Need advice on kitchen and bath remodel
May 17, 2016 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm totally gutting kitchen and 2 baths and want to do it as cheaply as possible to stay within budget (30-35k) and am overwhelmed with the number of contractors and kitchen cabinet showrooms out there and don't know where to start. Should I hire general contractor to take care of everything or should I start with going to kitchen cabinet showroom and then act as my own contractor and hire out plumber, electrician etc. Which is the most cost effective? I want to remove 2 walls for the remodel, does this mean I have to hire a contractor anyways? Help! For those who've done this, where did you start? Also how much did you spend, is my budget realistic?
posted by CheeseAndRice to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Your budget is probably not realistic - it depends on your location.

Spouse and I did a kitchen remodel about 10 years ago and added a powder room and used a kitchen/bath designer who was not affiliated with any kitchen cabinet showroom. Ask around for recommendations, search the National Kitchen & Bath Association for professionals in your area. The guy I used had several contractors that he worked with and we used one of them. Maybe this ended up costing us more money, but it was worth it to have someone else do all the work of finding, vetting, and scheduling subcontractors. They also took care of pulling permits and such.
posted by mogget at 9:25 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're removing walls you need soneone to tell you if they're load bearing, and if you need permits. Shop carefully for a contractor, check licenses and references.

Work with a designer. My sister does this work and she had really clever ideas rhat really made the most of the space we had. We refreshed our cabinets (Debbie Travis kind of project) and they came out great and we save SO MUCH!

If you think you'll spend $30,000, allow for Nother $10,000 in contingency, because that's usual.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:32 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would ask friends orfriends of friends etc in your area for recommendations. Or a nearby building centre. Contracting it yourself would be a lot more complex and possibly riskier as trades are notorious for being no shows and various other frustrating things - a reputable contractor has establishd relationships with good tradespeople. I would eliminate anyone who "felt" like trouble, say didnt communicate well etc, ie stood you up -as a way of weeding out the problem ones. Ensure the one you choose is insured and generally acts respectful of you. Keep track of costs and make sure change orders are written and costs set out, request it all be in writing. Things unseen cannot be anticipated so dont panic if they find rot etc but budget for unforseen things to some degree. Your budget seems reasonable but will vary depending on what quality of cabinets,shower stalls, tile, flooring etc - ask for contractor's tips for saving money. An honest knowledgeable one will want to help you get the most for your money.
posted by RelaxingOne at 9:40 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think your budget is big enough. But a lot of that depends on your locality. You can certainly start in kitchen showrooms - some of them even do the remodels. Around here, Neil Kelly is the big kitchen and bath design/build co. These places can also give you a sense for budget even if just the cabinetry. I think that you can save money if you know what you are doing by being your own GC (general contractor) but you definitely won't save time. Depending on how in-demand your local workforce is, you might not even get them to respond to calls. An electrician on a job for a homeowner is not nearly as responsive as one working for a contractor.

You must have permits for your project. And you should have a knowledgeable professional confirm the walls you want to remove are removeable. Why a "total gut" by the way? Down to the studs?
posted by amanda at 10:00 PM on May 17, 2016

No, I don't think your budget is realistic. I just remodeled a bathroom and was told that bathrooms cost at least $30K for just a standard remodel. I was able to find someone willing to do it for $20K but that was a roofing group who does bathrooms in the off season. That's $20K not including all the materials - I bought economy fixtures for lighting and plumbing, reasonably priced tile, a fairly cheap single vanity with a pretty basic counter top. I think including everything it did cost me around $32K. I did not try to find bargain basement deals for everything but I just can't imagine you being able to do it THAT much cheaper if you're still hiring people to do the work.

I think one of the key parts is the contractor. I asked a large group of people whose opinion I trust for recommendations for my local area. I got 3 different estimates from contractors recommended by that group and they were 1. The aforementioned $20K 2. About $30-$35K 3. $60K! Yes, I got quoted $60K for the very same bathroom remodel plan and was told it "couldn't be done for any less!" It was a lesson to me in how much estimates for these types of jobs can vary.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:17 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the tips. Forgot to mention the bathrooms are small so I don't think it'll cost much to remodel them. I'm keeping the tile in one of the bathrooms and possibly the tub and toilets and not doing anything too high end. The kitchen I want to completely replace bc it hasn't been touched since the 1950's so I want all new everything and to make it look really nice. I guess if my budget is too unrealistic for both baths and kitchen then I'd just focus on the kitchen for now and save the baths for later.
posted by CheeseAndRice at 10:38 PM on May 17, 2016

I think this does depend where you are located and what quality level of materials you want to use. I have a family member who is a kitchen designer and I was told that you can get really good quality kitchen cabinets at IKEA at a good price.
posted by OCDan at 1:37 AM on May 18, 2016

With the caveat that I don't know where you are, how big the rooms are, whether the walls to be removed are load-bearing, or what sorts of finish materials you'd use, I'd say your budget is probably tight for even the kitchen, never mind the bathrooms.

