Planning a Kitchen Remodel? Here are some tips

In January of 2017, our kitchen was remodeled. Without any advice blogs to read before the preparation of this project, I thought I would write one. Here you go.

Order of things
I thought finding a contractor was first. Each contractor I talked to asked me something like "have you picked the cabinets yet?". So I back pedaled and started looking at cabinets. Then the cabinet shops asked "Do you have the appliances yet?". Sigh. My order of things became something like this after some trial and error:
  •        Preliminary design of what I thought I wanted done by me in AutoCAD
  •        Searching Houzz for ideas
  •        Appliance research and purchase
  •        Shopping cabinet companies, getting quotes for them and counter tops
  •        Shopping contractors
  •        Picking the floor
  •        Picking the counter top surface
  •        Picking the sink, faucet, lights

Choosing a Contractor (who does what?)
I shopped five different contractors ranging from those who would just install whatever I bought to an "all in one" company and everything in between. My choice was made from asking for referrals in a local Facebook group and then researching Google reviews and Angie's List. Gut feelings are important when picking a contractor and you shouldn't choose one by price or availability alone. Some contractors want you to pick everything through them like flooring, cabinets, etc and some don't want to install things you bought yourself. Depending on your comfort level, you may want a company who can supply everything, keeping decisions to a minimum. Better contractors will provide you with a schedule well ahead of time so you know what's going to happen and when.

The contractor will provide an estimate for the job. Understand that this is an ESTIMATE and not a hard quote. There will be allowances listed for many of the items and the actual cost of the job will vary from the estimate depending on your choices.

One handy idea to keep in mind is to tell your contractor to let you know if there is something that you wanted that made the job price go up. You may think a fancy ceiling feature would be cool, but is it worth an extra couple of thousands of dollars?

It's fairly typical for the contractor to get paid in thirds or at least on a specific draw schedule. One-third when they order materials, the second third at some pre-determined point and the last third at completion. Do not pay up front for the entire job and don't make the final payment until everything is done (including the punch list covered below).

Depending on the contractor, complexity of job, availability of sub contractors and other things, the job may take a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Also, depending on the time of the year and schedules, the contractor may not be able to start your job as soon as you would like. Don't expect to call a contractor in October with the hopes of getting a job done for the holidays. We started the process of shopping contractors in August, made the decision in early October and had a start date on January 3rd.

This will be most likely the most expensive item in your new kitchen. Professional kitchen designers are great because they can come up with arrangements you never thought possible, throw them in to their CAD program and give you 3d renderings of your proposed kitchen along with pricing. These drawings help in two ways, it helps you to visualize the layout and it helps the designer in the bill of materials and purchase. Quotes for our kitchen ranged from $8,000 to $14,000. Ask your cabinet designer to point out ANYTHING that may make the quote skyrocket and try to get the price of each piece. Costs can creep up for things you don't expect (a slide out spice drawer for example).
Cabinet decisions include:
  •         Manufacturer
  •         Material of the cabinet structure (plywood, MDF, particle board)
  •         Wood type of the doors and drawers
  •         Color
  •         Door/drawer style (remembering that drawer and door style greatly affect pricing)
  •         Glazing
  •         Height of cupboards (36", 42")
  •         Under cabinet lighting
  •         Molding for under cabinet lighting
  •         Do you want them to go to the ceiling with crown molding?
  •         Slide out features
  •         Soft closing hinges and slides
  •         Pulls and nobs

We ended up with a mid-range product that you couldn't tell was mid-range. If you can, keep custom cabinets to a minimum if you're price conscious. While space planning, cabinet widths are sized every three inches (15", 18", 21", etc) but filler panels of different sizes can be used where necessary.

Counter Tops
Counter top choices include
  •         Material (granite, quartz, laminate or solid surface)
  •         Edge treatment

We chose laminate for a variety of reasons so I can't comments on specific options for the other materials. As far as laminate goes, I had a couple things pop up during the process.
Due to the size of the island I wanted, I could not get the edge I preferred (unless I wanted a two-piece top). Unfortunately, I only found that out after the cabinets were ordered and that sort of screwed things up. Had I wanted an island only three inches shallower, I could have had the edge I wanted and saved a big headache. This is where the cost/feature discussion comes into play like I mentioned above with the ceiling. Unfortunately, there was a communication breakdown and the cabinet shop didn't tell me about the laminate limitation until the cabinets were on order.
Laminate tops can be made without templating. Templating is where after the cabinets are installed, someone comes out to measure the exact dimensions for the tops. This can extend the jobs by weeks. Make sure you're aware of how the counter tops will be built and when.

