Who in your house best handles stress, you or your partner? Before you find and hire a kitchen designer, you may want to have a discussion about how the project will flow. Remember, your lives will be totally turned upside down when your kitchen is remodeled. You should talk to potential contractor about how the day-to-day operations will go. It's usually best if one person handles daily communication will the contractor.
Ask your contractor for tips on the best way to talk about concerns. But, keep in mind, it's your house and you can set some rules. You can forbid loud music and swearing. You can tell contractors where not to park and how to enter your home. You can tell them you want all tools removed from the job site each day, especially if you have kids. Of course, you don't want to be unreasonable but you should set ground rules before work begins, and you should discuss some of your requirements before you hire a kitchen designer to see how they react.
Additionally, the person who is chosen to handle day-to-day communication should be familiar with design and building concepts so that communication is the most beneficial use of everyone's time. Many books on remodeling design include glossaries which may help you get ready for a kitchen remodel. Finally, don't hesitate to ask as many questions as you want of your contractor and if a potential company representative doesn't show patience during this initial interview, find another.
Your kitchen is likely the hearth of your home. You probably spend more time there than most rooms in your home. While you might be anxious to get your kitchen remodeling project underway, being hasty could cost you dearly. Don't gamble with you two most important assets: your family and your home.
Did you know that, if you don't obtain a permit for kitchen design work and a fire happens years later your insurance company can challenge the payment? If your whole house burns down, you could be financially ruined. And, a fire is most likely to happen in a kitchen. When an insurance company investigates, they may find that they work was not legal as a permit was not properly obtained. Also, if you allow a kitchen designer to begin work without a permit and the work is negligent, you may have no recourse.
Permits costs money, adding to the total budget of your kitchen remodeling project but, if either of these scenarios occur, you could be out thousands of dollars. Your architect, design/build firm or kitchen contractor should agree to get the permit for you. That is best as they know the specific details an inspector wants to see and know. Always get a copy of the permit for your own files and talk to the inspector if you have questions. Also, when a third party inspects potential work, you have another set of eyes on the project--that is always beneficial.
There is an old adage that says if it isn't in writing, it didn't happen. Well, this advice proves to be true in kitchen design projects and remodeling. When you hire a contractor to handle your kitchen remodeling project, you have the right to have a specific and binding contract. In this case, the longer and more detailed the better. You might be anxious to get started but passing over the details of a contract can put you in a nightmarish situation down the line. Additionally, you should get these details on each and every product and appliance involved.
Any warranties should be spelled out as full or limited, and limited warranties should be clearly described. Warranties regarding workmanship should also be covered in writing. The contract should include information about how the site will be handled such as clean up and security measures, especially during any demolition phases. You should get an approximate start and finish date in writing, and your signature should be required on all work before it begins. Ensure that all contractors have liability and worker's compensation insurance.
Also, check current licenses. Don't take for granted they are updated. The best rule of thumb when hammering out the details of a kitchen design project is: if it isn't written down, it didn't happen. Remember, items not in writing will not likely hold up in litigation.
When you hire a kitchen designer to remodel you kitchen, you are entering into a legal agreement. That means you could end up in court if something goes terribly wrong. That's why it's essential to understand some basic legal issues associated with remodeling before you hire someone. Did you know that, after you have such a remodeling agreement, you have the Right of Rescission? That means you can change your mind within a certain time period. In other words, if you have second thoughts, you are protected. When you interview a potential architect or kitchen designer, ask them how they handle certain legal issues.
Your contractor should agree to obtain any and all permits needed for the work. If a firm asked you to do this, choose another. Your contractor should take on the burden for tracking down incomplete or damaged orders. Your contractor should be willing to put, in writing, any change orders that occur when the project is underway. You may decide that you don't like a particular choice you made once you see how the project is progressing. Finally, if a project isn't handled properly you could be responsible to pay any subcontractor hired on the job. These are people a contractor hires to complete a specific task. Make sure your contractor is willing to give you an affidavit that all subs have been paid. You should also sign a waiver of lien, which releases you from any liability for subs and manufacturers. If the firm you are planning to hire doesn't agree to these terms, find another.
If you are in the process of remodeling your kitchen, you might consider a design/build firm to handle the job. These types of companies provide both design and contractor services. Then you don't have to hire a separate firm to handle the construction. One of the key advantages to hiring such a firm is that you will only have to make one phone call to address any concerns you have about the remodeling process.
One of the best ways to hire a design/build firm is to ask family and friends who they used when they sought a reputable kitchen designer. But don't stop there. Check out references yourself even if a trusted friend swears by a particular design/build firm. Call the Better Business Bureau and ask if a company has had any complaints lodged against it. When you call references, ask specific questions like: Was it easy to communicate with the firm? Did they seem to understand what you wanted? Were they neat and did they clean up the job site each day? Did they keep tools out of reach of kids? Did they show up on time? Would you use this firm again? Was the job completed on budget?
Just reviewing photos of projects completed by a design/build firm isn't enough research to know whether or not you want to hire them.
When remodeling a kitchen, there are a variety of professionals you can hire. Once such professional is an architect. If you plan significant structural changes to your kitche--such as tearing out walls--an architect may be a good choice. However, choose one that has residential experience versus commercial experience unless he or she has designed restaurant kitchens. Keep in mind, your kitchen is a room where you spend much time.
Hiring the right architect is key. The letters AIA after a particular architect's name indicate that person is a member of the American Institute of Architects, a national association with some local chapters that may refer architects to you. Architects are specially skilled in major construction and will give you options if tearing out areas are not allowable due to the structure of your house. An architect may refer you to a kitchen contractor but always check that company out yourself.
Architects will likely have much experience with contractors they can trust but you should still do your due diligence. If an architect refuses to do business with a contractor you prefer, you may want to find another to handle the job.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|