It’s finally happening.
Seven years after becoming homeowners and twenty five years after discovering the joy of cooking, I’m getting a new kitchen.
The kind of kitchen of which chickens will cluck in hushed tones during long winter nights in the coop.
The kind of kitchen that will chatter the cud-chewing chompers of beef cattle as they mark time in the stockyard.
I’m getting a kitchen in which a feast for three shall be prepared each night and laid out on gleaming granite.
A kitchen with cabinets as far as the eye can see (provided that eye is nearsighted), and an island big enough on which to be comfortably marooned for weeks on end.
Yep, I’m getting the kitchen of my dreams, and I couldn’t be happier or more excited!
I wasn’t planning to write about my new kitchen until the post we have scheduled for the remodel plan and then the actual installation (slated to start on July 6), but we just had our old kitchen demoed this past Friday, and I just can’t wait anymore.
Okay, let’s answer your first question: why did you tear down the old kitchen so long before the new one is to be installed?
Good question! The answer is that we need to get the old wood floors in the kitchen sanded, stained and sealed before the new cabinets and island are installed. Figure 2-3 days for the sanding, staining and multiple coats of polyurethane, then about a week for the finish to cure enough for the installation.
As I type these letters, we’re living in a house without a kitchen and all its amenities.
Not a drop of water because there is no sink.
We’re living from a rescued cabinet that we’ve propped up in the living room. It has all the plastic and paper plates and cups from which we’ll eat and drink until the project is finished.
But enough about that, let’s look at the demo, and I’ll tell you just a little about what we’re doing (I don’t want to spoil the surprise when we publish the remodel plan post)!
Okay, some of you may remember what the old kitchen looked like from the Empty House Tour post. For those who don’t (or if you’re just too lazy to click back to that post), here is what we had.
Of course, it hasn’t been that clean since the day we moved in. Even though we knew it would be temporary, we filled every cabinet and drawer and gave the countertops a healthy dollop of clutter! We spent part of a day last week unfilling everything we had filled.
Old cabinets are always worth having around, so we marked the ones we wanted to keep with blue tape. We’ll be using some as basement storage, and I’ll be using two othem to make a dog-feeding station in the new kitchen.
Last Friday, our cabinet guy San showed up for the demolition.
Now, you know how excited we’ve been with the contractors we’ve found down here in the South, and San is no exception. I’ve no doubt I’ll be speaking of him in glowing terms for quite some time.
Do you remember James from Peach State Hardwood? He and his crew did our downstairs hardwood installation and refinish, plus he re-floored our entire upstairs with some beautiful luxury vinyl planking. I’ll be showing you that in a future post. Anyway, when we were first scoping the total cost of this project – after we’d committed to the cabinets but before settling on an installer – I asked James if he knew a good cabinet installer. James immediately recommended San. He told me that San had just done his kitchen cabinet installation, and that not only was San’s work second to none, but his prices were much better than what we had been seeing out in the contractor marketplace.
I always like to find a contractor’s contractor. You can bet he’s going to be good.
Now, about San – I’m not going to divulge too much information about him yet – not until after our kitchen remodel is complete. Then I will give you all the information you’ll need to know. And believe me, for anyone living in the Atlanta area considering a kitchen remodel, you’re going to want to know this man.
Okay, without getting into the specifics of our plan, I want to tell you a little about kitchen remodel pricing and budgeting and why it was so easy to choose San for our installation.
First I will mention that we bought our cabinets through Home Depot. By now you all should know just how much we love that store. It’s not a stretch to say it is a second home.
We looked in both Home Depot and Lowe’s for cabinets. They both carried KraftMaid, which was the brand we wanted. We might have ended up working with Lowe’s – after all they are much closer to our new house than Home Depot – but for a bad first encounter with their cabinet guy. I’ll write more about that in the plan post.
So we ended up with our beloved Home Depot. The best part about buying an expensive item (or items) from Home Depot is that we can get 2 years of interest-free financing, and that really helps with a project as expensive as a kitchen remodel.
How expensive is a kitchen remodel, you ask?
Well, it’s probably the most expensive project (save gutting the house and starting over) that a homeowner is likely to tackle.
Home Depot says that most kitchen remodels are budgeted to be about 5%-15% of the current value of the home. Obviously there’s room to go a little cheaper or much much more depending on your means and taste.
Once you’ve settled on a budget, Home Depot then says that the typical kitchen remodel project is roughly broken into thirds.
- One third of your budget will go to new cabinetry.
- One third will go to towards finishing touches like new countertops, backsplash, sink, faucet, new appliances, flooring, etc
- The final third will go to installation costs and labor
One important thing to note is that the installation and labor costs may not include the cost to move plumbing lines or re-run electrical wire. Those costs may need to be added on top of the installation and labor estimate.
So with all this in mind, we set off to Home Depot (with a budget), and within a couple of days of meeting with our designer, our budget had been dragged into a back alley and beaten senseless.
Here are the Navage Patch Rules for Budgeting a Home Improvement Project (which we didn’t follow):
- Set a reasonable budget that you can afford and that you’re comfortable with.
- Write it on a piece of paper.
- Have a good laugh, crumple the paper and flush it down the toilet.
- Double your initial number and write it on a new piece of paper.
- Hold it up, stare at it for 10 seconds.
- Furrow your brow.
- Scratch your nose (go ahead and pick – no one is looking!)
- Lower the paper to the desk.
- Cross out the number.
- Add 20% to the number and rewrite.
- Nod your head and start shopping.
