Shopping for Countertops

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Countertop can be one of the larger purchases a homeowner will make during a kitchen remodel. There are many options and brands, but really there are only a few basic types to choose among.

Natural stone, which would include marble and granite.
You can find bargain slabs at stone yards but keep in mind that natural stone is brittle and can crack during installation. Get a warranty and skilled installation.
Average cost: $50-$300 per sq.ft

Man-made solid surface.
Well known brands of this type are Corian and Caesarstone
Average cost: $35 to $75 per sq. ft.

Laminates.
IKEA and other home improvement stores offer low-cost laminates in many colors and finishes.
Average cost: $4 to $30 per sq. ft

Ceramic tile.
There are almost infinite color and design choices. For counters, grout sealing is a key consideration.
$10 to $40 per sq. ft.

Butcher block (wood).
Two styles are available at IKEA and there are other types available elsewhere. Wood surfaces, ideally, should be stained but not sealed because many sealants are toxic can gradually erode onto food prep surfaces. We don’t recommend using an under-mount sink with wood countertop.
Average cost: $10-$40 per sq. ft.

Concrete
Concrete counterop is pre-formed in a factory to your kitchen specifications. The concrete is sealed but can stain or scratch if not treated correctly.
Average cost: $75-$150 per sq. ft.


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.

Susan

How to Save Money on an IKEA Kitchen


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“It is not unusual for labor to cost more than materials in an IKEA kitchen remodel. In fact, it is likely.”

Here are my top three tips for saving money and staying within your budget when remodeling with IKEA kitchen cabinets.


TIP ONE
Order during a sale, only if and when the timing is right. This may seem obvious, but sometimes a project can’t wait for a sale, or in other some way the timing isn’t right. Unless you can safely store the flat-packed boxes (a dry storage area) in which your cabinet components are delivered, it’s best not to order far ahead of when you’ll be ready to install the cabinets. You can save $500 and then find your stored cabinets have warped in damp storage, or that your plans have changed. 

Typically, your IKEA order is delivered about two weeks after ordering. During sales this timeframe can get longer but sometimes, in non-sale periods, it can be just a few days. 

Some door styles are kept in stock so if you choose one of those for your kitchen, it’s possible to bring your own truck and take your kitchen components home the day you order. The IKEA kitchen catalog shows which styles are kept in stock. Because of the sheer volume and weight of boxes for a typical kitchen order, and because most IKEA stores have very reasonably-priced delivery service, most homeowners are likely to choose to wait for home delivery.

Sometimes, the sale discount is irrelevant. If you are not buying IKEA appliances and countertop, the sale discount may not be worth waiting for. A typical sale requires the purchase of one or more IKEA appliances and your discount can vary with how many you buy. Sometimes the sale requires a minimum purchase, say $2500, so if you have a small kitchen and you are not buying appliances, your total IKEA cost may be under this amount. 

When the discount is based on how many IKEA appliances you buy (which is not uncommon) consider buying a $200 IKEA dishwasher, or even two such appliances, to get the discount up. If you are buying $12,000 in cabinets and countertop for a large kitchen, a 10% discount of $1200 puts $800 in your pocket after paying for two $200 appliances. Sell the appliances on Craigslist, or give them as gifts. 

TIP TWO
Invest in professional design. This may sound like a vested interest since my business (www.modernfamilykitchens.com) is a pro IKEA kitchen design service. But even if I wasn’t in this business, I would strongly recommend working with an expert on the kitchen layout. Although you’ll spend a few hundred bucks on a design fee, you can save more than that by having a well-thought through plan.

As a former contractor installing owner-planned kitchens, I have seen many plan errors that cost the homeowner time and money. Even if you have measurements taken by a contractor, there can be variances that the measurements don't take into account and an inch or two can make a difference in both design and installation. Many homes, new and old, are less than perfectly level and plumb, which can make a room 2 inches wider on one side than on the other. 

A ceiling height taken in a corner that would allow for an 18 inch cabinet above the fridge, turns out to be an inch lower in the central area where the fridge is. A pro designer knows this can happen and can not only help you avoid the problem in the first  place, but can help you order some optional parts so that if you run into this, you don’t have to stop the project to get different parts. For homeowners more than an hour or two from an IKEA store, this is absolutely vital. 

One of the few downsides of IKEA cabinetry is the limited number of cabinet sizes and configurations, compared to other brands. I could go on for pages about how many times an installation was hung up on measurement issues that our designer resolved in a few minutes. With an expert and knowledgeable IKEA designer on your team, you can customize and alter cabinets to solve a wide variety of installation problems. We found this to be vital to get the kind of custom look and elegant installation result our customers demanded. I recommend design help as a key way to save time and money on your project. 

One of our designers is an IKEA kitchen “ordering genius.” He knows the ins and outs better than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s save people thousands of dollars by knowing how to buy components and how to use the sale discounts optimally in planning the kitchen. This is just a minor feature of our Design Service and yet it packs quite a punch for those on a tight budget. 

TIP THREE
Work out all your costs before buying anything. Many homeowners visit IKEA, see the impressively affordable price tags on the display kitchens, and decide to move forward on a kitchen remodel before looking at labor costs or considering other materials than might be needed. 

It is not unusual for labor to cost more than materials in an IKEA kitchen remodel. In fact, it is likely. Although cabinet assembly and installation is not expensive (estimate $100 per cabinet), there is always more labor involved in a kitchen remodel. I’ve written other posts about typical labor costs and I have an eBook which you can get on Amazon  for 99 cents that is a comprehensive IKEA kitchen budget guide. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0088PEHTO

To stay within a budget, you really do need to know labor costs ahead of time. You might find that to remodel the kitchen, you need to replace your electrical panel. This is not unusual because most older homes have 100 amp panels which are simply inadequate for modern lifestyles. An average cost to replace a panel and rewire is $2000. It can cost twice that in some areas or in large houses where the wiring is bad or where the kitchen is far from the panel. 

The point is that you need a close look at the labor before you move forward. It is best to estimate that the labor will cost as much as the materials, at least. Often labor costs are higher than materials costs. 

The way to save on labor is to get a really comprehensive bid, not an estimate, before you start. A bid is a line item, detailed list of all services your contractor sees will need to be done to complete your project. It is not a promise that the list is complete, but am honest contractor will do his best to make it so. 

An estimate is rarely useful. I can look at a kitchen photo, and the layout for the remodel, and quickly estimate the remodeling labor costs. But without seeing the electrical, looking closely at plumbing and wall integrity, it’s just a guess. 

One thing to know is that change orders, which are additions to the contracted specs of  project, are typically more costly than items on the original contract. I won’t go into why this is, but I can say that, as a contractor, one makes more money on change orders. In the middle of a project, a plumbing problems is discovered that has to be remedied before the project can go on. A homeowner is unlikely to argue or, if the contractor is doing a good job so far, to get other quotes for this additional plumbing work. This is not dishonest or unfair. It’s just good to know, as a homeowner, that your own understanding of remodeling and the condition of your home, and a carefully done comprehensive bid from an honest contractor, are key ways to save on your kitchen remodel.

