Micro-manage Your Kitchen Project, PLEASE!

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Because we specialize in remodeling projects in which the homeowner is using IKEA cabinets, our projects tend to be mainly kitchens and bathrooms. We do a few closets with IKEA cabinets, some pantry or other storage areas too, occasionally. But our projects are fairly similar, one to the next, some more complex, some very unique as to design and cabinet modification, but all have the same elements of cabinet installation, and usually some electrical and/or lighting, minor plumbing, appliance install, sometimes flooring, and often some wall work or repair.

Despite the expertise and knowledge we've gained in doing hundreds of similar projects, we really know that each new project, each new customer who calls, has unique requirements we have not come across before. It is never the same. It is only similar. Exactly what the customer expects, needs, wants and will be happy with, is something we have to find out newly each time. Which means that, unless the customer speaks up, we move forward with their project with experienced and expert hands, but without the precise understanding that could result in a happier customer and sometimes in a better finished result.

Here is an example to clarify: Mrs. Jones (we've never actually done a job for a Jones family...) schedules our planning service and Robert (contractor) and Neil (designer) go out to her house one Sunday to inspect, measure and discuss her project with her. They are, to a great degree, trying to find out what Mrs. Jones needs and wants. The Jones' may want walls taken down to expand the space, they may want everything to stay the same but with new cabinets, or they may not know what they want yet, they need some pricing and ideas first (which is exactly what the planning service is meant to provide).

So here we are, a month later. The design was revised a few times until the Mrs. Jones was excited and ready to begin the project. They placed their cabinet order, purchased a few appliances, picked out floor tile. We provided detailed bid on each service they asked about that was optional (cabinet lights, for example) or necessary (demo out the old cabinets). By the time the cabinets are delivered, we have a signed agreement as to specs of the project that we are to execute for them.

We arrive one bright Monday morning to begin the project. Mrs. and Mr. Jones both work outside the home and after a 15 minute meeting with Robert, they drive off, saying they are going to get out of our way, leaving Robert and crew to work.

Our agreements (contracts) state that the final kitchen layout plan that the customer has ordered cabinets for must be posted on a wall and initialed by the customers as THE layout they have decided on. But lately, we've decided to also require the homeowner to remain onsite during the work and, if they cannot be there, to stipulate that they will be available by phone during the day.

Here is the point: you have to be 100% responsible for your project. Your contractor ALSO has to be 100% responsible (for his contracted specs). It is inviting trouble to leave a contractor do to work in your home, especially a project that will only last a few days. I am not saying that the contractor is untrustworthy, that he will lie, steal or cheat. I am saying that if you want things done a certain way, you have to run the show.

Even something as basic to an expert contractor as hanging cabinets can have options. A little higher or lower, to the left or to the right. These may be minor but 2 inches of space between a wall cabinet and the counter below it can make a difference in your comfort in using the kitchen. If you aren't there, the contractor is unlikely to call you. He'll decide and get the job done.

Tilesetting is another example. This is a big investment of yours, both the tile and the labor. You want to help even a skilled tilesetter to choose patterns and when there are choices, you want to make them, often enough. Or, if you don't care, let the tilesetter know and be prepared to live with his aesthetic sense.

The question is, if Mr. and Mrs. Jones come home at the end of a day and don't like some detail, unspecified earlier, in the tile work, or want the cabinets lower, should the contractor have to re-do his work?

It's best to be there, to micro-manage.

If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.