Choosing a company to renovate your kitchen and bath is not an easy task. You have dozens of options form “big box” stores to “handymen” with an array of businesses in between, including remodeling companies and professional kitchen and bath design firms – some with showrooms and some without. We want to help you understand the differences and what constitutes the best value for your investment. The “big boxes” cannot always find the most qualified or well-trained design experts for their kitchen or bath operations. Although the price may appear to be the best in town, the value rarely is. It is not uncommon to find design oversights, less than required customer services, and substandard installations. In the end, you often live for years with the regret of not having done a better job researching your options.
1. Showroom/Studio Appearance
A showroom demonstrates stability, providing insight into the company with whom you are dealing. It should immediately give you a look into the firm’s product selection, quality standards and design capabilities. Consider these:
• Are the displays unique, representing a broad range of styles?
• Are they complete, in a state of flux, or missing elements?
• How well are the components integrated into a beautiful, functional, ergonomically designed kitchen or bath display?
• Look closely at the “fit and finish” – where the countertop meets the sink or the cabinets, how the molding mitre cuts come together and other details.
2. An Educational Approach
Let the owner or designer educate you. A quality kitchen is not about products or brands, but rather about you, your family and your lifestyle. An early warning sign would be a firm that begins by promoting a specific product or brand. Let the designer help you understand the pros and cons of each product in relation to your needs and budget.
A showroom should be an educational center. You should walk out more informed and less confused than when you walked in. Look for:
• Information booklets you can take home and study
• A “storyboard” outlining the steps involved in the design and installation process
• Magazines or books that feature publication of the firm’s kitchen or bath projects
3. Selection of Quality Products at Special Values
Value rarely translates to the lowest cost. True value is getting the best possible product for your investment.
It is a common misconception that only national and regional chain home centers can offer cabinetry at lower prices. With the advent of national kitchen and bath buying groups, professional kitchen and bath design firms, can offer quality cabinets (as well as many other products) at the greatest value.
4. Highly Trained Personnel
Cabinets can be wooden boxes or works of art. In the hands of an expert it’s an art, in your kitchen it’s your dream come true. Staff expertise and experience are the most critical factors in achieving great design and incredible value. A brief conversation can begin to tell you a little about the firm, but ask about
• Accreditations from national industry organizations
• Employee background, education and length of association with the firm
• Certificates of training from suppliers, such as cabinets and appliance manufacturers
• Continuing education requirements and proof
• Testimonials from past clients and references
If you have never experienced a kitchen, bath or other major remodel project, you need to know that the unexpected should always be expected. How well the firm you choose prepares for the eventuality beforehand (through documentation), as well as the “crisis” itself, can be the difference between a disaster and a great experience.
An experienced firm will completely and accurately document the following:
• Detailed floor plans, elevations and perspectives
• Specifications for each product including costs, warranties, deliverables, timing, etc.
• Complete specifications for the services provided; what is included, what is not included, what may be additional
• Agreements for Pricing, Payment Terms and Conditions
6. Business Integrity
Your greatest fear is the realization of the story your neighbor or relative told you. You know the one, the contractor took a deposit, ripped out a room, then disappeared – ran off to another project, never to be heard from again. Be sure you judge the firms you are considering by their business integrity along with the other criteria.