Kitchen Renovation – Here Are A Few Things To Think About
I hope you’re not as overwhelmed as I am about how fast this past year has gone. OMG! Ready or not, we have to tackle the next three months. All while smiling and staying calm, right?
If you’re like most of us, you have projects pending that you want to cross off your list and you want to get your home ready for the holidays.
During this time of the year, it’s typical for us to get calls from prospective clients where one of the first questions they ask is, “Can you complete our kitchen before the holidays?” Which in turn generates a whole bunch of questions from us, starting with, “Which holidays?” A lot of folks here in the States begin their holiday season on the last Thursday of November, aka Thanksgiving.
So if the potential client is calling around this time of year (mid-September) and wants to make a change in time for Thanksgiving, we dive right into questions such as, “How much are you changing from your current footprint? Have you ordered appliances? Will your project involve tile or any special order or custom items?”
Did you know that custom cabinets can take anywhere from six to eight weeks and semi-custom cabinetry at least four weeks?
Pro tip: When you order custom cabinets, the custom shop won’t necessarily paint them. If not, they need to be sent to the finisher for painting.
We ask all of these questions right from the get-go because of all the time that must be factored in. The length of the decision-making process, the estimated arrival dates of most finishes, and the availability of good construction professionals during this time of the year all matter.
If you are ordering furniture, accessories, or light fixtures, some can take six weeks or more.
Here at SEA INTERIOR DESIGN, once we begin working with a client, we give them a questionnaire that asks specific questions about their project. The questionnaire gives us an idea of how we should move forward with subsequent appointments, consultations, etc. It also helps us narrow down options and the ways in which we can help clients find solutions that are in alignment with their wants, needs, desires, and budget.
After we obtain this information we do some more standard information gathering, and then we move on to the defining stage, in which we define how we are best suited to work together.
We determine what the client needs from us, what we can offer, and how we should proceed. Although we have tried-and-true systems in place, each client and project is different, and we strive to treat them each uniquely. This doesn’t change the back-end systems, but it changes how we are able to perform our best work and deliver as promised.
Then we start peeling back the layers of the process, addressing all the ins and outs of what’s involved. It’s not uncommon for a client to say, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” That is where we come in.
One of the hidden advantages of working with a designer who is vested in the renovation portion of the project is that because we have done this so many times, we foresee issues, conflicts, and/or details that someone not in the business may not see.
You may think, “Well, I am working with a builder or general contractor. Surely they will foresee the same things.” Perhaps. But remember, the professional doing the hands-on work is going to typically follow the path of least resistance because their margins and time can be better managed when the construction side of the process is kept simple.
There’s also the potential that the individual or company doing the construction may not have the client’s best interests at heart.
My favorite analogy for this is that you wouldn’t let your accountant work on your teeth, your hair stylist work on your taxes, nor your mechanic do your financial planning. So please remember, let the general contractor or builder do the building and construction and let the designer design, space plan, and help you select materials and finishes.
Let me give you an inside look into some of the most typical elements we deal with in a kitchen renovation project.
First of all, when thinking about a kitchen renovation, there are some questions you can answer ahead of time:
- What do you like about your existing kitchen? (Any part of the layout, the natural light, how it functions in terms of appliance locations, etc.)
- What don’t you like?
- What do you want to accomplish? (Better layout, brighter, more open, more family friendly?)
- How do you use your kitchen? (Do you use the kitchen for most family meals? Do you entertain? Do you cook often? Do you love to bake?)
- How is the lighting in your current kitchen? (Consider both natural and artificial lighting)
- How convenient is it from the work triangle perspective? (The work triangle is the traffic pattern between your kitchen sink, the refrigerator, and the cooktop or range.)
The list goes on; these are just the very basic considerations. There are mechanical considerations such as the location of plumbing, electrical, and clearances, which need to be to code.
For example: The typical backsplash space between the top of the countertop and the bottom of the upper cabinets needs to be at least 18” in Arizona and California.
From time to time, a client will ask if it can be shorter because they are not particularly tall. The answer is no, because it is required by code that the distance/clearance be at least 18”.
