favorably to the original bid of 200
hours, but other estimates ranged
from half that to double that. Interestingly, whether the shop is automated
with CNC manufacturing or has decades of experience seems to make no
difference in the variations.
Now contrast those results with
a project that was similar in scope,
but perhaps more straightforward in
design. The kitchen with two islands
garnered a high bid of $61,400, very
similar to the beaded inset kitchen, but
the two-island kitchen did not attract
nearly as many low bids, and all the
bids were closer together.
The lowest bid was $24,595, which is
not that far removed from the original
Canadian bidder once his price was
converted to U.S. dollars and became
$29,512. The average of all bids was
$40,573. Once again, we do see a wide
range in materials quotes, from $7,000
to $23,777, and the average is $13,481,
significantly higher than the materials quoted by the shop that actually
did the job ($8,250 in U.S. dollars).
Constructions hours are also all over
the map, ranging from less than 100 to
more than 400.
Beyond estimating errors
Of course, all of the variations in price
can’t be chalked up just to estimating
errors. Some custom shops do work for
less or more than others. Some shops
have more or less overhead. And shops
have different clientele who are used to
paying more or less for products. All of
those factors come into play.
While there are not enough respon-
dents in the survey to make any scien-
tific conclusions about regional pric-
ing, you can get a bit of an idea about
whether a bidder is an upscale shop or
in more of a lower market situation by
comparing shop rates. More than any
other factor, higher shop rates seem to
conform to high total prices.
As noted in previous surveys,
some shops are likely basing prices
on dangerously low hourly shop rates
that likely do not even cover their real
overhead. In this day and age, even a
shop in a very low-rent area with exceptionally low overhead would be hard
pressed to make a go of business with a
shop rate at or below $35 an hour. But
there are a number of bidders in the
survey in that range, many of whom
have been in business for many years
and presumably know what they are
doing. Still, maybe they ought to consider raising their rates. Other bidders
report shop rates up to $100 per hour,
and the average seems to be between
$50 and $60 per hour.
Many other factors can dramatically
affect the cost of doing a particular
job, and if they are not considered,
a shop might come in with a low bid
that leaves them holding the bag. The
classic example is having to deal with
site installation issues that add significantly to costs. These can include long
distances to the job site or challenging
site conditions such as working in an
urban highrise with issues of parking,
access, and perhaps even special building rules that affect the work.
We try to call these kinds of special
Why these projects?
considerations out in the bidding
specifications for the projects in the
survey, but it is hard to measure how
much participants consider those fac-
tors when estimating the cost of work.
Longtime fans of the Pricing Survey
will notice the lack of freestanding
furniture or commercial work in this
year’s survey. Generally, we have tried
to include a wide cross-section of
projects from the major interests of
most of the FDMC and Woodworking
Network audience. That includes both
residential and commercial cabinets,
millwork, and furniture. In the past,
commercial submissions have had
especially high levels of complexity in
the bidding specifications and received
few bids. Similarly, furniture projects
rarely attract as many bids as mainstream kitchens. We’re open to including those projects in future surveys if
more people express an interest.
Learning from the survey
To see how you would price these
same projects, you can still download
the original bid package at woodwork-ingnetwork.com/pricing-survey.
Some shops with multiple estimators like to compare how they bid the
same jobs in the survey.
You can also submit your own
projects or volunteer to bid for the
2019 survey by emailing will.sampson@
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