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View Full Version : book case at "for friend" pricing. What do you think of this price?



keith ouellette
02-16-2011, 5:49 PM
I have a friend that wants a built in book case/ entertainment center in the living room. Basically it is a 95" high and 155" wide space to fill. 16" deep

with a bead board back, small crown molding to ceiling, 2 -36" wide cabinets in the center under a 36" X 30" space for a tv with shelves above the tv and book shelves on each side from floor to ceiling. two wide drawers will be in between the cabinets and the tv shelf.

The cabinet cases, book shelf sides and shelves are going to be made of 3/4 birch plywood and the edges are going to be covered in select pine or poplar. Each shelf edge will have 1 3/4" wide trim on front and back for looks and to stiffen the shelve.
cabinet doors and drawers fronts are poplar.

All painted white.

I was going to tell them $2250. thats materials, labor and instal. If your friend gave you that price would you be happy?

glenn bradley
02-16-2011, 5:58 PM
Sounds very reasonable. I would use a hardwood for the edging. Your softwood choices will dent and wear pretty easily. JMHO ;-)

Paul Symchych
02-16-2011, 6:18 PM
I'd take two.

keith ouellette
02-16-2011, 6:51 PM
Sounds very reasonable. I would use a hardwood for the edging. Your softwood choices will dent and wear pretty easily. JMHO ;-)

I wanted to use something harder for the edging and cabinet faces frames and doors but wanted to keep the price down for them. I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction.

Joe Angrisani
02-16-2011, 7:10 PM
Keith wrote: "I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction. "
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Friends don't let friends buy junk... :)

Joe Leigh
02-16-2011, 7:17 PM
Keith wrote: "I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction. "
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
Friends don't let friends buy junk... :)

I nominate this for "post of the Week" :D

Oh, and that price sounds more than reasonable to me.

Ray Newman
02-16-2011, 7:18 PM
"I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction."
--K.O.

And also remember the old saw: Do not do work for co-workers, friends, or relatives….

Buck Williams
02-16-2011, 7:42 PM
I think a lot depends on the degree of "friendship" you have going on. If you can show your material costs, and explain the amount of your time that the job entails and present it as a fair deal for both of you, that's of course the best situation. Sometimes friends expect that friends should be willing to help out while expecting very little (in this case) monetary return. I guess you won't know until you propose it to your friend. You are after all adding value to his home, and will presumably be saving him from the hassle of a dealing with an installer who may or may not be prompt and reliable. Money and friendship can make for a difficult mix. As far as your $2250 number, I have no idea, all I know as a hobbiest remodeler, is that it always takes longer and costs more than I initially figured, and built-ins are even tougher.

Victor Robinson
02-16-2011, 7:44 PM
My friends would scoff at that price (because most of them are 25-35 year old city-dwellers that don't mind melamine), so it depends on knowing your friends, their likes and priorities.

Now if MY friend gave me that price, I'd know it was good, but that's because I'm sort of a woodworker. :)

John Grossi
02-16-2011, 7:51 PM
Keith, I built a similar entertainment center a few years ago for our home. I used poplar, birch plywood and we stained it. We did a few field trips to Amish country an hour away, saw these built from oak with a $5000.00 price tag. I figure I've got $1800.00 in mine. Hopefully $2250 covers all your costs.

glenn bradley
02-16-2011, 8:11 PM
I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction.

The absolute proper response for that reaction, without anyone needing to get their feelings hurt, is "Great, that'll work better for both of us. You'll get what you want faster and I can concentrate on some other items I need to work on right now."

This is starting to have the ring of those (hopefully few) experiences in life where about a quarter of the way into it you are wondering how you EVER got into this. Walk away and remain friends (and happy).

