Subscribe or Renew Membership Subscribe Renew

pricing for finish and trim carpentry

ineptphilosopher's picture

hello my name is inepthilosopher from the Denver area and I am trying to put together my pricing detail for finish carpentry. For instance what should I charge as a base rate per pre hung door, per ft or per joint or cut for base, crown, casing???

Is there a good rule for estamating build in cabinetry. Thus far I have been estamating on how much time I think it will take me plus material to arive at my final price. Am I unsofisticated?? (sp)

(post #118835, reply #1 of 12)

Your method should work fine, and ultimately the number you get by figuring the amount of hours is the number you want to come up with. It doesn't really cost you anything to install x feet of baseboard, the real cost is the fact that it takes you y hours to complete the task.

Many will say you shouldn't estimate by the LF or unit because it's too inaccurate. Unfortunately, you may be forced to if you want to work for some builders. If that's the case, do your best to figure out how long an average project will take you (whether it be basement, addition, or new home) and the divide the number of feet by the number of hours you project. The hard part is you can run into conditions that will slow you down more on some jobs than others, so you have to anticipate that as much as possible with your estimate of your rate of production.


Jon Blakemore

Fredericksburg, VA


Jon Blakemore

Fredericksburg, VA

(post #118835, reply #3 of 12)

I use number of feet but upcharge for additional corners or cuts.



Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #118835, reply #2 of 12)

yes, you are unsophisticated, especially for a philosopher.
But you are on the right track.

Do job costing so that you know how much it actually takes to hang a door or how many feet of crown or of base or casing you can run in a day, on the average.
Then add for your overhead and profit when estimating.



Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #118835, reply #4 of 12)

...not "unsofistocated" but very sophistocated IMHO.  We bid electrical work on the premise of how long a job will take, not per linear foot of wire.  25,000' of wire I can install in two hours if I have a reasonable helper or two and the conduit is already run and on a rack and the runs are fairly long.  If I'm building a set of PLC cabinets for a power plant, 25,000 ft of wire might take a couple of months.

I would think with trim carp. esp. one would want to look at the job first and leave some margin for error. For instance, a job on the 12th floor of an office building in downtown denver will be much harder to get into and out of than a suburban tract home that is vaccant.


Just my two cents.



(post #118835, reply #5 of 12)

ineptphilosopher- " Is there a good rule for estamating build in cabinetry. Thus far I have been estamating on how much time I think it will take me plus material to arive at my final price. Am I unsofisticated?? (sp)"

No, actually provided you have the correct Loaded Labor Rate in place and are relatively accurate at estimating the Effort (time) involved with certain tasks you pretty much have the right idea about how to estimate anything. I say pretty much in that while you are billing for the materials you are installing the way you've described things it sounds like you are just getting reimbursed for their cost and not making any kind of Net Profit on them. I would mark up materials (as well as any subcontracting) up to earn a Net Profit on those costs too.

Your formula for pricing a project would then look like this:

(Labor_Hrs_Required X Loaded_Labor_Rate*) + (Material_Costs X NetProfit_Markup) + (SubContractingl_Costs X NetProfit_Markup) =Job Price

(note*- The Loaded Labor Rate already has NetProfit_Markup applied to it so that's why it doesn't appear in the formula)

That still leaves you with two big issues you have to get right in order for all this to work.

  1. You have to get the correct Loaded Labor Rate and...
  2. You have to relatively accurately estimate how long the typical finish carpentry tasks will take you.

As for understanding how to set the correct Loaded Labor Rate I would like to suggest you pick up Ellen Rohr's How Much Should I Charge?: Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love (and getting her book Where Did The Money Go?- Easy Accounting Basics for the Business Owner Who Hates Numbers at the same time wouldn't be a bad idea at all too).

Then if you're looking for a tool to help you set that rate and happen to have MS Excel you can download freeware Capacity Based Markup Worksheet (aka the " PILAO" Worksheet) from one of my sites. Plug in your budget values for the Variable and Fixed Overhead items and the Net Profit you want to earn and it will generate a Loaded Labor Rate for you. If you have any trouble with it you can call me at the number on the web site and I'll be glad to talk you through it.

