A comprehensive educational community devoted to trim carpentry, finish carpentry and architectural millwork. Hosted by nationally recognized author and finish carpentry specialist Gary M. Katz.
  Al Constan's Expensive Doors  
  If They Cost More, Should You Charge More?  
The AFTER Shot!   Al's Thumb-tack Trick for positioning a strike perfectly--the FIRST time (this one's for the surface bolt).



Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/13/03 12:37 a.m.
This coming Tuesday I'll be hanging a set of double entry doors. My total liability for the job will be about $300 since each door costs about $150.
I visited a client who wants me to hang in his house a set of double entry doors. My total liability for the job will be about $4000 since each door costs about $2000.
The work required for hanging both sets of doors will be about the same even though one set are 6'8" and the other one are 7'0". I will need a helper to hung the 7'0" doors since they are quite heavy. I can handle the cheaper doors all by myself.
It appears obvious to me that I need to charge more for the more expensive doors but I can not come up with a number.
Should I charge this guy 10%,30%,50% more for hanging his expensive doors or I should do it for the same price?
I want to be fair with the client and with myself.
Remember, I have two cats to feed and they seem to have an inexhaustible appetite.
Thanks in advance for any response.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Den 1/13/03 8:59 a.m.
Right off the bat, I see you being much more careful with the big buck doors and consequently taking more time.
Potential liability is a big concern, so every aspect of the job will require add'l safeguards and triple if not quadriple checking before an action is taken.
A 50% up charge would not be out of line however, I don't know your regular rates, that may still be not enough.
Remember, another carpenter would probably not take the job, due to the potential loss.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/13/03 6:05 p.m.
Liabilty is something that most guys don't fully appreciate. Your potential liability has increased over 1300%. Could you charge 1300% more. No. The number of guys that would attempt this job is very small. That's called specialization. Specialists cost more. Just ask doctors.
I would probably go with a 100% markup. At least.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/13/03 11:40 p.m.
Thank you for your responses.
Here in Southern California Home Depot charges $599 to install a set of double entry doors. I was below that price.
At one time I asked the client that I need to know how much the doors are worth to asess the risk I am taking by hanging those doors and he told me that they cost about "couple grand each".
I am not afraid of hanging those doors, in fact I am not even nervous thinking about messing one door up. The possibility of me ruining one of the doors is quite remote, although not unlikely. It could happen and I am taking that possibility quite seriously.
All I am interested in, is to do the hanging at a price that reflects the risk I am taking financially. If something goes wrong and I ruin a door I know I become its owner.
Insurance companies charge higher premiums as their risk increases. Why then we can not do the same thing. The higher the financial risk when hanging a door the higher the price for doing the hanging. Quite simple.
I'll keep you posted. Thanks.
And thanks for all the comments about cats and for the info about Gerber turkey baby food. I'll try that one.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Bob Curry 1/13/03 11:47 p.m.
Try to find someone to hang a $10,000 crystal light fixture for the same price as a ceiling fan. They charge more. Liability. Personally, I wouldn't hang an expensive light fixture any more than I would hang a $5,000 custom carved door. I'm not that good at either one. I would subcontract. If you're going to hang expensive doors, invest in the equipment and skills that will minimize your risk.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/13/03 11:58 p.m.
Bob Curry,
Good thinking!!
The essence of the issue here is "liability".
You presented it very well.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Gary Katz 1/14/03 12:26 a.m.
I always bump my price whenever I know something's going to slow me down, especially if it's something expensive. I see nothing wrong with you doubling your price for those doors. HOnestly. It's perfectly acceptable, given that you'll have to have help; you must be an experienced door hanger in order to assume that kind of liability; and for goodness sake, there's nothing wrong with getting well paid now and then for a job that not every carpenter can do. You can do this one. You deserve to be well paid for it.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/14/03 12:38 a.m.
Does this mean that if I bought a double door at a yard sale for 20 bucks, I could count on you to set it for...... maybe $30? Probably not! (if so, I'll e-mail you my address & hit the sales!!!) Hang (pardon the pun) the cost of the door & your liabiliy worries, that's why you have LIABILIY INSURANCE!!!! You get paid for your skills & knowledge of what, why, where & when; what do you do to hang it, why do you do it that way, where do you set it (against a plumb jamb or spaced equally), when do you get paid? ( I know, the last two examples suck, but I had to put something there :0 ) Charge what YOU'RE worth, not the product. Chances are, you'll find a fair price in there!

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/14/03 6:18 a.m.
One liability claim against your insurance will most likely get you cancelled. If you get cancelled, the chances of getting any other carrier to underwrite you will be nearly impossible. It will most likely be at double the premium f at all.
IMO...to not appreciate the liability and charge accordingly would be less than prudent. Liability insurance is for catastrophic claims, not $3000 doors.
Your experience and expertise is worth what it's worth. But accidents can happen. Forget miscutting, drilling, chiseling and focus on accidentally stumbling and dropping the door. There's not much that can happen to a $150 door that we can't fix. That handcarved mahogany door that some Honduran guy carved is another matter entirely.
A good buddy of mine had to cut two hand carved newel posts that were $1500 apiece. He said his hands were shaking so bad he was worried about his cut. Did he have the expertise and experience, absolutely, best finish carpenter I've ever seen, but he appreciated what a mistake would cost him.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Kirk 1/14/03 11:43 a.m.
It is always a question of what is a fair price. In my life, $4000.00 is too much to eat, so I would make a claim if there was a problem. As you say, you feel there is very little likelyhood that you will damage the doors. So the insurance is what gives you piece of mind should it happen.
You will have to work slower, you will need a helper( who could damage the doors) and it is a more difficult install, ie number and quality of hinges,Transportation and delivery, etc.
Your liability may be more than just the cost of the doors, by the way. Falling big heavy doors do wonders to floors, walls trim, grandfather clocks etc.
Add together all the extras costs you can think of and then add a risk percentage of 20%-30%. That should handle finding a fair price. The 20% figure is open to negotiation and evaluation, but remember, the insurance is going to soften the blow. If you think the risk is too great for the price you come up with, then offer to walk or to do the job at a higher price. Let the customer decide. I have had more than one customer choose to pay me more in order to have me do the work.
Just bumping your normal charge up by a arbitrary percentage runs the risk of over and or undercharging for the job. Of course, the final evaluation is what the market will bear. If you price it too high, then you may damage the relationship with the customer and that could cost you more in the long run.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Steve Christopher 1/14/03 5:23 p.m.
Clarify, are you hanging $4000 worth of new doors on an existing jamb or installing a complete door/jamb assembly.8 years ago I put a $7500 assembly in for a funeral palor,5'x 7' with a 2' transom, all oak with brass camed glass. When it was delivered to the job, I discovered that the active door was on the wrong side .Talk about heart stopping, I had done the measuring and drawings for the order. Seems though the "factory" got inside and outside reversed,WHEW!!!

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
George Roberts 1/14/03 6:28 p.m.
Whoa ----
Risk and self insurance is part of the job.
If you cannot accept the risk, pass on the job.
If you currently mess up 10% of your doors, then your risk is 10% of the door cost and labor. In that case a 10% mark up might be proper.
My error rate on doors must be under 5%, but most of those errors can be fixed even on high dollar doors. I would charge no additional.
I would add an extra hour labor to admire my work if they were real nice doors.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GACC Dallas 1/14/03 8:13 p.m.
Liability insurance doesn't cover screw-ups. If you miss-drill something or cut it too short, don't bother to make a claim.
Like Gary and others said, you should be paid more for something special.
I love George's idea of adding an extra hour just to sit back and admire the finished project.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
steve 1/14/03 8:43 p.m.
Charging "over and above the normal" is perfectly OK . It's what you do with the extra $ that matters.
Did you go out and put a down payment on a snowmobile you'll only use twice every three years? You just blew it.
Did you use the "extra" to buy yourself some tooling or equipment you truly needed? You're half-way there.
Did you "rathole" that extra money just in case something goes wrong and you have to pay yourself to fix it? Ahhh, now you're on to something!
When you're charging extra for Mission Impossible, you're in effect your own insurance company. You need to save the "premium" just in case. How many of us do that? How many of us end up working for free? Just my own $.02 worth.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/14/03 9:05 p.m.
Steve, it's incredible - the wisdom of your thinking.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/14/03 11:22 p.m.
Steve Christopher,
Yes, If I get to hang the doors it will be $4000 worth of doors in an old jamb.
This is a rutine, non challenging job for anyone of us.
The issue here is "liability".
The higher the risk, the higher the premium.
Insurance people wrote the books about it.
Your last paragraph says it all.
You charge more for the "Mission Impossible" jobs and save that "excess" to pay for the screw ups you may have in the future.
Thanks to all for your enlightening thoughts.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/15/03 12:18 a.m.
Let me clarify my statement. If you have a $4000 liability in this project & you ruin the doors, not only are you out the four G's, but you are not going to get paid anyway.
Why charge an exorbitant amount just because the doors are high dollar? Charge for the extra help, extra weight, extra work & the fact that others are to scared to try it.
The $4000 doors cost that much because of the craftsmanship that went into making them. The $300 doors cost that much because of the lesser amount of craftsmanship. Your craftsmanship is basicly the same for both, so what's the dif?
But I guess that's what makes America great, freedom to differ in opinions! Good luck in your endeavors.
P.S. Derrell, $4000 would be pretty catastrophic to a small business man like myself! ;)

