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Remodel Your Own Kitchen or Hire a General Contractor?

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Your kitchen doesn’t match the rest of your updated lifestyle and you’re ready to tackle your remodel. Now what? In the beginning, a lot of homeowners will call contractors first to get pricing on home improvement projects. Comparing kitchen contractor bids can be frustrating due to different quote formats, vague job scopes, and no clear understanding of the finish materials (and their average costs). We wrote a blog post on the ideal kitchen remodel process you can read to learn a better process to get started.

Some homeowners choose to be their own general contractor, while others want someone to manage everything from start to finish. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both options so you can make the smart choice for your kitchen remodel project. 

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Kitchen Remodel Scope Considerations

Kitchen remodels can be as small as changing out the cabinet hardware. Some new kitchen designs are as large as a full gut remodel by removing walls, adding a kitchen island and appliance locations and sink locations. For these large construction projects, it may be important to have a detailed set of drawings from an interior designer or architect as well as structural engineering plans when load bearing walls are coming out. These drawings require technical knowledge to read and it might be overwhelming to tackle a project like this on your own without the proper experience.

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Full gut kitchen remodels require almost every experienced trade in the construction industry that there is including framers, electricians, plumbers, sheetrockers, painters, cabinet and countertop installers and sometimes HVAC technicians. 

Scheduling and overseeing the quality control and proper installation of all these trades will seem overwhelming to most who have not gone through this process already. For these large scopes, hiring an experienced general contractor with a strong track record of success and a deep network of subcontractors may be the best option. 

For kitchen remodels that only include replacing existing cabinets and countertops and updating a backsplash, going directly to a cabinet showroom and having them help you through the process may be best for you. After a highly recommended remodeling contractor like Cabinet IQ helps with cabinet and countertop design and installation, you can use some trade partner recommendations for tile backsplash, sheetrock/paint to finish the wall surfaces and a plumber to install your faucet and connect your sink.

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For a lot of homeowners, they feel up to the task of playing construction manager. This medium level remodel can save you money if you have the time to manage this type of project but we’ll discuss the cost and time considerations next.

Project Management Cost Considerations

Most general contractors will mark up the total cost of your project including the kitchen cabinets and countertops by 25-50%. Some also add a project management fee on top of that. Depending on the scope of the project and your willingness to take it on by yourself, this is certainly a good way to keep the overall cost to a minimum. One thing to note is that sometimes subcontractors like plumbers and electricians will charge a different rate to you than they would to the general contractor who supplies them when consistent work. 

When gathering bids from subcontractors, it’s important to get 3 bids and check their references. If you have any family or friends who are contractors, ask them for recommendations on trusted team members you can hire. Hiring the perfect kitchen contractor will help you avoid a disaster when remodeling your kitchen.

Time and Energy Considerations For Kitchen Remodel Project Management

It’s no surprise that overseeing the remodel of the heart of your home will require time and energy. For busy professionals swamped with work, family, and other engagements, adding a kitchen remodel to their schedule is too much.

They will choose to hire someone to manage the whole thing from start to finish. This will insulate you from most of the construction minutia and daily stress. If you self-manage your project, plan on spending at least an hour or two per day dedicated to making it a success. Your duties will include reviewing the on-going work, tracking down materials, planning the next steps including scheduling and following up with the subcontractors doing the work.

Something to keep in mind is that even when hiring a general contractor, you will still be quite involved with the process. You will still be reviewing the work in your home to make sure it’s up to your standards. Although you won’t be scheduling and picking up materials, your project is far from “set it and forget it.”  Each day you’re without a kitchen is another day eating out and disrupting your daily routine so it’s important to focus on getting the project done efficiently while maintaining high quality workmanship.

Skills Required to Manage a Kitchen Renovation Alone

1. Clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish

If you don’t know what you want your project to look like, the people performing the work won’t either. A clear vision that’s documented will enable everyone involved with the kitchen remodel to be more successful. This includes the kitchen design with notes about task lighting, pendant lights and location of your new energy efficient appliances. A good tip is to make a spreadsheet of all the materials used in the project and where they are to be installed.

2. Good communication skills

You’ll need strong written and verbal communication skills to communicate your kitchen ideas to the people performing the work. This requires patience and persistence when scheduling your subcontractors. It’s best to be up front with expectations so everyone stays aligned throughout the kitchen remodel. A tip is to ask the tradespeople when they will start and finish. Trying to rush a tradesperson to finish on a timeline you created may cause tension from the beginning.

3. Organized

Keeping track of design updates, schedules and when materials arrive will be critical to a successful project. When materials arrive, check them for damage, label them and put them in a safe place for when they’re ready to be installed. Print out an updated plan for each person involved will keep the project moving and avoid you answering the same question over and over.

4. Patience and ability to manage stress

One thing is for sure, there will be at least one thing that pops up unexpectedly but this is just the nature of construction. You’ll need to keep a cool and calm head if a plumber gets a flat tire, you find water damage behind your old sign base or a box of tile arrives damaged. Dwelling on past issues is not healthy. Just think about how you’ll feel cooking your first meal after your kitchen remodel!

5. The ability to quickly solve problems

Due to the unpredictable nature of construction, you’ll need to quickly make decisions and move on to avoid delays and frustrations. Gather all the information you can and try to make a timely decision. Asking a professional, “What would you do if it was your house?” is generally a great question to get a direct answer.

Summary

You can totally manage your own custom kitchen remodel! Your success with the project will depend on how willing you are to tackle it, and how prepared and knowledgeable you are before you start. If you do it right, it can save you thousands of dollars. We hope this guide helped you out, and if you have any questions, we’re always here to answer them!

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