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.

Susan

How To Do Your Remodeling Research


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

To remodel a kitchen, a bath, or any part of your house, you need a lot of data. You have questions, ideas, a budget. Perhaps you’ve already collected some of the facts you feel you need, but with the Internet, there’s so much data available so readily, it becomes impossible to know what is true, what is false, what is useful and what is just a “pitch.”

What is a “pitch?” It is data that seems to be helpful but is, in fact, slanted towards the prejudice or hidden intention to sell, of the source.

As with any other worthwhile project in life, sifting the facts from the pitches, the useful from the distractions, is vital. So while you research appliances and cabinets, and check out flooring and tile, you are not only creating your new kitchen, but you are building confidence in yourself to make the right choices. The more you know, the more informed the decisions, the better the result.

Your remodeling budget is obviously a fundamental issue. We have not yet, over hundreds of projects, found a homeowner with unlimited funds. Most worry about money, and to whatever degree they don’t feel certain about costs, the project hangs up or goes off the rails.

Some homeowners will set aside more than they are actually going to need, but then worry just as much if they lack data. Thus, big budget or small, knowledge is a better guarantee than money of a great result.

A contractor who gives you an estimate of $39,500 to remodel your kitchen leaves you with a dozen or more uncertainties, even if you have $50,000 to spend. In fact, even if you have a contract that lists each product or each service the contractor will provide, if you haven’t planned the project thoroughly, you may have overlooked costs that are not included.

How to do a remodel with confidence that you’ll stay within your budget and get a great result, no matter if you have $8,000 or $80,000 to spend?

First, seek the help of experts, but only those who have no pitch, who have no reason to steer you one way or the other. An appliances salesperson is probably not the best source of data on appliances, even though he/she may know a lot.

While doing Internet research, if a website makes money from advertising, be wary of the "tips" or "reviews" it offers. This is not to say that ads or websites that sell ad space are bad. Just be aware of the possibility of a hidden bias or pitch.

Likewise, a site or service that claims to qualify service people so that you don't have to is worthless at best because it gives a false idea that you are protected when you are not. These companies are charging service companies that can't get work any other way big bucks and then promoting them to you. The qualifications to be promoted by the web site are that the contractor can afford their ad rates. The service company then charges you more to make up for the fees they've paid. Here is an example: A lousy, irresponsible painter who pays $20,000 a year for ads on a website that posts reviews, is going to look good in the reviews.

Instead, use your own opinion, your own understanding of people and ethics and responsibility. Call contractors, write them, see how quickly and how well they communicate with you. Use and have confidence in your own judgment because that is the only guarantee there is.

If you want unbiased data on a contractor or service person, check with the BBB and the Contractor's State License Board in your state (in CA it's www.cslb.ca.gov).

Also ask your friends and family about products and people. Their opinions are much more valuable than an anonymous review online.

Unless you feel that newspapers and magazines tell the truth and paint an accurate picture of the world, be wary of print articles on remodeling as well. A magazine that gets big bucks from an advertiser is not going print an article in which that advertiser's products or services are rated "mediocre." Enjoy articles, learn from them, but don't base your remodel on them. Note that kitchen photos taken in a studio setting are not going to show you what a real kitchen is going to look like.

Keep asking questions, and then evaluate the answers as to whether they are useful to you or not. Toss the data that isn’t helpful. Better to start over than to be left with confusion or uncertainty.

Research, but don’t believe the data just because it’s there. Sift the true from the false, the fact from the pitch.

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.

Susan


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com

Cabinet Guys, Contractors, Installers: Inside Scoop


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

After doing hundreds of IKEA kitchen remodeling projects in perhaps the biggest IKEA market in the world (Los Angeles has five IKEA stores in the wider metropolitan area, including Orange County), I've come across a wide variety of contractors and installers, and there is vital data that IKEA is never going to tell you.

For many years, each IKEA store would choose one or two local contractors who they would call "Certified IKEA Installers." The certification process consisted of the contractor providing evidence that he/she had done some IKEA kitchens and had appropriate license and insurances (vehicle and liability). A bond is required for every contractor in California (and in most other states) so it's a given. A meeting with local managers would clinch the deal. The contractor signs a contract with Corporate IKEA agreeing for the contract period not to leave the relationship, and to charge IKEA-set pricing for installation of their cabinets. IKEA can, of course, fire the contractor at any point for more or less any reason.

Keep in mind that "contractor" almost always means a small local business. A small local business often means a man or woman or a partnership of both, trying to make a living to support a family. IKEA, of course, is an international mega-corporation. Rumor has it that the founder/owner of IKEA is the richest man in the world.

IKEA sells great kitchen cabinets. I have to note this down to keep on track. No matter what, if you understand the situation and act intelligently and legally, you should certainly use their cabinets for your remodel if they are the right product for you.

Why do I say "legally?" I say this because those local contractors are bound to IKEA but IKEA holds no liability for the quality or type of work they do for you. IKEA might fire a contractor (meaning sever the contract) if they get too many complaints about a "certified" contractor. But the homeowner may think that IKEA is going to protect them if something goes awry with the installation. I have never seen any paperwork from IKEA that states this. Unless something has changed radically, recently, you are hiring a "certified" contractor on the same basis as you would hiring any other contractor: buyer beware.

In California, a contractor is required for any remodeling project over $500. This contract must be very specific as to what the labor (and materials if the contractor is providing any) services will be. NEVER allow a contractor or even a handyman (legal under $500), to do work on your home without something in writing.

Second, if you are hiring the installer IKEA referred you to (which I highly recommend you don't), understand this: that contractor IS NOT going to pull permits for you. Changes are, he will gloss over that entire subject (that you are required to have a permit in most places to replace cabinets, not to mention do any plumbing, for example a dishwasher installation,  not to mention any electrical work).
This, my reader, is, actually criminal. If you are required to have a permit, the contractor who does the work without one is breaking the law.

So, you ask, what are the risks? First, the contractor can lose his license for doing un-permitted work. Second, you take the chance, because without a permit, there is no city inspection, that the contractor has done everything perfectly, has not cut through electrical wires behind the cabinets, has sealed the sink correctly, has added light fixtures per code.

I want to be very clear here. It is understood that some homeowners do not want to get permits. They cost money, although not much, really. Worse, if you have un-permitted work already done on your home, you might have to get that remedied to even pull permits for a kitchen remodel. Oy.

So why not just hire the cheapest "certified" contractor, ignore permits, forge ahead and get it done? Here is why:

First, you are doing something illegal. You know this, your add some nervousness to your life. Who needs it.

Second, permits keep you safe, and keep your neighbors safe. You would not want your next door neighbor to do bad electrical work on his property, you would want him to do it legally, and to have it inspected. You too want that inspection that the city provides when you get a permit to check the work of your contractor.

Third, it is vital to understand that buying cabinets at IKEA is just the shopping part of your project. They are just materials. We're talking about something else entirely, the labor, the skilled work that is needed to remodel your kitchen, with ANY cabinets.