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/15/03 6:32 a.m.
Not nearly as catastrophic as having your insurance cancelled and having to buy it (if anyone will underwrite you) at 3-5 times the normal premium for the next 3 years or more. Plus, NO WORK till you find a new carrier.
Plus...we all pay premiums based on the number of claims in our particular business, so we all get an insurance hike.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/15/03 6:17 p.m.
I can see your point, but to say that it's not prudent not to charge more, because of the higher liabiliy, doesn't make sense to me. As I said before, if you ruin the doors, you will not get paid anyway, plus you have the cost of the doors themselves. So you can CHARGE $40 or $4000 to hang them, but you will still get squat.
As George Roberts said, "Risk & self insurance is part of the job". As I do not have $4000 dollars laying around to cover my butt, the insurance company would get the claim. If they cancel me, that becomes another issue, but I will not be scared to file a claim because of that, that's why I have it. I do appreciate your views & opinions though.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/15/03 7:14 p.m.
Wayne, I don't see your point.
It takes the same amount of craftsmanship to wash the exterior side of a window on a ranch house as is does off rigging hanging from a roof of a window on the 32nd floor. It also takes the same about of craftsmanship to install a piece of blown off shingle on a 4/12 pitch roof of a ranch house as it does on a 12/12 pitch roof that is 3 stories high.
As you asked "Your craftsmanship is basicly the same for both, so what's the dif?"
RISK - and their are many types of risks, not just to body. And in business as in life, the greater the risk - any risk - the greater the reward, otherwise, why take any risks at all? We can all cut grass for a living.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Monty Quick 1/15/03 7:40 p.m.
I don't normally chime in on matters of opinion but I have to agree with Wayne on this.
Using the same theory of pricing this job on the cost of the doors I should be able to price the cost of an addition based on the cost of the home itself. Let's see, if I'm going to build on to a $500k house then I should charge $500k in case I screw up because I wouldn't want to have to file a claim on my insurance. It doesn't wash.
Al states in his original post that the work required to hang the less expensive doors is the same. Frankly, I don't think I would accept a job if my first concern was "what if I screw up?". If you'll have more hours or need extra help, by all means, charge for it. I just wouldn't feel right charging based on the cost of the doors.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean any disrepect. I just don't agree with the theory behind the pricing.
Monty Quick

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GaryR&R 1/15/03 8:27 p.m.
If your business does not have money in reserve to cover the “Unexpected”, then you need to sit down and rethink your finances.
Insurance is for a major catastrophic event, not for a couple of doors that cost a few thousand dollars.
Personally, I would charge a premium to install those doors, and add some more on top of that. Money gentleman, that’s why we do what we do, well I do anyway.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/15/03 8:38 p.m.
Monty, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing, but we're not talking about building a house here. That's just too general.
If I'm to install a set of kitchen cabinets that cost about $8K, I'll charge my regular rate. But if those same cabinets cost $60K, I'll charge more. There is a difference between me accepting the risk of damaging a $60 drawer front or door and a $300 drawer front or door.
That's also why a diamond cutter charges one heck of a lot more for cutting a cheap diamond with minor flaws than a larger flawless diamond. Again risk.
However, if you and Wayne wish to use the same rates regardless of the risk factors, it's certainly your right and option to do so.
My minimum rate is $85/hr. Last Friday I and a property manager went to see a condo owner who had mold on several walls. The manager wanted to hire me to determine the cause and source. I told him up front my rate was $110/hr. including travel time both ways (about 30 min. from his office) plus the time to formulate the subsequent report which included pertinent pages from the book entitled: "Moisture Control in Buildings".
Should I have charged him my "regular" rate? I think not, because he hired my on a consulting basis due to my expertise in locating and solving moisture intrusion problems. In other words, what I was selling was in demand and almost non-existent in our area. Or at least, no one else in our area, even if they had that expertise, had not "branded" it.
And that's the point of branding - market saturation for what is "perceived" by the public as representing a value. If I can sell it at $110/hr., I'd be a fool to sell it for less. Remember that public markets determine value. All we can do is provide, as in supply, the public those values they desire.
My "value" is represented in our industry. In the environmental industry it's worth nothing, as it would be in pathology or engineering, because I've not demonstrated any knowledge of "value" in those areas.
I also charge more when doing drywall repairs wit texturing, and only because I've taught myself how to blend in virtually every type of texturing used in my area. Anyone with basic experience can patch and tape drywall, but I've gone beyond that to create a "market" for the "value" my texturing abilities represent to the public. Hence, I charge more.
So look at the individual aspects of each potential sale to determine the value you personally represent to solving the client's problem.
It's called among other names, a Variable Pricing Structure (VPS), or Value Pricing (VP).

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/15/03 9:40 p.m.
In my area, I charge about $12 a wall to run crown. New construction, just primer coat on walls, bare concrete wall.
Add installed Berber carpet, oil paintings, priceless antiques, lamps, coffe tables and guess what...my price skyrockets. Why?
Do I think, "What if I screw something up?". You better believe I do. I can run crown mold, paint or stain grade, as good as anybody and not make a mistake. It's not the crown mold I'm worried about. It's the liability from breaking, scratching, damaging the things in the house.
It's called increased liability.
Key word...increased. same as what I do with my price.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/15/03 11:12 p.m.
Right on, DerrelL.. Same reason when my prices for interior painting of a house in Port Royal here, where houses go from about $5M to well over $50M, cost the client one hell of a lot more then when I paint the inside of a $75K condo.
Same craftsmanship. Different "environment". Different environment , as in $$$$$, potential "losses."

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/16/03 12:41 a.m.
Let's keep things in perspective here. If you were cleaning a $75 3-0, 5-0 storm window on that rancher (in your example) or a $350 Pella double hung w/gold plating & silver counter balances (same size, same rancher, same level), would you charge more to clean the Pella? Same craftsmanship, same risk. Granted, if you break the Pella, it will cost you more to replace, but that's the only difference. That's my point!
I'm happy for you that you can charge & get $110/hr. for the consulting, you're getting paid for your knowledge & expertise. Hell, I can even understand charging more for the increased liabiliy with that. The client is banking on what you tell him, making you responsible for the outcome. As far as the windows (or doors), the outcome SHOULD be the same, regardless of cost of materials.
Derrell, once again, you're comparing apples to oranges. In your example, I would charge more to hang crown with all the expensive stuff around as well. I charge more to trim out an occupied home than I do to trim out a home with no furnishings. Where we differ on opinions, is, charging more for the same environment, same risk factor, same level of skill, same product except for cost & basing what to charge the client solely on that reason. Well, to each their own, so........
Before I start getting branded as another troublemaker, I'll shut up.
Pride of ability & love of the trade gentlemen, that's why I do what I do. The money's an added bonus!
Love you guys.....PEACE,

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/16/03 6:19 a.m.
If you were in the hauling business, would you charge the same for 100lbs. of hay as you do 100lbs. of nitroglycerine?
Same weight. Same truck. Same route.
Just pickin' at ya'....;-)

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GaryR&R 1/16/03 7:35 a.m.
I would haul the hay, but sub out the nitro-hauling job to one of you guys :-)

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Paul P 1/16/03 11:26 a.m.
Why is it anything to do with doors gets so many responses?

