Updated 1/14/08, reposted and edited from my very obscure personal blog at http://wendyannh.blogspot.com a couple of years ago.
Below is a repost of a comment I sent on the Xtraordinary Living blog this evening, in response to someone’s upset remarks that she was going to look elsewhere for a cheaper kitchen remodelling contractor other than Home Expo, since she thought they were acting superior and trying to con her into something very expensive when they told her their lowest end kitchen remodel would start around $50,000.
Unfortunately, the figures you were quoted are just gross estimates that probably have nothing to do with reality. In point of fact, that’s really probably a *low* estimate of the lower end of the range of kitchen remodels nowadays.
It’s not about someone copping an attitude; that’s just the reality. Kitchens that cost $200,000 and up aren’t all that uncommon nowadays, to be perfectly frank – and something like the one shown above could easily reach that level or even considerably more.
Even “inexpensive” cabinetry (like Ikea) and countertops are pretty expensive, and no matter what you choose, redoing a kitchen is a very labor intensive job, especially if you do anything other than replace the exact same cabinetry layout. Particularly if any sort of plumbing or electrical work is involved, or hidden damage is encountered, you will see $50,000 in the rearview mirror very quickly. There are certain minimum labor costs no matter what products you choose.
Between the labor and the cabinets, that’s where the bulk of the expense of a kitchen remodel is, but there are still a zillion other details that go into it that all add up pretty high, even with lower end materials.
You can certainly try to control the labor costs by finding a less expensive contractor, but do remember that you quite often get exactly what you are paying for.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to control the amount of work required for a given design, only the cost of the cabinetry and other materials, and much of what they carry at Home Depot/Expo is definitely at the low end of what’s out there cabinetry-wise.
Remember, too, that you definitely get what you pay for in terms of durability and functionality. If the cabinet doors are falling off their hinges in the showroom, as I’ve observed with most kitchens at Home Depot/Expo, they will definitely not fare any better in your kitchen over time, especially if you have a family and kids.
Depending on what’s involved in fitting it into your existing space, it may turn out to actually be cheaper to go with a higher end line, possibly even custom, that can be ordered to fit much more precisely than with a lower end line that may end up requiring much more labor to get everything to fit halfway decently.
And if you end up with a contractor who isn’t as efficient as he might be, or as skilled, that will drive your costs up as well, and very quickly. Be very wary of low bids and choosing a contractor based solely on price, because such lowball estimates often don’t even include much of what needs to be done, and the price goes through the roof once they get started.
Speaking of customer service, places that give quotes like this really aren’t giving good service, either, in a way, because there are far too many variables that go into the cost of something like a kitchen remodel to be able to give a figure that’s anywhere remotely near accurate before the final plans are drawn up and everything specified and specifically bid out.
Don’t even think of shopping for products or contractors until you’ve got a full set of plans drawn up, if you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, and to realize the most economical remodel possible that gives you what you most want and need, with as little headache as possible. A good interior designer or kitchen designer can be worth their weight in gold in this process – ideally an independent one, not one who works for a particular store, because they can provide many more options because they aren’t locked into particular products like store employees are, and are typically far better trained as well. You will net out far more savings than additional costs in the end. (Of course, the same holds true for remodeling the rest of your home or office as well.)
The complexity of this field is just not to be believed, and you can literally double the cost of a kitchen just by which inserts you choose for whatever cabinetry line you decide on, as just one example of the myriad places you can get caught unaware in this process and drive the costs through the roof. Just the choice of one edge detail vs another on the countertop can greatly increase those prices, and not make a huge difference in the look or the functionality. Dozens of choices later, even with minor increases for each, and you’ll have bitten off much, much more than you ever expected financially if you don’t have an organized plan and a guide through the maze. I’m professionally trained in kitchen design as well as general interior design, and it’s still a seriously complex undertaking to remodel one, even a simple remodel.
The best way to find a good designer is through a personal referral from a friend or acquaintance who’s had their kitchen or home done recently, if you like what the designer did. Alternatively, you can find interior designers or kitchen designers near you through a good Google search, which will also lead you to the designers’ websites, so you can evaluate the work they do before even contacting them, to see if their style appeals to you. Several professional associations such as ASID and NKBA also offer referral services, but the options are severely limited if you go this route, and many of the very best designers don’t even belong to any of these organizations, so cast your net wider if you want the best selection of people who may be right for your own project. Ask about their experience and education and check references, by all means, but don’t limit yourself to designers with letters after their names, since those absolutely do not necessarily correlate with quality work or knowledge.
And if you live in California, check out the Contractors’ State Licensing Board website at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/contractored/google.asp for a wealth of information on how to go about hiring a contractor, what to look for, and what to avoid. This is actually an excellent general resource for anyone regardless of where they live, with the caveat that you need to look up the specific laws and regulations in your own area.