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“I have no idea where to start!”, “I’ve just started looking.”, “Isn’t this what everyone’s doing?”

These are some of my favorite quotes people say to me when I first meet them in my showroom. My reply is, “It’s not so hard, a good Kitchen Designer will get you right through the process easily.” So here are some easy steps to follow…

1. Why are you doing your kitchen? Old and outdated, in poor working shape, new house, just want new. These are some reasons people have and no matter your reason you need to think about what your needs are. Think about how your family uses the space. What are your priorities in regards to cooking, and gathering in the space, do you need to enlarge the space by removing walls or extending the home. Begin making a list of these needs and saving pictures from either magazines or websites that express these needs and wants.

2. Setting things in motion. You need to start by researching the ideas you put down in you wants and needs list. This will probably start online looking at products that relate to it. During this research stage you will need to formulate an approximate budget for what you can afford to spend on this project. This is probably the most important part because it will guide your project to the correct materials to use to try to stay in this range. Remember this is not so easy if you haven’t done work like this before but to have some idea of some costs are very important for guiding the project properly. This is a process of educating yourself so you can make good decisions.

3. Hiring Your Kitchen Designer. This is the hardest part…this is the person or firm that will be able to decipher and diagnose all of your ideas, wants and needs into a real plan. The scary part here is there a lot of what I call “Box Sellers” who are out to fit cabinets/boxes into a floor plan size instead of a families needs into a clear and concise design plan. This professional should visit the job site, meet with all of the parties who are making decisions, do a questioner or survey to learn more and be experienced. To find this person you can ask friends or colleagues for recommendations, check local showrooms or contact NKBA for a local list. I would always recommend using a NKBA Certified Designer because of the training and continued education that is needed to maintain this certification.

4. The Design. When choosing the Kitchen Designer I would look at how he/she will present their plan. The floor plan should be clear and easy to understand, show the relationships to surrounding rooms. When working on this plan don’t get caught up in the look of everything but stay focused on the space planning. You should also be provided with elevations of each wall and Islands clearly showing the doors / drawers and door swings to see its functionality. Once a good flowing plan is laid out you can focus on the decorative details, moldings, columns, corbels, etc. These decorative details might alter the plan slightly to give you the look you want. By no means be wooed by a beautiful rendering or 3d drawing to make your decisions but look at the real details.

5. Choosing Your Finishes. Now your ready to make you’re cabinet and appliance decisions. This again might change the plan slightly but the main flow and working design shouldn’t change.

This will include:

A. Cabinetry construction type, door style, finish, wood and color.

B. Countertop style and materials, Granite, Quartz, Marble…

C. Sink and faucet choice. Water filter, instant hot, disposal…

D. Appliances: Refrigerator, Oven, Range, Dishwasher…

E. Flooring, tile, wood…

F. Backsplash Materials, Tile, Glass, Stainless…

G. Cabinet Hardware, Handles, Knobs…

H. Lighting Fixtures, Pendants, Hi-hats, Chandeliers… Many of these choices should have been specified earlier in the survey stage and driven the plan, but now is the time to make actual permanent choices.

6. Choosing Your Contractor. This is also a very difficult process. First I would only use experienced, knowledgeable and licensed/insured companies. I would also call references of previous Kitchen jobs and look at some of their previous Kitchen jobs. I always suggest that the company who designs and supplies the cabinetry also installs at least that portion. This will avoid any finger pointing on design and/or product choices. In fact if you can find a Full Service company to handle the entire project even better. These are always the least amount of mistakes and handholding. Also Price is always important but compare properly and remember “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish”

7. Job Start and Timing. What is important here is to preorder all of your needed components and stage them so the job is not held up waiting for something. Have a clear communication on approximate finish date. Know how you are going to deal with no kitchen for a while is important, Are you setting up a temporary kitchen? Is your contractor doing preliminary walk through to explain their process? How are they controlling dust and dirt? Are you able to function in the house and how?

8. Work, Changes and Punch list. I always tell my customers, “There’s a life to the job” and what I mean is there are always things that come up during the process, unforeseen problems; things you thought were going to be different, construction issues. A good contractor will know how to come up with good solutions to these problems. If there are changes that will incur cost changes they need to be written down and approved. And finally the hardest part of the install process is the infamous punch list. I always suggest that the contractor and the homeowner make their lists separately and then combine them. There should be clear communication on to what is expected from each item on the list. Remember this is a job and mistakes happen and I am sure at this point if you picked a qualified contractor he is willing to do whatever it takes to make you happy.

9. Surviving The Job. During the job I would always try to constantly communicate on things of concern and calmly discuss them, no post-it notes, lol. You want your contractor happy to come there everyday. Gestures of consideration always go a long way, even just saying “good morning” is good. This is always a stressful type of job for all but I can tell you from experience, “A nice, caring and friendly customer always has a more pleasant experience”.

10. The End. When the job is completed hopefully everything is great, you are now enjoying your new Kitchen. Hopefully a recommendation is what you would give your Kitchen Designer and Contractor. Any form of compliments to them (letter, online review) will also have them jumping through hoops for you if ever a repair, warranty issue or just more work is ever needed.

As my Momma always said, “You get more with sugar than spice” And that goes for the Designers and Contractors too!