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Monty Quick 1/16/03 4:52 p.m.
Well put Wayne.
Sonny, et al,
I'm all for charging as much as you can. I just think this sort of pricing structure seems rather arbitrary.
Perhaps Al needs to raise his rates across the board so he doesn't have to fret over a possible loss. I don't know. Al, I'm not picking on you but you raised the issue.
Frankly, I'd have a hard time explaining to a customer that these doors cost more to install because they are expensive and I might screw them up.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
piffin 1/16/03 7:59 p.m.
I'm going to disagree with Wayne about ignoring the liability cost and recommend doubling price for better doors.
#1, the customer sets this up in his expectations. Someone who is willing to spend extra for doors is stating that he has high expectations and can afford to pay for them. It costs more in time to meet those expectations.
My plumber found out about liabilities in a conversation with hjis insurance agent. He had a customer who bought their own fixtures in Europe, some high priced exotic things. Now, as soon as he touches them his insurer becomes liable. Liability insurance is based on a percentage of what your gross is - at least here it is - and your track record. Mistakes happen more often with new, different, and exotic items and avoiding those mistakes takes time and concern.
We get paid for our skill and for production. We should also get paid for some of our ulcers. Assign me a risk and i need to get some remuneration for assuming that risk. That is what a general contractor does - make profit from managing risk. george touches on this but the tewn percent - if that is right for you- should be on the cost of labour and materials. One way of managing that risk is to have a policy that you always provide materials or that any amterials provided by the customer are not covered under your insurance or warrantee.
Same principles apply to automobiles. Ford makes more, percentage-wise, on big Mountaineers than they do on little Escorts or Focus.
As an aside, You might be able to install seven foot doors as fast as 6'8" doors, except for the helper but I found that an eight footer can triple my time, especially for doubles. All the fine tuning and alignment means that the short step ladder gets moved in and out too many times

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
steve 1/16/03 8:59 p.m.
Paul's question: Why do door hanging questions generate so many questions? Because there can be so many problems! Wood doors warp, cup, bow, swell, shrink, twist, and otherwise move in ways that defy description.
Install a pair of French Doors on the North side of a house with good overhangs and the installation should be long-lasting, provided all the stuff like proper finishing is taken care of.
Install the same pair on the Southwest side of a house, no overhangs, ocean-front, etc. I don't care how much attention is paid to proper finishing and all the rest, this job is begging for a call-back or two. Jamb strips, drips, locks not latching etc, all begging for it!
"High-Line" product or not, to my way of thinking, it's as much the exposure situation as well as the owner's expensive doors that governs the price. Charge accordingly.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/16/03 10:36 p.m.
Excellent points, Steve.
Wayne, you're not a trouble maker. You're just arguing your point.
"Peace" back to you.
Piffin said: "All the fine tuning and alignment means that the short step ladder gets moved in and out too many times."
Boy isn't the truth. I just went thru that about 2 weeks ago replacing two exterior french doors. I finally got my 3' step ladder from the truck to put inside so the 4" could stay outside.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/16/03 11:30 p.m.
I buy Bosch Platinum spark plugs for my van & expect a high % of quality from the $4.00 ea. parts. Even the name, "Platinum", bespeaks of excellence. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay a mechanic 10-40% more to install them, instead of some 97¢ Autolites.
Ford MAKES the Mountaineer, Escort & Focus. Al was just gonna hang the door! ;-)
Thanks Monty for your support, but I think we're out numbered here. I quit!

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/17/03 12:28 a.m.
Wayne, I wouldn't pay him a dime more either!
Don't forget, the person who 1st said the earth was round and not flat, was also out numbered. Besides, you disagree so pleasantly that it''s a pleasure disagreeing with you. (-:

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Paul P 1/17/03 12:29 a.m.
Wayne, The spark plug example is like switching out A lockset with a more expensive lockset in the same bore. For that example I agree, not much goin on there. The new doors in an existing jamb would be more like installing a custom part in the engine and is going to cost more than a standard install if you bring it to a shop.
If you can install low end doors for X why would you install high end doors if you can't make more than standard rate doing it? Maybe if you are short on work, but not on a regular basis. There is only down side to working with higher end doors.
I did work on an expensive K/D door unit a month back and charged standard rates. But that was after the builder told me if anything went wrong he would buy them. No down side so standard rates.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/17/03 7:27 a.m.
Hang in there Wayne....It's just like being on the job...everybody is always giving everybody flak. Good natured flak.....:-)

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/17/03 5:45 p.m.
Maybe that's my problem, I'm just to good natured. Maybe I should just cut loose & assert myself on everybody & insist on being right (like some have done before).
............NAH!!! You guys are too great! Makes for interresting dialouge. Keep up the discussions, I've benefited from nearly every thread.
Sonny, you're too kind!
Sorry Al, for monopolizing your thread.
Wayne :}