Edge treatments are limited with laminate, but many different options are available with the other materials.

The cabinet designer will want to know what your appliances will be to make sure the cabinets will be sized and spaced appropriately. We ended up keeping them pretty close to their original location. The stove stayed exactly where it was, the dishwasher was flipped to the other side of the sink and the refrigerator was shifted about 15". Arrange the delivery time with input from the contractor to make things as easy as possible for everyone.

Can lights are great, but realize that there may be something in your ceiling preventing the cans from going exactly where you want. We had three joist spacings in a row full of water lines, drains and HVAC that would have been costly and time consuming to move. Therefore, the can light spacing isn't ideal but it's good enough without the increase in cost.

Does your existing floor need removed? Can your new floor be simply placed over top of the old? We had crap sheet vinyl and found a product that could be simply glued right on top of it. We ended up with 16"x16" luxury vinyl tile from Armstrong (Alterna)

Contractors don't seem to want to get the permits, relying on you to get them. Just contact the building or zoning department of your municipality and/or county to figure it all out. Municipality rules vary so I can't possibly cover everything.

The contractors are going to be sawing something. It may be subfloor, it may be tile, it may be studs. They need somewhere to do it. Your garage is the best place to keep their equipment out of the elements and do their work. Plan ahead! If your car sits in the garage while they are working, it WILL get dusty. It only becomes obvious after the first day. You're going about your business marveling at the work they're doing inside, they leave for the day and you follow them out to close the garage door and BOOM. Dust everywhere. It's unavoidable so make sure you plan for this.

Several things could happen during construction that could cause delays and/or an increase in cost. It could be anything so providing an exhaustive list is impossible. For us, we had two walls we wanted partially removed. I knew one had plumbing in it, but had no idea about the other.

There are obvious decisions and not so obvious ones. The not so obvious ones are the kind you have to make in an instant that I didn't give any or little thought to in the beginning. These are in no particular order of magnitude.

The (possibly) not so obvious decisions
  •         Pull and knob locations on the doors and drawers themselves.
  •         Which side of the sink will the garbage disposal go
  •         Height of pendant lights
  •         Grout and caulk colors
  •         Location of switches and what they operate
  •         Outlet locations
  •         Floor pattern (depending on type) and start location

The (more) obvious decisions
  •         Cabinet type, color, door and drawer style
  •         Pulls and knobs
  •         Floor type/style
  •         Light fixtures

The project starts next week – now what?
This is where things can start to get stressful. You need to have the kitchen completely emptied out by the morning the contractors arrive. Here are some things to keep in mind to make sure you're disrupted as little as possible during the project.
  •         If you drink coffee, make sure you retain your pot, coffee, cups and creamer/sugar and put them where they are accessible.
  •         Keep at least a few plates, cups and pieces of silverware handy.
  •         Make sure you think of a place to wash those plates, cups and pieces of silverware.
  •         Make sure you know the location of your corkscrew!
  •         Purchase everything you need for the job that the contractor isn't supplying and have them ready to go. For us, it was the floor (and glue and caulk), appliances, sink, faucet, light fixtures

We were lucky by having a spare refrigerator and microwave in the basement.

Being available
It's important to be available either in person or by phone with your contractors, especially because of the not so obvious decisions that need made or the work stops. This is where Facetime/Skype can come in handy if you're not at home but have to make a decision.

Punch List

At the end of the project, it's your job to go over everything with a fine tooth comb. Prepare a set of notes detailing any item that needs addressed. It's an expected part of the project that finalizes everything. These are usually small details like cabinet doors opening too far or not far enough, trim pieces needing tidied up or caulking that needs some attention.

That's about all I can think of except for paint. We hired a painter who wasn't associated with the contractor. She showed up when the job was almost complete to go over colors and set the date for the paint to begin. The paint job ties everything together, that's why we waited until the end.

The above are three pictures of the old kitchen.

So it turns out this is only picture I have on my phone of the completed kitchen!

1 comment:

  1. Who would’ve known that there were so many steps to consider BEFORE hiring a contractor? Thank you for the very detailed list. On top of the advice on hiring a contractor, the lists of things to consider when selecting cabinets and counter tops are very useful, as is the section on preparing for the project to start (esp the corkscrew part, ha ha).