Kitchens, like bathrooms, have plumbing and electrical in them. You cannot avoid doing some in 95% of kitchen remodels. Just replacing the sink is PLUMBING and requires a permit in most places. Demolition (removing the old cabinets) can require a permit. Certainly cabinet lights, overhead lights, adding outlets, all require a permit.

So, to keep this simple, don't hire a contractor who cannot pull a permit for the work he is going to do unless you will pull your own permits. In most cases this is doable. But there is a lot to know about pulling permits on your own. In some cases, for example for condo owners in Los Angeles, you cannot pull plumbing and electrical permits, only a licensed contractor can do this for you.

Also, if the contractor glosses over the subject of permits, or if in the fine print of his contract it states that he will not pull permits, don't hire him unless you will get your own permits. A contractor who charges more but will pull permits for you is a MUCH better choice than one who charges a little less but who pretends this is not important. Inspections take time, they cost the contractor money when he waits half a day or more for an inspector. But BOY do you want him there for that inspection! Worth every penny to have a beautiful, and safe, remodel.

And then there is the future, when you want to refinance, or sell, your home. If you didn't get permits, your remodel was not done, according to the banks. In some cities, you can't even sell until you get the work permitted, which is a huge hassle to do years later. Worse case scenario, you have to pull everything out. It's happened.

OK, that's enough prophecy of doom. Just be an honest citizen, hire an honest contractor, use IKEA cabinets or any other that make you happy and that you can easily afford. Do the project legally, read your state's Contractor License Board website to fully understand consumer rights and responsibilities in remodeling.

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.

Susan

Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com


















IKEA Kitchens: The Permit Issue


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Here's something you might not know. If your house is 50 years old, or older, the chances of being able to remodel the kitchen without handling your electrical panel, and maybe house wiring, is low.

Most houses built in the 1960s or earlier have 100 amp electrical panels. That's the total load available. In 1960 we used a lot less electricity per house, right?

If your house was built in the 70s, you might have a larger panel. In the 80s, even more likely.

If you have a 100 amp panel, remodeling your kitchen is almost always going to require that you upgrade to a 200 amp panel. Among other electrical needs, the new kitchen is almost inevitably going to require additional outlets. Each city has it's own codes but almost every city requires a permit for a kitchen remodel and codes specify how many outlets are required.

The problem is that one goes into IKEA to see those beautiful display kitchens and the prices seem to be utterly affordable, $5000 or even $8000, and you see the kitchen that is like your kitchen and it seems doable. But IKEA is selling cabinets. Appliances. Countertop. It sells products. It is not in the remodeling business and there is no benefit to IKEA to help you understand about remodeling, the process or the costs.

Recently, IKEA fired all their many local installers and hired one national company to provide kitchen installation services. As with the local installers they had before, there is a huge, glaring oversight. The locals, and the national company, DO NOT PULL PERMITS. This is, if you really look at it, unbelievable. If you get a bid from their installer, anywhere in the US, read the fine print: that company is not responsible for permits. You, the homeowner, are responsible for permits.

How much does a typical homeowner know about permits? Can a homeowner pull his/her own permits? Will there be other issues if you pull permits? How much will it cost? Will the work be inspected? Will the added room over your garage put in by the former owners create a problem for you if you get a permit for a kitchen remodel?

Scary as this may start to sound, it is really not such a big deal. The issue is that an IKEA kitchen is not a matter of buying some cabinets. It is a remodeling project in which you are using a particular brand of cabinets. And knowing about remodeling, which includes permits and electrical and so forth, is the job of a licensed, insured remodeling contractor. The IKEA installer is not, not really, this. Don't be fooled. And don't do your project without permits.

Here are just a few reasons you want to include the cost of permits, and whatever prep work may need to be done to satisfy the safety/permit requirements, as you plan your project:

1) It is illegal to do a project without a permit, where permits are required. Why be paranoid for the rest of your life to save a few hundred bucks?

2) Permits ensure safety. They ensure the work is done right. The permit fee you pay will provide you with a city inspection of your contractor's work. Totally worth it!

3) Your city's permit and zoning rules keep your neighbors from opening a 24/7 liquor store in their home. Support the system.

4) If you do work without permits, that work is not recorded by the city. It was never done according to any bank or lending agency so if you go to sell or refinance someday, you've got a less valuable property.

5) In some cases, non-permitted work has to be torn out when you try to sell. Or if it is discovered by the city. Or if your neighbors don't like it.

6) Penalties for non-permitted work can be high, added to the cost of having to get the permits retroactively. There are construction companies that make a living bringing homes up to code. They are not cheap.

Include permit fees and a contractor who can pull them for you, if needed, in your budget planning. Read the fine print in contracts from an IKEA installer (who I advise against as you will likely end up paying more that it seems at first, and getting much less customer service, compared to a good, legal, local contractor).

Do it right the first time. 

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.

Susan


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com








Tips for the IKEA Kitchen Sales


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

I've written before about IKEA kitchen sales but I wanted to make sure my friends and readers know that, in spring and fall, and sometimes summer, we can look forward to another kitchen sale. I know there are many of you who have been saving and/or planning your remodel and eagerly awaiting this upcoming sale.

The first step is the decision to go ahead with the project. This usually requires a reasonable estimate of the true costs involved. Get my free ebook to help you with this.

The second step is measuring the kitchen and working out the layout of cabinets: the design phase. I encourage you to enlist the help of an expert kitchen designer who has broad experience with IKEA cabinets. I cannot overstate the importance of at least having an expert review your design if you do it yourself. Even if you have tight budget, or a tiny kitchen, invest in expert design. You can often save money on your purchase by doing so, and inevitably the finished look and functionality will be better. You are going to spend thousands of dollars on materials, you are going to tear your home apart, you are going to be dealing with gas, electrical, water lines, plumbing, lighting, codes and permits. Given all this, do get expert help with the layout. If there is no qualified IKEA designer in your area, write me and I will forward to you the resources I have. I would suggest getting the design process underway a minimum of one month before you order, if possible.

Once your design is done (the designer should provide a comprehensive list of all IKEA parts and materials you need to buy), you are ready to place your cabinet order. During sale periods at IKEA, the sooner you order, the better. As the sale moves toward an end, the lines get longer, the waits longer, the sales staff more harried, the delivery service slower, etc.

Another benefit of working with a pro designer is that their finished plan and parts list will make it much easier to order. We have had customers call to say that when they went to order, especially during a sale, they breezed through the process while they saw others sitting at those IKEA computer terminals sweating with frustration. Save your marriage, hire a designer. Even more important, ensure your kitchen design is truly optimal.

The discounts and offers during IKEA kitchen sales vary but typically, if you buy appliances at IKEA at the same time, you can save 10-20% on your total purchase. This can be a significant savings, or it can be barely anything.

Let's say you've chosen Abstrakt (high end door style) cabinets for a fairly large kitchen plus laundry area. You might spend $9000 on cabinets. If you order Caesarstone at IKEA also, you could be looking at a $13,000+ purchase. 20% off is $2600! Sometimes you have to buy three IKEA (Whirlpool) appliances to get this 20% discount. If you don't want IKEA appliances, consider buying one or more of their least expensive appliances that would qualify you for the discount, and reselling these on Craigslist. A $200 dishwasher, or even three of them for $600, would be a worthwhile purchase to save $2600!

