General house remodeling approach

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psteinx
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General house remodeling approach

Post by psteinx » Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:31 pm

OK, so after a little while of contemplating and discussing with DW assorted house updates to our ~23.5 y.o. house, some of the initial ideas have spun into further ideas, and we've now got a long list. I'm not sure we'll do it all, but it might include fairly substantial kitchen and master bath updates, plus a variety of smaller projects elsewhere.

Could touch on standard stuff for K&B (cabinetry, countertops), plus, for those and/or other spaces, plumbing, electrical, paint, minor flooring, furniture, and general decor/tying things together.

That said, the likely big ticket items are K&B. Of note, while the kitchen update would mostly be "replace in place", the bathroom would likely include moving stuff like shower and/or a window around, and be more disruptive, generally.

But, I'm at a bit of a paralysis point, as this thing has spun up big, and I'm not quite sure where to turn for assistance.

I'm moderately handy, and can tackle at least simpler things (some paint, shelving) myself, but would not likely try to do it all. Finances can readily support a wide range of possibilities, but I don't want to go crazy spending, for various reasons, including that I don't want to get too "showy" for our somewhat restrained lifestyle and neighborhood. We're not really in the HGTV-look part of our city. I'm a guy, and my wife is MOSTLY letting me take the lead on things, but some of this stuff has a design element, and sometimes it feels like stores/professionals expect the "lady of the house" to be taking the lead on this stuff, which puts me in a slightly odd position and/or perhaps taken less credibly (role reversal from a woman shopping solo for a car?)

Anyways, the lay of the land, based on my initial exploration, seems to be:
1) Big box HW stores (Lowe's, Home Depot), that will do some kitchen design, but seem more kitchen-focused than bathroom, and more focused on you going to them, rather than in-house visits and more complicated stuff like our bathroom might need.

2) Specialty Kitchen and Bath stores. Have had a negative experience, so far, with the main one I've been in contact with. Seems aimed rather high end, reluctant to give out pricing (even ballpark pricing), and may not offer much help for some of the non kitchen items (including some decor, paint, furniture and shelving in other rooms).

3) Granite-R-Us! Basically, a class of stores that's more focused on cheap replacement of countertops and maybe cabinets. Might be a cheaper way to get nice cabinets and granite countertops, but not sure they're really focused on more complex stuff.

4) Hire an interior designer. But, based on pictures, these places seem to target the very high end, and emphasize form over function. I'd like things to look nice, but with a heavy emphasis on usage and practicality.

5) A local furniture store that we use a lot also offers "free" interior design, but I think that really boils down to paying them $50-100 for this service, then getting a corresponding credit against a ~$1000+ furniture purchase. And furniture is only a small part of the overall project list.

There's enough going on that it might make sense to hire a general contractor, but stuff still must be designed.

I've also been frustrated that it seems hard to even get pricing ballparks from at least some vendors. You go into a store, they'll have several mockup kitchens on display, and while those may not match exactly what I want, I could mentally stretch/shrink/upscale/downscale them to our needs. But the salesfolks don't even want to say what the mockups would cost, as they stand.

===

My ideal might be someone who I could pay, say, $100/hour, to walk through the house, talk through each possible project, evaluate the ballpark practicality and cost of each idea, plus suggest a few others, turn that into some concept renderings, and then coordinate with a G.C., architect, etc. to make it happen. But that's perhaps several different roles, and I'm not sure there's really one person who could provide all this well. I'm probably at the point where I will individually consult experts/stores in each area, and try to pull together what's realistic with some costs. But I'm still hoping for a shortcut...

Thoughts?
Last edited by psteinx on Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MathWizard
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by MathWizard » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:07 pm

I don't have your problem, my wife would gladly redesign any room in our house. I am more interested in
the structural parts, not the finish so much.
What she does is to look through magazines or watch youtube videos like This Old House
to get ideas.