As for number two up there "accurately estimating how long the typical finish carpentry tasks will take" that's not so cut and dried or easy. There are some people out their who have a pretty good intuitive sense for figuring how longs tasks will take but in most cases that is still a difficult and sometimes risky task. There is still no real clear cut solution for someone just starting out but the estimating manuals that are out there that publish labor times for tasks are a place you can start to get going in developing you own personal list. However it's a good thing to remember two more things:

  1. Each estimator uses the labor unit to his or her own
    interpretation of its meaning. The units are standard
    as to listing but individual as to interpretation. (in other words I might have a figure of .800 labor hours to install a prehung door and define that as just installing the prehung door whereas another estimator might interpret that to mean installing the prehung door along with the lockset and trim. So you have to figure out just what the data means and then define it again for your own use.) And...
  2. The Golden Rule of Construction Cost Estimating: Consider not only the cubic foot, cubic yard, lineal foot, square foot, pound or ton but all of the complicating conditions encountered in putting the materials in place. In other words while we may figure a typical prehung door installation to take .800 labor hours that doesn't mean that all the prehung door installations we do are going to be typical. You need to consider things like how easy is it to get the door from where it is stored to where it is going to be installed, does the door need to be modified (cut down) before it is installed etc. etc.

    So what you would do is then use your average typical installation figure as a benchmark and then estimate the effort or time the complicating conditions will take and add them in. That way you are not looking at every item you need to estimate as if it was something you have never done before. You can use your own productivity history and spend your estimating time thinking about and estimating the complicating conditions.

You might also want to read this old post of mine from back in 2003 where I describe some of the things we think of and consider when coming up with our finish woodworking estimates: interior trim bid.

(post #118835, reply #11 of 12)

Wow !!! thank you so much for all your input especially Jarreld Hays (I will not call you mister) It has been very helpful. My wife Carrie and I are going out of town for a few days and I will be reviewing all these suggestions on our trip. Upon return I will have about 6 hundred more questions for you all. your sugestions have been helpful in encourageing me to work harder to "cross the line" from trades to trades business. More on that later.


(post #118835, reply #6 of 12)

All the advice here is goo.  I've never really done it any other way than what you are saying. Piffin said it right. I figure what I can do in a day, do a markup on material and any hired labor, and then mark what your profit will be.  Mind you, profit is not the money you pay yourself as salery. 

Each person's intuition is different and mine is not that great (along with many of my fellow tradesmen).  I usually figure what I think I can do in a certain period of time at a given rate per hour (what I really want to make and think is fair), then I double it, then add in the material and any extras.  More often than not that figure comes in right on.

Trim carpentry estimating comes with experience.  You know what you can accomplish in a day after years of doing it. 

I do a lot of repair and restoration so many times I'm on T&M.

(post #118835, reply #7 of 12)

From: Jer - "...Mind you, profit is not the money you pay yourself as salary."

Thanks for saying that Jer. That is a real good point that I should have said and emphasized in my post but somehow overlooked.

And on the subject of working T&M ....when you are working T&M jobs are you recording what you doing and developing you own set of task times? When your intuitions isn't so great (and even when it is pretty good) developing estimating data you can use in the future for fixed price bids is one of the real benefits of getting a T&M job. Unfortunately many, if not most, contractors just ignore that and come out of T&M jobs with nothing they can use.

(post #118835, reply #8 of 12)

Remember when you figure an estimate that set up, layout and job logistics are a very important part of the per foot cost or per job number.

Once you set up a cut station and stock material, you can run alot of trim in a day.  However, the same set up appears whether you are casing a door or triming several rooms.  Set up of one cabinet end panel can be done once and repeated on several cabinets........or one.

Another important thing to remember in figuring costs are job site logistics.  Are you cutting in or out.  Are the rooms big enough to cut the lengths you are working with. 

There's more to it than first appears.

A great place for Information, Comraderie, and a sucker punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.

Quittin' Time


A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


(post #118835, reply #9 of 12)

"....when you are working T&M jobs are you recording what you doing and developing you own set of task times"


To a degree , yes I do.  I always walk away at the end of T&M jobs with a time record of what I have done.  I don't keep close tabs on it though and I know that I should for future reference.  For instance how long a particular task really took me as opposed to how long I think I would take.  I have some of the more common ones marked down in a little booklet, but  most of the stuff is in my head. 

  T&M work for me mostly involves sight unseen stuff, ie. rot, labor intensive stuff and tip of the iceberg stuff, so each job is a unique thing and usually takes on a life of its own, not giving much over to any kind of regulated time stand.  I would say the 50% of my work is T&M.

A lot of T&M along with T&E, (time and experience), has allowed me to come out ahead these days on estimated jobs. 


(post #118835, reply #10 of 12)

Did the other kids make fun of you growing up with that name?  You can bid piece work but that just boils down to" I can hang and trim a door in 30 minutes so at $50/hr.. that's $25/door".  Pick a number that covers your wage, overhead, PTO, 401K or SEP and on and on.  Like $50/hour or $400 a day.  If you do materials add 10%.

(post #118835, reply #12 of 12)

yes the other kids did make fun of me for having a name like ineptphilosopher but it made me stronger....just like the song "a boy named sue." My Daddy knew what he was doing.

Thanks much for your sugestions.