Who’s Who in the Kitchen Remodeling World?
plus…Kitchen Remodeling Helpful Hints
Independent Kitchen Designers
Independent Kitchen Designers, or small Kitchen Design firms may also sell cabinets in conjunction with their design skills. They usually are loyal to a particular custom cabinet line or a local cabinet maker. They may also recommend a Contractor for the actual Remodeling itself or work together with the Contractor as the Project Manager. It is always best to hire your Designer on as Project Manager to oversee the project and all it’s details and deal with any selection, product, or material issues. Your Designer will also know the nuances of the Kitchen layout and Design and ultimately the Design Concept in order to complete the vision.
Kitchen and Bath Showrooms (Cabinets Dealers)
Kitchen and Bath Dealers generally have Showrooms. These dealers typically carry 3-4 different cabinet lines although, some cabinets lines may be exclusive to certain dealers. These kitchen cabinet dealers may or may not employ their own installers, it is up to you to find out – it can make a world of difference to you. They also typically have strong relationships with excellant Designers. Most Designers will charge a Design Fee for their work, which considering the investment you are about to make in your home, is worth every penny.
If you wind up purchasing both cabinetry, other products, and installations from a Kitchen and Bath Dealer/Showroom, they should handle your Contract under Home Improvement rules and licenses, and insurances. Upon Contract, Kitchen and Bath Dealers that provide installations will ask for a 33% deposit of the total contract, the maximum they can by law. This money basically protects them against the Owner defaulting on the Contract once the non-refundable order is placed to the kitchen cabinet company. On the other hand, if you only purchase materials such as cabinetry and/or countertops, they are not bound by Home Improvement rules about deposits, so you will want to check what their particular pay schedules are for just products. Most will ask for 50% down and 50% upon delivery.
Big Box Kitchen Remodeling Stores
These stores have a section for kitchen design and sales. The Kitchen layout service is typically free and the stock cabinets are inexpensive. There is no requirement that their “designers” are certified, that I know of. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe they even refer to them as designers. You definitely get what you pay for. Since the stock sizes are very limited in the really inexpensive lines, you may have to sacrifice symmetry,design, and convenience.
The biggest downfall of the inexpensive lines is the drawer glides and the vinyl decal exposed ends. Generally, you cannot get full depth shelves in the base cabs, and the basic construction is usually thinner particle boards and hardwoods. Just keep in mind how much use your kitchen is going to get over how many years you’re going to be using this essential room. These places do sometimes carry semi-custom, but then they come up against the price points of Kitchen and Bath Dealers. You would do well to compare them to Kitchen and Bath Dealers/Showrooms if you are considering semi-custom cabinets.
The “Big Box” stores can ask for 100% of total cabinet costs up front. The law doesn’t include them as Home Improvement Contractors since they don’t have their own employees for installations. These places generally have a list of “jobbers”, (installers), that they hire – therefore they are not bound by the Home Improvement Commission rules of deposits or other boundaries. As a bonus, since they are not directly installing anything, they don’t have to be responsible to any home improvement governing agencies, regulations, or hold any licenses or insurances as do General Contractors on a job. If there is a problem with your installations, you will have to deal with the Big Box plus the Jobber they have hired for a solution. Some other firms besides the Big Boxes use Jobbers.
Kitchen Appliance & Plumbing Vendors
Some of the big plumbing vendors in the market, like Fergusen, now carry kitchen cabinet lines also. Some of these cabinet lines are produced by the plumbing manufacturers.
Some larger appliance vendors have also joined in on kitchen cabinet sales as well.
There are a lot of great Interior Designers, but unless they are specifically trained to be a Kitchen Designer, they should refer you . The intricacies of Kitchen design are never ending. Every fraction of an inch counts in Kitchen Design, and if you’re not totally familiar with the way cabinets are built, something like a full overlay door opening on a 45 corner can be a nightmare.
Beyond that, new products and how they perform as well as who are good manufacturers and installers are key to getting the most out of a Kitchen professional. You can have your Interior Designer coordinate with your Kitchen Designer for Material Selections.
Hardware Stores & Lumber Yards
These stores have been carrying kitchen cabinets for years, particularly in rural areas.They usually carry the local cabinet company, but now many of the franchises carry the national stock brands. Service all depends on local management.