On the other hand, if your cabinet costs are $3500 and you are only buying one new appliance, the sale discounts might not be a factor in the planning and timing of your project.

Timing is a key issue on many projects if you do want to take advantage of the sales. If you have a dry secure place to store the delivered cabinets, you can order during a sale and do the project any time. But more likely, you will want to be ready to do the project, budgeted funds in hand, finished design in hand, contractor hired or in sight, before you order. IKEA cabinets should not be stored outside, even under tarps, for more than a day or two. Note that a pallet or two of flat-packed IKEA boxes is a huge, heavy thing.

One other tip for the sale has to do with ordering extra or spare parts. One small downside of IKEA cabinets is that from time to time a door style will be discontinued. If one of your cabinets is damaged, you might not be able to get a matching replacement part. You can ask about this at IKEA, whether your chosen style is likely to be discontinued, and often the salespeople will know.

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.

Susan
Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com








Lessons from Small Apartment Kitchens


Get our FREE ebook, "How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel"

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We started out remodeling a whole building's worth of small kitchens, about 35 of them. The building's owners had hired a cabinet maker to build custom cabinets into each of the units in an historic Pasadena, California building. Not only was the price outrageous, but each kitchen took three months. Which means three months with no rental income!

When I came on the scene, I had a strong interest in quickly completing the rehab of each unit because my pay was largely leasing bonuses. I wanted the units done, the owners' happy, and most of all, I wanted kitchens that wow'd prospective tenants. These apartments were on the small side, the rent on the high side, and although they were in a great location, there was also lots of competition for qualified tenants in the neighborhood.

So we turned to IKEA for the kitchens. A quick tour with the Owner gave us the go-ahead for two trial kitchens. We made our first IKEA kitchen mistake at that point, which was measuring and designing ourselves. Of course now we are pros but that first kitchen took two weeks to install because of planning errors. Another reason I strongly encourage people to work with an expert designer.

We used Adel birch doors for these first two. The cabinet guy had been using plywood painted white and although the kitchens he built were nice enough, they just did not compare with these new IKEA kitchens insofar as wow! factor. I demonstrated the corner lazy susan and the smooth drawer glides when I showed these units when they were done. They rented almost instantly. At market rent.

We went on to install IKEA kitchens in the rest of the building. We learned as we progressed but even the units with tiny kitchens leased quickly. It's hard to ignore a beautiful kitchen in an otherwise ordinary apartment. And boy, do those drawers slide nicely, year after year.

The Owners, of course, were interested in the bottom line. The cabinet guy had been charging about $6000 per kitchenette, more for the larger kitchens. Our IKEA versions ran about $2600 for cabinets and $1500 for installation. Note that this installation price did not include any demo, plumbing, electrical, or countertop installation. Remember that, often, you will pay the same or more for installation as you will for your cabinets. Labor cost is almost always the larger part of a kitchen remodel budget.

I am proud of the beautiful kitchens we left behind in that beautiful old building. I heard not long ago that the building had been sold and I am certain the net profit was significant. A lot of work went into the rehab, but the costs were contained and reasonable. Those IKEA kitchens will endure for two or more decades. That's a lot of rent.

The choice of durable doors, strong frames, and, most of all cost and the speed with which we could get a unit completed (average was three weeks from demo to occupied) were major issues with the kitchen cabinets for these rental units. A homeowner doing a single family home has more issues to address. But it is still true that IKEA cabinets are reasonably priced, durable and beautiful, and once your design work is done, you can have a new kitchen in just a few weeks.

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.

Susan

Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 971-313-4449. info@modernfamilykitchens.com

Kitchen Remodeling and Toxic Exposure #1


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Remodeling a kitchen can be an exciting challenge and aesthetic adventure. Reading up on, or consulting professionals about cabinets and design, appliances, tile, lighting and more is part of the process that can result in a wonderful new space for living.

As with all things, there is a serious, even dangerous, aspect to remodeling that every homeowner should learn about during their planning phase. Once you know about toxic exposure hazards in remodeling, you will want to take the steps that will prevent you and your family members from undue exposure. If you have young children in your home especially, a remodeling process that incorporates proven strategies for containing toxins is vital to develop.

Some of the toxics you might want to investigate as you plan your remodel include lead, asbestos, radon, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and mold. To get you started and because it is one of the most common toxins in remodeling, here is a small amount of data on lead paint issues:

More than three quarters of the homes in the US contain lead paint, which was banned in 1978 in the US. It was banned in 1920 in many other countries. Note that the US ban in 1978 did not immediately remove all lead paint products from the market  so it is wise to ask your contractor, or a lead paint specialist, to test your walls before any remodeling work is done even if your house was built in the 80s or later. Most homes have many layers of paint on their kitchen walls and any layer with lead paint, disturbed during the remodeling process, is truly hazardous.

Lead paint exposure comes from tiny particles of barely visible lead dust. Inhaled dust can result in lead poisoning which is a serious disease that can, especially in young children, cause learning and developmental disabilities and other serious problems in adults. The primary source of lead poisoning is from particles of lead dust from deteriorated paint or paint that is disturbed during remodeling work. Lead particles are so tiny that they pass through most masks and filters. Thus, a special type of procedure is needed during remodeling work on homes that may have lead paint in them.

Here are some tips:

1) Make sure your contractor is EPA (Environmental Protections Agency) lead-paint certified.
2) Talk to your contractor about his experience with remodeling toxins and his suggestions for avoiding exposure.
3) Consider calling in an air quality expert and getting your home checked.
4) Read up on remodeling and toxins. The EPA website covers a wide range of subjects and is easy to read:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html
5) There can be no outward symptoms or signs of toxic exposure for a very long time. Cancer takes 20 to 60 years to develop in the human body. On the other hand, young children exposed to lead paint can exhibit developmental and learning disabilities within a short period.

Remodeling is making your home more beautiful, functional, enjoyable and valuable. Proceeding with your project knowledgeably, with all the information you need, is the best way to avoid problems during the process, or after the work is completed.


Finally, a reader sent me this link which might save you some serious problems with toxic exposure to asbestos:
http://cancervictimsrights.org/safety-starts-with-me-home-improvement-and-diy-tips/


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com





Kitchen Remodeling and Toxic Exposure #2: Asbestos


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services


We have a guest blogger to provide information on another common remodeling toxin, asbestos.


Asbestos in the Home: Hazards and Prevention
by Brian Turner

Asbestos is a group of six natural minerals. The fibrous substance was once called a “miracle mineral” for its many desirable properties: strength, flexibility, fire resistance and heat insulation. Since the late 1800s, American industries have used asbestos for numerous manufacturing applications. Insulation, vehicle components and building materials are the most notable asbestos products.