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GACC Dallas 1/17/03 8:13 p.m.
Nobody charges what Sonny does. I'm not sold that he charges what he claims. But that's something nobody has the time or the want to try to substantiate. I mean no disrespect, but the prices you quote, Sonny, are way above the norm. If you get that, good for you. But don't go throwing that up to the rest of us as a standard. I, for one, am not impressed.
For those of you doing this for the love of the craft, you'll get over that. If you want to charge average rates for above average work, I do that too. That's what makes us successful.
Every job has to be judged on it's merits. If you feel you're hanging it out there, then you may have to charge more. If you've got nothing else to do, then you may have to charge less. A little money is better than no money. Working for a loss is another subject that I won't get into here.
You can't go to a client once you've established a relationship and raise the stakes. But you can take a certain portion of a project and break it out as a speciality item in order to cover your liability.
I wouldn't suggest clipping some client by charging rates higher than your normal rate for business as usual. That's bad business as it doesn't grow new business. But for some items, you have to be reimbursed for your experience and expertise AND the risk involved.
Save your breath Sonny, I know what you're gonna say. You're worth every penny. All those years of experience....nobody else can do what you do...blah, blah, I get it. You seem to have a market that can handle what you charge and that's great. I'm happy for you. Why not stop telling us how much you charge? Just tell us about how you make the customer happy. We'll take it from there based on what our market will pay. That might be helpful.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
George Roberts 1/17/03 8:30 p.m.
Al ---
Pass on the job.
Your liability insurance will pay for damage you do to the property.
But you have to pay for your mistakes in doing the work. It appears you are certain you will make a mistake that cannot be fixed. That is a $4000 loss.
My wife points out that making a $4000 mistake on a 4 hour job (expensive door) is different than making a $300 mistake on a 3 hour job (cheap door).
I say the work on a $4000 door is identical to the work on a $300 door. I don't mess up either one. You should not either.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Gary Katz 1/17/03 10:36 p.m.
Well, I for one am really impressed at how agreeable everyone's being about disagreeing on this subject!
Good job. I argue this point with my brother/partner FREQUENTLY. He wins most of the time so we have plenty of work, but I always inch the prices up, so we continue to make money on the work we do.
But as for Al…I bet he’s already hung those doors and the job came out just swell--just like his Dutch doors did.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/17/03 11:40 p.m.
Dallas, let me explain something to you. At my age, my ego is nearly gone. I need no pats on the back. The only reason that I take the time to state what I do and what I charge is simply to show what is possible.
I'll repeat - What is possible - by anyone.
For years, probably decades, I was like you and many others. I had myself convinced that I did what I did because I l..o..v..e..d what I was doing for a living. And it was just that - a living. And I was making excuses for my self. It was much easier to "rationalize" than to say I didn't have the guts to charge what I should have been charging. And one day I just got tired of always being on the edge of burnout, and for what? Peanuts!
So I said, screw this, from then on the new journey began. As for insinuating that I'm lying about my pricing, email me with your fax number and I'll fax you a few contracts. You're smart enough to figure out if I'm cheap or expensive. No, I might be fabricating those contracts. Instead, I'll give you the name and number of the owner of a property manager I do work for and you can talk to her directly. I will also fax you an invoice I received over 2 years ago from a welder and another one from Action Automatic Door Co. The welder charged me - 2 years ago, $75 per hour. The door company charged me $40 for a trip charge and $80 per hour, and remember, that was 2 years ago. I keep them in my Daytimer to show clients once in a while when we talk about prices, and I ask them: "If this is the labor rate for someone who only has to know one trade, what should I charge since I must know, and exhibit, several trades?"
Not to be disagreeable on the other hand, you might be right in your assessment of me and my comments. I might be better off just letting the status quo exist and continue to let my peers work for what ever they want to work for - because they love what they're doing. I'd sure save myself a lot of time spent on these forums.
What's also funny is that I too love what I'm doing, but it's no longer just for a living.
Our problem is that while many of us think they are "Professionals", they don't think that they should be paid as a "Professional." They think they should be paid as a "Tradesman." That's OK too. So I'm just an ***hole. Maybe if I cut my prices in half you'll like me better, and I can then be one of the boys. Sorry, I used to be one of the boys. Now I'm just one of the dummies.
I now understand why most of the really successful contractors "aren't" on these forums. They too would be called heretics.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Jeff B 1/18/03 12:36 a.m.
I'd just like to point out that in my area of the country, Sonny's rates would not be considered way above the norm. I personally know a lot of contractors and trades people that charge significantly more per hour. It all comes down to what the market will bear. The cost of living in my area is high. I know damn well when I pay my bills at the end of every month that each person receiving my money is charging exactly what the market will bear for their services and it's only justified that I do the same. It doesn’t bother me to pay my mechanic $90/hour to look at my car. I couldn't get a plumber to look at my boiler for less than $80/hour. The guy who owns the gas station charges me $1.50 for my cup of coffee even though he could make a profit if the price was 50¢ etc.
It seems to me that there are 2 kinds of contractors / carpenters making a great living around here. The first type has skill and expertise. They are always in demand and charge what they are worth. The other type does not really have the same skill or job quality control. What they do have is the guts to charge high rates and the conscience that allows them not to worry about it. Everyone else is struggling to get by for various reasons. Some of them simply don’t have enough skill to keep them in demand. The others are charging less than their market value for fear that they will fall out of demand when they assert their true worth in the market place.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/18/03 3:46 a.m.
The reason you must charge more in some cases for the same job is due to what is called “variables”.
You should always charge your “basic rate” plus “variables”.
What are those variables?
*Weight and size of door.( It is more likely to injure your back with a heavy door than with a hollow one)
*Upstairs work (Damaging walls and ceiling, hitting a chandellier, pictures in the wall, missing a step and falling injuring yourself and causing additional damage)
*Location of the job ( how far you have to drive. Wear to the vehicle. Possibility of an accident. Fuel consumption. Time spent driving.)
* Price of door (If the door is ruined for whatever reason you must pay for it)
*Stain grade versus paint grade. (You can fix easily a paint grade door).
The reason that we have to charge more when we encounter any of these variables is given by the negative effect they can have on us which can cost you money and time lost.
The money collected from the “variables” is meant to be kept separate from the money from your “basic rate”.
This way you are “self insuring” and building up a fund that will be available to you if one of the possible consequences of any of those variables should hit you at any moment.
You must charge for the “work you do” plus the “risk” you are taking while doing that work. If you don’t you are not doing it right.
If you were an insurance broker would you insure a Ferrari for the price of a Volkswagen.?
If you were a plastic surgeon, would you work on the breasts of Dolly Parton for the same price you charged to Bonnie Stone, the wife of a truck driver ? It will be the same procedure.
This is why I asked for advise. I did not know how to evaluate the risk I will take doing the hanging.
I raised my price almost 50% and the client accepted that. I explained to him the risk I was taking and I offered to do the job at the original price if he was willing to let me go if I were to cause any damage to the doors. HE DID NOT TAKE THAT OFFER!!!!!
That to me is proof that charging for the risk you take is not unfair nor unreasonable.
I am not afraid of the job of some may think. I think I am smart enough to accept that the unexpected can happen any time on any job.
I’ll be hanging the doors for $600.
Not bad for a day’s work. Shrimp and lobster for my cats that night.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GACC Dallas 1/18/03 11:55 a.m.
Sorry to get under your skin. That was uncalled for on my part. My fax (214) 352-3738. Save your ink, I trust you. I've been having a run-in with a no good lying, cheating subcontrating company this past week, and losing bids left and right. And then you go and tell everyone how you're charging $110 an hour like it's no big deal.
Well, we're not consultants and we do have to bid to make a living and we do have stiff competition. I'd bet you an hour of your fee that there is someone in your area who could do what you do for half what you charge.
We charge $28 an hour. My nearest competitior charges $20. The best painting contractor I know (this guy's the best) charges $26.50. So you see, "screw this" and "take a journey" just doesn't do it for me. That is the staus-quo around here. That's the existing state of affairs...the real world.
I am not a one man show. I have people who depend on me for their living. Their families depend on me. If I say "screw this" (which I often do) I might as well say to my employees "screw you and your kids".
So, how do we sell ourselves in order to charge more than the market will allow?
* Hire the best people - we do that.
* Be professional in our attitude - we do that.
* Use the best material - we do that.
* Buy the best equiptment - we do that.
* Be available always - we do that.
* Always be prompt and on time - we do that.
* Have respect for the clients investment - done.
* Keep a clean work area - we do that.
* Offer on-site and shop services - we do that.
* Keep accurate accountings - we do that too.
Now I don't know what else I can do except maybe cut the clients grass or teach them to play guitar.
All of us have the guts to charge more. We are businessmen. But as a businessman, would you pay that welder $75 an hour if there were eight of them and you needed them for 40 hrs a week for six months? I doubt it. The mechanic can get what he gets because that's what every other mechanic in town charges. Same with the plumber or the door guy. They charge what the market will allow and for them, and it allows for more. Status-quo. You find me a way to get every other carpentry sub company to charge $50 an hour across the board and I'll pay you $1000 an hour for your work. With pleasure.
So you see it's not about guts or deciding that you've had enough or developing an open mind attitude towards charging what you're worth. It comes down to - do I want to work this week or sit at my desk feeling foolish.
It's great that you can charge what you charge as a one man consultant. You and Michael Stone should have a lot to talk about. But don't fool yourself into thinking that the rest of us don't have the guts to do what it takes. Give me something I can use.
Ed. Williams
Great American Carpentry Co.
2650 Lombardy Suite I
Dallas, Texas 75220-6300
(214) 352-4030

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 2:48 p.m.
Ed, it's forgotten. And the only grudges I hold are against customers, not my peers cause I know only too well, the frustration we all get.
And you're right. I'll bet there is not one, but several people here who could do the jobs and/or the occasional consulting jobs I do at half my price. My point it twofold: 1), they don't (and the reason is a book), and 2), they have not realized the potential nor set themselves up to charge my rates - part of that same book.
Believe me when I say many, not all, but many, of our peers don’t have the guts to charge more. From talking to you on these forums, I’ve already learned that you are the exception. Many now are as I used to be. When figuring our an estimate and finally completed it, I’d say to myself: “WOW! I can’t give them a price like that.” So, I’d go back to the estimate and do dumb things like saying to myself: “I have this down as 5 hours. Bet I can do it in 4, so I’d change it.” It took 6. And so forth with more dumb decisions like that. Fear. Fear of not getting the job. Fear is our biggest enemy, not competitors or customers. I’ve talked to far too many guys to know they are just fearful of raising their prices. Heck, they’re even fearful of giving out a “regular” fair price, so they lower it. So please, don’t assume we are all “businessmen”. Most are not and that’s why we have that 85% plus failure rate.
Everything you listed that you do is right on. I couldn’t have done better. I do have a few questions though. Have you ever asked the builders you serve exactly what their complaints are about other framers? I mean an actual list on paper, whether they make it or you do it after talking to them. Have you ever found our the number of law suits against builders by injured workers who, it turned out, weren’t covered by workers comp? How about the existence of, and dollar limits, of liability insurance of competitors?
I mentioned on a different thread (I think) that we are not really in the construction business. We are all really in the “service” business. That’s true in my opinion. But also, as business men and women, we are also “tacticians.” we devise tactics to get the jobs and prices we want, and that takes perhaps, more than we as individuals can muster up on our own. We are also sales people. We have to be to sell the results of our tactical moves and our companies and services.
I’ve often stated that I never considered myself to be a “professional” tradesman, whether it was doing painting, carpentry or whatever. I do however, consider myself to be a very good sales person and marketing/PR person - again, not a professional at either one - just very good. I can be the finest carpenter or painter in Florida, but if I can’t sell/market myself, at my prices, then my trades skills, or the skills or running a multi staffed owner are moot. As such, I’ll bet I could get your hourly rate increased by at least 10% and possibly even up to 20%, even with the competition you fight. All competitors have weaknesses. And all customers, be they builders or the public in general have pet peeves, and peeves that they would like to eliminate via a higher priced contractor. However, don't expect them to admit to that. During the negotiating "tactics'" no businessman admits what s/he is willing to pay extra to get.
Maybe the next time I visit my sister and her family in Tucson, I’ll make a stop in Dallas.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/18/03 4:23 p.m.
I would be willing to bet, that a fair percentage of the pros on this forum, have the same skills, knowledge & expertise, that a certain famous carpenter has. Maybe half of those, have the tools! Going out further on this limb, I'd say, less than 1% have the exposure that is granted him. This makes him in high demand for what he does. This is what can make us in high demand for what we do.
Competition out there is rough, & you have to have that edge over them to stay in the game, much more to charge over the average rates.
Sonny, you say that your competion doesn't get what you charge because of a book. Is this one that you've written? If so, that's your edge. We all have one, it's just a matter of finding it. Sounds like Sonny's found his! I know I'm inspired, by Sonny, Al, Ed, Gary & others, to hone mine so's I can get a bigger slice of the pie! I'm good at my trade, damn good, & I deserve a raise! Thanks all!
Wayne Clark - Owner
Clark's Carpentry "Service" (you're right Sonny)
1613 Maryville Pike
Knoxville, Tn. 37920

