We're planning a kitchen remodel this fall and have been having a hard time locating a contractor we are totally comfortable with. The estimates are all over the block and we can't seem to be able to compare and contrast because every contractor has their own set of product selections for cabinets, faucets, etc. Completion time also seems to vary wildly. Any tips to help tame this beast of a project?
Yes. For starters, it sounds like you are making the very common mistake of letting the kitchen remodeling contractor define the job instead of defining the job for the contractor.
Kitchens are complicated remodeling projects and you need to have a plan of attack. That plan might come from a specialist known as a Certified Kitchen & Bath Designer, a designation earned by pros who are members of the National Kitchen Bath Association (NKBA). This will cost you a small design fee but it is money well spent. A kitchen designer can specify the product selection and design a solution that is within your budget. When it comes to hiring the kitchen remodeling contractor, you can also hand the plan to the contractor and have them bid on those specifications, which eliminates the confusion of trying to compare prices on proposals with different offerings.
When it comes to finding the contractor, a recent study by research firm Consumer Specialist points out that your satisfaction with the kitchen remodeling contractor you hire will be directly proportional to how that contractor was found. Not surprisingly, the highest satisfaction levels came from those homeowners who hired contractors with whom they had previous experience. But what was really surprising was that those who hired contractors found through home improvement stores scored among the lowest levels of satisfaction, coming in just above those who had used the Yellow Pages.
This was also echoed in Consumer Reports which ranked one-stop-shop kitchen and remodeling services, such as those offered by major home improvement stores, to be among the top ten most hyped kitchen products and services. Consumer Reports points out that no one retailer was impressive for design help, installation services and product quality, selection and price.
If you've not had experience with previous remodeling pros you are happy with, there is a way to rely on the experience of others to make that selection. Angie's List is a social networking website where members pay a very small fee and then share their experiences--good and bad--with each other about the service providers with whom they have worked. The list report ranks an overall satisfaction with a contractor as well as price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism--critical elements when you're choosing a kitchen remodeling contractor.