Another common question is about electrical outlets. Clients don’t want their beautiful backsplashes cluttered with these. Well, there are options, but you need a ground faulted electrical outlet (at least connected to a GFCI) every 4’.
There’s also HVAC. If your kitchen is currently closed off and has air conditioning, will the air conditioning ducting or unit support the new open plan space? Will it still cool efficiently? This is something that will be determined and handled by an HVAC specialist, but you at least want to know it’s a consideration before the walls are opened and unexpected change orders crop up.
Ideally, at least most of these considerations need to be addressed prior to starting demo and construction.
An experienced kitchen and bath designer will be your allied in this process.
We have come across thousands of scenarios in our years of experience, and we want to avoid surprises for everyone’s sake.
If a designer is knowledgeable and experienced and they noticed that your contractor has not mentioned something important, or that something is not part of his scope they will address it and make you aware.
Here are other things to consider and information you may want to have available before consulting a kitchen and bath designer:
- How old is your home?
- Are you replacing the floors? If you are keeping the same flooring, do you have enough to make repairs and blend in where necessary?
- If you believe your flooring is available, have you considered dye lots?
- If you want to add a window or change the size of an existing one, be sure to mention it and to consider the cost of the repairs on the exterior of the house.
- Will you be living in the home while the renovation takes place? If so, where is your temporary kitchen going to be?
- The question most clients don’t want to answer is “What is your budget?”
Why do clients fear answering this question?
Most often, a potential client worries that if he or she tells the designer a certain dollar figure, that professional is going to use every penny of that budget. The client is fearful of overspending, and at this point, they haven’t necessarily developed full trust with the designer.
In some instances, the above reservations are warranted. But assuming you have reason to believe that the professional you are talking with is trustworthy, giving them your budget, or the number you have in mind gives that person the ability to guide you further.
After you disclose your budget, the next set of questions might be:
- Do you want to include appliances in that amount?
- What type of cabinetry and counters do you think you want? Although, some of these questions may have been asked before it is important for all involved to be really clear about expectations, wants and desires. The earlier the better.
- Do you need us to manage the renovation portion of your project?
As a design firm, we stay involved until after the installation of the goods and services we provide. However, unless we are specifically hired to manage the renovation process, the trades, the schedules, communication between all involved and the client, in other words, manage the design; we don’t this would be something the client would have to do.
This one service provides the client many SOLUTIONS because we become then the one point of contact and the client no longer has to manage if everyone involved is following the design plan.
So be as specific as you can be, not only in your communication with your designer, builder, or general contractor but with yourself when analyzing what’s ahead and how much of the work you want to do or how much time do you have?
- Will you be OK managing the schedule, calling the G.C. or each of the trades every time someone doesn’t show up?
- Do you want to be the one communicating with each and every trade and managing changes, notes, design expectations etc?
- Or is your G.C. handling that? Do they assign a crew to your project and leave them there until your project is completed, or do they move guys from project site to project site?
- Sure, you won’t need the plumber at your project site the entire time, but in order for the project to go smoothly and meet the timeline, you want the plumber to complete his rough plumbing work in a consecutive manner.
- The same applies to the electrician, the drywaller, and the rest. That’s why it’s important for you to know how your G.C. runs his crew.
NOW BACK TO THE BUDGET
It is very possible your designer may tell you that your budget is not realistic for all that you want to do and accomplish in the renovation.
A designer can tell you what your budget will get you within a reasonable range.
A good, trustworthy designer will also aim to be on or under budget, especially if you are likely to do another project in the future.
Remember, when you work with a designer you are working with someone with whom you will hopefully develop an ongoing relationship.
However, keep in mind this last bit of advice. When your old kitchen is torn out, the walls are exposed, and we can see what we couldn’t see before, there may be issues that weren’t apparent earlier.
So be prepared for potential changes to your scope of work and plan an approximate 10% contingency for standard issues.
When discussing your project with a designer, they will be able to give you a lot of information and discuss things in detail. That is why there is value in hiring a designer with a construction/renovation background.
I’ve started you out with a good bit of information here already.
My goal was to give you a sense of the small details that add up to a great end result, without the process becoming a nightmare and with the assurance that no expensive mistakes or surprises will taint the renovation of your kitchen or the experience you have during the process.