How to Price Projects

“What is a good guideline that is fair when charging for projects to sell or building a small cabinet for someone. What is fair when considering cost of material and labor? Do you mark up the cost of material? What is a fair labor rate?”

Submitted by: D. Bender

Projects you might be interested in: How to Make Cabinet Doors, Build a Bedside Table, DIY Bed to Bench Project, How to Build a Canoe, Dimensions for Building a Dresser

WWGOA Editor Response:

As a general guideline for how to price your woodworking projects try using your material costs multiplied by a factor of four. Use this as a starting point, then apply some common sense. Some projects can be small and labor intensive. Since they don’t require a lot of material, you’ve got to increase the price to compensate for your time.

I start by doing the math as stated above. Let’s say I’m going to use $150 worth of material on the project. My projected price would be $600. The next step is to subtract the material costs from the final price, which in this case, leaves $450. This is to cover your labor. You have do decide if that’s a fair amount. Estimate how long it will take you to get the material and build, sand, and finish the piece. Then decide if you’ll be happy with the profit amount. You’ll need to decide how much per hour or per day you’re willing to work for.

Here are a couple additional tips. If you do good work, don’t be afraid to charge fairly for it. Quality woodworking is a finely tuned skill that takes a long time to learn and can require a significant investment in tools, and you should be compensated for that as a professional. How much did you pay the last time you had work done by a plumber, electrician, or mechanic? Many woodworkers tend to undervalue their skills.

When calculating your material costs, include ALL the material. If I have to buy a full sheet of plywood but the project only calls for half a sheet, I charge for the full sheet. The same goes for waste that you’ll have when working with solid wood. If you’re looking at doing this for a living, remember that you won’t get every job you bid on and you won’t be in the shop building projects (that you can invoice for) all the time. You have a fixed cost of doing business that includes traveling to customer’s homes, taking measurements, doing drawings, writing estimates, and using disposable supplies, like sandpaper and glue.Your profit margin has to cover the fixed costs, plus some.

George Vondriska

Managing Editor

Got a woodworking question you need answered? Comment or Email us at editor@wwgoa.com

Discussion
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72 Responses to “How to Price Projects”
  1. DALE
    DALE

    There is a computer program called CUTLIST, that will let you calculate all the materials needed for a project. You can also input your projected time and will then give you the price of the project. It will also show you the most efficient way to cut sheet products.

    Reply
  2. Dennis
    Dennis

    would you recommend the jet 22-44 drum sander or the jet 22-44 oscillating drum sander?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Dennis. Oscillation is a very nice feature and worthy of consideration. I’d suggest taking a look at supermax as well. George loves his.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
    • James Bedell
      James Bedell

      No matter which type of sander do you use you can get about five times the life out of your sandpaper by using an old shoe( the black New Balance shoes I’ve been working great for us can’t even wear one out )made of rubber it will clean and clear up your sandpaper so you don’t have to change it as often there is a eraser that’s on the market connected to a paint stick that’s about 3 and 1/2 inch by 1 inch by 1 inch works great

      Reply
  3. andre
    andre

    i have a allen sets screw broke in my lathe knife handle and i want to take it of please if you can help me thank ypu

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Andre. This can be a pain. The only thought that I would have is to drill it out if you can. You might be able to find a special bit that can be tapped into the broken set screw to reverse it out. I would suggest seeking advice from a metal expert for this for a more informed opinion.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
      • Victor Somers
        Victor Somers

        Be careful because most setscrews are hardened. I would start with a left hand drill (this is a special set of drills and actually rotate the opposite direction of a normal twist drill) use one that is a little smaller than the setscrew so you don’t damage the threads. Have a marker on the drill so you know when it has gone thru the setscrew. If you are lucky the setscrew will back out on it’s own (the advantage of using a left hand drill) and you don’t have to move any further. If it doesn’t then you need to use an “easyout”. This is a tool that fits in the hoe you drilled and allows you to back the rest of the screw threads out.

        Reply
      • Ernie Darby
        Ernie Darby

        Use a left hand drill bit a lot of the time it will grab and remove the screw you can find them at an auto parts store

        Reply
    • Allen K
      Allen K

      If you know a an auto mechanic you should talk to Jim or her. Most of us have tools called easy outside. We drill aa hole into the middle of the screw tap on the right size easy out and then extract the the damage screw.

      Reply
  4. Wayne
    Wayne

    My guess is the innate judgement that any labor is close to a Trade Job. It is not worth as much as a Professional Job with the exception of a Snow Job. Until my brother received the counseling of a savvy person he barley charged enough to break even, After he was brought up to speed he was able to thrive in the repair and wood working working business.

    Reply
  5. PauL Y
    PauL Y

    I watched your table router class and I noticed that you did not use the lock on the lift. What is the lock used for and when do you use it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Paul,

      It is used to prevent the router lift from moving down during the cutting operation. Some lifts need it more than others, but as a precautionary measure it is always a good idea to use it.