The public has grown more aware of asbestos dangers in recent years, as more people struggle with the uncommon but deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure causes other problems too: pleurisy, asbestosis, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

Military veterans
are a high risk group for developing asbestos-related illness. Factory and construction workers, demolition crews and auto mechanics are also more at risk. Homeowners and residential contractors can also develop problems if they become exposed to asbestos. People who live and work in older homes are the most susceptible.

Asbestos Hazards in the Home

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports ten potential asbestos hazards that may be found in older homes. Houses built after 1923 may have used attic and wall insulation made from vermiculite ore. Mined in Libby, Montana, vermiculate was contaminated with asbestos, which occurred naturally in the mines.

Houses constructed between 1930 and 1950 likely used asbestos insulation. Some siding and roofing shingles also contained the substance. Textured paints and joint compounds used asbestos until the federal government banned its use in 1977.

In some homes, asbestos can be found in sheet vinyl, vinyl tiles and adhesives. Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves were often protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement. Asbestos material coated or covered hot water and steam pipes, and it served as insulation for furnaces and door gaskets.

Older appliances such as stoves and ovens may contain asbestos compounds. The material was also used for the artificial ashes and embers used in gas fireplaces.

Preventing Asbestos Exposure at Home

Homeowners may discover asbestos materials when they undertake a project to renovate, remodel or refurbish their home. The EPA encourages them not to panic. If the material is in good condition, it is best to leave asbestos alone. Generally, it will not release harmful fibers into the air or cause serious health risks.

However, if homeowners discover deterioration, tears, abrasions or water damage, they should contact a health, environmental or asbestos official to learn about proper handling and disposal. Disturbed asbestos is the kind that poses health dangers, and any removal should be done by a qualified professional.

Unless a construction material is labeled, it is impossible to know whether it contains asbestos without a professional analysis. Only professionals should take samples, since they know what to look for and are trained to eliminate the health risks.

Asbestos repair and removal should only occur with damaged or disturbed asbestos products. Repair involves encapsulation or sealing to treat the material, and enclosure or covering to prevent the release of asbestos particles. Repair is less expensive than removal, but it may make removal more difficult if required at a later date.

Homeowners should use extra care when handling asbestos to prevent damage to themselves and others. Asbestos materials are best handled by certified professionals that are licensed by the federal government. To guard against misleading claims by asbestos contractors, homeowners must educate themselves about services, procedures and precautions.


Brian Turner has been working with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance as an environmental health and toxic substance safety advocate since June of 2007. Brian brings a tremendous amount of research and awareness experience in environmental health risks, environmental carcinogens, and green building expertise. Contact Brian:
bturner@mesothelioma.com or http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog

Finally, a Reader sent me this link, which you might find very valuable in avoiding toxic exposure to asbestos:
http://cancervictimsrights.org/safety-starts-with-me-home-improvement-and-diy-tips/

Susan


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com

Contractors, Installers, Cabinet Guys. Who to hire.

International IKEA Kitchen Design Services 

www.modernfamilykitchens.com

After doing hundreds of IKEA kitchen remodeling projects in perhaps the biggest IKEA market in the world (Los Angeles has five IKEA stores in the wider metropolitan area, including Orange County), I've come across a wide variety of contractors and installers, and there is vital data that IKEA is never going to tell you.

For many years, each IKEA store would choose one or two local contractors who they would call "Certified IKEA Installers." The certification process consisted of the contractor providing evidence that he/she had done some IKEA kitchens and had appropriate license and insurances (vehicle and liability). A bond is required for every contractor in California (and in most other states) so it's a given. A meeting with local managers would clinch the deal. The contractor signs a contract with Corporate IKEA agreeing for the contract period not to leave the relationship, and to charge IKEA-set pricing for installation of their cabinets. IKEA can, of course, fire the contractor at any point for more or less any reason.

Keep in mind that "contractor" almost always means a small local business. A small local business often means a man or woman or a partnership of both, trying to make a living to support a family. IKEA, of course, is an international mega-corporation. Rumor has it that the founder/owner of IKEA is the richest man in the world.

Anyway, recently, IKEA disconnected from their local contractors and now there is one national company, Signature Services, to which CA and Washington State IKEAs will refer you. There is very little data online about Signature. Signature will not pull permits (which are required in almost every case) for you.Check and see if a company you hire ONLY installs cabinets, and will SUBCONTRACT any plumbing, electrical, etc. Be very, very informed about what this means before you go with any contractor. Read the paperwork. Visit your state's contractor licensing board website.

OK, look, IKEA sells great kitchen cabinets. I have to note this down to keep on track. No matter what, if you understand the situation and act intelligently and legally, you should certainly use their cabinets for your remodel if they are the right product for you.

Why do I say "legally?" I say this because those local contractors, and now Signature, are bound to IKEA but IKEA holds no liability for the quality or type of work they do for you. IKEA might fire a contractor (meaning sever the contract) if they get too many complaints about a "certified" contractor. But the homeowner may think that IKEA is going to protect them if something goes awry with the installation. I have never seen any paperwork from IKEA that states this. Unless something has changed radically, recently, you are hiring a "certified" contractor, or Signature, on the same basis as you would hiring any other contractor: buyer beware.

In California, a contractor is required for any remodeling project over $500. This contract must be very specific as to what the labor (and materials if the contractor is providing any) services will be. NEVER allow a contractor or even a handyman (legal under $500), to do work on your home without something in writing.

Second, if you are hiring the installer IKEA referred you to (I recommend you don't), understand this: that contractor IS NOT going to pull permits for you. Changes are, he will gloss over that entire subject (that you are required to have a permit in most places to replace cabinets, not to mention do any plumbing, for example a dishwasher installation,  not to mention any electrical work).
This, my reader, is, actually criminal. If you are required to have a permit, the contractor who does the work without one is breaking the law.

So, you ask, what are the risks? First, the contractor can lose his license for doing un-permitted work. If Signature does not pull permits, you have to. In the Los Angeles area you need a permit to replace cabinets even. Second, you take the chance, (because without a permit, there is no city inspection), that the contractor has done everything perfectly, has not cut through electrical wires behind the cabinets, has sealed the sink correctly, has added light fixtures per code.

I want to be very clear here. It is understood that some homeowners do not want to get permits. They cost money, although not much, really. Worse, if you have un-permitted work already done on your home, you might have to get that remedied to even pull permits for a kitchen remodel. Oy.

So why not just hire the cheapest "certified" contractor, ignore permits, forge ahead and get it done? Here is why:

First, you are doing something illegal. You know this, so you add some nervousness to your life. Who needs it.

Second, permits keep you safe, and keep your neighbors safe. You would not want your next door neighbor to do cheap electrical work on his property; you would want him to do it legally, and to have it inspected. You too want that inspection that the city provides when you get a permit to check the work of your contractor.

Third, it is vital to understand that buying cabinets at IKEA is just the shopping part of your project. They are just materials. We're talking about something else entirely here, the labor, the skilled work that is needed to remodel your kitchen, with ANY cabinets.