Karl Brogger
02-16-2011, 8:20 PM
My numbers come out to:

136 ft^3 of box at $17 per cu/ft. = $2317
two drawers at $110ea = $220 (w/ slab fronts)
for the beaded back - $400

Delivery/Installation assuming its unfinished, 7% - $205

For a grand total of $3145

John TenEyck
02-16-2011, 8:30 PM
I've been faced with this same situation a few times now, since most of my first clients were former coworkers. My relationship got me the opportunity to bid on the job, but I always approach a project as a job and my colleague as a customer. As a prelude to any project I always told them that if they could find what they wanted in a store they should buy it because my price likely would be higher. A couple times that was the end of it - it was clear they thought I would work for cheap just because we were friends. But more often they said they had looked and couldn't find exactly what they wanted, or that they wanted me to build something that fit just right, matched an existing design or color, or solved some other need or problem. In the end, I bid what I thought was fair to us both. I did an estimate based on time and materials, and compared that to what was offered at Ethan Allen, etc. I'm sure I'm slow compared to folks who have to make their primary living doing this, but even with my modest but acceptable hourly rate my bids typically were lower compared to store bought, but not always. Never has anyone said no. Maybe I'm charging too little, but I think it's more likely that I eliminated the people who were hoping to take advantage of our friendship early in the process.

My advise is to be upfront on how you're going to bid the project, so you don't invest a lot of design time with no return. Your price seems way too low to me. Think about all your costs, how long it's going to take to install, etc. Go look at what is commercially available - which doesn't fit your friend's needs, but still gives a reference point. Pay yourself a reasonable hourly rate, add a contingency of at least 25% to cover all the stuff you're going to forget or not think you should charge for. Give your friend a formal, written quote, and require a down payment of 25 - 33% - and let the chips fall where they may.

Your friend won't think any less of you if he/she knows you expect to be paid for your skill, but you may think less of him/her if they are trying to take advantage of your friendship. Friends are friends, but business is business.

JohnT Fitzgerald
02-16-2011, 8:41 PM
I think that is VERY reasonable. We recently shopped for an entertainment center for our living room. items much smaller than that went for more money.

IMO, if they ever hope to put a larger flat-screen TV in, that opening is a little on the small side.

keith ouellette
02-16-2011, 9:17 PM
Thanks for the reply's and advice.
Karl: thanks for those price figures. That is about where I thought a pro might be on it except for the bead board. I may have figured a little low on that.
John F.: I think the same thin about the tv but it isn't there primary viewing area so they wanted to keep it smaller and wanted more storage.

I gave them the price. I added another $50 and made it an even $2300 and gave a good explanation of where the money was going. I explained how we could cut on materials and why it would be a bad Idea to do so. I also explained the size of the piece of "furniture" we were talking about because in fact it is rather large. At least in my opinion. I only talked to mrs. friend and she is going to talk it over with Mr. friend. It isn't something they really need but it would dress the room up. So far my guess is that its a go. Even though I am not going to make much at all for my time I really want to do it. I don't get to build much. Being painted it takes a lot of pressure off me so it will be kinda fun. Plus it fulfills a never realized dream of wanting to build book cases. I have done some small ones but nothing like this.

I can't wait to start cutting and take some pictures to show everyone.

John TenEyck
02-16-2011, 9:31 PM
Being painted it takes a lot of pressure off me so it will be kinda fun.


Paint allows you to use woods of different types and colors but it shows every defect - much more so than clear finish. If you want to do a high quality job it will almost certainly take a lot more time after the sanding is done. Prime, inspect, fill, sand, repeat.

Chris Dodge
02-16-2011, 9:53 PM
I wanted to use something harder for the edging and cabinet faces frames and doors but wanted to keep the price down for them. I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction.

I always tell people to try to find what they want at a store first. If they can't find what they want them come back to me and I will make it for them. It will be more expensive than they planned and take longer to make than they want...But it will be worth every penny.

Is your work high quality? Then don't feel bad about charging more than you think they want to pay. In the end they will be happy with what you gave them.

Mark Blatter
02-16-2011, 10:38 PM
Being painted it takes a lot of pressure off me so it will be kinda fun. Plus it fulfills a never realized dream of wanting to build book cases. I have done some small ones but nothing like this.

Your comment above made me chuckle a bit. The most expensive finish we had at my shop was any paint, with the single most expensive being white paint. The only way would use white paint is by building all the cabs out of select maple. We had the best luck with select maple on the appearance and not having any wood grain showing.