      Thanks,
      Paul WWGOA Video Membership

      Reply
  6. Nouman
    Nouman

    Hi, it will be really appreciated if you solve a couple of my problems. After reading and watching videos of wood working, I’ve decided to get my hands dirty and want to work on a simple project for my own house.
    I am planning to build a couple of decorative shadow boxes with paint job. To hang it on the wall, I have decided to drill holes in the wood and hang the boxes on the screws drilled in the wall so that the screws remain invisible. The problem is that I am unable to decide between MDF and Plywood. I have read the differences of both but still need guidance. Can you help me out with it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi. Either material will work well for your project. For painted projects I generally favor MDF as this material takes a paint finish better than most materials including plywood. Plywood accepts paint just fine, but the grain tends to project through the paint, whereas MDF has no grain so the painted surface is naturally flatter in appearance.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
      • Anthony Byrde
        Anthony Byrde

        MDF is great to work, but the fine dust is dangerous. You absolutely must have efficient extraction with the correct filtering, and wear a good-quality mask. MDF Is also quite heavy. I never use it now, but with regret. There are some dreadful plywoods around (in the UK) which omit bits of the inner veneers and have less than 100% gluing, so when you cut or rebate you expose voids and/or it delaminates. Good plywood is expensive here, but I use a good birch ply where consistency is necessary, and don’t regret it. The cost is more than offset by the time gained in the finishing phases. So much interesting stuff in this Association.

        Reply
      • Andrew Crossland
        Andrew Crossland

        We made lots of projects for 2builders in The DC area. The MDF projects were heavy. Also you have to treat the edges of the sheets to get the paint to work. Try rubbing drywall compound on the edges and letting it dry. You can sand and the paint will work very well. We did a lot of spray finish. We made all of the model house extra furniture for these nationally known builders.

        Reply
      • Leo
        Leo

        MDF is heavy and will sag over time. You might think about real wood, with sanding sealer, then your finish.

        Reply
  7. Francis
    Francis

    Thank you for making this public, I stress every time I estimate. Now that this info is printed in a respected Mag… online or otherwise, it give creedance to my argument of compensation and material costs. Your article I can quote as sensible words confirming all I have researched as fair!

    Reply
  8. Steve
    Steve

    Have you ever used pear wood in a small project? Not the wood from S. America, but the fruit-bearing, N. American gnarly variety. If so, what was that like, and with what did you finish the project? Thanks! P.S. – I also wonder about the use of wood from an apple tree.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Steve. I haven’t used pear wood, but I am actually building a small box right now using apple wood. I really like working with it. It cuts cleanly and sands nicely.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  9. Christine
    Christine

    If 2 products are the same but 1st is made of pine 2nd is an exotic wood? They both took the same time to make. How do I calculate that?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Christine. I use a time + materials pricing model. So, if you charge $50/hr, and both projects take two hours, that would be $100 plus the cost of material.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  10. ahhebert
    ahhebert

    You must also regard the income tax and self-employment taxes incurred by being self employed e.g. as a sole proprietor. If you are a sole owner, but are classified as an LLC, there are even other tax considerations. Check with your CPA or tax professional.

    Reply
  11. Frank W
    Frank W

    I truly appreciate the information! I would have never thought to go about pricing like that! Thank you I truly appreciate your help and enjoy your guises posts and information!

    Reply
  12. VALERIE
    VALERIE

    I switched from wood working to one of a kind projects – mixed materials. For example: Mesquite trees stripped, stained, mounted for coat racks. The time I hunt cut transport arrange/ create the project with the purchase materials-total cost $30 & labor 4-6 hrs. I won’t sell them because friends say to sell them at $600. Your advice?

    Reply
    • Erick
      Erick

      It sounds like your ”one-of-a-kind” projects are more like art pieces. They demand a higher price!

      Reply
  13. Philip
    Philip

    need more help with cost and were to get meteriaal, i am in South Africa and battel to get meteriaals

    Reply
    • RON VAN TIL
      RON VAN TIL

      I live in Cape Town, am retired and do woodwork for the love of it. Depending what materials you require,RARE WOODS here in CT have a warehouse full of off cuts and end of runs of a whole list of beautiful timber. Prices are per item and very reasonable.

      Reply
  14. Russell Rice
    Russell Rice

    how much should you charge for reclaimed lumber. I have a lot and people are wanting to buy it. Don’t know what to charge.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Russell. I don’t have any experience in buying or selling reclaimed material, and I would imagine that it varies a lot by region. I would suggest looking at what others are charging on Craigslist and price accordingly.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  15. Bruce
    Bruce

    The most common problem I have run into as far as pricing is, there are a great number of “wana be” handy guys out there who are always willing to under price your quote in order to get the job. It has taken me years to develop a customer base who pass on my info to their friends. Resist the urge to chase a job. Do quality work & in time you too will develop a “reputation” for good work then the work will more frequently find you.

