These are the questions I've been asked most often, answered in one place for your convenience:
Q. Where do I start?
Start in the room to be remodeled. Stand there and look around. Take stock of what you like and want to keep – if anything – and what specific parts need to be changed. On a blank sheet (or screen, if you prefer), list what doesn't work for you and what needs aren't being met. Often, this will look like this, "I need more drawers; I can't stand that cabinet next to the dishwasher that goes all the way back; my floors are stuck in the 70s; my cabinet doors are coming off; I hate that flourescent light box in the ceiling…"
The more specific and detailed about what you want to get rid of and, more important, what you want to achieve, the easier it will be to achieve the results you want. You'll be relaying this list to the professionals you interview for the project.
Q. Who do I call – a kitchen and bath designer, contractor or architect?
There isn't a single, simple answer to that question, as each project is different. In general, I suggest that if the overall architecture of your home is going to be impacted by an addition,
or considerable interior structural changes impacting an entire floor of your home are being considered, an architect will be an excellent starting point. An architect will recommend a
licensed general contractor or builder for your project in this scenario. They may also team with a designer to select your finishes and materials.
If your project involves remodeling an existing space, rather than adding on, a kitchen and bath design specialist is the professional to engage. They will work with you on the overall design of the space, to include flooring and wall tile, cabinetry, hardware, lighting, fixtures, faucets, appliances and even some accessories. The designer can recommend contractors and installers, as well, to handle the work that needs to be done to implement the plan.
Q. How do I find the right person for the job?
Membership in a professional association is one way to gauge someone's professionalism. Some offer certifications, as well, that indicate added professional training and knowledge.
American Institute of Architects
Remodelers Council of the National Association of Home Builders
National Association of the Remodeling Industry
Kitchen and Bath Designers
National Kitchen & Bath Association
Angie's List, a membership organization of consumers who rate services they've received, is another excellent resource for finding a well-regarded professional. Before interviewing someone, check with any state or local licensing commissions and your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are licensing issues or outstanding complaints against the person or company you're considering.
Finally, after finding someone you think you'd like to hire, ask for both recent and older references. (The latter will be able to share details on how the recommended products and workmanship are holding up over time.)
Q. How much will my remodel cost?
Again, each project is different in its complexity and material selections. As a general rule of thumb, your investment should be appropriate for your home and neighborhood. A complete
kitchen remodel for an upscale home in an upscale community could total 20 to 25 percent of that home's value. It will include top-flight appliances, fully-accessorized cabinets, and top-
of-the-line flooring, ventilation and countertops. Anything less could actually hurt that home's resale value.
On the other hand, a $100,000 kitchen remodel won't recoup its full value in a $300,000 home. An entry-level home should invest 10 to 15 percent of its value in a new kitchen to get the biggest bang for its resale buck. Homes in the middle of the market can safely invest 15 to 20 percent for a reasonable return on remodeling investment.
These percentages are applying more and more to master baths these days, as they become increasingly larger, more luxurious and higher tech.
Q. How do designers, architects and contractors charge for their services?
Everyone works a bit differently, so it's important to clarify in pre-contract conversations just how they do charge. In general, contractors and builders will provide you with a bid for the
overall project, based on labor costs and desired materials.
Architects and independent designers tend to be fee-based, and will charge based on the time or overall budget involved in the project. Some mark up products and allied professionals' labor. Some don't. Some take professional discounts and charge you full price; in these instances, the 10 to 15 percent is added to their compensation.
Some kitchen and bath showrooms apply retainers or design fees to the cabinetry sales, but mark up labor provided by their subcontractors to cover their coordination time.
It's important to understand how you'll be charged, and what you're getting for those charges, in order to truly compare different bids.
Q. I don't want to change my flooring, since it looks OK and runs throughout the whole first floor of my house. Is there a way to keep it?
Absolutely! As there's so much of it, you'll want to factor it heavily into your design plans. Your new countertops should incorporate at least one of its major colors. Your new cabinets should be about two shades lighter or darker than the flooring. If you don't have extra flooring material available, you'll be somewhat limited in changing your floor plan. This doesn't mean that you can't enhance your storage, however. Accessories like roll-out trays, pull-outs and appliance garages can pack more storage into an existing footprint. Taller cabinets, stacked cabinets, backsplash storage systems and wall- or ceiling-mounted pot racks can take also advantage of untapped space.
Q. Should I reface my existing cabinets or replace them?
casions when refacing offers an appealing alternative to replacement: (A) You're happy with the available storage and work flow of your kitchen. (B) Your existing cabinets are well-made and in good condition, they just need a face lift. (C) You love your existing stone countertops and want to keep them. (D) A, B and C are all true for your home, and you're keeping your existing flooring and footprint.
What can you save by refacing? At the minimum, you'll pay less in labor, as installing new doors and drawer fronts on existing cabinets will be less expensive than tearing out old cabinets and installing entire new ones. You may not save a tremendous amount of money, especially if you're opting for an elaborate door style, accessories, crown molding, glass inserts and pricey hardware. However, your project will take less time than a full-scale replacement and be somewhat less messy and inconvenient if you're keeping your existing countertops.
Q. My kitchen opens to my dining room and family room. Do I need to match my sofa?
No, but you should coordinate with major, semi-permanent and highly visible pieces like your dining set. Coordinating doesn't mean duplicating. It does mean choosing cabinets that look good in the same view as other sizable wood pieces you plan to keep. A professional designer can help you find the best coordinates. You should also consider the existing architecture of the space. For more on this topic, please read The Top 3 Remodeling Mistakes You Don't Want to Make.
Q. How long will the remodel take?
This is a three-part answer that has nothing to do with 30-minute HGTV shows.
Part one is the planning/designing/shopping process. This will depend on your availability, as well as your designer's or architect's. It will also depend on the complexity of the project. In some instances, you're keeping your existing appliances, so you don't need to spend time choosing and shopping for new ones. That can certainly shave days or weeks off the process. In other instances, you're opting for a complex wall and floor tile design. This can add days, in terms of choosing each element of the design and approving layouts. Typically, a full-scale kitchen or bath remodel will take two to three months to plan, including showroom visits, design plan and revisions, contractor bid preparation and consultations.
Part two is ordering your selected materials. Cabinetry can take from two weeks to 12 weeks to arrive, depending on whether they're stock or custom. Special order tile from overseas can take weeks, as well. If you're not planning major structural changes, you can wait until the new cabinets arrive and are inspected before tearing out your old ones.
Part three is the actual on-site work. This will vary from days to weeks, depending on the extent of work to be performed. Your contractor can (and should!) advise you on the time line in advance. Chances are, by the time the project is completed, you'll be about four to eight months later than when you wrote your first check, longer for major additions.
Photo Note: The kitchen shown above was remodeled for a North Tampa client. The couple changed everything from the architecture to cabinetry, appliances, countertops and flooring.
Coming Up on Gold Notes
- Next week will be a Mardi-Gras-inspired posting on New Orleans design and architecture.
- The week following will be a posting on clocks... Just in time for Daylight Savings Time.
- March 25 is Elton John's birthday and Gold Notes will be focused on showcasing your collectibles -- eyeglasses and otherwise!
- April 22 is Earth Day, so Gold Notes will bring you the best of green design elements.