finish trim carpenter

Finish carpenter installing a three-piece crown molding in a large room. Expensive.

[This post is part of our Hiring a Finish Carpenter Tips series.]

If you’ve ever had a finish carpenter quote a crown molding, wainscoting, or some other molding installation project, the estimate may have left you standing in your living room shocked at the price.

It’s easy to think we are being bamboozled by some unscrupulous contractor.  But that’s not always the case.

Being a self-employed contractor is an unpredictable, imprecise and complicated vocation.  And few of them actually charge enough for their services.

For this post I’d like to shed a little bit of light on an important number that most finish carpenters are unwilling to admit to themselves, let alone admit to you during an estimate.


$400.00 a Day

That’s how much a legitimate, self-employed finish carpenter (or pretty much any other home-improvement tradesman) has to earn each day, five days a week, without fail for an entire year (no vacations or sick days), to make a mere $35,000.00 a year.

I know, I’ve done the math.  The real math, not the fantasy I’m going to be my own boss! business plan kind of math.

And that $400.00 a day does not include a profit for the finish carpenter that will allow them to grown their business — that’s just what it takes to cover business expenses and his or her own salary.   It also does not include the materials needed to complete your project — that’s at least an additional 30% if they use the inexpensive materials like what we use here on The Joy of Moldings.

Larger contractors can use economy of scale to charge less, sometimes, but it’s still an expensive undertaking no matter what.  It’s always been that way.  Moldings worth having take time to install.

Pay Yourself the $400.00 Instead and Impress Your Friends

By learning how to design, install and paint your own moldings, it’s like paying yourself each time you finish a project.  Not to mention you get bragging rights.

Imaging entertaining your stylish friends in your living room, everyone engaged in riveting conversation, when someone stops mid-sentance and says, “That fireplace mantel is fabulous!  Is it new?” And you get to reply in your best, oh, it was nothing, tone, “I’m glad you like it.  I built it myself.”

And The Joy of Moldings is here for you if you need help along the way!

[Return to Hiring a Finish Carpenter Tips or How to Install Moldings series.]