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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There seems to be fewer and fewer custom cabinet builders. I have talked to a few that say competition from HD, Lowe's, and Big cabinet shops have made it nearly impossible to compete. I have done trim carpentry for quite some time and have always wanted to get into cabinets. Is there any small cabinet builders out there doing well?
 

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As a carpentry contractor, I have a small shop at home to build small stuff as needed for the renos. You can't compete with me on that.

But, I have a small (one man show) cabinet maker who builds my kitchens for me when needed. He has spent the last 15yrs building up his business to where today he is fairly busy.

The problem is he cannot compete with standard or even quality kitchen companies. Hence, he only does very, very high end work, for the discerning customer. A typical kitchen from him is about twice the money of a top quality HD kitchen.

So the market for his work is very small. If you can't do high end custom work, I don't see how you could compete.

Always open to new avenues though, :thumbsup:
 

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You could try to start pushing more cabinetry into your basement finishing gig. Home offices, entertainment centers, built-in storage, etc... are all good ways to get some custom cabinetry going in a basement. Plus it's the best advertising for when your basement customers are ready to re-do the kitchen. :thumbsup:

It'd be tough to swing over to doing cabinetry competitively full-time. Plus, cabinetry can get boring. It's lots of fun in the design and planning stages, and very rewarding when it all comes together in the end, but there's alot of repetitive monkey-work in between. I'm always happy to land a nice cabinet job, but I'm glad that it's only one component of the work that I do.
 

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Plus, cabinetry can get boring. It's lots of fun in the design and planning stages, and very rewarding when it all comes together in the end, but there's alot of repetitive monkey-work in between. I'm always happy to land a nice cabinet job, but I'm glad that it's only one component of the work that I do.

I'm dealing with that right now. I've been couped up in my garage for a couple weeks. I've think I've drill about a million pocket holes so far. Best thing about this job though is I built in the cost of a Festool TS55!!!:clap:
 

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Maker of fine kindling
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There are plenty of small shops in my area that are still hanging in there.
We are busy and doing well going into this winter shaping up well into the spring. I will not be complaining about that.:no:

It's all about clientele as it is with any business. I get a lot of word of mouth from HO's and have met several contractors with the HO bringing me into the job that have turned into very loyal and great clients themselves.

I don't compete with the big box stores and I also don't only go high end ultra custom either. I sell a great product and service at a great value price. People love that there is one guy to talk to that will see their project from concept to completion. When there is a problem, I drop what I'm doing and get it handled. I need customers happy years from completion and work hard so every single one is just that, even the difficult ones.

Having a general contractor back ground is a great platform to be a really good cabinet maker, IMO. You already know what all the other trades need from you and they love that you can anticipate their needs. Often you will be the first one on scene and you can guide the HO to a reasonable solution for their needs and alert them to possible pitfalls if their remodel plans have an expensive aspect in it that can be avoided.

I feel like I'm on a rant so I'll stop and just say that if you want to build cabinets then create a market for yourself and build them. It really is not any more complicated than that. Still not easy though.:laughing:
 

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Seems like a lot of guys are
suddenly on to Gus and Leo.
They can see you guys and Bergstrom
are on the gravy train, and they
want a taste of the easy money! :laughing:
 

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The few small cabinet shops in my area do mostly high end stuff. I would imagine it would be tuff for a small shop to compete with low and mid range stuff you could buy at a box store.

I find that once you get into the higher end stuff from the large companies, what they call custom but is not really custom, you can buy full custom from a good small cabinet shop. Nothing beats a set of cabinets that were designed and built just for your space.

It must be a tough business because over the years I have seen many cabinet shops open and close. And I had dealings with many of them. They did great work but still could not make a go of it. Not sure why.

Dave
 

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wannabe
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Our in house cabinet shop can't compete! They build our custom built ins, but we use a large manufacturer for kitchens and vanities....and when our designer F's up, they'll modify! Sad, but true...
 

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Maker of fine kindling
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Seems like a lot of guys are
suddenly on to Gus and Leo.
They can see you guys and Bergstrom
are on the gravy train, and they
want a taste of the easy money! :laughing:
I have been selling this idea since I arrived. Cabinets are just a bunch of parts thrown together just like a frame or a deck or any other aspect of construction. This stuff ain't that hard.

It's a great thing to take on if you like trim work. A good space is real nice to have but a 2 car garage is enough to get started.

I love to see people take on something new. I'm here to help if I can.:thumbsup:
 

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Maker of Fine Sawdust
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It takes a long time to get to the point that you are really self supporting if you are doing custom cabinets. If you want to compete you will need top of the line modern equipment and that stuff ain't cheap. It took about 7 years for me to become what I am today. I get my business by mostly referral and lately a few hits from my website. If you are starting up you need to have work before you have a company. If not, it might be a long slow start. The best way was to hook up with a few GC and give them good prices and service and get your name out there. After you become know for your work you can start to raise our prices. But plan on a lot of hot dogs and beans at the begining.
 