She also talks to her sister or a niece of ours who lives close, for example when they are over for Easter
or Christmas. Maybe you have someone whose house you really like who would do this for a fee.

My wife looks at designs of other houses. Not to copy, but to observe how different elements go together.

I agree that shops are just there to sell their designs, not to try to find your design.

You could look around at what online programs there are for interior design to see what something would look like.

If you absolutely have no idea how to do the create part, you need an interior decorator.

Lalamimi
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Lalamimi » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:19 pm

find a very good local contractor. We have updated 2 house recently, DH did the work on a small bathroom, we found a retired guy who laid hardwood floors and painted paneling and the kitchen cabinets in a 1977 house we bought in 20012. We moved end of 2017 and have had good and back luck with contractors If you have NextDoor Neighbor try finding a good company through them. Are you getting up in years? Plan on staying in the home? Does the bathroom need to be age in place? walk in shower, wider doorway, place for grab bars?
We did a kitchen remodel, used the lower priced guy of 3 bids. His granite people were wonderful. His cabinet maker also. His painter almost destroyed the new cabinets. Ran off the painter, he brought in a new one. Did a great job, but turns out he had just met the guy. They damaged my wood floor and left crude all over the tile back splash. Oh and now we can't contact the granite people to get the large piece of granite left over to use in laundry room.
Get at least 3 bids. My husband and I just installed a pot rack (yeah, I know but it came from our other house and I am sentimental) and 4 pendant lights over the new granite island. The replacement painter is coming Monday to complete the light installation, texture the space where the 1996 light box was, and paint entire kitchen ceiling. His price was $550. He disappeared the week after he agreed, so we got 3 other bids - $875, $975, and $3100. Turns out he had pneumonia and had been in hospital, so we decided to wait on him, and we went ahead and started the work. Good luck.

HomeStretch
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by HomeStretch » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:20 pm

If you know what you want for the kitchen and bath layout and design (cut out pictures of finishes etc. that you want), consider a design and build firm that can come up with plans and a quote for a cohesive house renovation.
You can also use an interior decorator or local store’s design for assistance with type and placement of furniture, window treatments, etc.

IMO you get the best results if you have a very clear idea of what you want and your budget.

Lalamimi
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Lalamimi » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:22 pm

I have read about a few online design companies that you pay a small fee and they work with you online. We just went to new model homes to see what is being used. Got some good tips from one of the salesmen. Of course, you can't make a 1996 house look like a 2020.

shess
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by shess » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:35 pm

I recently took a class with my community's continuing-education program, and it was helpful to help triangulate things. Since it was a small class, the instructor, a member of a design/build firm, was able to set aside some time to use attendee projects as examples. The instructor covered everything from hands-off general-contractor to very hands-on work, and I'm sure they'd be willing to provide referals.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and I'm sure part of the point of putting on the class was to develop trust for purposes of generating leads. But at least in my case, I didn't get a sales-desperation sense from the instructor, and the attendees were ALL over the map in terms of their ability to overpay.

WhyNotUs
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by WhyNotUs » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:44 pm

Since the kitchen seems to be less disruptive in your view I would do that first. You can work with a remodeler if you pretty much are just replacing existing things in existing locations. If you go to cabinet stores you should be able to get some leads on contractors to interview. If you really want to be involved, you could help with demo, construction cleanup, and/or material runs. Otherwise pay them to get in and out. Don't let them start until the critical path materials are all received, you can store them in your garage. Nothing worse that tearing the kitchen and then needing to stop.
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veindoc
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by veindoc » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:52 pm

Interview a few designers. You can find some on houzz.com in your area and exchange emails to see if they would be a fit. Invite the ones you like to your home. Pick one that works with a GC.

I would spend some time deciding what materials you like to give them an idea of budget and set expectations. Ceramic tile vs luxury vinyl vs wood. Quartz, granite, butcher block or formica. Solid wood cabinets or Mdf. Type of appliances: six burner vs 4 burner stove, double ovens or range-oven combo. 48 inch fridge or 36inch fridge. If you know those already, then that will help eliminate the frustration element to this. If you come in with, I want to redo my kitchen and bath and little else, then of course they are going to take you to the moon and back.

I wanted to add some pizazz to our living room but I didn’t want any hardcore renovation. Our living room was basically an area rug, bookshelf and a rocking chair. Perfect for when we had toddlers but we had grown out it. Interviewed a designer and she wanted us to remove the wet bar, reface fireplace, paint the 20 foot walls, sand and stain the hardwood and replace all the furniture. Not what I was prepared to do. Got another designer who I prepped ahead of time that I wanted to work with what we had. Enhance rather than replace. For $500 she basically said I would add these pieces of furniture, move those and replace area rug. Voila. Much simpler, great effect. And she purchased the furniture and rug for us at a discount.

Topic Author
psteinx
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by psteinx » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:02 pm

veindoc - it sounds like what you got (on your 2nd go-around) is kinda what I have in mind. Though at least for many of the things, there's a substantial construction element beyond just the design/decor stuff.

I had been down on the idea of an "internet designer", because if I use a designer, I want someone who can walk through the house and look at a bunch of different stuff, as well as how things tie together. Didn't think of the idea of using Houzz as a place to find an in-person designer though - thanks for the idea. And yeah, if that person is just focused on room decor/aesthetic for a room or two, $500 or so sounds like a reasonable ballpark. If it goes a lot further, a higher price (for the designer only) is reasonable...

rich126
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by rich126 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:18 pm

If you think you may sell the house anywhere down the line, you need to be realistic with the budget. No matter what, if you spend $100K redoing a kitchen in a $400K house, you are going to lose money. Now if you have no plans to ever sell or have the money to burn, do whatever pleases you.

My last home I bought in 2011 and it was part of an estate sale and it looked like it was from the 1970s. Fortunately the foundation, structure, wiring and plumbing were all fine but everything else had to be redone. Some stuff I did (painting, light fixtures, electrical outlets, and other minor stuff) but I don't have the time nor am handy enough to do larger items (e.g., flooring, tiling). Every room in the house was eventually repainted, the 2.5 bathrooms redone and the kitchen (mostly).

I did it over the course of 5 years. Before moving in I had someone do the main floor but there was only time to repaint it, remove the carpet and refinish the hardwood flooring. Then it was the kitchen and wanting to keep the expense down and realizing the cabinets were better quality than the ones currently sold I had them painted and the doors/hardware replaced. That saved a bunch of money.

Generally my method was to find a good contractor (took a couple of tries), then figure out what I want and buy the items myself and either had them delivered to the house or had the contractor pick them up. For example I found a good tile supplier and picked out the tile I wanted and ordered the amount as specified by the contractor. I did similar things with the sink, cabinets, counter tops, light fixtures, faucets, etc. Fortunately my GF was better at coordinating the colors but I had a general sense of what I wanted (e.g., preferred brushed nickel for the kitchen and bathroom fixtures/faucets).

The expensive way is to hire a remodeler who will design it for you. This comes with a cost, and the cost often also involves over priced features and fixtures. I wasn't trying to go bottom end (for example I used Toto Drake toilets) but I knew I was going to resell it within 10 years. I tried to keep everything pretty neutral.

In my case I didn't have any walls to remove, or move around any plumbing, etc. That can greatly increase the cost.

Good luck and expect things to cost more and take longer to get done.

Dottie57
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Dottie57 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:19 pm

When I did my kitchen 12 years ago I used a kitchen remodeler who had done kitchens of people I knew. A kitchen designer came in, looked at the current kitchen and we talked about what I wanted changed and the problems I perceived. The designer made suggestions on a few areas and I went with them. My design changes were used. Loved the process. All worked without a hitch - most of work done by in-house worker. Floor and plumbing farmed out.