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 7:09 p.m.
Wayne, by the "book", I meant it would take pages to properly elaborate on my statement.
However, I had started on my book; "The Great Remodeling Hoax", the temporary name I call it. In my opinion, it does not matter if we are remodelers selling to the general public, or Specialty Contractors as Ed. What does matter, is knowing exactly what our respective client's want the value of each of those "things" they want, how to determine what they are, and how to market and sell to them.
Let me expand a little here. Where did that woman who gave me the painting job I talked about get my name? Not from the newspaper, a sign on my truck, nor a door knob hanger or the yellow pages. She got my name from Ken Riceman, the owner of The Flooring Gallery. But she not only got my name, she was told, while I'm not the cheapest guy in town, I'm accommodating, extremely neat, and very pleasant to work with.
In other words, I had a "relationship" with Ken, and he allowed me to create another "relationship" with a new client. Probably hundreds of books have been written about "relationship selling", creating and obtaining "loyalty" in our clients, and so forth. What do all of these books have is common? They almost never talk about "what" is being sold. They only talk about the "how" of selling, the "how" of marketing one's self, the “how” of learning about each of our customers, and the "how" of creating relationships.
So that is the reason why that woman called me, why is why in fact, it so easy for me to sell to her, and why she so easily signed my contract. She was already presold on me - no, not me - but what my name, which is all she had - represented. And again, because Ken had the same “perception” of what my name represented, but in his case, from personal experiences of seeing how I work, and talking to clients that were common to us both.
Nothing, absolutely nothing - is built, fabricated or serviced until it is first "sold." So I ask you, what takes precedence, as in what is the most important factor, for any business or any of us as small business owners: What we build, fabricate or service, our lousy or exceptional trade skills, or "how" we sell, market ourselves and create and "feed", yes, “feed” relationships?

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 8:26 p.m.
After reading my last post, I realized I could have clarified a couple of things.
The public, be they general or builders who need a sub, all have “preconceptions” of who they are about to deal with when making the phone call. We all know what the general public thinks of us, in general. Most of us also know what a GC thinks of subs. Now think about what the general public “wants” and what that GC “wants.” Those “wants’” or rather satisfying them, no, not just satisfying them but going way beyond, is where the extra money is to be made. Extra as opposed to enough to just make a living.
What would make me pay more to a landscape maintenance company as opposed to another? I place myself in the public’s shoes. they know nothing about remodeling. I know nothing about landscaping, much less one palm tree from another, one type of grass from another or one flower from another, other than the basics like roses. My guy charges me $80 per month to cut grass. He charges extra to do this or that, that is not included in just cutting and edge cutting my grass. Our “relationship” came about shortly after I bought my house and he was “servicing” the previous owner. I noticed how he did a nice job, noticed how if I left a hose out from doing something with it, they moved it to cut the grass. I noticed how he occasionally asked me if I wanted him to trim certain bushes or large leafy plants that had gotten overgrown. He did each, but also enlightened me about this grass, tree or flower and the next one.
About two weeks ago I came home and found he had trimmed my cabbage palm. Trimmed it by using the chain say to skim off the cut spikes left over from old fronds that bad been trimmed. He explained that the areas of those spikes is where rats and/or mice, make nests. WOW! I didn’t know that, and “Thank You.” He said he’d get the next cabbage palm the following week - and he did.
Now, he knows that whenever working on the “Lykos” house, he should just do anything that he feels needs to be done and add it to my next months’ Invoice.
I’m thrilled to have such a relationship with someone I can trust. He’s thrilled (I’m sure) to have a relationship with a customer such as me.
What is it worth to him to have a customer like me? Think about that.
What is it worth to me to have a “service provider” like him. Think about that too.
What ever you come up with to those two answers, and greatly expanding upon them, is where the solution lies to getting top buck. Forget about the strengths of your competitors for now. Instead, concentrate on your” strengths” and expand upon them and tout them, and every time the opportunity arises, even it it’s just having coffee while talking to the stranger sitting next to you.
About two months ago, Murray, a computer specialist, asked me if I installed new aluminum windows. I said yes. He said he figured it would cost about $20K to replace those in his aging ranch,in an area where just the lot is worth about $600K. His house is worth about $125K. Prior to that talk, he’d heard me talk about my business philosophy and that I’m one of the most expensive guys in town, but WOW, the service I give. So, he already knew about my price philosophy before he asked me. I told him I wasn't interested in large projects any more, but that the $20K he mentioned was about right. Then I proceeded to tell him (and he noted on paper), what to look for in a good window, in a contract, deposit, payments, insurances, etc.
Politicians know that if you repeat something often enough, it eventually gets believed. That’s exactly what happened to Murray. He’s heard me talk about myself often. I continually sell myself - to anyone. One never knows where the next job will come from. BUT, More importantly, and never having seen my work, guess what Murray now says about me to people that he knows who need work done.
Bingo! So, that too, is part of “Branding” and building relationships, and what’s really funny is, relationships where you haven’t even done any work yet. “Perception” and “anticipation” of what is to come.
On page 52 in “What Clients Love”, the author says: “you are surrounded by placebo effects, constantly working their alchemy. We have the experience we expect to have, based on our perceptions that preceded those experiences. Our perceptions create our expectations - and those expectations so influence our experience that we can say this: Our expectations changes our experiences. Watch and manage your placebo effects.”
The author also talks about “Snap Judgments Stick.” He says, “First impressions are eternal. Master the first seconds.””
Again, author Harry Beckwith is 100% right on.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GACC Dallas 1/18/03 8:37 p.m.
We're trim and cabinets but that's beside the point.
As to your questions, none of the builders I know care if we have comp or not. Most prefer that we don't as it raises the rate even more. (mine was 24.4% when I dropped it in '91). All they want is a waiver that covers them at audit. The GC's have to have it, but it's not as high a rate for office people as it is for the men in the field. Everybody has liability. It's still affordable.
It usually comes down to dollars and cents. However, we do work for some of the best in town. With no complaints. But there is a limit as to what they can pay. They have to be competitive also.
We're fixing to start a remodel for a builder here next week. It's a beautiful house and the architectural firm is said to be the best in the country for Federal style. They are based out of Washington, D.C.
When the builder talked with his client about carpenters, he said he wanted to use us. He also told the homeowner we were higher than most in Dallas. The reaction was "why should I pay $28 when I can pay $20"? He told them he has had trouble with the cheaper subs and that he doesn't have that kind of trouble with me. He also explained our overhead is higher because of our business structure. We have W2 employees instead of 1099 subs on the payroll. We have a 5000 sqft shop instead of working out of our garage. To me, this guy standing up for our rates made me want to go the extra mile for this builder.
Could I charge him more? Maybe, but he wouldn't be as happy with me. Would I? I doubt it. Having a builder like him on your side is better than a few more bucks in the bank. For a 10 man crew, I'm charging $12,800.00 more a month than my nearest competitor. They still call me. So maybe I'm not making $110 an hour, but I am raising the bench mark for eveybody else.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
tom hallisey 1/18/03 8:44 p.m.
wow alot of replies for a simple problem in my eyes. If you are hanging doors for the banker raise your prices 25% and tell him/her. If you are hanging the doors for starving artists be suspicious. Either way you are hanging doors just like you do often. Be reasonable and charge your wage.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 8:55 p.m.
Ed, in reality, very few people know what I charge per hour. I either give a price or tehy just tell me to do the work and Invoice them - small jobs of course.
In remodels, not hourly rate is given, and if asked, I give an answer about not charging my the hour, but just mark up ALL of my costs. Then I change the subject.
Do you give bids or charge by the hour?
Tom, actaully anyone who does work for a banker should have a fee:
1. Origination fee
2. Application fee.
3. Consideration fee
4. Bathroom break fee
5. Lowering myself to even talk to you fee
And so forth, just as they charge us for a loan.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
piffin 1/18/03 8:58 p.m.
It seems like I have read this exact same argument between Ed and Sonny before. I understand both sides of the arguement.
Buit in the two years since I started paying attention to Sonny's postings here and elsewhere online, I have raised my rates from $24 to $38 and will go up again in the spring. I went from passing costs along at no markup to adding overhead plus 8% on new work and 20% on remodeling - which is what I spoecialize in.
Rather than losing work, I find that I have more than I can do still, even though the economy is supposed to be grinding to a halt. I admitt that I live in an area with good clientele who are wealthy but even they are more careful about how they spend money. Still, they choose me to service them when my competition is saying, "You can't get by with charging more than 28 bucks in this market. People won't pay it"
I think that it is an attitude thing. My attitude!
Ed, you do live in a difficult place but you also have some good clients. They like good work and you can provide it. Sell them the peace of mind they can have from knowing that you will take care of them well - Value Percieved on their part. You have built a wall in your own mind that it can't be done. You've fenced yourself in with this wall. It's a well built wall that you reinforce and maintain. It makes you feel secure. It defines your space and place in the world. It may be that it is a wall that is good for you. I don't mean that facetiously. We all build or choose our surrondings, to some degree.
But you really can do better if you choose to break down that wall or at least take a peak over the top of it.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 9:47 p.m.
Sorry Ed. Of some reason I though you were a framer. I should have remembered your business from previous posts.
About a year ago when Steve Merrette (remember him) and I started talking here and on the phone, he was devastated, a very few weeks away from bankruptcy. And his area in Pennsylvania was also economically devastated.
Anyway, he started out charging $25/hr and would fight you to get you to believe he couldn't get a dime more cause of their economy and what everyone else charged.
The last time I talked to him about 2 months ago, and after months of prodding, cajoling and almost chastising him, he was finally up to $45/hr, is now loaded with work well into spring after talking to him last night on the phone, and I would not be surprised if he isn't up to $48 or $50/hr. I forgot to ask him.
I do however, understand Ed's situation. It's always harder for specialty contractors who's main source of sales is to builders.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 11:26 p.m.
For any of you who want to read a few pertinent pages from "What Client's Love", email me with your fax number. I'm sure you'll then also want to buy the book.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/18/03 11:51 p.m.
What do you know. Just what I've been talking about in the new issue of Fast Company.
Desire: Connecting With What Customers Want

