Beware of a Good Deal!
While recently thumbing through a newspaper we came across an advertisement by a contractor inviting the reader to take advantage of an “unbelievable” kitchen remodeling “package” for just under $10,000.00! The display ad was accompanied by a photo of a lovely kitchen and even included an offer for a free sink with presentation of the ad. Upon closer examination we discovered that there was a small asterisk (*) immediately adjacent to the price, which referenced very fine print at the bottom of the advertisement.
The fine print qualified what the special “base package” included. Removal and disposal of existing cabinets and countertops; installation of up to twelve cabinets; two 8’ slab granite countertops with a bullnose edge and 4” backsplash (choice of three colors); cut outs in the slab for a sink and faucet; and installation of a sink and faucet. Sounds pretty good, right? Wrong!
What stood out to us as veteran remodelers and consumer advocates were all of the details that were missing and that there was no way on earth that the consumer could end up with a completely remodeled kitchen for the price being offered. Moreover, what bothered us the most was that the technique used in this ad is a ploy widely used by less than respectable contractors who are looking to get their foot in your door and then bury you with change orders that can double, triple or even quadruple the price as a means of satisfying your desires, performing the work per code and doing things that will tie the project together – which should have been included in the original estimate from the get go.
Sadly for the unknowing consumer the minute language at the bottom of the ad DID NOT include any of the items or details that invariably must be included in such a project or that typically accompany a kitchen remodel – like new appliances, for example. What could be more wonderful than having a brand new kitchen with beautiful cabinets and countertops with your old coppertone, harvest gold or olive green appliances? Isn’t that what you were expecting?
Okay, it might just so happen that you recently purchased a kitchen full of new appliances in anticipation of remodeling your kitchen (yeah, right). However, even if that were the case, there was no mention in the “special offer” for the labor to remove and reinstall existing appliances. And what of the new appliances that you imagined as part of your dream kitchen? Select a kitchen full of new mid-line appliances and your budget is now DOUBLE the “special price.”
What about electrical and lighting? There was nothing in the fine print that suggested that outdated electrical circuitry would be brought up to code. It’s no secret that most older homes – the ones that can most use a kitchen remodel – don’t have the number of electrical circuits or outlets to accommodate all the of today’s modern appliances. Is there a dedicated circuit for the microwave? Are there dedicated circuits for the automatic dishwasher and garbage disposal? Are there electrical changes that must be made to accommodate new appliances? What about lighting? Ask any kitchen designer and they will tell you that lighting is one of the most important elements of a kitchen remodeling project. Beyond improving the aesthetics of the space, good lighting makes working in the kitchen safer and easier. Wiring for, purchasing and installing new lighting is a cost that should be considered. Electrical work isn’t cheap and you can be sure that if you want your kitchen put back together it will be a price that you will have to pay – like it or not.
Although the “special package” mentioned the installation of a sink and faucet – along with the offer of a “free” sink, there was no mention of a new faucet. How great is that? New cabinets, new granite counters, a new sink (which level of quality is questionable) and your old mineral deposit-covered faucet that has been leaking for at least the last five years! Oh, by the way, a new faucet is not included in the “special package” — that’s extra. Ka-ching!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a more powerful, quieter garbage disposal in your new kitchen? How about an instant hot water dispenser or a sink mounted soap dispenser? Does your refrigerator have an icemaker and, if so, has the water supply been run? Have you always dreamed of cooking with gas and chucking your old electric cook top? That could be a problem unless you have a gas line installed. And even if you do, the gas must be connected to the cook top and there must be a more powerful range hood that must be ducted to the exterior. Whew! Plumbers like electricians aren’t cheap. Your budget could easily TRIPLE with these few considerations – and that’s only if nothing goes wrong. And in remodeling SOMETHING always goes wrong. However, a good contractor expects it and knows how to deal with it.
There were a few other glaring oversights that were conspicuously missing for this “kitchen special” such as flooring, for example. Are you prepared to live with your ‘70’s brick-pattern dull and worn vinyl floor or did you have visions of new hardwood or ceramic tile to adorn the other fancy finishes. More often than not the flooring in the kitchen continues into other adjoining rooms, so your flooring budget can be sizable. And don’t forget that the existing flooring and underlayment (if one exists) must be removed and disposed of prior to the installation of the new floor. So, you have the labor and disposal fees for the removal of the existing floor and the labor and material costs of the new kitchen flooring along with any adjoining area. Ka-ching!
Other costs and details to consider: 1) drywall patches and finishing: cuts here and there for plumbing, electrical and mechanical work along with damage done when removing the existing back splash will need to be patched and finished; 2) painting and/or wallpaper: though you might like your existing paint or paper, 9 times out of 10 it will be damaged and require repair, replacement or a fresh coat of paint: 3) carpentry: want to install a garden window, building in a pantry or install decorative crown or chair rail? Be sure to add it to the budget; 4) plans & permits: enough can’t be said of the importance of a good set of plans that acts as the universal communication tool that all parties (contractor, subs, inspectors and the owner) rely upon. Most kitchen remodels will require a permit from your local building department of permit office. They can include permits for building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical or can be lumped into one permit package. They don’t cost much, typically don’t affect the assessed value of your home, but offer you the benefit of a set of trained eyes to ensure that the work on your home meets minimum code.
All of a sudden the kitchen “special package” isn’t so special anymore. What seemed too good to be true really is too good to be true. When it comes time to remodel your kitchen, bath or another part of your home, the truly “special” projects are those that contain ALL of the details and elements that you’ve been dreaming of and that your budget will accommodate. Spending lots of time planning, asking lots of questions and dealing with a professional with a track record can result in a dream kitchen – without the heartburn.