Okay, so we wanted to buy our cabinets from Home Depot because of the attractive financing and because we know them. They are easy to do business with.
When we went in, we didn’t know who would install them for us. We knew Home Depot did the installations, but outside of that, we weren’t familiar with the process.
When it was explained to us, it seemed logical that we should have them handle the installation as well.
Soup to nuts, they (well, their subcontractors to be more precise) took care of it all.
It sounded good, so we set up an appointment with one of their installation subcontractors to come to our house to measure our kitchen.
This wasn’t free. The measuring appointment cost us $100, but that price would be applied to the installation cost if we chose to carry on with that installer.
The installer came and measured. He was a nice guy, and we got on great with him.
Handan and I were looking forward to his estimate so we could sign and pay and get the train rolling.
And then his estimate came in, and the train belched a great puff of smoke and fell over dead.
The estimate for the demolition and installation (this did not include the needed natural gas and plumbing work, mind you) came just shy of $20,000.
I read the email and barked out a laugh. What else could I do?
I then re-scanned the email, because I must have missed the part where it says the new kitchen would also come with a new car.
So that would mean…
I read it again, more carefully this time. It was all itemized. When I read the line item for the demolition of our current cabinets, I felt a platoon of hair follicles on my head jettison themselves from my scalp, never to grow again.
DEMO/HAUL AWAY OF CABINETS, COUNTERTOPS AND SINKS – $5,289.00
Nearly $5300 to remove some old cabinets!
And here’s the part that really stuck in my craw. The installer told us about this great program where Habitats for Humanity will come to your curb and pick up old cabinets so they can re-sell them at a lower price to those in need. The upside to the customer (that’s me) is that those cabinets become a tax write-off.
Not bad, I thought when the installer explained it to me during our $100 visit.
But then to see that part of the $5300 he wanted was for haul away? He’d be unscrewing those cabinets and carrying them to the curb!
When I showed Handan, she was as apoplectic about the installation estimate as I was.
I called our designer at Home Depot (a lovely woman named Debbie of whom I’ll speak more in the planning post) and told her that we would be looking for our own installer. To her credit, she thought the price was a little ridiculous, too, but unfortunately it was entirely out of her control.
And this is where I need to speak about Home Depot in less-than-glowing terms.
Apparently their installation services weren’t always this expensive. Apparently something has changed.
Now, as easy as it would be to level all of our displeasure at the installer, he is merely a subcontractor to Home Depot, and he has very little flexibility with his installation quotes. But I don’t think those contractual obligations extend to the demolition part of the quote, though I certainly could be wrong about that.
How did it come to this?
Remember Home Depot’s handy little cost estimation ratio – 1/3 for cabinets, 1/3 for add-ons and upgrades and 1/3 for installation? Well, according to that ratio, our estimate was actually cheap!
This set Handan and I to thinking. Who came up with this ratio and to what purpose? Our guess is that it was Home Depot, and it creates a fattened revenue stream in their Kitchen and Bath department.
Or maybe I’m I a jaded and conspiratorial old curmudgeon. I don’t know.
But I couldn’t help thinking about the similarities to De Beers and the diamond engagement ring racket.
One of the greatest marketing coups in history (beyond Santa Claus and Valentine’s Day) was diamond company De Beers decision to run an advertising campaign in the early 20th century proclaiming that “Diamonds are Forever.” In a series of celebrity-filled advertisements stretching decades, the De Beers diamond company created an inextricable link between their diamonds and marriage proposals. From this brainwashing campaign sprung the “Two-Months Salary” rule. You all know it by now: a man should spend two months of his salary on a diamond engagement ring for his betrothed.
Good lord, what a coup! And the guys wearing suits at De Beers (certainly not the ones sweltering in the mines) laughed and laughed and laughed on each and every trip to the bank.
I feel that Home Depot’s Rule of Thirds is just as arbitrary and self-serving as De Beers insistence that every poor schlub about to pop the question fork over two months’ worth of hard-earned dough.
I love you, Home Depot, but I do not love what you’ve done with your installation services.
Anyway, after the shock of $20,000 wore off, I set to work finding a new installer, because with a $20,000 installation, this project was DOA.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, our search for a new installer ended with James’s recommendation of San.
And I might add that San used to install for Home Depot, so he’s not some rando off the streets! He’s been doing high-end custom work for over 20 years, so he’s more than qualified for this job.
His price for demolition and haul-away? $750
His price for the whole job, including demolition, electrical, moving the plumbing lines, installing the cabinets, appliances, trim and hardware? Somewhere between $6000 and $6500. I’m not exactly sure of the total, because there are always a few things that pop up when the work is underway.
Still, his price is about 1/3 of Home Depot’s.
Now the argument you’ll hear from the installer (which we did) was that when going with Home Depot, you get their full warranty, blah blah blah. And I agree, Home Depot does have a great warranty program, but what is really being warrantied here? There are two components to the installation: the cabinets and the labor. The cabinets are a physical product and should be warrantied by Home Depot and/or KraftMaid just like any other product I buy from them. So if the product functions properly, but the installation is crap, well that’s a different story. If you go with Home Depot and the installer monkey-hammers the installation, presumably, they’ll send another guy to try to fix it or re-install.
We will have no such protection.
Am I worried?
Not at all.
Because I vetted San, and I’m confident he is a superior cabinet installer than the one who quoted us $20k.
Time will tell, of course. We won’t know for sure until the installation is finished in a couple of weeks.
Until then, stay tuned, stay safe and stay sane!