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
beezo 1/18/03 11:58 p.m.
piffin and others,
I will agree with you that a lot has to do with attitude. Mainly mine. I should have listened to a few of my advisors and a few friends a little more. I can charge some more and make some more money. I have worked on my attitude, my work ethics, my salesmanship, my bookkeeping, my call returning, etc. All these things have helped me to to feel better about charging more for the things I do for my customers. Was it easy? No way!!! And it is still not easy. In fact, if I did not have some historical data to convince me that this time of the year is slow for me I would be concerned about not having lots of calls for future work. Otherwise I would be afraid I had priced myself out of the market. I have some work but the phone needs to ring some more so I can look at work and get it on the books.
One thing that I notice is when someone refers to a car mechanic charging you $80 an hour to work on your car. Just ask the mechanic who does the work on your car what he makes. It will usually not be $80 an hour. The shop gets a large portion of it to cover things like overhead that so many of us never consider when we want to get paid. We just want to make a wage. I began to think of myself as a shop and have raised my rates. I mean I do have a sort of a shop-a garage full of tools that I use to build some things, store other things, a rolling shop full of tools and supplies, a answering service{me and an answering machine}, a bookkeeper and estimater{me} and other jobs. If you add all those people's wages together you might be able to justify a raise for yourself. It helped me to begin to think differently about it. That and the fact that I had anotheree birthday and realized I only had about 15 or so more years to get some type of retirement together or I will be working for a long time.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
SJP 1/19/03 12:26 a.m.
I think the main difference is the “client” in question. Sonny's client is the homeowner or association. They typically know very little about construction. They want to have the job taken care of completely. Every detail, every problem. Most of them also love to be WOWed.
Ed's client is the usually another contractor. For them, as with me, if they have the choice between 2 or 3 subs and overall, each produces great work, then the choice becomes price. It’s like retail. Very different.
It's also hard to WOW a contractor. Many of the "details" that matter so much to a client don't matter to a GC, assuming the choice is from companies that are competent.
I have 2 flr subs that both do beautiful work. sub A is a 2 man show, very clean, takes care of all the prep etc on a job. Most of his clients are realtors and homeowners. Sub B, has several crews, Only works for GC’s. We do all the prep and clean up on his jobs. (I have a helper spend about 6 hrs total doing this) Sub B charges $2 per sq ft less than sub A. If it wasn't for the occasional scheduling conflict, I wouldn't use sub A at all. (At present about 20% of the time) I make about $1500 MORE on most jobs with Sub B.
With either sub the client sees beautiful work, professionally done with a clean job site. They’re on time, polite, knowledgeable. For the client, there is no difference. For me, there’s a big difference.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/19/03 1:12 a.m.
Kind of funny. I can say the same thing about a GC who give me a substantial amount of door hanging work every few weeks.
All I need to do is drop at the place the work needs to be done. He provides doors and hinges and I don't have to install the locksets nor haul away the old doors.
I feel so comfortable working for this guy that I even install 1"3/8" solid core fire doors for the price of the hollow core interior doors.
He pays me well for the interior doors.
He makes my job easy so I let him run away with an under priced door installation.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/19/03 8:07 a.m.
According to NAHB statistics, 80% of all subs go out of business in the first year because of lack of capital. Certainly some are not businesswise and foolish with money. But the rest simply don't appreciate what it costs to do business and as a result, don't charge enough.
If you consistently charge a price that not only enables you to cover wages, taxes, liability insurance, health insurance, repair and replacement on trade tools, transportation, storage, supplies, self-insurance cushion, retirement funding and business profit, and an annual paid vacation...you will find that your business will flourish and that you will have the oppurtunity to love (again) what you do. You will also find that you don't HAVE to take every job that comes along.
I just severed ties with a GC who loves my work, but cannot bring himself to pay more than rock bottom prices. It is his loss and not mine. I am as busy as a set of jumper cables at a red neck funeral because my reputation and work allow me to charge more. I refuse to lower my prices because I think it is wrong for me businesswise, and that it is unhealthy for the trade generally. Someone, somewhere will always charge less. There's not a thing I can do about it. My equipment is the very best, I always arrive when I say I will, and always do what I say I will do, and I always do the best job possible.
Criminy...just showing up sober on the job will cause most GC's to swoon.
Why shouldn't I charge every penny the market will bear? I deserve a paid vacation, I deserve to send my kids to a good college, I deserve to fund a retirement program and a savings plan.
Here's the catch...when you charge top dollar...you have to provide the best service. We live in a service driven civilization. Do the little extras, go the extra mile, show up neat and do a neat job and clean up after yourself. It's a cakewalk out there, guys. Your competition isn't doing all the extras. Remember, you've just got to be better than them. And that's not usually very hard. Be pleasant to work with. In short...sell youself. Make them think they are lucky to get you at your price.
There will always be the occasional horse's rearend that will want everything for nothing. Refer him to your competition.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/19/03 10:14 a.m.
Selling is the key. In our condos, I do all cabinet hanging, door hanging, mantle building & trim work. I supervise all other subs, just to make sure they are up to specs & standards.
Then,I get to deal with the buyers (first contact), before the builder does. Sure, they look at all the amenities, but if I told them, "here's the condo, take it or leave it", they would tell me to kiss off & go down the road. I have to "sell" them the finer points that separate us from the competition & woo their egos a bit. Same with getting other jobs, same with selling yourself.
My 2¢

