Kitchen Remodel/Schedule

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In this chapter, I would like to unmethodically itemize some thoughts about the schedule of a kitchen remodel.

Getting in touch with a contractor

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We didn't only have a kitchen to be remodeled, but the entire house. Still, not even this put us on top of the priority list of the general contractor whom we trusted with our construction. They started half a year later than they originally promised they would do, and the work took also considerably longer than they had scheduled initially. The kitchen alone was populated with craftspeople for more than three months, despite the fact that we changed our original plans at some point and decided to do both the cabinet installation and floor tiling ourselves.

One of the lessons that we learned from this experience was that you cannot get in touch with your contractor too early, and that oral pledges may show a great deal of goodwill, but can never replace a proper schedule that comes in writing and with all legal trimmings.

The topic of contracts for a remodel as such, I cannot discuss in this book. Only so much: the more thoroughly you educate yourself about it before signing, the better. If you won't, it can get extremely stressful, nasty and expensive for an owner. In particular figure out if the estimate of cost that your contractor gives you with the contract is legally binding for them, and educate yourself about the significance of the term "contingencies". Request a detailed account from your contractor of how they will handle unforeseen rises in costs

  • because the materials became more expensive; some possible reasons:
    • the store prices went up
    • they miscalculated the amounts that were needed
  • because the work became more expensive; some possible reasons:
    • the salaries went up (unfortunately, this seems to be the most unlikely reason)
    • they underestimated the amount of work needed
    • their itemization of works was incomplete
    • their craftspeople made mistakes that needed to be fixed; in the worst case the whole work may need to be redone from zero; some possible reasons for such mistakes are lack of carefulness, lack of craftsmanship, and poor communication between contractor and the craftspeople
    • the contractor suggest a measure that later turns out to be infeasible, so that a (more expensive) plan B must kick in.

In our house renovation, except for salary rising, every single one of these events applied eventually, and I strongly believe our case was only average. They bid low, possibly fully knowing that the pricing is unrealistic. If we would do such a remodel again, we would probably spend the money to have a lawyer check the contract through before we commit to it.

Another nuisance that we experienced a lot was the reluctance of our project managers to take notes. Since they generally didn't, we had to explain things over and over. That your project manager takes notes, all the time, is something that you can expect. It is probably an indicator for a high level of organization, and something you may look out for when selecting your contractor.

Ordering appliances

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The obvious advantage of ordering appliances early is that you thereby secure them; postponing can lead to unhappy surprises, especially if your whole kitchen layout is based on the dimensions of an appliance that later turns out not to be available anymore. Another advantage is that if may be helpful for your contractor to know certain technical specifications.

A disadvantage is that the product warranty may expire before you even get a chance to put the appliance in operation.

Ordering cabinets

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If you purchase your cabinets from Ikea and this is your first Ikea kitchen, it is probably highly advisable to request the assistance of one of their kitchen designers. Since we were nowhere near an Ikea store, we had an online conference with ours. Doing this in person would probably have facilitated an overall better and more redundant communication, but the outcome was still good for us.

The goal of such a kitchen planning session is the compilation of a "shopping" list. Based on this list, there can actual orders being made, either in a store or with a specialized kitchen representative that you can call. Our communication with those telephone representatives went better than we expected, they were easy to reach, friendly, patient, and helpful.

The one thing that did not work was speedy delivery. We had our kitchen planning session early March and put our first order in at the end of the same month. Subsequently, we put in no less than eight more orders, because there were always items on our shopping list that still were not available yet. The last items were being ordered and delivered mid-October. A reason that contributed to that problem were obviously supply chain issues caused by the Covid pandemic, but as you can tell from a look at the web site, these issues still may persist. One downside of sequential ordering – beside the anxiety if your kitchen will ever be completely delivered – is that you pay for delivery not just once but multiple times.

We saved a considerable amount of money by joining Ikea's "Family" program and applying for their credit card, which supplied us with oodles of 15-Dollar coupons. Due to our choked ordering history, we had plenty of opportunity to spend those.

Another advantage of purchasing our kitchen from Ikea was, beside the 25-year warranty for cabinets and 5-year warranty for appliances, that we could return items which we didn't use. They take unpacked items back for 90 days, and packed ones for a year; we didn't even have difficulties to return some very last items after 14 or 15 months.

Entire room flooring vs partial flooring

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While some construction companies prefer to install the flooring (tile, vinyl, hardwood, etc.) before the cabinets, others advice to install the cabinets first and the flooring later. I would like to give you some pros and cons:

Entire room flooring
Advantages Disadvantages
Accommodates possible future layout changes If you expect future changes of your kitchen layout, an area-wide flooring will allow you to keep the flooring. Higher costs Area-wide flooring will cost you a whole lot more than partial flooring. There is mostly no real technical reason for area-wide flooring, and you won't be able to see a difference not matter what you do. If your contractor pushes you to floor the entire room, this may be driven by business considerations.
Sealing If your kitchen is sitting on a concrete slab, you won't need any sealing. But if there is a wooden construction underneath, some sealing (like through a cohesive surface of tiles) may be desirable; water leakages can happen in any kitchen all the time. More time to make wise design decisions If you are not educated in design things, but an open minded and eager to learn layperson: It is a huge disadvantage to be pressed into decisions about floor design at an early point where you haven't even fully grasped how your kitchen will look like. Most people think it is enough to hold a tile (or vinyl or hardwood) sample against samples of your cabinet fronts and countertop, but I would consider it a gamble to content oneself with just that. Consider waiting until your kitchen installation is finished and you made yourself familiar with how the new space feels.
Our own remodel was very slow, so I had several months between launching my cooking operations and having to finally choose a floor tile. While first I had planned on something bright in order to bring a lot of light into the room (my cabinet fronts are dark grey), I gradually became convinced that a darker tile actually would do much better, because it would draw all attention to my colossal countertop surfaces and the two waterfalls that complement them. I even had the chance to spread out different colored bed sheets on the floor to test the visual effects of different degrees of lightness. A pro probably would have known those things right away, but as an amateur designer, it took me a few months living in that kitchen to understand them, and now I am really happy that I wasn't being pushed into an early choice.
Easier to do A contiguous rectangular area is more effortless to floor than a fragmented one. There will be much less cutting. Additional freedom in financial planning A remodel is fun, but it can also lead directly into financial disaster. If you figure – in the middle of construction work – that you are going over budget, it is much less pain to start economizing on flooring (after you have nice cabinets and countertops) than to cut down on cabinets and countertops (after you splurged on flooring). You may even decide to do the flooring yourself.
Pick the nicest pieces If you decided on tiles with natural irregularities or on hardwood, the batch that you bought will probably include a fraction of pieces that you dislike because of shade of color, color distribution, and such. You can sort what you got and than ask the tiler to lay the ugly ones out where the cabinets will go. No seam management possible Laying out tile or hardwood after the kitchen is in place may save you pangs about grout lines or parquet seams that happen to be in awkward adjacency to cabinet edges. If you wait until after cabinet installation you are at liberty to lay your tiles or blocks however they please the eye.
Psychological rewarding Flooring is a relatively fast operation. If you have the floor done before the cabinets, you probably have many weeks behind you were you were only looking at demolition and seemingly slow progress. If flooring is being done next, you may very much enjoy finally to see something evolving that makes sense and that reflects your own design ideas. Damage hazards Kitchen installation is rough work. Heavy tools can fall to the floor and damage any kind of floor. A hardwood floor can take damage from an occasional flooding. Don't expect your contractor to cover those repairs even if it was them who caused the damage.