1. Don’t jump over a dollar to save a dime
There are so many ways to save money in a kitchen remodel, and your project will have SO many choices, but some apparent “savings” are penny-wise and pound foolish. Pre-fab granite, great idea (30% or more in savings), low quality cabinets, bad idea (your cabinets are the foundation of the new kitchen and replacing them in a few years will be a nightmare).
So how do you know which is which? Hire a professional designer and contractor. Not someone who used to work in the paint department and decided to wake up as a “designer” today, and not your friend who is “stylish” and has lots of ideas, but no details. When you are paying folks to build your kitchen, they don’t “just figure it out”. They will look to you for detailed answers and specifications, and you will turn around and realize that your “stylish” friend is nowhere to be found. A design/build team will help you make wise decisions with your budget.
2. Don’t remodel without a permit
The permit process is there for your benefit. It’s a level of protection for you while remodeling your kitchen and anyone you sell your home to. As a contractor, I would love to skip the building department, save the money and time, and continue to do great quality work, but not everyone out there has those intentions. Have you ever seen Holmes on Homes? 99% of the problems he uncovers are in un-permitted projects. Besides that, it’s the law. If your contractor is willing to risk his license, the way he feeds his family, just to save you a few hundred dollars doesn’t that worry you?
3. Don’t hire “Chuck in the Truck”
If someone is substantially lower than the other bids you receive on your kitchen remodel project (20% or more), don’t you wonder why? Some folks will eat the steak dinner for $1.99, but most of us will wonder what type of meat you get for that price. Same thing in your kitchen. Contractors get pretty much the same discounts and deals on materials, and labor costs are at their lowest possible point.
So how are they cheaper? Where are they taking short cuts? What type of future costs will you incur through change orders? Will they be in business long enough to finish the job? Do they carry general liability and workman’s comp insurance? How about their subs and vendors? What quality of materials are they using? You need more than a workman, you need a business owner who can oversee your project and keep a healthy company going, especially in tough economic times.
4. Don’t start with cabinet knobs
Many people have seen the Kohler TV ad where a very confident client drops a faucet on a Designer’s table and says, “Design a kitchen around this.” Cute. Even a little funny, but completely backward.
Your kitchen remodel should change your everyday work and interactions in your home’s most important room, but that should be based on solid principles of design and creative and disciplined space planning. Instead of worrying about cabinet colors, consider how you want to LIVE in your kitchen!
What type of cooking will you do? How many will you feed regularly? What type of entertaining will you do? How can you maximize storage? How many cooks are in your family? Are you right handed or left? First create an efficient space plan, then make it beautiful.
5. Don’t start your kitchen design without a budget in mind
The first meeting should be with a remodeling contractor, and especially with the guy who writes the bids. He should be able to give you the information you need to create a realistic budget. After that, you need to have a huddle and determine how much you want to invest in your kitchen. If you set a designer loose without a budget in mind, you’ll end up with a beautiful design, which will never be built. You will waste a lot of time and money on drawings that are far outside your price point. You need to honestly share your budget with your designer if you expect her to keep you on track.
6. Don’t rush the remodeling process
Unless Ty Pennington is at your front door with a bullhorn, your remodel won’t get done in 22 minutes plus commercials. Your kitchen remodel should be something that you enjoy for years and years to come. It takes time for you to consider the ideas and options your design/build team proposes, and more time to select the right products for your budget and lifestyle. It also takes time for each trade to complete their part of the process in a competent manner. You want your team to be efficient, not to take shortcuts.
7. Don’t let “Scope Creep” take over
There are no shortage to “good ideas”. Especially from people who aren’t paying for them, whether it’s friends and family, trade contractors, neighbors, or even the latest episode of your favorite HGTV show. By the time you are building, you have worked with a design/build team and come up with a plan that works for your family.
Someone may have a great idea for the backsplash, that makes no sense with the counter tops you’re putting in. Or a great idea for a fridge that won’t fit in your cabinet run. Even if the idea is, indeed a good one, that doesn’t mean you want to pay for it. Each change you make on the fly costs time and money. They seem like small things during the process, but they quickly add up. I find that the vast majority of change orders happen because clients change their minds. Far more than termites, dry rot, or water damage.