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Plan Well, Retire Well

A Kitchen Remodel: Excitement and Trepidation

This summer, my husband and I are starting a kitchen remodel project -- yikes! Our house is over 60 years old and the kitchen is desperate for an update. In the next few months, I will blog about our journey – hopefully, this will be helpful to others facing remodeling projects.

Home remodeling projects can be scary to start! Since we bought our home, my husband and I have done several significant home remodeling projects and one of the hardest parts is deciding whom to do the work. After a couple of small remodeling projects where we did the work, we know we need to hire other people to do future remodeling work! However, we do want to feel confident that the person we hire will do the work well and within our budget.

Before I started talking to contractors, I did some research on the expected cost of a kitchen remodel. (More about this in the next blog post.) My husband and I also talked about how much we wanted to spend and how we planned to pay for the remodel.

We also talked about the extent of the work we wanted done. About 15 years ago we updated the flooring and lights, and repainted the kitchen. This helped a lot but now we want to remove all the cabinets, etc. back to the studs! A much more extensive project!

I like to write our decisions down. That way I can go back and check on our original expectations. We have the habit of getting excited about "possibilities" during a remodeling job and the project tends to grow! Having a plan that I can check-back with may help us stay on track.

Next, we were ready to start shopping for someone to do our home improvement work. I started asking everyone I know whether they had a good experience with a kitchen remodel project. I posted on Facebook too and then followed up with the responses for more in-depth information. Ultimately, we are working with someone who has done several other projects with people I know well.

The Illinois Attorney General's article, "Home Repair and Construction" suggests the following next steps too.

  • Check contractor complaint records with the Illinois Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Get recommendations and references. Talk to friends, family, and other people whom the contractor has done similar work.
  • Get at least three written estimates from contractors who have come to your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based on the same work so that you can make meaningful comparisons.
  • Insist on a complete written contract. Know exactly what work will be done, the quality of the materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the total price of the job, and the schedule of payments. If someone won't give you a written contract, you likely don't want to work with them.

While you're talking to different contractors, think about what it would be like to work with them.

  • Are you comfortable talking to them?
  • Do they answer your questions well?
  • Will you be comfortable having them (and their co-workers) in your home?

Be sure to ask their references about these questions too. From past remodeling experiences, I know that the construction workers likely will be in and out of my home for several weeks. I want to have a positive relationship with the people working on my kitchen.

Doing your research before hiring someone helps protect you financially too. Here are some warning signs of people you may not want to work with. Be wary of a person who:

  • comes to your home uninvited;
  • tells you that you need to make repairs immediately or your safety may be in danger;
  • pressures you to sign papers today or talks too quickly, attempting to confuse you;
  • offers to drive you to your bank to withdraw funds to pay for his or her work; or
  • asks you to pay for the entire job up front.

How have you found people to do remodeling work at your home? What tips can you share with our blog readers? Please comment below.