced by the square foot until I realized the GC's were eating my lunch. There are so many variables from one builder to the next that make that pricing unfair to either you or the builder (usually you).

I have individual prices for everything I do - per door, per window, per foot of crown, per stair tread, per foot of handrail, and on and on. This way is fair to both the builder and myself. Just tally up amounts at the end of the job for the invoice amount.

I agree with the above. I have found in a lot of cases, that, although lineal feet certainly adds to the cost of materials and to labor to some extent, the number of joints and what type of joint is the larger factor when it comes to labor. Bidding trim based on the square feet of the building is like driving a car blindfolded. You never know what you might run into.

I agree with everyone on pricing by the piece in some way or another, and on pricing by the cut for some things, especially crown. A 12 X 12 room is cake, but add a valance or a chase, and suddenly you've got at least two more cuts, more trips up and down the ladder, factored further by the number of pieces of crown, how far off the ground, etc.

Trim has to be priced by the item, because of time. I used to basically run 65 per pre-hung and trim, cased window 45, stool and apron 70, crown 4" average was 300 basic for a 12 x 12 plus 45 per corner. For chair rail, we charged 200 for a 10 x 10 . If ceilings were above 8', we charged for that; staging, builder supplied or paid for. No heat, no power, no trimmer. Baseboard - just pick a number that will pay for your day with enough extra to cover having to clean up the mess left behind that you have to remove to put your base in. Closets are tiny and slow, so add money.

In Canadian dollars, we are pricing at $1.20 per sq.ft. of the finished area. I do my takeoff with my set of prices, and once I find out all the materials and sizes used, I compare the $1.20 price to my takeoff price, then pick a number somewhere in between.

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Comment from contributor P:
I usually bid larger projects where taking off linear feet of baseboard is not realistic, so I price per square foot based on how chopped up the unit/house is and the size and style of the base. All other items are priced per item, i.e. per door, window, linear feet of crown or shoe, and per foot of rail. Never neglect to include a disclaimer stating the amount of trips you are willing to make to each job. Stating that I will make one trip for exteriors, one for first trim, and one for punch helps me get trip charges if they keep coming up short on material or are not ready for me to complete my work.