Kitchens, like bathrooms, have plumbing and electrical in them. You cannot avoid doing some in 95% of kitchen remodels. Just replacing the sink is plumbing work and requires a permit in most places. Demolition (removing the old cabinets) can require a permit. Certainly cabinet lights, overhead lights, adding outlets, all require a permit.

So, to keep this simple, don't hire a contractor who cannot pull a permit for the work he is going to do unless you will pull your own permits. In most cases this is doable. But there is a lot to know about pulling permits on your own. In some cases, for example for condo owners in Los Angeles, you cannot pull plumbing and electrical permits, only a licensed contractor can do this for you.

Also, if the contractor glosses over the subject of permits, or if in the fine print of his contract it states that he will not pull permits, don't hire him unless you will get your own permits. Don't hire someone and "hope for the best" in regard to permits. Ignorance of the laws and codes of your city is no excuse, as they say. You don't want a 24 hour liquor store to move in next door to you. The zoning and permit office in your city protects you from this. So go ahead, pay your permit fees.

A contractor who charges more but will pull permits for you is a MUCH better choice than one who charges a little less but who pretends this is not important. Inspections take time, they cost the contractor money when he waits half a day or more for an inspector. But BOY do you want him there for that inspection! Worth every penny to have a beautiful, and safe, remodel.

And then there is the future, when you want to refinance, or sell, your home. If you didn't get permits, your remodel was not done, according to the banks. In some cities, you can't even sell until you get the work permitted, which is a huge hassle to do years later. Worse case scenario, you have to pull everything out. It's happened.

OK, that's enough prophecy of doom. Here is what I have to say as one who has been there and done that, both ways: be an honest citizen so your life and remodel is easy and doesn't backfire, hire an honest contractor and pay a bit more if you have to for one, use IKEA cabinets or any other that make you happy and that you can easily afford. Do the project legally, read your state's Contractor License Board website to fully understand consumer rights and responsibilities in remodeling.

I wish you a beautiful environment.

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.

Susan



Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com


















Professional's Tips on IKEA Kitchen Design


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Here are some tips from a discussion I had with our expert IKEA kitchen designer recently. If you would like to consult with him about your own project, just email us:  info@modernfamilykitchens.com

Me: What do you think are the most important things a homeowner should know about designing an IKEA kitchen?

Designer: It's not about filling in the spaces with what seems to fit, and it's definitely not about "this is where my stove is now, so I guess I should keep it in the same place, etc." I approach the design with the idea of maximizing options for a more functional, more attractive, more appealing kitchen. 

Me: Why should someone get professional design help? Canʼt a homeowner do it with IKEAʼs online software?

Designer: A homeowner can certainly design their own a basic layout. Software is available online. However, most homeowners don't have comprehensive knowledge of the cabinets themselves, of their possibilities, and they don't know how to customize and use the cabinets creatively to make the most of their kitchen layout. 

Me: Can you work with an architect?

Designer: Yes, as long as the measurements are correct and the vision is clear. 

Me: Can you work with blueprints?

Designer: Yes, but most blueprints do not supply all the measurements that are needed, and they can easily be off by one or two inches. That is too much room for error when you are designing an IKEA cabinet layout. It can lead to installation problems. 

Me: Can a homeowner do a new IKEA kitchen for $5000?

Designer:  It is possible to do a kitchen, including cabinets and installation, for $5,000, but it would be a very small kitchen. More typical and workable budgets are from $10,000-$20,000. This is still a great bargain for a beautiful new kitchen. 

Me: Can you give us more data about costs?

Designer: The cabinets and countertop costs are sorted out during the design phase. Labor costs depend on what needs to be done. Will the flooring be replaced? Do we need to repair and patch drywall? Painting? A big factor is how much electrical work is needed. Same with plumbing. Susan's eArticle is helpful:


Me: Do you have any suggestions on how to keep costs down?

Designer: First, order cabinets during a sale. Second, choose a less expensive door and less costly countertop. Countertop can always be replaced in a year or two. Laminates and butcher block are very inexpensive. Also, although I know this sounds like self-promotion, the best way I know to keep the overall costs down is to start out working with a well-informed kitchen designer.  For a small fee you have an expert on your team, you gain knowledge and thus control. And you are most likely end up with a much better kitchen for the same money. 

Me: Can you design a kitchen so that the cost of the kitchen is within a given budget?

Designer: An honest, knowledgeable designer can work with any reasonable budget.

Me: What are the most important things to consider when designing an IKEA kitchen?

Designer: Everyday kitchen needs, entertaining needs, function, practicality, designing the layout so that you make the most of the space without feeling closed in by it.

Me: Are IKEA cabinets different, insofar as designing, than other cabinets on the market?

Designer: Most cabinetry on the market, including custom and semi-custom, have 1/4" to 5/8" frames. IKEA offers 3/4" frames. The frame is the box of the cabinet, excluding the door. This is really a technical point insofar as design. For the homeowner, this just means IKEA frames are sturdier, are likely to last longer. Some other cabinet suppliers do offer more door styles and finishes to work with, but the cost is so much higher. IKEA offers about 20 different door styles in various finishes, plus the glass door options. 

Me: Do you think IKEA cabinets are as good as those at Lowes and Home Depot?

Designer: Yes, in most cases...better.

Me: Is there any other brand youʼd recommend?

Designer: There really are no other cabinets with the quality and warranty IKEA offers that are also in the same price bracket. If a homeowner has $35,000 or more to spend, they can certainly look at other, more costly brands. 

Me: Do you recommend IKEA countertops?

Designer: Their laminates are great for work areas and garage applications. Their butcher block is great when trying to save money and for cooks who prefer a wood working surface. The Caesarstone and granite IKEA offers is usually through a third-party company which includes installation in the cost of the countertop. 

Me: Do you recommend IKEA appliances?

Designer: Their appliances are supplied by Whirlpool Gold, specifically for IKEA. 

Me: What can you tell us about tile, say for backsplashes?

Designer: IKEA does not offer tile. Just as a tip, if you work with a kitchen designer, often they will design the tile work as well as the kitchen layout and then use their designer discount for you at tile stores. I do this for many of my clients. 

Me: What about lighting and flooring?

Designer: IKEA has few lighting and flooring options so you'll probably go elsewhere for these materials. It is best to consult your contractor about lighting so that you purchase lights that will meet code requirements in your area. As a note, flooring can be installed under IKEA cabinets, but it doesn't have to be. In other words, you can save on material and labor by installing the flooring after the cabinets are installed. You do need flooring under appliances, but not under cabinets. The toekick (bottom trim) is then installed to cover the seam where the flooring meets the cabinets. 

Me: What can you tell us about islands?

Designer: One tip as you design the kitchen is to keep in mind that you should have a minimum of a 36" walkway all around the island, or a 42"walkway in homes with 3 or more bedrooms.

Me: Any tips for when the kitchen is really small?

Designer: Then it's even more important to make sure the design is planned carefully to include all the homeowners' everyday needs.

Me:  On the other hand, how do you use cabinets to divide up a big, open space?

Designer:  Island, bar area, high cabinets back-to-back, and other ways depending on what the homeowners need and want. 

Me: Do you use kitchen cabinets for bathrooms or IKEA bathroom cabinets?

