• Welcome to The Upholster.com Forum. Please login or sign up.
July 13, 2020, 03:00:45 pm


Welcome to our new upholstery forum with an updated theme and improved functionality. We welcome your comments and questions to our forum! Visit our main website, Upholster.com, for our extensive supply of upholstery products, instructional information and videos, and much more.

Standard Labor Hours

Started by kre8ed46cess, October 01, 2010, 05:34:04 pm

Previous topic - Next topic


Is there such a listing for upholstery, auto trim, and marine trim, that would show expected labor hours to complete?  If so, where might one find it, if not could we begin to compile one on this site?  Any suggestions?


From what I see everyday there is just too many variables on a job to prevent an estimate guide from being created. Examples are: the way panels, seats, and pads are mounted and differently so on different models, some materials are more forgiving to work with, you may quote a simple re-cover on something to find damage unseen underneath when stripped, among many other examples.
The auto repair industry (and I'm sure others) have created labor guides for collision and mechanical repairs, but they give you no "wiggle room" for factors unseen. If it's an insurance job, you can always go back and  file and ammendment with them to cover extra repairs, but my experience for customers paying out of pocket don't like being told "oh I found more work to be done than what I told you so the price now will be double".

What I do is, escpecially on big jobs or ones that may have "hidden suprises" is to give them a worse case figure and that it may be possible to come in under that. Most appreciate the honesty. I do from time to time get the customer who just doesn't care and will pay whatever the final bill is with no complaints, sadly this is to far and few.


I know there can be a lot of variables, but I also believe that there could be some kind of base to start with.
For example: I recently upholstered two thirty year old lazy boys in leather, that were originally cloth.  Those two chairs took me 24 hours each (museum quality).  That is a standard that I could use for future reference.  These are also the first upholstery projects I've done in 30 years.  Just looking for a base to start from.


I believe there is a chart just like what your looking for on carrs corner. It's in the professional menu.
http://www.carrscorner.com Just a base labor time chart.
Minichillo's Upholstery


October 02, 2010, 03:36:06 am #4 Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 12:13:57 am by ThrowMeAPillow
WOW. great to have that old Time Chart at http://www.carrscorner.com/labortime.php   I have a copy of the original by Narcisco M Garcia in 1981-1982. IMHO a small upholstery shop (doing the whole job and answering the phone, too) should DOUBLE those figures.  I can EASILY spend the best part of three days on a Wing Chair. Of course this allows for other chores but you either have to inflate the hours you estimate OR inflate your shop rate, so that you bill enough for the hours at the bench.  I prefer to inflate the HOURS (and show a lower shop rate/hr) It's true that I CAN do a wing chair in 12 hours (If I work from from 9pm til 9am) at 40/hour but if I rightly say it takes 24 hours (by including the interruptions) then my rate is $20/hr.  Take Your Pick!

I ALSO have The Upholstery Estimator by Harry Niehoff (deceased) of Portland Oregon.  It's about 250 pages (most with two pieces per page) in a big orange vinyl notebook.  SO that's  with hundreds of real time reports and sketches.  Mr. Neihoff, a 2nd generation Upholsterer, deserves MUCH credit both for seeing the need and for doing the work.  I am trying to find his family, but it a world of cellphones, and new neighborhoods, that has been difficult.  It was a great investment, even at one or two hundred dollars a copy (what I paid), for new person trying to "do it all" (or for someone who is sending out a salesman who is not also a craftsman!)

I am trying to find the family so that I may release the information, with their permission.


It seems to me that every year or so there is an article in the Marine Fabricator magazine that includes the basic time required to make a bimini, dodger, spray hood, side curtains, etc..  I always found it very useful and never had much trouble getting the item done in the estimated time. 

I will say, though, that I absolutely agree with Throw. about the time required to do all the other routine things that are part of life in a small shop... the telephone, walk-ins, etc..  All of that eats up time quickly, although it's absolutely necessary.  Alteration work is esp. time consuming from a customer service aspect.  You have to pay attention to moving the app't. along efficiently without seeming to hurry your customer.  I make sure there is a comfortable chair for them, and I make sure slacks, skirts, dresses, are unzipped and ready to put on; I put fitted garments back on hangers and make any notes as they are fitted... all the customer has to do is put them on and stand in front of the mirror.  I work up an estimate before they leave and give them a completion date, scheduling the pick up.  Huge time saver, and one learned over time, "the hard way".  Time is indeed money. 

To that end, I've been focussing on streamlining the "production" set up in my own shop.  A cordless phone/headset and message book is a necessity (no cordless phone where I presently work) and I can tell you the amount of time wasted getting up and walking to the desk is shocking, esp. in "busy season".  A comfortable tool belt and/or a rolling cart that you can wheel from one work station to the next is another idea I plan to implement for my own shop. 


Quote from: MinUph on October 01, 2010, 10:38:10 pm
I believe there is a chart just like what your looking for on carrs corner. It's in the professional menu.
http://www.carrscorner.com Just a base labor time chart.




Thumbs up, Mike! 

I really like having a basic idea about the time required to accomplish a certain job.  I may not always "hit it" but knowing "about how much time" gives me something to shoot for and allows me to give people a very rough estimate for an item/service in question. 


Thanks Mike,
That gives a good ballpark standard for labor hours.  The hard one for most people is automotive, because of the variables.  Just the labor for pulling a seat from the vehicle can vary three or four fold.  I was just hoping someone had made it their life's mission to time study automotive trim...


most of us are too busy DOING it to take notes and that's a shame... Found the daughter of the man (Harry Niehoff, late, of Portland, OR) who wrote "the Upholstery Estimator".

They sold one (1) last year! (?!)

Seeking permission to reproduce as an online reference.


I'd like to know how to make ends meet on $40.00/HR labor charge.
Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!


I'd like to know how to make ends meet. period.


I read this thread shortly after it was posted and it's been "in my head" ever since. 

The main thrust of this thread is really keyed in on what ought to be the final distillation of whatever hourly rate any of us fix on our work; based on "hands on" labor, overhead costs, taxes, and the profit we expect from our endeavor. 

You don't arrive at that figure without some "trial and error" and without strict attention to the "cost" and associated mark up on basic materials, either.  You should be "making money" on every single bit of material that you supply to any job that moves through your shop.  Ditto labor.

I work for "someone else" for the lion's share of my earnings.  I'm a grunt.  As an employee I feel it's my responsibility to my employer to keep track of how the time I'm "on the clock" is spent.  Personally, I have a notebook.  I enter the date and my start time.   I write the name of the job and begin keeping tabs on the materials I use.  If I have to answer the phone or deal with a walk in customor I make NO note of it.  When I finish the job I enter the completion time, talley the supplies used and fill out the work order.  I enter the start time of the next job I'm assigned and repeat the process.  This willingness to account for my "compensated time" is a holdover from my days "in the line" and the time when compensation was tied to a "piece rate".  Documentation ensures honesty, is a sign of respect to my employer, and also allows my employer to use that information to set the shop rate/validate it/etc.. 

I do the same thing in my own shop.  Everything I do with respect to my own business is directly related to the TIME I have to spend in my shop to accomplish it all.  And believe you me! every single minute of time is charged to the customer.  Time is money, baby! and the sooner the lesson is learned the better off the business owner will be.  I make money on materials and I make primo money on my SKILL.  The fact that my skill may be interrupted by the telephone or a "walk in" matters not whit to me.  It's all the same thing.  I get the same pay to chitty-chat as I do to perform my skill. 

Every hour of my day is productive in one way or another.  It's simply up to to me to set the delivery schedule accordingly.