    Reply
  16. William
    William

    thanks for the post, i never can figure what to charge. I do have a question, you mention to charge for all material that’s easy with the receipt, but what about stain and stuff how do you charge if you only use some out of a gallon or quart can?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi William. I would use the cost of the full quart in your formula. For small projects that might blow your price out of the water, and you will have to adjust. For larger projects it should work fine.
      Thanks
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
    • Sandra
      Sandra

      How do you figure the cost for irreplaceable or hard to replace materials ie dryed aged mesquite wood

      Reply
      • Customer Service
        Customer Service

        Hi Sandra. I give my best assessment of the cost to buy something comparable on today’s market. You might not find something that is nearly identical, but should be able to find something that is comparable in some respects. Ebay is a good source, and I’m sure there are others.
        Thanks
        Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

        Reply
  17. Dan Williams
    Dan Williams

    What if material cost is zero, but you have at least 2 hours, or more what price would you put?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Dan. I would charge 2 x your hourly shop rate, plus fair market value for the materials.
      Thanks
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  18. Don Schmidt
    Don Schmidt

    Don’t forget the costs associated with life; health insurance, home owner’s insurance, self-employment taxes. Does your locality charge a business tax? Sales tax on your product, if your state has it. The cost of setting and maintaining your business structure, Corporation, LLC. The list goes on, but you can see the trends.

    Reply
  19. b-marshall
    b-marshall

    Material cost, and labor only count for a portion of the final cost. You must consider consumables (blades, belts, maintenance on tools), an apportioned amount of tool replacement from wear and tear, apportioned amount for extraneous tools (example might be computer & software). If you are a business, there are taxes, insurance, rental valuation for shop (or equivalent), permits, bonds, etc. For a contractor this overhead can easily run 10 to 14% of project valuation. You might say, this is one time for friend/family, none of the less, the first line costs should be considered, or you will be making a charitable contribution to the person you are doing the work for. If you are going to charge, and the quality of your work is of value, you owe it to others to not devalue the market by being a bad businessman. Happens all of the time, and is the first step to financial failure.

    Reply
  20. Dave Chapman
    Dave Chapman

    I tend to NOT mark up my materials, the reason being TAX. In my state VT if I mark up material I am required to charge tax on my mark up. Meaning if I purchace a sheet of plywood for say $25.00 then charge my client a 10% mark up I am required to charge a 6% tax on the mark up (15 cents) we have already paid the tax on my cost. This requires paperwork, postage and time. It’s just not worth the time and effort. I am not sure about other states but in VT labor is not taxed. When I shop, I do not just grab and run,
    I examine every piece that
    I purchase, this can be very time consuming therefore instead of marking up product I charge labor for the time it takes to shop, load and transport.

    Reply
  21. Trevor
    Trevor

    I tend to disagree with pricing projects this way. I used to price this way, but realized some issues. If I was bidding on a job that required oak, and then the customer changed their mind and decided they wanted a more expensive wood, the labor in the job is the same either way. But charging a labor rate multiplied by your material cost would make your labor rate skyrocket just because you swapped out wood species. This, to me, is not a fair way to price. So, I built myself a method of pricing where I price my how much work is involved, and figure my labor rates to build the project first, then calculate all my materials cost separately. This way, in my opinion, is the most fair way to charge, and I know exactly how much money I will make on the job. And if they decide they want to make some revisions to the project after bidding, this also become much easier and much more fair, for me and the customer. Whereas before, I was simply guessing at how much difference the revision would make in cost.

    Reply
  22. Bob Hunter
    Bob Hunter

    Establish what you want to make per hour and multiply it by 2.5 for you labor cost. Say you want $20.00 per hour so multiply by 2.5 to make it $50.00 per hour plus material cost (all materials). This rate should cover customer contacts, picking up materials delivery etc. I used this formula for estimating and it comes out very close.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello. Are you trying to login to your membership or is there a specific video you are looking for? If you have any questions, you can contact our customer service team at 1-855-253-0822 or chat with us on our site and we would be happy to assist you.
      Thanks
      Jean-Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  23. Matt Thie
    Matt Thie

    If you charge for “all the material”, i.e., the whole sheet of plywood, the whole quart of finish, etc., then do you give the excess to the customer at the end since they technically purchased it? If not, do you charge for it if you use it in the next project?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Matt. I wouldn’t give them leftover material. You have to factor in your cost to determine the price that you charge. If you have a use for the plywood that is left, and want to reduce the price to the customer to reflect that, no problem. Unless the customer requests to receive your leftover plywood, I wouldn’t provide that. It would be unusual. The customer is paying for a completed project that meets their specifications.
      Thanks
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  24. John Britt
    John Britt

    Thanks for the insight…looking to start a side hustle for a few extra play dollars…spent some money on some decent tools

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Lindwood. Is there anything specific you are looking for? Please let us know and we will assist you.
      Thanks
      Jean-Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  25. Dan Bryson
    Dan Bryson

    I ordered the DVD’s WOODWORKING SHOPTIPS AND TRICKS… I received them excitedly put one in the DVD player on my lap top it wont auto start, none of them will, the readme says i have to have windows 2000, windows XP or some other out dated windows application,, this would have been nice to know before i WASTED $75.00 on something that i cant use!!

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Dan,

      I’m sorry that the windows isn’t up to accessing the DVD. Here’s a link to a great free media player that will work:
      http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-windows.html

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-253-0822, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!

      Sincerely,

      Joan
      Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Bob!

      Which program are you looking for? This page talks about how to price projects.

      Thank you!

      Jessica
      Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply