Remodeling is a very big decision, and can take a toll on you financially, emotionally and even physically if you are not completely prepared for the process.  Knowing what to expect when you remodel is key to getting through the project.  While you should certainly have high expectations for your kitchen remodeling project, you also must be realistic.  On the path to your dream kitchen, there could be delivery foul ups, subcontractor scheduling conflicts, errors or unanticipated work or repairs, unexpected or delayed inspections by building departments and more.  You will also be confronting lots of dust and noise, loss of privacy, and increased financial responsibility.  There will be dozens of decisions to be made along the way, and potential disagreements with your spouse or even your contractor.  Everyone, including your pets, will feel the strain! But, don’t let me dissuade you if you know what to expect, plan appropriately and follow these simple guidelines, you will increase your chances of turning your dream kitchen into a reality without too much stress.  And once your project is complete, you will be rewarded with the fruits of all your planning, hard work, efforts, time and money. 

Finding The Right Contractor

First and foremost, hire a reputable, licensed and insured professional.  Hiring someone who is not licensed and insured could turn into your worst nightmare, with work done incorrectly and possibly even left unfinished.  If you are not sure how to find one, ask friends, relatives or neighbors (whose kitchens you really like) who they used.  If you don’t find who you are looking for from referrals, the next best place to look is the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) web site at www.NKBA.com.   The association, whose members follow a strict code of ethics, can provide a list of certified and licensed professionals within your area.  You could also look up local remodeling associations on the Internet or in the phone book.. Take your time to find the right firm, it will be time well spent.  Remember, you need a permit to do any type of remodeling project.  That is your insurance.  If the person you hire really is legitimate, and has the proper licenses and insurance, then they will be responsible to pull all necessary building permits.  If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.   Don't be misled by false promises.

 Select a One-Stop-Shop

To simplify your project, consider working with someone who “does it all.”  Working with one firm that handles everything, from design to product purchasing through installation, is the best idea, unless you want to take on the role of general contractor yourself.  A licensed design firm  will already have the best team of installers and subcontractors in place, and can coordinate and oversee the entire project. 

 Get What You Pay For

Most professional firms use a form that specifies every detail of a remodeling project. Details such as plans, permits, cabinetry and countertop descriptions, tear out/hauling away, electric, lighting, plumbing, drywall, appliances, installation, sinks, faucets,  hardware and painting should all be specified.  Drawings are very important; this way, you will know exactly what the project will look like when it is completed.  Be sure that everything you want and expect is in writing and don’t hesitate to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand.  When you get the contract, read every word, and don’t sign off if you are not sure of something. Miscommunication will lead to disappointment.  Finally, get a start date and finish date from your contractor so your expectations match with reality.  Then, agree on an estimate and a payment schedule; usually payment installments are made as the project progresses.  Also, insist on the right to present a final “punch list” of all the loose items to be tied up  before the final payment is made. As long as you control the checkbook, you control the project.

 Pay Attention to Your Project

If possible, wait until all cabinets, appliances and necessary items have arrived before the work begins. When deliveries are made, always check for damage and have the materials put in a safe place that is out of your way, until work begins.  As the work proceeds, keep an eye on the details, however large and small they may be.  Inspect the work, and write down comments or questions to review with your contractor.  You may even want to set up regular meetings to go over progress to date and to receive updates on what’s in store for the days ahead.

 Temporary Quarters

Since you are going to lose all or part of your kitchen for several weeks, one of the best preparations you can make is to set up a temporary kitchen outside the work area.  Set this up in a place that you can access easily and safely.  It’s best to set up near another water source such as a bath or laundry sink, where you can also set up your microwave, toaster oven, coffee pot or other small appliances you need to get by temporarily.  If possible, relocate your refrigerator in or near this temporary area.

 Remember.  Do your homework. 

Always hire only licensed and insured professionals.  Visit showrooms, get references, check with building departments, and visit jobsites.  Not just completed jobs, but also ones that are under construction.  It's a good way to see how that contractor is working with other homeowners during this stressful time.  This is usually one of the biggest investments you will make in your home, and the extra time and money you spend to find the right contractor will be well worth it.