Important tips before you start a kitchen renovation

Before you start renovating your kitchen, get a clear idea about what you want the final project to look like and what it will cost to achieve it. Have an architect draw up a set of blueprints or develop a floor plan and gather estimates on costs for new cabinets and countertops, appliances, plumbing fixtures, and flooring.

Secure Your Financing

Kitchen renovation projects can be costly depending on what you want done. The costs for remodeling a kitchen can range from $5,000 to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the plan and materials. But where’s the money going to come from? Homeowners may apply for a home improvement loan, dip into savings, or get a second mortgage for pricier projects.

Hire A General Contractor

If your project is more than cosmetic, hire a licensed general contractor. Your kitchen renovation project may involve tearing out old cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures, wiring and flooring. That kind of work requires a building permit and licensed contractors. A contractor will develop a scope of work, hire subcontractors, order and purchase materials, oversee the project and ensure the work is completed in accordance to local codes. Issued by the city government, a building permit will give you legal authorization to make extensive alterations to your home, such as electrical, HVAC and plumbing. Pay the fee and comply with city building regulations issued by the Planning and Zoning Commission; otherwise, you could be required to tear out work that is not up to code.

How to Find a General Contractor

Ask friends, neighbors and coworker to recommend firms they’ve worked with and offer referrals. Online sites also offer listings of qualified firms in your neighborhood. Check references with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) before you sign a contract. Don’t be misled by shady contractors who promise the moon but fail to deliver. Ask to see a business license, contractor’s license, insurance, three references and pictures of previous projects. Check the contractor’s background and references before turning over any money. If the prospect seems to be more concerned with getting a down payment than providing definitive proof of his work, don’t do business with him or you could get burned.

A common practice with shady contractors is to begin work on a remodeling job, but drag the project on longer than reasonably necessary. Sometimes, they will commit themselves to several projects at once. You don’t want someone to start your job and abandon it midway to take on another contract. You cannot prohibit your builder from taking other jobs, but you can require him to be on the job as agreed.

Negotiate a Solid Contract

A contract is only as good as the terms written within it. Make sure that the scope of work includes everything you want and you and your contractor have a mutual understanding and agreement of what the job entails. A contractor’s agreement should include names, address, and phone number for both the contractor and homeowner. The proposal should also include a detailed line item list of each phase of your kitchen renovation, including demolition and cleanup, proposed work, cabinet and countertop measurements, proposed replacement flooring and description of appliances and fixtures. More importantly, the scope of work should specify how much the homeowner will pay and when. Be cautious about giving your contractor upfront money. It’s best to make successive payments as the job progresses. It is common for contractors to ask for payments after each renovation phases: demolition, electrical, plumbing, drywall installation, painting, flooring, cabinetry, cleanup and punch-out. Paying in phases ensures that should your contractor bail out, you still have enough funds to finish the job.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

Before you start demolishing the kitchen, make a plan that works within space and budget constraints. A blueprint of an extensive remodel shows where electrical and plumbing lines are located, where walls will be constructed or torn out, and the kitchen elevation.

If you do not hire an architect, measure the perimeter of the room, space taken up by existing cabinetry, and position and size of appliances. Take the measurements to a professional cabinet maker or remodeling contractor and work with a qualified consultant to choose cabinet styles and finishes, countertop materials, appliances and floor and wall coverings. A professional kitchen designer can accurately order custom or stock cabinetry, countertops and flooring based on your existing measurements. The beauty of working with a designer is that your finished renovation will not only be aesthetically pleasing but also functional.

Once you settle on a design, try not to change it. Modifying blueprints, cancelling special orders, or changing paint colors at last minute is not only aggravating but costly.

Count the Cost

Kitchen renovations can be expensive, so count the costs before committing to a design you can’t pay for. Those glitzy home improvement photos are inspirational, but possibly out of your budget’s reach. If you shop discount building supply stores and local sales or opt to refurbish existing materials, you can save big bucks. Shop for the best quality at the lowest price and get a manufacturer’s warranty.

Rely on Reputable Professionals

If you opt for stone countertops, choose a reputable dealer and an expert installer. You don’t want to spend thousands for defective materials or shoddy installations. Some stone dealers may also offer discounts on leftover materials or discontinued designs.

The one thing you don’t want to scrimp on is electrical wiring and plumbing. Make sure your contractor hires a licensed electricians and plumbers.

Proper Planning Pays Off

If you plan properly, hire the right general contractor and professional, licensed subs, your kitchen renovation project should go smoothly and end beautifully. Don’t be afraid to check background references, establish a realistic budget and make sure your contract details phases, payments and parameters.

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