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1. Set a budget for the whole project
Before I even meet a client or go to their home I’m often pressed to give a “ballpark” of what a kitchen renovation will cost. That’s when the warning bells start to ring…. anyone who gives you a price at this stage of the game is playing a very dangerous game with your expectations and their credibility. No one can give you an answer without a lot more information.
The correct question is what’s your budget, or how much can you afford and are you willing to spend? If you need financing, before you do anything else, it’s best to find out what kind of financing you’re qualified for. Also think about how long you plan to stay in the house, and whether it and the neighborhood are worth investing in.
Some people may respond by saying they don’t know how to even start coming up with a budget, because they don’t know where to start since they don’t know what things cost and they don’t want to set a budget that is either too low or too high. If that’s your dilemma, many designers across North America agree, that if you start at 10% of the value of your home, that gives you a place to start. Of course you can go much higher than that, but to spend a reasonable amount that is in proportion to the value of your home, start with 10%.
You can figure that the cabinets are going to be about 40-50% of the overall cost of the renonvation; appliances (depending on the brand) 20%; 30%-40% to cover items like design fees, counter top, sink, faucet, lighting, flooring, paint, drywall, backsplash tile, labor and deliveries. And don’t forget window treatments and new furniture like a table and chairs, if you need them, as well as accessories. Ensure you have at least a 10-15% cushion over and above your budget for unforeseen expenses.
There’s nothing more disappointing than falling in love with a kitchen style only to find out that you can’t afford it after you’ve already spent a lot of time and money having it designed and priced. So make sure you have your budget nailed down before you start looking.
2. Select a designer
Kitchen companies that sell cabinets can do drawings of a kitchen layout and may provide a written description called a Scope of Work for the project to specify materials, and areas of responsibility. Some do it for free, and some will apply their fee to the cabinet price when you make your purchase. However, most won’t give you a copy of the drawings before you sign a contract for the purchase of the cabinets, making it impossible for you to get competitive quotes. Going to 3 different kitchen companies means 3 different designs and prices. That’s what I call comparing apples with kumquats.
Independent designers will design and release the finished drawings and specifications as part of your fee, which will typically be more than a kitchen company because there is often more detail and the drawings are not necessarily tied to any particular cabinet product. At that point you can get quotes from a few different cabinet companies and get accurate competitive bids. This is apples to apples pricing.
Be prepared to pay an initial consultation fee for an independent designer to visit your home but ask if it will be applied to the overall design fee if you decide to go ahead. A designer is a trained and experienced professional, who rarely work for free anymore than does your lawyer.
Be upfront with your designer about your budget. They will then be able to make recommendations and design realistically saving you time and money in the end.
3. Select a contractor
Ask your designer if they have a contractor with whom they work on a regular basis. It’s in your best interest to work with an established team rather than bringing in your own trades on a piecemeal basis. Like any job, communication is key. And trades who haven’t worked together before won’t have an established method of communication resulting in greater chance for error and friction. When you work in this way, you can give the contractor your plans, tell him what your budget is, and he will then be able to give you an accurate quote. If his quote is higher than your budget, then the negotiation begins. Be prepared to make compromises to stay within your budget.
Alternatively, to get competitive bids from outside contractors, give each one a copy of the drawings and written scope of work to get – here it is again – apples to apples pricing. If there are materials you haven’t chosen during the design phase, the contractor will give you an “allowance”. This means he’s allowing a certain amount for that item. If you ultimately pick something more expensive than he’s figured, it’ll cost you more. So it’s in your best interest to have everything selected and itemized during the design phase so that everyone gives you – yup – apples to apples pricing.
Following these steps in this order before you get started will ensure you’re happier, will get the best price and the process is more organized.
For more tips, go to Tips and Advice on my site. More kitchen renovation tips and advice