Whew, where to start. I’m a former cabinet maker, kitchen installer, kitchen designer, and I now work as a technical editor for a nationally known cabinet manufacturer.
This is long and rambling. check out The National Kitchen and Bath Association for tons of very very good info.
Make a budget. Make A Budget. MAKE A BUDGET!
Did I mention to make a budget? I can’t stress it enough. Know how much MAX you want to spend and work from there. A few basic guidelines: The installation will cost anywhere from 40% of your budget (straight ripout/install, minimal mechanical work) to 55% or even a bit more if you are moving waste plumbing, gas lines, and lots of electrical work.
Definitely get a few estimates for the work. When you check references, ask to talk to clients they have currently so you can call them and see how the work is progressing.If they will not do that, ask them why (red flag) If they dont have any current jobs, ask them how many jobs they do a month. You dont want to be some guys hobby. Also ask for the names of a couple clients at least two years old. They don’t have clients that old? Don’t do business with them. I know, I know, its unfair to the guy who is just starting but you know what? You don’t want to be some newbies’ work study program.
Make sure they are licensed and bonded. Again, if they don’t pay for that, they don’t do this for a living. Would you get plastic surgery from a guy who did a few jobs here and there so he can justify the purchase of his cool toys? Thats what I have seen a lot of times from “handymen” who worked just so they could buy lots of fun compressors and tablesaws.
Get everything in writing. Get all model numbers, stock numbers, and detailed descriptions of all items that will be installed. Get in writing their procedures for change orders, how they will handle unforseen onsite problems and situations. Check the payment schedule. There should be about 10% or $1500 (whichever is less) left as a final payment to be paid upon completion of a Punch List/Final signoff.
Call their business references and ask for a reference. You may or may not get this but try as it will tell a lot.
Whatever anyone tells you regarding the timeline, add a month at least. You won’t do this but come back to this thread after the job is done and marvel at my psychic wisdom.
Think about hiring a kitchen design firm, they can make the project go so smoothly if you choose well. Same caveats as for hiring a contractor.
As for design, make a good field measured drawing of your kitchen. mark your walls with double lines, make breaks for windows and doors and note all the dimensions in inches. Note the location of plumbing and gas pipes from a corner wall.
Draw it so that 1/2" =1’0". This will make it so much easier for suppliers to estimate your job and to get started designing your kitchen. Measure the ceiling height and the heights of the windows. I recommend you do this yourself even if the people you go to offer it as a service. It will give you a better feel for your job and will empower you.
Speaking of electrical, check your service panel, if you have 120 amps or less, you may need to upgrade the service to handle new demands from more modern appliances and increased lighting.
Lighting: don’t ignore this as an afterthought. a good lighting plan can transform a design. Work for a mixture of general and task lighting. This should be part of the design process as you think about where you work in the room and why you work there, is it the only counter space? Is there no light to see by?
Re: fixtures, I also recommend getting the best you can, especially plumbing fixtures. These are the most used and abused things in the kitchen, go with quality.
As for countertops, currently granite is King. Are you doing this for yourselves or for resale value? If for resale, check out your neaighbors and open houses. I like granite but its cold and can bea pain to keep clean. If you drop a glass on it, be prepared to clean up shards of glass. The same goes for tile floors. Corian is very high quality, is extremely stain resistant, and has good name recognition. I like it a lot. The new quartz products are kinda cool but are as expensive as real stone. For that matter, so is Corian in a lot of cases. Let me know if you are interested in other types of tops. Plasitc laminate tops are dirt cheap, durable as hell and can look really nice. You can literally replace your laminate top every couple years for the cost of a single granite top:)- I’ve had clients do just that.
Cabinets:There is so much competition out there that almost all the standards are getting raised. a couple tips: MDF and particleboard is your friend! Engineered lumber is light years beyond the flake crap from the 70’s, it’s more stable, easier to machine, and stronger than ever. It take veneer better than plywood, doesn’t soak up water like a sponge like plywood, doens’t warp like plywood…you get the picture. Don’t discount a cabinet based on inclusinon of engineered lumber.
Drawer boxes should have four sides attached to a drawer head. Undermount glides are pretty much standard now, Blum Tandem are the best out there.
Finishes are pretty, be careful the hot new glazed finishes and distressed looks are cool, but they can add 20-30% to the cabinet cost right off the bat. Again, back to the budget. Think about what is important to you. Do you need that black glaze on the cherry cabinets or would that money be better spent on the better dishwasher?
I’ll think about more to talk about (shouldn’t be hard but I’m tired and have a half million in cabinet orders sitting on my desk waiting for me in the morning) :eek:
Any specific questions? I’ll answer as best I can.