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Start smart
Experts offer advice on how to prepare for a kitchen remodel



Q. What are critical pieces of information homeowners should have before embarking on a kitchen remodel?

Jim Grote, Cream City ConstructionClients need to seriously and honestly decide on their budget. Sometimes, that is a difficult question to answer but is needed up front to allow for complete clarity. Project design and material selections should be well thought-out and completed before any construction commences. There should also be a completed construction schedule before the project starts so everyone is on the same page. Homeowners must establish an area within the house for a temporary kitchen. If you are working with a quality firm they will have all of that planned and ready. Prepare yourself and your family for the inconveniences.

Bob Quigley, Brillo Home ImprovementsYou are hiring us to handle all aspects of your remodel. There are many pieces to a kitchen project: demo, painting, finishing, specialty millwork, appliances; all these parts need to be decided up front. You also want to know who will do what. Set realistic budgets. Remember, you get what you pay for. For example, the level of cabinetry may be different for one person than for another.

Mary Scott-Sweet, BarteltóThe Remodeling ResourceRemodeling can be very intimidating and making the decision to take that first step can be overwhelming. Consider your homeís value and limit your budget accordingly. Talk to the bank. See what they will be willing to give you to make your dream a reality. Consider resale, but donít be a slave to it. Remodeling should be done to improve your lifestyle and create lasting memories. Donít worry too much about that next owner and what their taste might be.

Q. Where will homeowners get the most bang for their buck?

GroteStone tops in the kitchen are very popular. Also, stainless steel appliances or wood panel appliance fronts are popular too. When it comes to resale it seems to make the sale.

QuigleySpend money on the front end and youíll save money in the long run. You donít want to skimp on cabinetry. However, often you can mix and match higher priced options with lower priced lines from the same manufacturer. There are many different materials for countertops. Consider granite or quartz, which is priced somewhat higher. For flooring I usually suggest to clients that hard wood is the best bang for the buck. It will last over time. Lighting is critical in a kitchen and you should allow for this in your budget. Under-cabinetry, task, switches ó you want enough lighting in your kitchen. Appliances need to be selected before cabinetry. Sometimes people get carried away and overspend on appliances. Ask yourself, "Will I really use it? Do I really cook?" After the fashion statements, you need to get real.

Scott-SweetHiring a designer could be the most sensible decision you make during the process. Be open with your designer about your budget and let them guide you on how to make that budget work. Knowing in advance what that magic number is will allow the designer to design the space accordingly. Allow your designer to educate you on different materials and finishes, the pros and cons of each. This allows you the freedom to decide where you want to spend your money. Ask your designer to keep you informed of cost-driving design decisions so youíre not sticker-shocked when it comes time to review the contract. Also, hire a reputable contractor. Ask for references. Ask to walk through previous projects. Itís important to feel trust and chemistry. They are going to be in your life during construction and long after the project is completed. If you donít feel the "warm fuzzies" in your initial meetings, it might not be the right fit.

Q. Are there areas where a homeowner can save money?

GroteAs mentioned, stone tops are very popular, but one way to get the look but not spend fortune is look for what they call in the market "value granite." There is a large selection of stone out there for homeowners to choose from, but most stone warehouses have value stone that is usually easily to get, very popular and is readily available. Typically, you can get the stone at a much reduced cost. So in the end, you can upgrade to a granite countertop without taking a big bite out of your budget. It will also make a big difference in resale of the home.

QuigleySome homeowners like to do their own demolition. You can certainly save money there. Also, since appliance decisions need to be made well in advance, do your homework. Shop sales and promotions. Consider "scratch and dent" or floor models out of the box.

Scott-Sweet"Sweat equity" is a great way to save money. Ask your contractor how you can be involved to save money on your project. Maybe itís doing your own demolition on the front end or painting on the back end. Maybe you have a friend/relative who is a tile installer. Take advantage of these connections but be sure to keep your friend/relative committed to your project schedule. In other words, if you have to wait for an out-of-town friend to have a free weekend to come and tile your kitchen floor, it might not be worth it.