If you don't know exactly what work needs to be done then it's premature to be worrying about whether to act as your own contractor. But if either of those walls is load-bearing it could eat such a large hunk of your budget that you really need to pin that down before you get too far into this.
posted by jon1270 at 2:19 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should get on Angie's List, look up 3-4 well-rated contractors, and get them to come and give you some free estimates. That is where you start; I'd stay away from showrooms where you'll be paying the retail markup. I agree that $35k might not be enough to do everything you want to do all at once. Ask the contractors to tell you what you could get for that price.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:14 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Depending on where you live and how big your kitchen is and what you mean by "really nice," $35k might not even be enough to do the kitchen, especially if you're moving walls or pipes or buying new appliances. This stuff can be incredibly expensive.
posted by decathecting at 7:46 AM on May 18, 2016

We had a general contractor for our gutted kitchen in Toronto. ($32k) The project came in on time and on budget. We used the new Ikea cabinet system, and are very happy with it 10 months later. The general contractor was able to schedule the electricians, delivery of cabinets & appliances, plumber, tile guy, and counter delivery at the right times to ensure that there was minimal down time in the project. He handled supervising the other trades, subcontracting, payment, etc. He was able to quote accurately for the whole project, as well as ballpark the components reasonably. i.e. his quote was broken down into parts so we could understand where the money was going.

My sense is that the time to be your own general contractor is if you already have some knowledge and time to apply to the project, or you want to do large parts of the project yourself. (You do the demolition, drywall and cabinets yourself, but call an electrician to do her thing.)

One issue is the sequence of quoting and scheduling. Do you do the demolition and then get quotes for things like electrical and plumbing? You'll get more confident quotes with the walls open and the scope of the work better defined. But that will delay things as it can be hard to get a bunch of quotes and then start with the preferred vendor right away. (That basically doesn't happen.)

Another issue is coordination of the work. You want to ensure that the components of the job all work together. The general contractor ensured that the electrician laid out lights and outlets in a way that made sense for the location of the cabinets, counters and sink. If you're your own general contractor, you have to ensure that the instructions you give one contractor don't make it more difficult or expensive for the next one to do their job properly/to code.

The general contractor offers some real value for what you're paying. Good management, timing, and organization matters. A good one will also be able to help with design, and take ownership of the whole project. The tile contractor put one part of a tile on rotated incorrectly. (It was a pattern.) We just pointed it out, and the general contractor took care of getting the tile contractor back the next day to make the fix.

Design is another thing. Shopping for houses a few years ago, we had no trouble at all seeing the DIY jobs vs ones with a proper contractor. Good design isn't easy, and it can be hard to see the potential of your home when you've been living there a while.

And yeah, if you're taking down walls, you at least need someone to come in an tell you you're not taking out something load bearing.

To start our job, we visited IKEA and a couple of other places to look at cabinets. This was mostly to get a sense of the quality of cabinet and finishes we wanted. Also visited tile stores. My wife had some cutouts from home magazines of the look she wanted. Then we called in 3 contractors to quote separately. We had a written list of the basic specifications of the job, and we asked them to quote to that. We told each contractor that they were up against two others, but didn't say any more than that. We told them that we weren't interested in a back and forth bidding contest. We asked for their best number and that was it. Each gave us a 2-3 page quote breaking down the work to be done, and prices for parts of the job. We didn't go for the cheapest one, because of the references were better for the one we chose and the cost was close.

Our biggest worry was gremlins: mold, termites, structural problems, indications that there is faulty electrical in the rest of the house. These require expensive remediation, and stop the job in its tracks. There are horror stories of these in my social circle because we're all living in old houses. Once you start pulling a thread, you don't know how far it will unravel. Make sure you have some possibility to get the financial resources available to fix another problem. Perhaps do the jobs in sequence so you can delay the kitchen if the bathroom demolition exposes a problem.

Also, it's impossible to assess your budget from here. Our kitchen was a galley kitchen, about 12 feet on each side. $5000 in electrical, $6500 in cabinets, $2500 for appliances but kept the old stove, we got ridiculous tile that we spent $1200 on, and I can't remember the rest. It took a month.
posted by thenormshow at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Addressing your original question about how to proceed. There are two key roles, who may or may not be the same person. One is the initial point of contact, and one is the person responsible. Most showroom people are most interested in selling cabinetry, etc, but will have referrals to contractors and tradesmen. The responsible party is the one who takes out the permits and hires the subs. Since you are a beginner, that should not be you.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:56 AM on May 18, 2016

thenormshow: "Another issue is coordination of the work. You want to ensure that the components of the job all work together. The general contractor ensured that the electrician laid out lights and outlets in a way that made sense for the location of the cabinets, counters and sink. If you're your own general contractor, you have to ensure that the instructions you give one contractor don't make it more difficult or expensive for the next one to do their job properly/to code. "

Also a GC will let you know when you have to nail down decisions to avoid change orders. If you change for example the cabinet layout after the drywall is up it could mean significant charges to redo plumbing and electrical.
posted by Mitheral at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ikea cabinets and countertops are great. We re-did our kitchen (mostly ourselves) three years back, and could not be happier with them.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2016

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