Good luck on the job.

Don Jarvie
02-16-2011, 11:11 PM
Seems like a reasonable price. Consider this as a learning experence on pricing your work. You know how much your materials cost so the rest is your shop rate. Track the hours and see how much you make per hour. Next project you can adjust your price accordingly.

Another way to help with your pricing is to look around and see how much similar products cost. Ignore the cheap stuff since you don't use particle board but good quality can help you know if your in the ballpark.

glenn bradley
02-16-2011, 11:43 PM
Even though I am not going to make much at all for my time I really want to do it. I don't get to build much.

That makes all the difference in the world. Getting paid a little to do something you like a lot makes it a whole new ball game. eh? Enjoy.

Larry Edgerton
02-17-2011, 8:21 AM
I wanted to use something harder for the edging and cabinet faces frames and doors but wanted to keep the price down for them. I am already bracing myself for the "we could buy a whole living room set for that price. Are you sure it cost that much? reaction.

Thats when I realize that I have wasted my time and realize they do not know the difference between real and crap, so I thank them for their time and get back to work on something that will pay. I would be about $3500-$4000 for that piece.

I will add my name to the do not work for friends or family list.

keith ouellette
02-17-2011, 9:33 AM
Your comment above made me chuckle a bit. The most expensive finish we had at my shop was any paint, with the single most expensive being white paint. The only way would use white paint is by building all the cabs out of select maple. We had the best luck with select maple on the appearance and not having any wood grain showing.

Good luck on the job.


Paint allows you to use woods of different types and colors but it shows every defect - much more so than clear finish. If you want to do a high quality job it will almost certainly take a lot more time after the sanding is done. Prime, inspect, fill, sand, repeat.

I fully understand what your saying. Painting is one of my strong suites though. I am far more comfortable with painting than I am with staining. I have painted 20 times the number of things I have stained so I have a lot of practice. The idea of trying to get birch ply to match with any other wood with stain gives me the creeps. I have the entire painting process worked out and am planning to prime,sand and re prime before the parts go together. Then one coat of paint and some touch up.

Kent A Bathurst
02-17-2011, 9:46 AM
Some time back, a neighbor and good friend wanted to pay me to do something for him. When I told him what it would cost, his reply was "Too low. Go back and think some more. You have to make money doing business with yoru friends, because you're gonna get killed when you do business with the jerks that are out there."

John Pratt
02-17-2011, 10:31 AM
Doing commission work for friends is always a tough one. I was recently asked to build a full size dining table with two expansion leafs for a friend. My first response was to tell him that the way for him to approach it was to go to a nice furniture store and buy what he wanted. I wasn't trying to be flippant, but people who are not versed in the costs associated with "hand-made" furniture don't understand how expensive it can be. It usually helps if I break down all the costs when the price is quoted so they understand where the money is going.

As far as the price you quoted: I think you are underselling yourself if this was for someone who you didn't know, but for a close friend I think it is a good mix of not giving away your labor and still maintaining friendship.

David Weaver
02-17-2011, 10:35 AM
I think your price is more than fair. If your friend shops at ikea sometimes, they will probably think you're making money off of them.

I don't do work for friends, other than little stuff. It just isn't worth the hassle. I think you're a good friend for offering to do what you're doing - hopefully your friend recognizes that you're sacrificing your own time for not much money.

Lee Schierer
02-17-2011, 11:30 AM
I would recommend using poplar over pine. Poplar paints easier than pine and won't bleed through. I would guess if anything your price might be a bit low. Figure all your materials and taxes, add 10-15% for oops and last minute changes. Then add at least the cost of the material again if not twice for your time. If your friend lives some distance from you don't for get the travel time back and forth to your house to his. If they balk at the price, remind them that this is custom made to fit their space exactly and will be wood, not particle board. Remember you don't owe them anything. In any event ask for enough to cover the cost of materials in advance so they don't change their mind part way through the job.

hank dekeyser
02-17-2011, 12:07 PM
Personally I normally don't do work for "friends" Unless it is a close friend that really knows me and what my abilities are. The "real friends" come to you because they know what you can do and WANT you to do it for them. The other friends come to you because they think you'll give them a good deal. (these are the ones I won't work for)
My Real friends won't let me undercharge them, I'm still finding money stuffed in drawers of my tool box

I have many customers that have become my "friend" - and very few "friends" who are customers. I have also lost "friends" because they werent really my "Friend" just someone I knew, when it came right down to it, I didnt know as well as I thought and tried to screw me over. (not friends anymore) it's amazing how many people you can remove from your social circle simply by having one of their "friends" try to bend you over- I don't miss any of them.