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We're GC's but build about 25% of our cab requirements out of a 2-1/2 car garage - finish in a different 2-1/2 car garage. We typically stress the quality of the box and the custom finish in the sales call. If the cabs get to intricate or complicated we have a couple of high-end shops we use do them.

Gus has got me looking hard at getting our doors and drawer heads done outside. We will be soliciting proposals next week on a kitchen - unfinished - we'll finish inhouse.

To answer your question - it can be done - but don't jump in both feet. Merge it into your existing biz and go for it! :thumbsup: It took us 15 years to merge just 25% into our biz plan.
 

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Still have all my fingers
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It takes a long time to get to the point that you are really self supporting if you are doing custom cabinets. If you want to compete you will need top of the line modern equipment and that stuff ain't cheap. It took about 7 years for me to become what I am today. I get my business by mostly referral and lately a few hits from my website. If you are starting up you need to have work before you have a company. If not, it might be a long slow start. The best way was to hook up with a few GC and give them good prices and service and get your name out there. After you become know for your work you can start to raise our prices. But plan on a lot of hot dogs and beans at the begining.
Hot dogs and beans? Mac-n-Cheese was a staple around here, I should have been born in the Northeast. I'll bet you even had that fancy dijon mustard :laughing:
 

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Grand Rapids Remodeling
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[quote=Gus Dering;821586





Having a general contractor back ground is a great platform to be a really good cabinet maker, IMO. You already know what all the other trades need from you and they love that you can anticipate their needs.


It's off topic but this is a great point.:eek:fftopic: I had a ARCHTECT that I was working with awhile back and I told him that every architect should be a GC or at least have a year or two of experience in the field.(I think we were arguing about some point). He looked at me with disdain. Ran into him a year or so later and the first thing he said that he did a habitat home just helping out on a crew. I said that he kicked himself for not doing it sooner. He said he must have wasted years of his life making things complicated and seeing the real life of a carpenter opened up his eyes. :clap:
 

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Maker of fine kindling
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It takes a long time to get to the point that you are really self supporting if you are doing custom cabinets. If you want to compete you will need top of the line modern equipment and that stuff ain't cheap. It took about 7 years for me to become what I am today. I get my business by mostly referral and lately a few hits from my website. If you are starting up you need to have work before you have a company. If not, it might be a long slow start. The best way was to hook up with a few GC and give them good prices and service and get your name out there. After you become know for your work you can start to raise our prices. But plan on a lot of hot dogs and beans at the begining.
I agree with you Leo

That was not easy to say but there it is :laughing:

My general point about taking a stab at cabinetmaking is that if you are wondering how to squeeze a few more bucks out of your remodeling business and you have been farming out your cabinets then take a serious look at getting started.

Yeah having heavy iron equipment is nice. Who the heck would argue with that. But if you can break sheets down to size efficiently, you have a great start.

You should get your feet wet and test the waters before you dive in to what you thought was the deep end. But get wet just the same. There are enough great door companies out there to help, great hardware that becomes easy with a few tips.

You just have to learn and grow, so to speak. You have to become a beginner again. That may be enough of a road block for some. I would love to offer up all my methods for you guys if you want the info. I love how the transition has turned out for me and would love to be a small part of yours if you are interested.
 

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I'm a finish carp that has been trying to get into custom cabinets. Been doing more and more built-in's and cabs recently and have been really pushing that side of the business. I expect it to take a looong time to get to the level where say Gus is at but I'm on my way I think. Learning every day and fine tuning but it has been rewarding. Enough room became an issue just last week. I had a job for a customer having a new home built - the builder has been draging his feet and is way behind schedule. I was stuck with piles of boxes in my shop and a new job to start. Luckily I was able to lease more space adjacent to my current shop but if I wasn't able to do that it would have been a big PITA. Still hanging doors and trim but hoping to get to the point where I can do cabs full time. Slow and steady wins the race right? I don't post too often but read everyday, learn a lot here and you guys have inspired me! I even have notes I takes from some of the posts on here - i.e. Gus's posts on hinges!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Cabinets

I have been trying to get more involved with each wet bar we build. I have found a good cabinet shop that has been building all of my doors for me. Each bar we have done looks better than the last. The biggest obstacle for me has been the design. I was wondering if anybody had any 3-D software that they use or would recommend. Here are some pics www.kcbasementfinishing.com
 

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I like all the big iron and fancy computer controlled machines but, I don't really like being tied down to a shop.

I opted for a cabinet shop in a box type tools. With the addition of a few more select Festool's I will be able to take the shop to the job if need be. They also work great at home in a shop, easy set-up, easy break-down, minimal storage space needed.

Just a thought.
 

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I'm in the process of building a shop (30x50) to try and focus more on cabinetry and built ins, congrats to all of you that are doing the same!
 

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I have built some nice built ins and cabinets but without a dedicated finishing room I can not match the finish I get from the cabinet shops I deal with.

I did buy a Fuji HVLP years ago but without a clean enviroment to use it in or the experience for that matter I could never match the finish of good custom shops.

Do most of you do your own finish or do you farm it out?

Dave
 
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