Designer: Usually I use kitchen cabinets modified to fit the bathroom space. They are stronger and offer more options than the bathroom cabinet line.

Me: Are there any sinks or light fixtures or types of tile you recommend?

Designer: With solid surface countertop, an undermount sink is best. With light fixtures and tile, it's really a personal choice. I like IKEA's low-wattage Dioder lights, which are very affordable, and Interstyle glass tile, which have a wide range of colors to choose from. 

Me: Thanks so much for all these tips. One last question. I have baking pans and I can't find an IKEA cabinet that will hold them. Do you know of a solution for this?

Designer: IKEA sells tray dividers. These will easily fit in the cabinets that go above the refrigerator.

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

Susan

Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com


IKEA Kitchen Sales: Getting Ready


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

There's a sale coming so if you've been planning an IKEA kitchen project, take note.  The details or discount structure hasn't yet been announced but no matter, these sales are almost always the best deal in town for kitchen remodels.

The best time to order, during a sale, is towards the beginning. If you are going to buy your cabinets during this upcoming summer sale, it would be best to get the layout design started now. If you run into trouble with the online IKEA software or just know you want professional design, and would like a referral to a qualified IKEA designer, feel free to call or write me (971-313-4449 or info@modernfamilykitchens.com). I recommend spending a bit on expert design help. Even a small kitchen with a tight budget will come out better, and sometimes will cost less, with an expert designer on your team.

I've published a comprehensive article for Kindle: HOW TO PLAN YOUR BUDGET for an IKEA KITCHEN REMODEL. It's meant to provide expert knowledge on estimating and budgeting the materials and labor. The most frequently asked questions I get are about costs and it's just not something I can answer lightly and feel I've helped someone. Each project is unique and the costs can vary widely. The price tags at IKEA are for cabinets and countertop only and thus are not that helpful when what you need to know is how much EVERYTHING is going to cost, all materials plus all labor needed to get the result you want. My hope is that this Kindle (or Kindle apps) article saves you worry, time and money.

There are several reasons to get started as soon as possible if you want to order your cabinets during the sale. First, you have the longest runway before ordering. You want as much time as possible to plan the project, including but not limited to the budget, get the design finalized, line up a contractor, and order non-IKEA materials.

IKEA kitchen experts, designers and contractors, get booked up quickly once the sale starts. The design resources I have are able to get a kitchen designed in a day if they have measurements. But why not give yourself a week or more, to study the design work, map it out perhaps on your kitchen floor and walls, revise, ask questions that come up, shop for tile and revisit IKEA to confirm your choices. After all, there's lots of money involved, tearing your house apart involved, and quite a few factors to coordinate.

Once you have ordered the cabinets delivery is often within two weeks. You can sometimes get delivery sooner but once the sale is underway, delivery timeframes can get longer. IKEA will not hold an order for long. Once the delivery date is set, either you have to have some place to store them convenient to the kitchen (say, your garage) or you need to have the contractor scheduled on, or right before, or after, delivery.

The best way we've found, as a contractor, if there is no garage in which to store and build the cabinets,  for example in a condo, is to start the project about two days before the cabinets will be delivered. If there are to be wall changes, electrical re-wiring or flooring installed before cabinets, a contractor might need as much as a week of work before being ready for the cabinets.

Your delivery, even for a small kitchen, is going to be massive. IKEA cabinets come completely disassembled. Expect a pallet of flat, heavy cardboard boxes, sometimes two for larger kitchens. This is something to consider in your planning.

My other posts discuss contractors, finding one and working with one. My suggestion is not to expect IKEA to provide the data, nor the contractor, needed. The companies contracted with IKEA to install their cabinets are likely to sub-contract everything else. Most projects, 95%, require some demo and wall repair, wiring, and plumbing. These require expert skills, and the latter two require permits and inspections. The best contractor in most cases is one who can do everything expertly. Second best is a contractor who will do everything except assemble and install the IKEA cabinets. In this case, you can work with the IKEA-affiliated installer or another proven IKEA installer in your area. I have some resources in this regard for those in the Los Angeles area that I am happy to pass on.

A very smart "test" when you are interviewing contractors is to ask about permits. A contractor who says "you don't need one" is almost always operating illegally so don't hire him. A contractor who does not pull permits is suspect, so find out why and if his answers satisfy you, make sure you can pull your own permits before hiring him. A contractor who will pull permits and who includes the cost of doing so as a line item in his bid is best.

Ask the potential contractor for a copy of his license, liability insurance, and worker's comp policy (if he has employees). Keep these in a folder with the contract which, you must, must, must get. A contract that lists the exact project specs and the cost of getting these done is vital. Check your state's contractor license board for more data on hiring contractors.

Once you have a contractor lined up and your design work done, you are ready to order materials, including your cabinets. If you are buying everything at IKEA, it's easy. If you are buying some materials, for example tile and light fixtures, elsewhere, order these in advance so they are onsite (in your home) when your contractor needs them. If your contractor is installing new appliances, they can be delivered at any point in advance. It is usually best, for a kitchen remodel, to buy appliances without paying extra for installation. This is because the appliance delivery date may arrive and the kitchen may not be ready for the appliances. Most stores will deliver and install in one trip and if you aren't ready for installation, you'll pay more for a return trip.

I hope these quick tips help you get ready for the sale! IKEA has lots and lots of inventory of everything so don't worry about that. Just get the design done and research materials and contractors this month.

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. 

Susan

Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com











How to Estimate Installation Costs for your IKEA Kitchen Project


...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Service


It is vital to know what your project will cost before you move forward. Those lovely displays at IKEA can sometimes give you a false idea. These are not good estimates of even the IKEA products you want to buy, because those kitchens are not your kitchen.

Keep in mind also that those displays were professionally designed, professionally installed, and there is no plumbing or electrical behind those "walls." Also, if you could use that charming display kitchen for a day or two, you might find that it is clumsy to use, and that you trip over the baby's high chair (not in the display) or your spouse's boots (not in display) constantly. As I've written elsewhere, IKEA's "design-it-yourself" concept could be a disservice to many.

There are several approaches to compiling enough trusted data to be able to have confidence that your project will not break your budget. Whether you trust the data or not requires good sense, and a willingness to look at things, at people, directly.

TEST: Do you believe that any breakfast product advertised on TV is better for a child than organic scrambled eggs or oatmeal? If you voted for eggs and oatmeal then you have what it takes to compile a good estimate for yourself so that you can control your project's finances and sleep restfully as it progresses.

Note that any experienced shopper can compile good estimates for materials (cabinets, sink, flooring, light fixtures, countertop, etc.) but the process for getting good labor estimates can be a bit more tricky.

If you know what you want, and you have the money to pay for it, yawn, stretch and call the best contractor in town to figure it all out for you. You will only need to choose colors and styles and make payments. Read my other posts instead, about how to choose a contractor.

For the rest of us with limited budgets and big ideas, some legwork and homework is the first step. Control is the reward for taking the time to work out cost estimates for both materials and labor before you begin. If all of this is hazy to you right now, just take it one step at a time. You can also call me, if my writing is just not enough.

