So how much should I charge?


I got my first paid woodworking gig yesterday. The condos next door are being restored after Hurricane Ivan (9/16/2004) and they discovered that the doors to the A/C closet need louvers. Someone else will install them, but the contractor asked me to make the louvers for eight units to start. "Just do it and send me a bill," he said after we'd sparred a bit, each waiting for the other to name a price.
The louvers will be made of pine (Lowe's "select pine" matches the doors) and I'll finish them with poly. They'll fit in a 15" wide by 23" tall opening and be fastened in with a front trim frame. The louvers will be pinned at the ends in a simple box. I'm still deciding on the thickness and spacing, but I'll have to rip and plane them to thickness, and a little round-over on the leading edge might look nice.
I want to name a price that will let me get the rest of the units in the condo, but I don't want to leave money on the table. Their previous best option was to buy new louvered doors at $300 each. Any advice would be helpful, like how much per hour I might figure the job at.
Thanks,
Lionel Robinson Pensacola, FL
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wrote:

Are these totally custom parts, parts for high-end work, or something to fill an opening that could be slightly modified to match stock millwork?
This contractor doesn't know that reasonably priced louver panels are available at most any home center? He just "discovered" that a mechanical closet typically needs ventilation?
If I were you, I might BUY them, finish them, and add an appropriate markup. <G> After you add a genuine wage, tool expenses, and overhead to retail material costs, it's really hard to make stock items for less than a South American factory can crank them out.
FWIW, I recently bought unfinished pine bifold doors, the top half louvered, with a raised panel on the bottom, at $119 RETAIL for a 30" pair (2x15" doors), including hardware, at a Home Depot in CT. That's $240 for (4) door sections to fill a 60" opening. Single panel, non-bifold louvered doors were much less.
Are you guys getting ripped after the hurricane?
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He couldn't find them to fit the section he wants to put them in.

The original plan was to vent through the wall, but the inspector said they couldn't do that because the electric water heater was there and they couldn't vent through that space. Remember that these are the guys who redesigned the layout of the kitchen, changed the plumbing and wiring layout, and forgot to change the cabinet order. Their motto is, Anything worth doing is worth doing over.

If we're not careful. I originally hired a general contractor to restore the house (on our son's insistent advice, with him apparently thinking we're too old to do anything ourselves). Five months later he hadn't finished the estimate and didn't want to sign a contract just yet. He hadn't even pulled a permit. When I told him to forget it, I'd do it myself, he sent me a legal-sounding letter mentioning liens and saying I'd cost him over $23,000 in lost overhead and profit, but he'd settle for $12,000. I ignored it, got another dropping the demand to $4,200, ignored that and haven't heard from him since. So far, by doing a lot of the work myself I've saved enough to rebuild my shop (five feet of salt water with lots of swirling, and it was two weeks before I could get in to start salvaging things) and upgrade the 1940 house so we're getting a new house discount on the homeowners insurance. There are still people who haven't been able to get their insurance companies to pay.
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"Lionel" wrote in message

Hopefully you will as surprised and as pleased, someday in the distant future, as I was a few months (2005) back to get a check from the insurance company for "unrecoverable depreciation", or something like that, on the house we lost in the floodwaters of Allison ... back in 2001!
My hat's off to you ... you've been through something that I wouldn't wish on an enemy.
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Idunno, but think about this. Louvers are a PITA to build and more so to finish. Spend some time and build a jig to make it easier. Do not charge him the same price for the 1st eight as the rest of the job.Make this clear when you bill him for the 1st 8. Explain that you had to spend time and material for the setups which would not be necessary for the rest of the job. It's fair; it covers your arse, and gives him an incentive to give you the rest of the job.
-Steve

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IIRC, Norm/NYW has plans for a jig to do just this, a jig for the louvers. I think it was a teak bar that he built.
brian
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Lionel wrote:

FWIW, if he will accept louvers at 45 degrees rather than the more customary 60 degrees you can save considerable work. Ripping a 3/4 board at 45 degrees will give pieces 1" wide. If you have a drum or wide belt sander, sanding the long louver strips to a uniform thickness before cutting them to length.is easy...about the only hand work would be knocking off the sharp edge on the acute angle. Could be prefinished before cutting to length too.
Making 45 degree slots the width of the louvers at the spacing desired in a 1" wide board will give them the louvers a nice home. Mounting the lot in a 1" dado or rabbet in the door frame is duck soup.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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Thanks for the good tips.
Lionel
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How much do you want to earn? While you don't want to leave money on the table, too high will cost you the rest of the job. Do a set, figure the hourly rate you'd like and hand him a bill. If he balks, tell him you have figured how to save time on future sets now that you completed one. If he smiles, tell him you'd like to do them all at that price but you'd have to invest in some new tooling that would have to be added in.
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Smooth. You crafty devil you. It must be the sausage...
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snipped-for-privacy@snet.net says...

you both know, in writing, what you expect from each other and have him sign and return one copy. As a "Lone Ranger" in business, this is my best advice: insist on money in advance, in your case half of what the job is. If you don't have a clear idea now of what the job's financial specs are, and you communicate this to him, then I think you're inviting these possible disasters: l, he'll try to pay you less than you agreed because he says.... 2, he won't pay anything, but he will take your work with the promise he'll pay you when the cash flow flows better.
It's great that you want to dip your feet into business's muddy waters, but, IMHO, much worse than losing the time and money is lying awake at night thinking of how you let yourself get ripped off. You're on a well- traveled road, look at the wrecks to either side of you and read the sign posts.
It is my sense that you don't know this contractor in a business context, nor anything about his performance in paying bills.
Hope this helps, and please don't be offended by my blunt reply.
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Fri, Dec 2, 2005, 6:00am (EST-1) snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net (Lionel) I got my first paid woodworking gig <snip> doors to the A/C closet need louvers. <snip> asked me to make the louvers <snip> Their previous best option was to buy new louvered doors at $300 each. Any advice would be helpful, like how much per hour I might figure the job at.
Well, I just measured the louver in my furnace door. It's 10"X20". I made the door, but bought the louver ready-made, cost around $5. That's five dollars. And, there were larger ones available, for only slightly more.
That said, I have no idea in the world how much you should charge per hour. Too many variables involved to give a viable response. One thing, if it's your first paying job, you sure aren't gong to be able to charge as much as someone experienced - because if you try, then they guy would go for the guy with the experience. That's basic.
JOAT A rolling stone gathers no moss...unless it's a hobby he does on the weekends.
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