How to Manage Your Custom Kitchen Remodel

We’re in the cabinet business which means we are also in the kitchen remodel business.  Most of our work is done in the business to business (B2B) marketplace.  In the B2B market people usually come to the table with the information they need in place because it’s what they’re paid to do and they have the time and resources as part of their job to figure it out.  They typically have blueprints, some design ideas, a budget, a schedule, and a decision making hierarchy.  They know what they need and want and how much they can and will pay and want the trades to do it within those parameters.  The trades are similarly empowered because we know how much it should cost to do the project and have expertise in how to accomplish what the builder wants or how to improve what they want.  This is the basis for every B2B transaction.

However, the average kitchen remodeler is in no such position.  They typically have a full time job that does not include unlimited time for managing home renovations; they have kids and friends and other responsibilities.  When the home owner wants to remodel their kitchen they procure the funds and begin a difficult process of trying to get what they want without getting ripped off or having renovations take forever or both—see “The Money Pit” starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long for reference.  When they come to the trades (cabinets, counters, electricity, plumbing, etc.) they usually have no idea what they want or they are so frazzled they’ve completely lost whatever notion they originally had.

Why You Should Read this Article

The purpose of this article is to help you avoid this problem.  And yes, there are a million books and articles that you can read or buy that purport to help with your remodel project, but hopefully this will be different in three ways.

It is written from the perspective of a cabinet manufacturer

Why is this important?  A soup to nuts kitchen remodel will include custom cabinets.  However, cabinets are different than other trades because you can effect a lot of design nuances and even layout changes with your cabinets by keeping the same room space but changing cabinet layout.

Also cabinets become the lynch pin in the process.  You cannot put in appliances, flooring, counters or final plumbing without first having the cabinets in place.  They represent the turning point in a remodel project from the “rough in” phase (which includes demolition, framing, initial electricity and plumbing) to the finish phase (cabinets, flooring, wall paint, fixtures and appliances, and counters).

It is free information from an objective source

Ideally you’d read the article and be compelled due to the great information therein to purchase cabinets manufactured by Rubottom, but you’re not required to.  It is intended to help people through the often, but not necessarily, nightmarish remodel process.

We have tools for you to help with your project

We will supply you with some useful tools and tips to make your project go more smoothly and would be happy to answer questions offline.

Steps to a successful remodel project

1. Prioritize

Create a list that answers this question: What’s most important to you in your remodel? Then maybe answer some of these questions in the form of a prioritized check list:

Is it important to have an eating area in the kitchen for your family?
Do you need more counter space for food prep?
Is it important that it look a certain way or that it be environmentally friendly construction methods?
Do you need more storage?  Less storage?
Do you want to get your small appliances off the counter?

2. Budget

Creating a realistic budget is the most difficult thing to do.  Start with a maximum amount, but be realistic.  A good remodel will be expensive.  Remember, if done right this remodel should last at least a decade.  If you compromise on important things such as cabinets and appliances, your remodeled kitchen might start to feel tired, out of date, and rundown too quickly to justify the initial savings.

You can save money by doing things yourself.  No one likes to paint walls, but just about anyone can do it.  Same goes for demolition and wall patching (which often go hand in hand, let’s be honest).

3. Preparation

The most important thing to have in hand when you meet with the various trades is a scaled drawing of your kitchen.  If you are keeping the same footprint, then you only need a drawing of your current kitchen.  If you’re making some layout changes, then you need a drawing of your current kitchen and a drawing of what you might want.

“Well, I’m not sure what I’ll want.  That’s why I need your help.”

Then you need a drawing of your current space at minimum.  If you have some ideas, sketch them out on the paper.  It doesn’t have to be complicated; just a drawing on a piece of graph paper with each square representing a foot both vertically and horizontally.  Sketch out your walls first.  A good idea is to draw the walls in black pen so they stand out and when you erase mistakes you don’t have to redraw them.

Download this graph paper pdf to use for drawing your kitchen, and check back for instructions on how to draw your kitchen or remodel project to make it easier for trades to give you an accurate bid.

Once you have a drawing any other design information is helpful.  Pictures of what you like (especially if you get them from the website of the company you’re dealing with), color samples, etc.

Finally, appliance specifications are critical.  If you don’t know your appliances yet, then at least have an idea of the size you might go with—27”, 30” or 36” oven, 39” refrigerator, hood type, etc.  You can get appliance specifications from the manufacturers’ websites.

4. Hold firm to your priorities

You need to hold a firm grip on what’s important to you (go back to that list of priorities).  Sometimes there are things that are impractical and you need a trade to tell you that.  But sometimes there are things that you want that can be done, but the sub or tradesman will tell you it can’t be done or try to talk you out of it because it’s easier for them.  If it’s important to you and not completely impractical, stick with it.  But keep an open mind as well.  Yes, I know it’s a paradox.  We’re talking about remodeling right?


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