A True Friend of mine once told me "If you want to put your marriage to a test, build a new house"

I have a very good friend / neigbor who is a "professional" mechanic with a shop next to his home (hoist, big fancy Matco box, etc) who I do some work for. (I get free reign of his shop and he mine) When he feels the need to pay me (or I pay him) we have a simple method - A dollar bill with "I.O.U." on it - when LOML asks what I paid / charged him, my reply is "a dollar" -

Ellen Benkin
02-17-2011, 12:42 PM
When I build for friends I always have them pay the actual material costs and they get the receipts. They are always flabergasted by the cost of materials. Then I figure the time to build the item, finish it, and install it at a "friend" hourly rate. That way neither of us feels ripped off. If it is a small project I sometimes just triple the actual material cost to come to a total. Either they can afford it or they can't. Not only would they get a "hand made" project, but they get to advise on the design so they get something made just for their purposes which cannot be duplicated in any store.

keith ouellette
02-17-2011, 7:38 PM
It looks like its a go. They thought the price was fine. I double checked my material costs. When I did my quick ball park estimate I used lowes 1x2x8 select pine as a guide for the price of all the face frames and shelf edging. Now that I re checked I used s3s poplar priced from a cabinet supply store near me and plan to rip it to width my self which actually makes it cheaper than the pre cut pine I was going to use. So I can use poplar and save a little money to boot.

I should be starting after the week end.

Thanks for the advice.

John Sanford
02-18-2011, 12:55 AM
I can't comment on the pricing save to say that the premium for white paint seems low, but if you're comfortable and skilled with the process, have at it.

I do do work for friends, but I have a very different approach, primarily because woodworking is a hobby for me.

I don't charge them anything. They pay for all the materials, including tooling and consumables. Consumables are always purchased in quantities great enough to insure that I won't run out of them in the current project, and usually in the next as well. :D

And they help. :eek:

If they don't help, it doesn't happen.

Zane Moseley
02-18-2011, 1:19 AM
At least make them paint it themselves, I hate painting and if I were doing a painted job for a friend I'd at least let them do the tedious stuff.

keith ouellette
02-18-2011, 4:28 AM
At least make them paint it themselves, I hate painting and if I were doing a painted job for a friend I'd at least let them do the tedious stuff.

Seeing as how they have hired me at full price for several painting jobs It would be next to impossible to do that. I can't believe the number of people I have met who "won't paint" (not saying you won't but probably fall close to that category). I have met several remodelers and finish carpenters who have told me they won't paint anything. Not sure if they hate it or they think its beneath them.

David Weaver
02-18-2011, 11:56 AM
I have met several remodelers and finish carpenters who have told me they won't paint anything. Not sure if they hate it or they think its beneath them.

They probably feel like they can make more money per hour doing something else. Around here, painters will usually work for less than finish carpenters.

Mike Gager
02-18-2011, 5:17 PM
I do do work for friends, but I have a very different approach, primarily because woodworking is a hobby for me.

I don't charge them anything. They pay for all the materials, including tooling and consumables. Consumables are always purchased in quantities great enough to insure that I won't run out of them in the current project, and usually in the next as well. :D

And they help. :eek:

If they don't help, it doesn't happen.

this is how i feel about it too. i mean if you are in business doing this, fine go ahead as planned, i understand time is money, but if you are just a hobbyist building this for a friend i would feel better about them getting involved and helping out and just paying for the materials. could be fun!

shane lyall
02-19-2011, 9:07 AM
I just did some built-ins a few months ago about the same size. I charged 4k and they didn't bat an eye. You're doing them a favor at that price.