Kitchen and Bath Remodeling – A Contractors Perspective
I’ve always loved the remodeling aspect of the business especially from the residential side. For the plumbing contractor that yearns for some creativity, Kitchen and Bath remodels are a dream come true. When I go into a customer’s home and they mention a kitchen or bath remodel I always tell them I can do it all. You might ask yourself “Why would a plumbing contractor do the entire project?” That includes, demo, electrical, carpentry, drywall, cabinets, flooring, countertops, painting, etc. You can call me type “A” but it is because I want to control the finished product. Maybe I have deep seeded trust issues but I don’t want to be involved with a project that goes bad when the plumbing I did was perfect. So I want to control how the electrical and drywall is done, I want to control how the job is staged and manned and I want to control how and when it is delivered to the customer and if you’re a premium plumbing contractor you should feel the same. Not all kitchen and bath remodeling projects are the same and neither are the bids. Over the years I’ve been able to gather a unique perspective on how contractors bid projects, how they win projects and how the consumer can be deceived and never even know it. Below are the things you should weigh when you get close to remodeling a kitchen or bath.
- LICENSED, BONDED AND INSURED – I’ve spoken about this in the past so I won’t go into detail here but if you don’t pick a contractor
that is all of the above you are exposing yourself and I don’t mean you’re wearing a trench coat and sitting on a park bench. Take it one step further, make sure all sub-contractors on the project are also bonded and insured. Some trades don’t need a license so that is situational. Bids can fluctuate greatly by the professionalism of the GC and their subs. I’m not telling you not to use the carpenter down the street that works for cash and does excellent work. But I am telling you that if that carpenter gets hurt in your house on your project they will most likely sue your homeowners insurance. Especially if it means feeding their family. Be aware of the subs on your job and weigh the possible outcome.
- SCOPE OF WORK – This may sound like common sense but you have no idea how many times I’ve been involved with a Kitchen or Bath remodel where I am 40% higher than my opponent I mean my competitor. For my own education I usually convince the homeowner to show me the competitors bid. I feel like maybe I can learn a few things. Almost 100% of the time my scope and the scope of the competitor are very different. Scope of work encompasses many things but for the sake of this segment it will consist of the extent of the remodel. For instance, a kitchen is being done along with work in a connected family room, the family wants the brick fireplace covered over to make it look like the new cabinets that are going in the kitchen. The cheap contractor has drywall with some crown and a wooden mantle and my bid has the fireplace covered in durarock and has the custom cabinet maker constructing a custom crown base shoe and top crown with posts all finished exactly like the cabinets and I have a marble fireplace ledge. Suffice to say we have a different scope of work. That is just one example of many that can happen.
- QUALITY OF MATERIAL – There are times where a contractor will try to sneak something in because they know the homeowner doesn’t
know any better. One example are cabinets, there are custom made cabinets, where a carpenter/wood worker cut wood and build the cabinet to suit and there are sort of semi custom cabinets that start off with a box cabinet and things are added to it so it looks custom. It’s like putting a Ferrari body kit on a Corvette. When people want custom cabinets I give them custom cabinets. I may offer an alternate and explain the differences but I always give them the choice to choose the very best. Since we are on a plumbing site I’ll throw in the plumbing fixtures as well. I tend to offer top shelf plumbing products from the likes of Axor, Kohler, Toto and Franke when putting together a premium remodel however, some contractors will put in home center brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze faucets or off line fixtures because they look half way decent. Not only is there a difference in quality there is a huge difference in price.
- QUALITY OF SUBCONTRACTORS – Most likely if the flooring subcontractor rolls out of his truck smelling like a bar or like he hasn’t showered in a week the work will reflect the hygiene or lack there of. No one can seem to agree on which football God uttered these famous words “If you get into the endzone act like you’ve been there before” but it also applies to contractors. Hire a contractor who acts like they’ve done this professionally 1000 times before. I’m not one of these guys that thinks everyone has to have a gazillion testimonials but you should have some and not all of them can be from your mother. Check the subs if you are trying to manage the job yourself or pay the GC, plumbing contractor to manage them and maintain quality control.
- SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE – If you go with the cheapest contractor you will more than likely get the cheapest work possible with the least amount of customer service. My good friend Joe Crisara asks the question best and I’ve used many times myself “how many times did you buy something really awesome for the cheapest possible price?” or “how many times have you done something really great with very little effort?” It’s a rhetorical question, it can happen but it is rare, it’s like chasing a unicorn. Great service requires higher costs. If you want a professional at your project everyday making sure everything is done right you will pay for it. If you want the house sealed up tight during demolition and swept every night when the days work is complete your gonna pay for it.
Some of these are rather sobering but they are true. I’ll even go so far as saying you should pick your contractor first and then pick your kitchen or bath. I find most times that if a customer is comfortable with a contractor first and then budgets and deliverables are discussed the job runs smooth as silk. The contractor knows he’s being paid well for the job and the customer knows he’s paying well for the job so it better get done the way it was discussed in the contract. It is human nature to feel a sense of obligation to a customer who pays what you’re worth. The mental dissonance you feel from possibly under performing is almost too much for most to handle. Will there be some who will always take advantage? Of course. Will there always be customers who will take more than they’ve paid for? Yep. But, if you study the above before embarking on the remodel you’ll be much happier and so will your contractor.