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/19/03 1:02 p.m.
Those of you well established in your business who has managed to built a good reputation over the years., are well known , have an established and loyal clientele etc. can certainly charge the prices you think you deserve with “confidence”.
Some of us who are not well established in our business yet, but getting better every day, did not manage to build the reputation that an old timer in the business have, must certainly have to limit himself to what the “market can take” and victimize himself, sometimes, by his lack of “confidence”. (That’s me).
We can charge all we want to but how many “takers” there will be out there.
The well known guy who is well established, reputable, well booked, can truly manipulate his prices and disobey the golden rule “never charge more than what the market can bear”. They can force the market to “bear” more than it really should.
One example is Home Depot.
They charge $112 to install an interior door, a refundable $35 to go to your house and write you an estimate and $12.50 to haul away each door. Not only that, they make you wait 2 weeks before they can touch you. The funny thing about all that is that they hire guys like me to do the install.
How many guys can charge those prices. The highest I’ve heard on interior doors in my area is $85 per opening. I am lower than that and I am happy with the way things are going .
Some people are capable of charging exorbitant prices and people pay them what they are asked based on the reasoning: “he charges a lot, but he is really good”.
One of your paragraphs in your last post is a reflection about how good some people are doing and something that many of us can not make it happen yet.
I am pasting the paragraph. Here it is. Read it again. Bye.
If you consistently charge a price that not only enables you to cover wages, taxes, liability insurance, health insurance, repair and replacement on trade tools, transportation, storage, supplies, self-insurance cushion, retirement funding and business profit, and an annual paid vacation...you will find that your business will flourish and that you will have the oppurtunity to love (again) what you do. You will also find that you don't HAVE to take every job that comes along.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 1:03 p.m.
WOW - Steve, Derrell and Wayne’s last posts were terrific - and all true.
And WOW, what a turn this thread has taken from it’s original, but I’m thrilled. The current topic is an important one.
Steve, actually, the work I do for condo association is very difficult, or can be, and Wayne alluded to it a little. Friday I was in the office of a Property Manager I used to work for a few years ago when he worked for a different prop. mgt. company. He retired, got bored and got a terrific offer from his current boss. Anyway, he called me about that small consultant job I did and a couple repair projects. He knew from a previous telephone discussion that I wasn't taking on any additional clients as far as property management companies, but................. That was the main purpose of the meeting - my “but.”
He was tired of having to deal with repair guys that the other managers in his office used. I reiterated that my contention was that I actually had two clients - the condo Board “and” the property management company, represented by the particular manager. My job was to make them/him/her look good to THEIR client - the condo Board, since although the manager is really a “broker” of service providers like myself, the better I make them look good, the more referrals they got for new clients. The better I worked for them/him/her, the more they would use me for the rest of their clients, including the new ones - “relationship building.” And, the easier it is for them to sell my prices.
Plus I have to have exceptional people skills to handle (interact) with the rest of the condo unit owners that talk to me while working on their buildings. Typical small talk and some complaints. TACT! What to say; how to say it; what not to say; when to explain, etc. But, I also use those interactions with the other unit owners to shrewdly sell myself. “Well Mr. Smith, the reason why these door jambs are decaying where they meet the threshold is because the painter never caulked those joints. See, the end piece of wood like this jamb wicks up water just as though you touched a paper towel to a drop of water on a table. That water, thru capillary action, is pulled up the towel. Same for the wood.”
“See Mr. Jones, these 6 panel metal garage service doors are not galvanized - a No-No here in South Florida, and the metal inside is either raw metal or just has a cheap generic primer, so they rust from the inside out due to condensation. Blah, Blah, Blah.” More than once I overhead a unit owners tell another something to the effect: “Boy, this guys knows his stuff.” So what do you think they say to other unit owners, Board members or the property manager? Continual selling, marketing and relationship building. I also use those little talks with unit owners to tout my Preventative Building Maintenance Programs - another service I offer.
I think a couple of you guys, especially Steve, hit an important point about being a Specialty Contractor (SC) who’s main clients are GCs. To GCs, “price” is almost always the deciding factor. To the general public, be they private, condo Boards or Prop. managers, while price is obviously important, it’s normally not #1 on the list as it is for builders. And when and where it was, it soon drops down after dealing with lousy service providers or those who don’t self educate themselves about products. That’s exactly why Jim Gibson, that prop. mgr. called me. I used to replace those rotted bottom jamb sections with KDAT jambs and last year switched to PVC. Ditto for brick molding. So in effect, GCs are what we remodelers would call “bottom feeders” - looking for price only (for the most part), so as not to insult some builders here. I wish I had a buck for each SC I talked to here who said they preferred to work for remodelers, or electricians and plumbers who stopped doing work for builders and now only do service work.
So being an SC is a different industry within our construction industry, and as such their client’s needs to be addressed are different. However, I can’t help but thinking about what Jerry Hayes does/sells, to GCs when acting as a SC and he gets top buck, and I mean TOP buck. It’s because of his ability to provide unique skills and services and HOW he provides them. And he works on houses that cost up to $50M.
You know, we’ve all heard that saying: “Find a need and fill it.” I say: “Find the not obvious and often not verbalized need - and fill it.” Even GCs have one or more. Wayne touched upon it in the last paragraph of his post.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
SJP 1/19/03 2:36 p.m.
I did not mean to imply that your work was not difficult. I’m sure that it is, and can be more so when the projects are so varied and often small. I actually did service work for two very nice 55 unit condos for about a year or so in SF prior to getting my GC license, and even though I did very well at it, I found it really lonely work (most of the condos were 2nd or 3rd homes for the owners, so I didn't get to interact with people very often, which I really enjoy)
I agree that every GC has needs that should be catered to, my point was that there are fewer needs than with HA and HO and most of the subs I know cater to them all anyway. I’m already very demanding of my subs, but they know this going into the deal and charge accordingly. I have a saying that my subs know well "my clients are picky, but I'm worse".
In the case of my flooring subs, they both offer the same great service (ok one minor difference). They’re both great at what they do, they are great with my clients, and they're both very professional. Price is the ONLY discernable difference
My understanding was that this is the dilemma that Ed faces. Even though he may know he's better than his competitors, if the GC’s he works for do not see a difference, then they will not pay more for his services.
It's all about perception.
Very subjective, don't you think?

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GaryR&R 1/19/03 3:06 p.m.
Is that just a slab replacement or removal of the old jamb and replace with new jamb and door?
Just thought you may want to know, I just made another strawberry cobbler in the dutch oven outside :-) mmmmmmmmmm

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 3:09 p.m.
Steve, I agree with you. Business can be a bitch, and B2B is worse because price is more of a factor.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 3:27 p.m.
Gary, I hate you - lovingly.
It's a section only of the jamb. They are anywhere from the bottom 6" to the bottom 14" which includes the bottom hinge mortise. But when I order a new prehung exterior door, I order it thru Naples Lumber because they are the only people here who sell these PVC jambs. I like them.
Naples Lumber will also do what they call a "work up" which means they charge me an extra $15 or $20 (that's cheap) to cut in the hinge mortises and drill the lock bore(s) if I'm only going to change out an entire jamb side or just a door only. They are white, but the inside is a brown color. I was told that brown PVC is much denser to accept screws. Difficult to chisel a mortise in, and a router melts the removed plastic as it cuts, but I can live with those two distractions considering the benefits of these jambs. They are about $6 per foot and Naples Lumber sells them by sides, head pieces or in sets.
If anyone is interested in them I'll find out who the manufacturer is. It might be Marley Moldings: http://www.marleymouldings.com/ but I can find out for sure.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
piffin 1/19/03 4:38 p.m.
In light of what you point out, it might help Ed to sit down with his GCs and go over some things;
How can I serve you better?
What do you like best about my service and my team?
Is there anything I can do to improve what I do and/or make things go easier for you?
Do you have any complaints?
Do my competitors offer you anything I don't do for you now?