All of this to say - find a company who does all the work in house. One layer of companies who have to make a profit.

123
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by 123 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:28 pm

Go to some nearby open houses for houses that have the same (or reverse) floor plan as your own. You might get some good ideas about what works and what doesn't. Sure, some houses will still be like OEM, that will tell you something as well.
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veindoc
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by veindoc » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:34 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:02 pm
veindoc - it sounds like what you got (on your 2nd go-around) is kinda what I have in mind. Though at least for many of the things, there's a substantial construction element beyond just the design/decor stuff.

I had been down on the idea of an "internet designer", because if I use a designer, I want someone who can walk through the house and look at a bunch of different stuff, as well as how things tie together. Didn't think of the idea of using Houzz as a place to find an in-person designer though - thanks for the idea. And yeah, if that person is just focused on room decor/aesthetic for a room or two, $500 or so sounds like a reasonable ballpark. If it goes a lot further, a higher price (for the designer only) is reasonable...
That’s why I would go with a designer who works with a general contractor. If the designer and contractor don’t get along that could be a major headache for you.

Houzz.com allows you to search for people in your area. I found the designer I told you about through houzz as well as a landscape architect. Plus you can screen via email and share ideabooks with them before you meet. The first designer I met was willing to come that afternoon which was a mistake as I described above. I should have taken the time to email back and forth expectations, budget and design ideas instead of wasting her time as well as my time.

ARoseByAnyOtherName
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by ARoseByAnyOtherName » Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:27 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:31 pm
My ideal might be someone who I could pay, say, $100/hour, to walk through the house, talk through each possible project, evaluate the ballpark practicality and cost of each idea, plus suggest a few others, turn that into some concept renderings, and then coordinate with a G.C., architect, etc. to make it happen. But that's perhaps several different roles, and I'm not sure there's really one person who could provide all this well.
That person is an architect. A good architect can do these things for you (at basically that hourly price).

Now depending on how extensive your renovation is the job might be pretty small for some architects. But there are a few very easy steps you can take:

1) Go to Angies List.
2) Find one architect (you only need to find one right now) that seems to have experience doing the things you want. Prefer solo practitioners instead of those who work for large firms. Small shops that have 2-4 people are ok too.
3) Pick up the phone and call them!
4) Describe what you're trying to do to them. See what they recommend.
5) If you can't get through to the one you chose go back to step 1.

You will learn a lot just from one conversation.

Ask them things like "what's ballpark cost per square foot that you're seeing kitchen renovations come in at lately." They will likely know enough to give a rough estimate. In my experience costs tend to be pretty location specific. Like, Chicago vs. San Francisco vs. Peoria, IL could come in pretty different for the same work.

It is basically like many other things in life. If you are stuck on something, go (pick up the phone and) talk to people who do the thing you need to do. You learn a lot that way.

We did a large home renovation. In the process of picking the architect and contractor that we eventually went with we talked to 4 architects and 4 contractors (not all at the same time). We learned a whole lot doing that.

Oh, and we didn't go with the lowest-priced architect or contractor. We ended up choosing the second-lowest priced one of each (not by design). We made the right choice.

ARoseByAnyOtherName
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by ARoseByAnyOtherName » Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:28 pm

Lalamimi wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:19 pm
We did a kitchen remodel, used the lower priced guy of 3 bids. His granite people were wonderful. His cabinet maker also. His painter almost destroyed the new cabinets. Ran off the painter, he brought in a new one. Did a great job, but turns out he had just met the guy. They damaged my wood floor and left crude all over the tile back splash. Oh and now we can't contact the granite people to get the large piece of granite left over to use in laundry room.
Lesson: going with the lowest priced bid isn't always the best idea.

Mr. Rumples
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Mr. Rumples » Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:48 pm

If you live near a university with an interior design department ask them if they have students who do it either for class credit or at an hourly rate. I have known folks to do this successfully.

Some states distinguish between a licensed interior designer and a decorator who doesn't require a license. A home stager might also work.

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F150HD
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by F150HD » Wed Feb 26, 2020 9:50 pm

Lalamimi wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:22 pm
I have read about a few online design companies that you pay a small fee and they work with you online. We just went to new model homes to see what is being used. Got some good tips from one of the salesmen. Of course, you can't make a 1996 house look like a 2020.
you mean where they try to make everything one big room...and there's someone sitting on the loo right next to the kitchen stove.

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Bogle7
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Step #1

Post by Bogle7 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:50 pm

Stop.
Hire an architect.

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Bogle7
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Bogle7 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:54 pm

ARoseByAnyOtherName wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:27 pm
1) Go to Angies List.
NO!
HomeAdvisor owns Angie’s List and is pay to play.
All negative reviews are removed.

ARoseByAnyOtherName
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by ARoseByAnyOtherName » Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:02 pm

Bogle7 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:54 pm
ARoseByAnyOtherName wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:27 pm
1) Go to Angies List.
NO!
HomeAdvisor owns Angie’s List and is pay to play.
All negative reviews are removed.
SO WHAT!

The point isn’t to find the best architect on earth, or even one to work with.

The point is to find an architect to talk to for 10 minutes about his project.

Go to Angie’s List, find a name and call that person. You’re just asking questions, you’re not going to marry them!

HereToLearn
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by HereToLearn » Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:13 pm

I would spend a couple of hours pouring through online real estate listings. Don't be afraid to look at higher-priced listings. At this point you want to see what people are doing and also pick up ideas that you may want to duplicate.

I think it will be difficult to find one person who can quote prices on construction and decorating, but ask around on your local Facebook group. Many towns have groups where locals post questions. Similar to Next Door. Good luck!

Skyler10
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Skyler10 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:11 am

I just did a bathroom remodel. I GC'd the job myself. First, I found a great tile professional in my area. Someone who knows how to waterproof a shower, because that's the biggest problem people have with a bathroom usually. It's more difficult to find someone good than you'd think. I found my guy through John Bridge tile forum. The tile guy I used recommended other professionals he had worked with before that he knew would do a good job, and I had great experiences with all of the people I hired.

If you need design help, you might try to talk to a good realtor. They seem to always know someone.

Do familiarize yourself with the basics, because if you don't know how to recognize if a contractor is doing the wrong thing, you could have problems.

I also recommend reading the Gardenweb home forums for all kinds of ideas. It's a wealth of information over there, and reading other peoples' questions and answers really taught me a lot.

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Tamarind
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Tamarind » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:32 am

I'm also contemplating a large reno with an indefinite timeline and budget. We are currently stack ranking and setting dependencies for our wants. :twisted:

Add to your list of possible professionals:
General contractor
Architect
Design build firm

You don't need all of them but these are companies/people who help with the kind of work you are considering.

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Sandtrap
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Sandtrap » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:41 pm

Find several (more than 3) design-build licensed insured legitimate general contractors in your region who specialize in bathroom, kitchen remodeling.

Do not work with contractors such as:. . . . Not the ones who do that 1x/year or 1x every forever. Not the ones who do greenhouses, dog houses, and occasional stick built homes, not the ones with a dog and a pickup truck and are handymen, not the ones that do mostly repairs and pickup work.

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Tortoisesque
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Tortoisesque » Thu Feb 27, 2020 4:14 pm

I've found Yelp to be a pretty good starting point for finding decent contractors.

What I do is make a list of the top 4 or 5 contractors based on a combination of their average score and number of reviews, then I call all of them to ask basic questions and set up an appointment for a quote if it sounds like a decent fit. Usually I end up with about 3 quotes and a rough first impression of each contractor, and I make my decision based on that.

That approach has worked pretty well for me so far.