Carpenters & Handymen
The trusty carpenter who has done many things around your home- even built that beautiful basement. Now he wants you to trust him with the Kitchen. If you don’t take any other advice from this website, just take this – FIND A KITCHEN DESIGNER. If you can , hire this Designer to do Project Management also. This is a big investment in your home, in the most used Room in your Home.
Let’s say you have decided that you can do it all, especially since you are replacing the cabinets with the same exact sizes, so you can’t possibly do a bad design.
Stop a minute and take a second look. A good designer can review the same space and suggest a different design solutions that may make the space work more efficiently or incorporate an unused space like the Dining Room into a more Open Plan concept. CAD software, whatever the cost, does not make you a Designer, it makes you a software operator. Whatever the solution, it is worth the Design investment for the potential of the Home.
You have seen the ads every Sunday that say 60 – 70% off Kitchen Cabinets, blah, blah, blah. I hope you realize by now that these ads are not really offering you anything special. The kitchen cabinetry industry pricing strategy is based on volume and relationships. It starts with a top price point per cabinet, and depending on who you are in the world of kitchens, is discounted accordingly. This applies to businesses who buy from the manufacturers, and what kind of deal is struck upon taking on a manufacturer. There are many different types of deals depending of everybody’s needs. Surprisingly enough, the Big Box stores may not get the biggest discount, they tend to have a bigger training budget and service & support budget.
Kitchen and Bath dealers that have an exclusive contract with a manufacturer can sometimes have an edge, but they tend to carry either semi-custom or custom. The point is, that some marketers have taken this system and used it to make it sound like a “Sale”,… just another way of advertising.
There are also Design and Build companies that handle typical Kitchen Remodeling projects just the same as standard Kitchen and Bath Showrooms, but with an even bigger advantage on the construction end. They have the ability to do large renovations, modifications, or additions to the home, as well as provide the Design work.
Kitchen Remodel Pre-Construction Meeting
You should always have some form of pre-construction meeting with any Contractor so you all know what to expect from each other. You need to discuss the simple things like access, dogs, alarms, plastic protection, etc., especially when it comes to something like room additions.
Kitchen Remodel Contractor Attendance
The biggest concern for all customers, as it should be. You all need to be clear when your Contractor will be on or off the job and why. If you are a small job, find out if you are a filler job (which means your work will be slotted in when time permits…which might be saving you bucks), or if you are truly scheduled. If you are a larger job, understand when there must be down times to allow for other trades to work or inspections, etc…communications is key to keep stress down.
Be Appreciative of Your Kitchen Contractor
Sounds silly that I need to point this out, but in the remodeling world there are sometimes vast class chasms. Remodeling crews working on your beautiful home are typically working stiff types. Even simple things – coffee and donuts, go a long way. We have seen our guys get many cash tips, and many hugs over the years from our clients. They love having their work appreciated, the good guys really put their heart and soul into it.
Kitchen Remodel – MONEY RULES!
Remodeling is an industry where cash flow is critical. Be aware of deposits, some are necessary for the purchase of materials, and some are as good faith. Obviously, the latter should be MUCH less. These days, more vendors are requiring deposits since very little inventory is stocked, and many Contractors have gone out of business in this tough economy. Give deposits accordingly and have a clear understanding what the deposit covers. This is not to say you should ask for receipts for everything. If you have done your homework by checking your Contractor, you need to have some faith by this time. These firms usually cannot produce mounds of paperwork, they just can’t afford the staff to do it.
Kitchen Remodel Change Orders
The public has as impression we love these things because we make lots of money on them. This couldn’t be more false, if you are dealing with reputable Contractors. These things always cost more than they’re worth. We can never charge enough for them, because they are always too much to begin with! Plus they mean a ton of paperwork. Then, even though it’s the customer asking for the additional work or product, it’s always the Contractors fault the whole project escalated in price! Hhmm, I think I was venting. Best scenario – listen to your Designer and Contractor during Estimating and Proposals, you will probably wind up going with the products they suggest in the first place. That’s not to say there won’t be Change Orders. There are what we call Hidden Conditions in remodeling. Things like termite damage, insufficient joist sizing, etc., that may have to be addressed. We always advise clients to consider 5%-10% of the Contract price as a reserve for change orders on larger jobs.