So let's assume you got your design done, and your chosen cabinets cost $3,800.00. Countertop varies from laminates at $300 to sky's-the-limit marble, but let's say $3,000 for Corian in a modest-sized kitchen. So your major materials, most likely, cabinets and countertop, run $6,800.00.

IKEA appliances, Whirlpool all, can add $3000 more. Some people spend a lot more elsewhere on appliances. So now we have a nice even $10,000 number for basic materials. Note that flooring, light fixtures, tile, sink and faucet, are also needed, as are a dozen other miscellaneous items you might need, and your contractor may or may not supply, such as a dishwasher hose, garbage disposal, recessed light fixtures and switches, electrical materials, wallboard, flooring, plywood for under countertop, tile and adhesive, etc. Add $1000 to be safe, or more if you are doing tile. Tile also adds labor expense.

So, here's your materials estimate--on the high side $13,000 for a 12 x 12 kitchen. I am guessing you saw a display at IKEA which seemed to suggest $6,000. Sorry.

Rest assured though that it CAN be done for less than $13,000 in materials, even half that amount or less, especially if there is no flooring or tile and you already have code-approved electrical. But for $6,500 we're talking small kitchen, less costly IKEA door choice, laminate or butcherblock counters, lower end appliances. And very careful planning.

The issue is clarified by comparison to a quote you might get at, say, Home Depot or Lowes. That same kitchen we've imagined above, will cost $28,000 to $40,000. And go to a cabinet company with showroom and sales reps on the floor, and you're talking $75,000.

Can you do an IKEA kitchen, a small simple one for $5000? I get asked that often enough. My answer is no, unless you buy the least expensive cabinets, use laminate countertop and do the installation yourself, including demo, trash removal, electrical, appliance installation and plumbing work. Maybe, with no outside labor, (but with a permit, of course) you can do a simple project for $5000. But for the vast majority, it's twice that, and more.

We're talking about tearing out a major section of your home, repairing it, upgrading utilities (to code) and replacing everything with new stuff. If you are only replacing some cabinets, maybe you can do it for five thousand bucks. But there is always labor and there are always code requirements when you upgrade. (Read my other posts on why you really really want to get permits and upgrade to code--in short, because it's often much more expensive to not get permits).

So now let's look at labor. I am working on a project to identify qualified contractors near IKEA stores anywhere in the US. Someone has to do this! So many people write or call me to ask about this because they are unhappy with the corporate contractor IKEA sends them to. I would always recommend a local, well-known (has lots of references) general contractor, who is licensed, legal, insured, bonded, has a skilled crew, has worker's comp (ask for copies of certificates).

The IKEA cabinet installer will not pull permits (which is one of the craziest facts about IKEA kitchens I've ever come across because, as I see it, indirectly this is IKEA suggesting that their customers do something illegal if the IKEA-affiliated contractor is see-no-evil, hear-no -evil, speak-no-evil when it comes to permits, read their contracts' fine print) and is almost guaranteed to sub-contract plumbing and electrical work. This is OK, to sub, but read up on the laws of your state in regard to homeowner liability with subcontractors. And about permits. Vital to do this. Vital to do this. (I wrote it twice, not a typo).

OK, back to costs. Sorry to veer off-topic, but I do care about you.

Let's discuss labor now. In the years when I ran a remodeling company, an average IKEA kitchen kitchen project would run about $7500 in labor. This was for demo, minor wall repair, minor electrical, plumbing, cabinet and appliance installation.  If the project included new lighting, flooring, tile, it could run $10,000. If you have an old electrical panel of 100 amps, you might find you can't add outlets and the cost of a new panel can add $1800 (labor and materials). Electrical work is often pricey, as is good plumbing work. General contractors often charge less for these than single licensed guys, if the work is part of a bigger contract.

Keep in mind that trying to save money by having someone you know do your electrical or plumbing can be a costly mistake. Contractors have to be bonded and licensed and should be insured for at least a million bucks. These insurances cost them money so their prices will be higher, rightfully, but the insurance protects you and they are utterly worth paying for. You have to have plumbing and electrical inspected when you get a permit, and so you want it done right. Right = safe.  Don't think about this too much, but what if you have to file a homeowner's insurance claim some time and the insurance company finds there's no permit or an unlicensed contractor did your electrical work? Oy.  Or if you go to sell or refi and the bank inspector sees a new kitchen but no permits on file. Another Oy. See what I mean? Do it right, do it legal.

Oops, off track again.

Let's say you call a contractor to find out how much he'll charge you for remodeling your kitchen with IKEA cabinets. You expect to get free quotes, right? This is something you can always get for free from a bad contractor who has nothing else to do but spend half a day at your house.  Consider that the contractor or estimator must drive to your house, spend an hour or two discussing and inspecting, and then two hours or more writing up a good bid. Do you know what a really good bid will do for you? It will ensure there are no change orders, or very few! A change order is labor/service ADDED to the original contract. It's work and expense you didn't plan on! That's what you often get for free, a lousy incomplete estimate.

Not to say a good contractor won't give you a good, thorough bid. But note the differences among offers of free quotes, free estimates, and a real bid, which is a service unto itself. Beware a contractor that comes to your house for half an hour and is really there to sell, not to inspect. Another TEST: does he look at your electrical panel, if it is accessible, or ask about it? If not, he's got no idea if the electrical price he's quoting is real.

Know this: a bid that is really a means for the contractor to SELL you on cheaper services than some other bid is NOT helpful. What you want is a relationship first, bid second. If the contractor thinks you are only trying to get a bunch of free quotes to compare, why should he spend half a day using his years of expertise and knowledge to provide you with comprehensive information?

So call all the contractors you care to or ask for referrals. But talk with them on the phone first. Tell the truth, if you want them to tell you the truth. Ask for a free quote if you want to, or ask for a detailed bid, two different things. Maybe the guy charges to do a comprehensive bid, which is probably worth it if he's got good references and otherwise seems good to you. If you are not yet sold on the project, be willing to pay a contractor for the service that carefully estimating/bidding your project really is. If you are not yet sold on IKEA cabinets, this process can be invaluable. Do you  know that sometimes, in some cases and places, for an extra $1000 you get get another brand of better quality, similar-looking cabinets? I know I've betrayed you with this statement, but to give you an idea of the value of a good bid from a good contractor, I had to do it.

In summary, a do-it-yourself remodel is estimated by cabinet costs plus countertop, appliances, plumbing and electrical parts, permit costs, and TIME you spend doing the work and living without a kitchen while you do it.

A typical remodel with IKEA cabinets, including contractor labor and materials, runs $12,000 to $18,000, a huge bargain over just about every other type of kitchen remodel, and beautiful results to boot. If you have less, just do more planning and shopping for good deals. Or wait awhile. The next sale is just a few months away. But don't skimp on permits, or on cheap labor, and pay a bit for professional design (definitely) or a detailed costs bid if you really want to know what the labor you need will cost.

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.

Susan
Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753. info@modernfamilykitchens.com