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Kitchen Remodeling Guide – Tips from the Pros

Kanler July 13, 2017

Kitchen Remodeling Guide

Planning Your Project

The best way to transform your old kitchen into a dream space for cooking and entertaining starts by creating a plan. Kitchen remodeling projects are a multi-faceted undertaking that require careful planning and clear communication in order to achieve the results you want. The best general contractors are capable of completely understanding your vision, and marrying that vision with your budget constraints during the many steps of the planning process.

A successful kitchen remodel generally follows a basic sequence.

  • Calculate your budget  
  • Find a trusted General Contractor
  • Evaluate trade-offs for cost versus design as they emerge
  • Estimate costs based on your original concept
  • Design the new kitchen according to your ideas
  • Submit to city for permit
  • Select and procure necessary components – appliances, counters, cupboards
  • Begin construction – remove old flooring, rewire electrical, reroute plumbing, remove walls, windows, doors
  • Implement new kitchen design – new walls, new flooring, windows, install appliances, add lighting, etc.
  • Begin using your new kitchen!

Your project manager should guide you through cost-effective options capable of fulfilling your vision. For smaller budgets, often times the ideal requirements are not in reach. Skilled general contractors are capable of creatively offering up alternative solutions, iterating on some version of your ideal scenario to come closer to your vision, but all-the-way inside your budget.

How to Live Through a Kitchen Remodel

This tip is most relevant to people who plan on living in their home while a kitchen remodel is taking place (assuming that you may not be reading this as a reference for an investment property or something you’re trying to flip). When strangers show up at your house and suddenly you don’t have a kitchen you want to be prepared for the new living situation.

This will probably seem obvious, and goes without saying for most, but courtesy toward the various crew members in your home will go a long way toward a smooth in-progress remodel. Give them their workspace and provide basic amenities. You and your family should plan to use a temporary alternative kitchen while work is underway. Trying to use your kitchen while it’s being worked on is not a realistic option. Depending on the details of the remodel, work can drag on for several weeks to months. Don’t overlook the importance of how your living situation will be affected so that you can provide the optimal work environment for the crew, and not go hungry in the process!

  • Be ready for the crew – designate a bathroom for their use, show them the preferred entry to your home that will least disturb your family.
  • Educate children on the change that is going to take place. Make the disruption as fun as possible. Treat it as an adventure.
  • Establish a temporary kitchen space and stock it with basic appliances: coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven.
  • Set up a table or other flat service (door on saw horses) to serve as a temporary counter space for work.
  • Use disposable utensils, plates, cups, etc. to minimize dishwashing
  • Cook outdoors on a grill.

Finding the Best General Contractor for the Job

Finding the right general contractor to oversee your kitchen remodel is a pivotal decision. You’ll want to know if the bid is all inclusive or if there are additional costs. You’ll also want to know the contractors’ success rate for finishing on time and within original budget. Remember, cheapest doesn’t always mean the best and price doesn’t always imply quality.

Every state has different licensing requirements. Be sure to a quick search for what is required in your state and ensure that your general contractor has all of the right documentation. Many states require proof of experience in construction and an examination to prove business competence. In addition to formal licensing documentation, word of mouth referrals from family, friends, and business acquaintances are crucial supplements in the vetting process.

Once you have narrowed your search, talk to each General Contractor to get a sense of how your personalities fit. You’ll be working with them for several weeks if not months, and in some ways you’re a team. As you get closer to making a selection, double check that the bid includes all costs like electrical rewiring before actual remodeling work begins. Make certain that your contractor is transparent about all costs concerning your remodeling project.

How Much Will It Cost? How To Budget for Kitchen Remodeling

First and foremost, know how much you are willing to spend on the remodel. Details that seems small at first, like lighting fixtures, can vary widely in cost. When you initially lay out your vision to a potential general contractor, ask about the biggest drivers of cost and whether or not they are realistic inclusions based on your initial budget. Doing some homework beforehand regarding your vision will help these conversations go more smoothly.

Coming up with a blanket statement of, “how much your remodeled kitchen will cost”, is basically an exercise in futility. Every project is impossibly unique from the next. For this reason remodels widely vary in cost. For example, a simple counter replacement is not going to have a budget that rivals a project that calls for knocking out walls or building an addition.

The best way to come up with a budget is to categorize your project requirements by priority. What can’t you live without, and what can be chalked up to a later date? Take all of your ‘can’t-live-without’ requirements and present those ideas to your contractor first. A good general contractor will bake-in some conservatism to a quote by accounting for potential change requests and unforeseen challenges (keep reading for more on this). If you’re still within budget after with the estimated costs for your ‘can’t-live-without’ requirements, then go into the bells and whistles details.

Although price does not always imply quality, be extremely wary of a contractor who comes in with a quote that is well below others for essentially the same work. Cutting corners on costs with cheap materials, inexperienced labor, and lack-luster planning are common in this industry. Don’t fall victim to this trap. If a contractor comes in with a quote well below the rest of the market, ask him why he’s able to do this cheaper than his competition? Then ask yourself if the answer makes sense? Hint: 99% of the time it won’t.

How To Handles Challenges

Because many kitchen remodels involve a very long and detailed plan, surprises can and do occur in the middle of a project. Experienced general contractors factor in the probability of small surprises into the overall cost estimate. Things that are typically accounted for are akin to finding a small spot of dry rot that needs remediation. Or perhaps to stay within code, your contractor will need to rewire the electrical before beginning work. This, too, is something that should be baked into a cost estimate.

Structural damage is enemy #1 on a remodeling job. Hidden damage from window flashings in walls, pest issues, and larger dry rot may not be revealed until work begins. Fixing these issues do warrant increases in costs beyond the original estimate.

As soon as a major issue is discovered, your project manager should contact you to explain the details and the projected remediation costs. Once both parties agree to a price, a change order to the original budget and time plan will be made.

Mitigating Project Risk

The chances of major surprises during work is indirectly correlated with the quality of pre-work planning. Ask your general contractor how they plan for a project, ask them what their process entails. Does it seem thorough, tried, and time-tested? Ask how long it will take to prepare an estimate and major risks that may have been uncovered in the process.

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