Regarding big-box stores, I used Home Depot for my kitchen remodel but don't really recommend it. The installers (third-party contractors) were pretty good, but the cabinet orders (and reorders, and reorders, and reorders...) all had to go through Home Depot and became quite the mess. Lack of accountability, no single point of contact for issues, and a lot of time spent waiting on the phone and speaking to low-level Home Depot employees in person trying to reach someone with the right information and decision-making authority. So I'll never use a big-box store for major remodeling ever again.

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lthenderson
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by lthenderson » Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:13 am

psteinx wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:31 pm
Thoughts?
Just finished up with an addition that also included a complete kitchen gut and redo. We ended up with a contractor and a custom cabinet manufacturer who provided their design expertise as part of the project. We had a good idea of our kitchen layout ahead of time but the cabinet company designer opened our eyes to things we didn't think about, didn't know existed, or didn't think was possible. The final layout of our kitchen changed quite a bit, took several trips back and forth (and yes they came to our house three times during the process) and was worth every single penny we paid them.

Old Sage(brush)
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Old Sage(brush) » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:51 am

After living in our cape style house for nearly 30 years we just recently finished major renovation project, including gut kitchen gut bathroom, replace unheated porch with great room with new basement studio beneath new room, new hard wood floors throughout first floor, central air, new boiler, oil tank. House was badly in need of update. We’d done some more minor renovation, adding a bedroom for example, but never anything of this magnitude. Best thing we did was hire a really good architect/designer who came up with fantastic drawings and also referred us to general contractor (we got estimates from 3 but ended up with one referred by architect - second best decision). So from our experience I definitely agree with comments here to get architect. At least have an initial conversation. Also in kitchen I’d suggest not going cheap on cabinets, go for high quality. The place we got cabinets from had a kitchen designer in-house that did an even more detailed kitchen design, worked really well for us since we were working with very small kitchen square footage and odd space. Good luck.

welldone
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by welldone » Sat Feb 29, 2020 10:02 am

Architect.

We've been working with one for a couple of years (major, major renovation on a complicated site). But our first meeting was a flat fee of (I think) $250 that bought us a couple of hours to get an idea of whether our big picture idea was feasible and a rough idea of what it would cost...which he also gave us in relationship to the current value of the land/existing home.

We have moved to the point of a full set of plans and a much more detailed estimates of cost (about 20% more than the original estimate) from several contracting firms that the architect has worked with in the past.

Good luck, we found our current architect from researching local firms in our area and taking a look at the projects each firm had worked on and whether the style/kind was compatible with our own aesthetic.

fogalog
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by fogalog » Sat Feb 29, 2020 11:19 am

+1 on using a reputable architect. Best money I spent remodelling our house 10 years ago.

It is not clear how urban / rural you are but if you have Nextdoor in your neighbourhood, you could send a note out to your local group asking for recommendations. There are a lot of good design-build firms out there that will specialize in kitchens and bathrooms. I see a lot of that in my local group.

If you are near to Ikea, it is a great place to go for designs and to get a feel for some of the newer innovations. Their cabinetry and finishes are decent and very reasonably priced though the back boxes are made from chipboard rather than plywood.

Good luck!

Pikel
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by Pikel » Sat Feb 29, 2020 2:40 pm

Just curious if you have tried going to some local cabinet makers for the kitchen?

It's kind of interesting with all the information we have now, there may be more middlemen than ever. I took a few years off white collar work to build my house for cash - everything from masonry, plumbing, standing seam roofing, electrical, to custom cherry cabinetry throughout.

I am fairly positive a cabinet maker could build you a better kitchen than an architect, and for less.

WhyNotUs
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Re: General house remodeling approach

Post by WhyNotUs » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:42 am

Not sure that you need an architect for a kitchen remodel that is just replacing items in existing locations. I would go with a kitchen remodeler and work through ideas with the person who will do the work.

For bathrooms, if bath is above an unfinished basement or similar then moving fixtures is a modest proposition. If not, then you need to make sure you know what you are getting into in advance.
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