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Tips for Estimating Cabinet Jobs

The process of estimating is one of the most exhausting parts of getting cabinet jobs. Bidding kitchens or bathroom cabinetry can be really difficult when customers are undecided. It’s always best if they know what types of cabinets they would like to have manufactured, purchased or installed prior to meeting with them.

Fickle Customers

What happens if they do not know what they want? The customer will expect you to price the job several different ways. This is very time consuming, especially if they want you to estimate different types doors such as Formica, Thermofoil and real wood cabinetry styles.

Getting Paid for Detailing Options

By the time you finish working out the options, in a case like this, it’s necessary to factor in an additional three hours of labor, or more, for dividing everything up. It will come back to bite you if they shuffle things around two or three times during the estimating.

Get  Paid Like a Professional

Understand that you’re a professional cabinet maker and you deserve to get paid professional wages.

Time is Money

Remember cabinet makers should get paid for their time even when they are not manufacturing. Figuring, compiling, delivering and reviewing the estimate involves a tremendous amount of time that should not be donated but compensated for.

Giving Free Estimates

No one gives free estimates. They are always figured into the cost of the job. The only time that they become free is when the customer decides that they do not want to hire you.

Enough is Enough

On another note, there may come a point where you will have to tell your potential customer if they want you to estimate any more it will cost them X-amount of dollars.

When to Make Cabinet Drawings

Never compile drawings for free. Putting the design of kitchen or vanity cabinets on paper is time consuming. Even if you do have a cad program the time invested in installing, learning the program and maintaining it is worth something. Not to mention the thousands of dollars you paid for the computer to operate the cad program form, the printer, paper and ink that cost money too. Hand out drawings after the contract has been signed and the deposit has been paid.

If you submit drawings prior to getting the job, you may get burnt. It makes it too easy for shady customer to go to a different cabinetry supplier and get a bid for less.

Why less? Because you already did all of the preliminary meeting and designing of the kitchen cabinetry.

How to Write a Cabinet Estimate (Bid)

I learned how to write a detailed compilation of the things customers wanted in the cabinet estimate through trial and error. When  I submit a bid, I always try to create a general base price which reflects the most reasonable figure for the job. Then I include a section that says: “add to the above.” In this “add to above” portion of the estimate is where I will list options to the kitchen or bathroom that the customer is interested in.

Avoid Shooting From the Hip

Never give an off the cuff price of how much you think it will cost. It doesn’t matter how many times they try to persuade you, don’t do it. Listen, if your estimating and your figure is three thousand dollars higher than what came out of your mouth, I guarantee you, you will have a wrestling match going on in your brain as you consider lowering your bid to what came out of your moth to your customer.

Do Not Itemize Everything

It is best to not break things down too much. The base prices should include the bulk of the job. Details are very important, DO NOT SKIMP on details.

Options should include things such as pull-out drawers, trash cans, cutlery drawer inserts, crown molding, additional drawers and various countertop options.

Labels in the Estimate

You Need a “Does Not Include” section an “Includes” title and a label that says “Terms.”


There should be exact payment terms detailed. A 50% deposit up front is not unreasonable, with another 40% due at delivery and the balance due when the installation is complete. Some shops arrange payments to be made in thirds.  This rarely covers the cost of materials and labor up front. That’s why I prefer fifty percent upfront.

Keep It Simple in the Beginning
It’s important to be able to “red” your customer; this ability will develop through experience. Some customers will do their best to try to make the estimating a difficult task. It is important to start off with a simple bid just to see if you’re in the ballpark of how much they are willing to spend. By doing this, you can save yourself hours if your way out in left field. You can then move on to the next customer.

These estimating tips will help you succeed at making the most money from a kitchen or vanity cabinet jobs. Learning how to write a cabinet estimate will evolve through trial and error. Hopefully these pointers will serve as a good guideline to follow when you are bidding potential projects.

Categories: Estimating or Bidding
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