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How to Estimate a Carpentry Job

May 3, 2022 · 4 minutes to read

Furniture from flat pack is assembled at home.

To run a successful carpentry business, you must master the art of estimating carpentry work. Providing clients with accurate estimates and quotes is essential. It not only helps keep your clients happy but also ensures that you are covering your business costs and earning a profit.

Calculating project costs can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. While many carpenters focus on covering the cost of materials and their labor, they may forget to factor in expenses related to the day-to-day running of their business. They might also neglect to charge a little extra “just in case” to help cover changing material costs, accidents, and other things beyond their control.

Here’s a quick carpentry estimator guide to help you get started.

1. Determine what services the client needs

Every project is different, and the services your client may need might differ from similar projects you’ve done in the past. It’s important to carefully assess each carpentry job by asking the clients questions about their wants and needs. Things to consider at this stage:

  • What is the customer’s budget?
  • What materials does the customer want to use?
  • Will you be responsible for demolition and hauling away old materials?
  • Take accurate measurements of the space, especially for custom installs.

2. Determine the cost of materials

Make a list of all the materials you will need to complete the project. This includes items like wood, drywall, screws, nails, paint, and varnish. Carpenters typically add a markup to their material costs to help cover unexpected issues, like damaged materials, higher prices or mistakes. A markup of 15-20% is common when estimating carpentry work.

3. Determine the cost of labor

Your time, experience, and skill are valuable. These must also be factored into each project estimate. Labor costs are calculated based on the number of hours needed to do the job. However, this is more than just the time spent on building or installation. You should also consider how much time you’ll spend:

  • Drawing designs (or working with another tradesperson to create them)
  • Buying or ordering supplies
  • Travelling to and from the client’s home
  • Picking up materials
  • On demolition and throwing away old materials

Once you have a total number of hours for a project, multiply that number by your hourly rate to determine the cost of labor.

4. Factor in other expenses

Project materials and your labor will make up the bulk of each carpentry estimate. However, there may be other miscellaneous costs that you will need to account for to ensure you turn a profit. Costs that may fall under this area include:

  • Labor costs for subcontractors hired to help you finish the job
  • Required construction permits
  • Business insurance and other overhead expenses

These costs will likely vary from job to job. This is another area where you might add a markup to help you turn a profit.

5. Estimate the project cost

The total project cost is the cost of materials plus your labor plus other expenses. When estimating carpentry work, you may add a small amount of markup at this stage to account for anything you may have missed when calculating each individual category.

Building Your Carpentry Business

Estimating carpentry work is an essential part of running your small business. If you’re still unsure that you are correctly pricing your work, you could use an online carpentry estimator until you feel more confident. While the above is only a guide, it could help you calculate other skilled trades jobs, such as handyman services. It could also help you create a carpenter, painter, plumber, electrician, or handyman pricing guide for your trade business.

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