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  • Writer's pictureThang Lam

Maximizing Your Kitchen Remodeling Budget and Timeline

Remodeling your kitchen can have a significant positive impact on a home’s value while increasing usability and enjoyment of the space for you the homeowner.

If you are about to embark on a significant kitchen remodel, here are some tips and tricks to keep project costs and timelines on track.

Layout Changes Layout changes are often the most expensive part of a kitchen remodel. Fixing layouts that you and/or a potential buyer down the road would find problematic should be addressed at the beginning of the project. Removing walls, moving plumbing stacks, and moving outlets are all easier to accomplish if the layout is properly planned before the project starts. Requesting these types of changes once a project is underway involves significant cost increases and can even drastically affect your timeline based on whether or not the particular licensed professional (i.e. plumber) and inspector are available.

It is also better to handle layout changes along with the initial remodel vs the “phased” approach. We’ve frequently been called in by homeowners that initiated a cosmetic only remodel earlier (updating cabinets, replacing counters, and/or updating flooring), only to find that when they do go into the larger remodel later on almost all of the previous improvement work ends up getting scrapped. Many homeowners are also surprised to find that what they spent on refacing their cabinets is often same as replacing the cabinets will end up costing in the final full remodel.

Fixing and Updating vs. Replacing Kitchen Appliances Some appliances, like dishwashers, tend to get replaced just so they will match a new refrigerator or stove. Dishwashers are especially easy to update- your contractor can simply order a new front replacement panel in the appropriate finish vs. replacing the entire dishwasher. Some stoves and even some refrigerator manufactures also offer this type of replacement panel. Check with your contractor or the appliance manufacturer directly before scrapping a working appliance.

Mass Save and Energy Efficient Appliance Credits and Rebates There are many programs available in different states that offer rebates, free pickup, and other incentives for replacing an old and inefficient appliance. Mass Save, here in Massachusetts, for example offers no cost removal plus a $100 rebate: Try these options before asking your contractor to dispose of your old appliances- it often costs more for your contractor in fees and special location drop-offs to handle this than it would if you were to handle this as the homeowner. Just be aware- you must have a licensed professional to disconnect gas appliances (stoves, dryers) prior to pickup in most cities and towns. Your contractor can coordinate this disconnection for you.

Insulation Most older homes aren’t insulated well. If you are planning a large kitchen remodel, where the kitchen is being demolished to the studs, contractors end up installing better insulation which meets current energy efficiency and building codes. This saves on future utility bills.

Painting vs Replacing Cabinets We frequently work on older homes that require renovations. Many of these older homes have excellent oak cabinets in the kitchens- they just don’t look modern due to the original or previous stain choice or hardware. These cabinets can be painted and new hardware installed (i.e. drawer pulls) to give them a more modern look and match the rest of the kitchen remodel vs. being replaced. Make sure you check with your contractor to see if they can be salvaged and hardware updated as this represents a significant savings.

Electrical and Plumbing Updates Major remodels are the time to handle electrical updates (like installing GFCI plugs) and plumbing updates (replacing corroded pipes, and pipes about to go). It is easier when the walls are open to handle all of this, then putting this off until something “bad” happens down the road.

Order Cabinets and Finishes Right Away A frequent hold up on projects is cabinets, counters, and other finishes (light fixtures) not arriving when they are ready to be installed. These unnecessary delays can be avoided by picking out the items well ahead of when you schedule the contractor to come on site for the demolition. Two-three weeks or more is not an unusual time-frame when it comes to getting cabinets, windows, doors, etc. delivered. Sometimes, it is impossible to get everything ordered ahead of time (for example- needing to wait to close on a new house prior to placing custom orders that can’t be returned or stored if they come early), but the more you can pre-order prior to scheduling demolition or on-site work, the better for everyone involved.

Leverage Your Contractor’s Discount Most contractors have better arrangements with both the big box stores and specialty suppliers than you will be able to get. It isn’t uncommon for us as a contractor to be able to order a higher quality cabinet, superior quality pre-finished hardwood, or vintage fixture for exactly the same price as our client was quoted on for a lower quality version. Talk to your contractor about the order and decide with him/her who should be placing the order and for which items during the initial quote process. Make sure you ask before ordering anything on your own.

Change Requests Change requests, or change orders, as some contractors call them, are changes to the initial scope of work, finish, or add on to the original scope. These are often most costly budget overrun on a project. Make sure you understand the full scope of your request before deciding to move forward with it- how it affects budget and timeline. It may even require a re-inspection which could mean additional scheduling delays depending on how backed up a city or town’s inspection department is at the time.

Pick the Right General Contractor Your contractor should be both insured and licensed appropriately- in Massachusetts, almost everyone working on your home is required to register with the state as a Home Improvement Contractor (even if a CSL license is not required for the job) and General Contractors are required to hold a CSL (Construction Supervisor License) as well. The General Contractor’s specialty subcontractors (like plumbers and electricians) are also required to be licensed by the state. If your contractor is not licensed appropriately, and/or his specialty subcontractors aren’t also licensed appropriately, he or she will not be able to pull the appropriate permits for the job. Homeowners can of course pull their own permits, but most states have limitations on the protections they will be afforded if they do and certain types of permits for certain scopes of work homeowners are not allowed to pull themselves. In Massachusetts, for example, homeowners who secure their own permits will be excluded from the Guaranty Fund provisions of MGL chapter 142A. Beware of any contractor that suggest you pull the permits on your own (or suggests not to pull permits) to "save money." Not pulling permits can be especially problematic if you go to sell the property and it is discovered that work was not permitted when it was required. In most states, if you don’t inform the buyer about the missing permits, you can be sued, and that’s a mess that ends up being more costly.

Don’t be afraid to ask for their license information if you can’t find it on their web site or estimate as well as for a few references you can speak with about the contractor’s previous work. He or she should be able to provide you with these references and information in a timely manner.

Finding out from other clients how he or she handled previous projects is a good indication of how they’ll handle your project. The ultimate budget and timeline breaker to happen during any remodel is to be forced to find a new contractor mid-way through because your contractor was either unable to pull the appropriate permit, unable to handle the actual job, or simply unavailable due to poor schedule management.

Your contractor should not only be able to give you a time frame that the project would take, but also a timeline for when they can actually get the project on their schedule. Make sure you understand any ramifications on delaying acceptance of an estimate if you are in the initial stages of getting estimates and meeting with contractors (i.e. how long they will hold the dates and pricing for you without a deposit and signed contract).

If you are in the north shore Boston area here in Massachusetts and are thinking about a home remodeling project, please give us a call at 617-320-1135. We are happy to discuss your project over the phone and provide a complimentary in-home quote when you are ready.

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