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 5:10 p.m.
Piffin, that was my whole point.
I think I posted on one of these threads or another forum what happened to me when I moved to Naples in ‘81 (the first time). While waiting for my license, I worked for a friend, Dino, who owned a tile installation company and a painting company. I started cold calling on builders for painting jobs, which I eventually worked on as a crew leader.
Anyway, Dino was moaning about the good old days in the 70’s when he could get about $1.50 per square foot to paint a new house - it was all new construction. But now, back in ‘81, builders were only paying about .85 per sq/ft. so he has to keep his price down to get jobs. Being the cocky arrogant guy I was/am, I said BS! I told hi if he only sold “price” he’s end up bankrupt because there would always be someone working out of the back of his van that would under cut him, and at that time, and still now, we have a tremendous amount of Mexicans who will work for very low wages.
Anyway, while calling on builders I asked point blank what their main complaints were about the printers they were presently using and past painters. They all have the same short list of about 3-5 things. I asked them if I could guarantee that we would never, ever do any thing on the list that screwed them up or arrgravated them, if they would try us out and pay us, I think at the time I asked for about .95 or $1.00 per sq. ft. I got several to agree. When I quit working for Dino I had refined his operation and we were getting, again, either $1.15 or $1.25 per sq. ft. for basic painting with no fancy trim or other high end stuff, and that was three - four months after I started working for him.
So, in effect, I had gotten him an increase of 35% over the then going rate being paid of .85.
Back when I managed (first as a salesman) for a retailer in Chicago before I got into this business, I used to sell more Magnavox TVs and stereos than anyone else in our chain. At the time, Magnavox had pricing put on them by the factory and could not be sold for less. They called it “Fair Trade Pricing.” Anyway, they sold for roughly 20% or more than Zenith or RCA, both very popular brands, yet, because I personally was sold on them, just like I”m sold on myself, I had no problem selling the “benefits” of Magnavox products.
Now you know why I admit I’m a nag about selling, marketing and servicing the hell out of our respective clients as the key to getting top buck in our respective areas.
See, IMHO, while most of us read books about our trade or construction in general, we should be reading books about how to prepare and execute a "presentation" to your audience, whether that audience is one person or a group, and books about selling in general. As I've said, it's not in the "what", but in the "how" that's critical, and the "delivery" and "service" of what we sell.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
SJP 1/19/03 6:15 p.m.
I do get your point.
Sonny, I have probably read all of your posts over the past 1 1/2 yrs. I usually agree with and already do, much of what you say. I'm trying to make a distinction with a situation that is rare, but does happen.
If, in the case of my flooring subs, they both sat down with me and asked the questions Piffin suggested, I would honestly have to say that there is nothing that needs improvement. I'm already very happy with their work. If the cheaper sub offered to clean up the jobs that would be of some improvement, but he already gets most of the work anyway! The more expensive sub couldn't do anymore than he already does becuase he covers every base that needs to be covered, and I'm demanding!
Do you see the difference?
I think this is the situation that Ed is in, if I'm not mistaken.
Ed, Any thoughts on this one? Or are you sick of this discussion already! :)

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 7:07 p.m.
I do see the difference. And yes, if this is Ed's situation, it is indeed a unique one.
Knowing how I think though, I'd still try to come up with some advantage to my client's to pay a couple of bucks more and hire me at those rates.
Our industry is not unique in as much as having a situation where one or more competitors offer nearly the same services as another, yet at a lower price. Of ocurse, in Ed's situation that difference is between $20 or so per hour and Ed's $28 per hour. That's why I asked him how he sold his jobs, fixed price, T & M, or what.
He very well may be maxed out as far as his rates. Like I said, my mind just can help but think, still.................
It's just the way I think. Always the optimistic salesman.
In your case, if the cheaper sub "A" does not do the cleaning, and if you provide that and add that cost to his, and it still comes out to being cheaper then the the "B" guy's charges "including" the cleaning, you'd be a fool to use the more expensive guy. You get no benefit. Contractor "B" needs to reevaluate what he offers you in services (and those lacking) that justify his higher pricing structure.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/19/03 7:20 p.m.
The existing jambs will stay. Only the doors will be replaced.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Derrell Day 1/19/03 7:21 p.m.
The key is selling....like Sonny, I have experience in selling. I used to sell high end motorhomes and was named top salesman in the country with one particular brand. I made excellent money. I quit because I wasn't happy.
I had been a carpenter (trim and frame)as a younger man, even had my own framing business, but quit back in the mid '80's because the pay in my area wasn't enough to compensate for the amount of hours. But while in sales, I read about selling, attended sales seminars, and appreciated the psychology of selling. When I picked my tools up again about 13 months ago, (I had kept my woodworking skills up by building furniture in my woodshop in my spare time) and reentered the workplace, I was amazed at how ripe the field was for someone who would approach the art of finish carpentry as a business and sell his skills as a product.
There are many good finish carpenters in my area and I am always amazed at how they present themselves. These guys are really good, skilled craftsman, but don't know how to sell the value of what they know. One guy is a personal friend of mine who was trained by my late uncle, who also trained me. He really is a better finish man than I am because he's done nothing but trim for the last 10-12yrs. I probably make more than he does now. Just yesterday he brought me a set of plans to help him bid a job and I was able to see why his wage is where it is.
After he told me what he wanted to bid for base sq. footage and what each cased window etc. would have to be priced at and how much crown based on what he thought his fair hourly wage should be, he arrived at a number.
I then began to quiz him on what his costs were. He hadn't really given it that much thought because costs to him (supplies, insurance, etc.)were just considered to be the cost of doing business. After I explained that all things had to be considered (see my previous post) he saw that what he had hoped to make and what he would actually make were quite different. He would actually end up making what he would, or even less, if he just worked for someone by the hour. It was a wage that ABSOLUTELY wasn't comenserate with his skills. It was his mindset that was holding him from earning more. He drives around in an old beat up van (not that that's bad) with his tools thrown in the back and is easily the most sought after finish carpenter in these parts. He truly is a master. You can't get him away from the most prestigious GC in our area who will have him rake his yard at $25 hr. rather that have him work for someone else. Seriously.
What we make is what we ask for or what we settle for.
Attitude=Profit.....Always has and always will.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 8:15 p.m.
Excellent, and extremely informative post, Derrell.
I'm going to start a new thread about this subject. It's that important.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/19/03 8:25 p.m.
For those interested, I started it on the Business Strategies forum, where it really belongs. I repeated Derrell's last post to get it started.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
GACC Dallas 1/20/03 12:23 a.m.
That's my situation exactly. I have no more to offer that I can think of. My next step would be offering some of our services for free. As a matter of fact, I do small things for free now.
I bid all I can, but when I plug in those higer numbers that everyone here says I should, I don't get the job. When I figure a job at our usual rate, I usually get it. I once followed Michael Stone's (I bought his book) method on a bid to see if it would work. I got laughed at. Thanks Michael.
There are tons of jobs we do that you can't put a number on. Too many loose ends. Trying to put a hard number on a concept becomes a quesstimate and a sure way to lose money. I deal with enough change orders on the jobs I bid where I KNOW what they want. I'm not putting my wallet on the table when I don't know for sure what I'm getting into.
People keep talking about profit and overhead. For me, it's all built into my hourly rate. If I can get that, we're OK. If I can get more on a hard bid, that's better.
We do more T&M than bid work. It's the nature of my market.
I didn't build this wall and it's my competition who sets the lower rates and maintains the wall. It's not a fatalistic attitude, it's realistic. If it was just me out there climbing the wall, I would take more chances because I'd be the only loser if things didn't work out. I can take that risk for me personally, I'd LOVE to take that risk. I'm a risk kinda guy. But I've got 22 carpenters depending on me for a paycheck every Friday morning. I might gamble with my future, but I have to be a bit more conservative with someone elses paycheck. I'm pushing the envelope out here in the real world by managing to charge more than the competition and somehow stay in business. My advice is to not think about it too much. Just take care of every minute of every day.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Al Constan 1/20/03 2:41 a.m.
GACC Dallas,
You wrote:
" I bid all I can, but when I plug in those higer numbers that everyone here says I should, I don't get the job. When I figure a job at our usual rate, I usually get it."
Thanks for your honesty. Include me on that paragraph.
This week I made $1500, labor only, and I feel like the richest guy in this forum.
A plumber friend of mine often makes that in one day.
I asked him: How can you do that?
"You got to charge, man. Charge'em what you think you are worth if not, you'll never make any money".
Yup! That business of "charging, charging" seems to work well for some but not for all of us.
Thank you for that one Ed. I don't feel lonely anymore!

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Wayne 1/20/03 6:04 p.m.
I'm glad you recanted on the "old beat up van" issue. All I can say is, thank GOD for duct tape & bondo!
Just picken' back! :-)

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
Sonny Lykos 1/20/03 8:46 p.m.
And thank God for Super Glue for those eventual duct tape fray ends.

Re: Charging more for hanging expensive doors.
mark 1/31/03 7:42 p.m.
The one thought I didn't come across granted I didn't read all the responses. The person that can afford to buy 4 Grand worth of doors can afford whatever u want to put them in period!
The End

  Supported by corporations who care about education in the construction industry.  
  Andersen Windows  
  Mastering FInish Carpentry DVDs