Kitchen renovations, from one project to another, can be a very different experience. Talk to a dozen families that have had their kitchen remodelled in the last few years and you may hear stories like, “This contractor was wonderful to work with.” Or conversely, you may hear something like, “My kitchen remodel was the biggest nightmare that I’ve ever experienced. I never want to do that again.” So how can you get the first one and avoid the second? A good start is with proper design and planning.
“But wait a minute,” you say. “I’m just replacing my cabinets with new ones and I’m not changing the layout. I just want to do a refresh. Isn’t hiring someone to design my kitchen a waste of time and money?” While this might be true in a very small number of circumstances, these situations are very far and few between. Nothing can substitute good design. Every kitchen, especially ones that have seen a few years (or decades), needs a design update. Even if the same family has been using that kitchen for years, family dynamics and needs change over time, and the role and function of your kitchen should change with it.
From a homeowners perspective I’m sure that it’s difficult to know where to start first. Do you start with a Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer? Do you start with an Independent Designer? Do you pick up one of those kitchen planning guides and visit the kitchen department in your big box retailer? Or do you start with a Renovation General Contractor?
The road to a new kitchen has many paths, but I’m here to say that starting with a renovation general contractor will put you on the path with the least amount of potholes, hairpin turns, and cliffs without guardrails. You should think about turning to a general contractor for the following reasons:
Seeking designs and planning from other sources may yield you a fantastic kitchen design, but guess what? You’ll still need someone to act as general contractor for your project. Sometimes other design services are hit and miss with their experience in implementing that design. Often, these other design services do not have someone on site to make sure the work is getting done correctly, meaning you have to make sure to always be checking up on the work. Sometimes you end up having to act as your own general contractor.
A lot of places that aren’t general contractors use installers to build out the project. Often, we’ve seen installers doing things like electrical work or plumbing, when realistically, they aren’t qualified electricians or plumbers.
Designers are great at coming up with something that looks great, but can it be done structurally? If the designer doesn’t know if that wall can be removed or moved, how good is that design to begin with? A contractor will, for the most part, be able to determine if a design will work in a given space. Starting with the contractor will mean not having to incur extra costs by going back to the drawing board for another design.
If something structural is out of scope for the contractor, they’re more likely to have good working relationships with structural engineers, who can see if that design is possible to implement.
As in the case of our firm, contractors are comfortable with blueprints and drawings and are often more capable of getting those plans drawn up and implemented. With some designers, they only produce rough drawings or simple drawings to illustrate how something will look. 3D drawings that they can produce are great too, but understand that you’ll need more than that for permitting and construction.
Contractors mostly don’t build their own cabinets. They order them from cabinet manufacturers. These cabinet manufactures have their own designers on staff that are made available for the contractors to plan out a kitchen…and they don’t charge for that service. In our case, we have a top notch kitchen designer that we work with who understands that if they produce good kitchen designs for us, we bring them more business. It’s a win-win for everyone.
We can provide much better time management as a hands on renovation contractor. Designers deal with multiple customers, often requiring different services, especially if they have a retail location. When renovation contractors aren’t overseeing your project, it usually means they are hands on with it instead.
General contractors don’t forget about the behind-the-scenes stuff, such as electrical, plumbing, or mechanical. These are often forgotten when dealing with a designer. Sometimes this leads to a great looking kitchen, but the power goes out every time you run the microwave and the coffee maker at the same time.
So, how do the other players approach a project?
As far as Kitchen Cabinet manufacturer’s go they usually design, build and install your kitchen cabinets, leaving the rest up to you or someone else. Great places to look at product but keep in mind that as a one time purchaser of their product, you most likely will pay full retail for your cabinets from them. If you buy your cabinets through a contractor his preferential pricing would or should offset some of the management costs he would have to charge to manage the install of the kitchen cabinets.
The Independent Designer, depending on their level of expertise can be an asset to your renovation, however Interior Design is a very broad field and the designer should know when to access other experts in the field of construction. Colour selections and accessories for your project although important should be secondary to the construction process and the need for a licensed general contractor is a must.
Not sure how to choose a Kitchen designer; well like every thing else there are a lot of choices out there and careful consideration should be given to choosing the right individual.
I’m not talking about the pseudo designer layout person at one of your “home centres”. By in large they do well with the limitations and the resources that they have to work with. In my mind I think that we should be dealing with someone that isn’t called to Isle 4 for a cleanup.
What or who I’m referring to is the kitchen designer that takes the time to access what the families needs are and how they will use the kitchen. Then and only then they design the kitchen.
The family member that’s the chef producing either that gourmet meal or the comfort food meal of Macaroni and Cheese should be front and centre with a wish list. They spend a lot of time in their kitchen, toiling away to meet the needs of their family and if that person is YOU then make that kitchen about YOU.
Good Interior Design will help streamline the construction process, making the build a relatively stress and worry free event.