OK, speaking of cabinetry quotes

aliris19January 28, 2013

I think this question has been asked and discussed many times before, so my apologies if it's boring.

I'm looking for some guidance on the quotation-process. Because it's not as if asking someone to give you a quote is asking for a smile -- it costs someone a huge amount of time and money to come up with a quote. And in the case of cabinetry sometimes even designwork and a lot of imagination and thought.

I just don't quite get the morality of all of this. As a consumer I would like to maximize quality and minimize cost to me. I also want to support fellow worthy artisans and give the state some overhead money as well .... But to tell the honest truth, I am shy about going out and asking for cabinetry quotes when I know it costs the quoter so much time and money to come up with the quote. I am shy about scrutinizing their work and even judging it not to mention essentially demanding by my purchasing-power that they charge me less.

This whole process is essentially insulting and really uncomfortable. And please don't yell at me Marcolo. There is a question in here, and I was not born yesterday. But this process is still really amorphous.

How many cabinet makers do you go to in asking for quotes? What do you do when your plans are not 100% set before visiting a purveyor or artisan - for them to give a quote requires a bit of intellectual contribution on their part and then if you go to another and use any of their ideas, well, that's not very honorable.

This whole process is incredibly ambiguous. I would like to get, say, 8 cabinet makers' quotes. But that would be really, really mean, no? In reality I will probably get 2 because I just won't be able to take the squirmy feeling of it all.

How is this negotiated??? How is any of this fair?

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Sophie Wheeler

Take the same 4 cabinet layout all around and ask for quotes. That lets you compare prices without anyone doing any design work on your kitchen. But, if you just want the cheapest cabinets, that's easy to find. Just go to a box store and buy the crap off of the shelf.

If you want a well designed kitchen, then you do enough research to know the relative prices of the cabinet brands that each KD carries. How do you know that? Ask! Ask them to rank them by quality and price in an initial interview where you discuss your layout in general terms. See how comfortable you are with their suggestions or their openness regarding the features and benefits vs price. And you ask them which line they would put you in with your stated budget and wish list.

You DO NOT go in and ask for full scale design services from everyone. That's not what you need at this stage. You're just doing initial interviews, not background checks and DMV records. After you've done a half dozen, you should have an idea of 2-3 that you felt comfortable with. Those are the ones you make a second appointment with to discuss more in depth the exact issues that your kitchen has and the initial suggestions that the KD had as to how to approach the problem.

After you do the second round of interviews, you should be able to narrow down to the one you want to use.

The big thing to understand here is it's NOT about price. Any good KD represents enough lines to be able to give you the look that you want at numerous price points. If you make it about only price, then you're missing the added value component that can make your kitchen actually be the best it can be. If the KD works for you, then s/he can put you into the line that works the hardest for your budget and you will have the kitchen you want. Let the KD that you pick do the heavy lifting for the "price shopping". That's part of their service.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 7:45AM
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I'm going to weigh in here because I experienced similar feelings of unease for the reasons you stated when I started the process. I'm kind of over that now but that's not to say I'm not respectful of the time I'm asking of people I just make sure with myself that I'm requesting the quote in good faith and that I sincerely want to pursue the option of using their service. I approached it by covering the various options (semi-custom, custom, higher end design places to lower end to private cabinet makers) My plan is not 100%, but it is close enough that I can get comparable quotes and get a feel for the individual who I'd be working once I make my decision. I think it's very important that you find a person who will be guiding the design process that you are comfortable working with. Some are SO much better than others and I can't help but feel that the final outcome is very dependent on getting someone who knows their product really well and has lots of experience.

It is a confusing process in the beginning. I felt so uneasy about going to the cabinet companies before I had a design that hired a freelance designer to help me create the design. I felt that way I was paying someone for their design service and not expecting the cabinet people to do that for me. I also wanted a set of good designs to take from place to place so I didn't have to reinvent the wheel each time. Long story short- that was a waste of my money and I wouldn't do it again but possibly with a different designer it could have been better.

I'm a little wiser now (just a little). I honestly believe that if you are approaching a business person in good faith you are not crossing any morality lines. That quote is only the very very jumping off point in the design process anyway. It just gives you a way to meet the company, learn about their product and services, and learn about how much it will cost you to continue to work with them.

I think you should get more than 2 quotes only because it's such a learning process for you and you'll get so much better at understanding what your seeing as time goes on. You really do deserve to be an educated consumer here and the more you are able to compare your options the better you will feel about the road you eventually choose to go down.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:17AM
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I went to 4 KDs: 1) one whom I met at a home show 2) someone who had a kitchen shop a mile from my home, 3) someone our builder recommended and 4) a KD a friend recommended. Going into it I knew very little about the process, and didn't even have a budget- ugh! I must have been a nightmare for these poor KDs!!! Honestly, I feel guilty about meeting with the first KD whom I met at a home show, because it was my first experience and I knew very little about anything! I ended up choosing the KD a friend recommended because I liked the way we worked together, he was a good listener and I liked his ideas. In the end that was most important to me. The quotes came in pretty close, which is to be expected once you have narrowed down what you want, as in type of cabinets, as stated above, it is the KD's job to get you the best they can within your price range. I hope this helps. I know I had a huge learning curve. Oh and I should mention, some KDs charge you to keep their plans and others do not. In my experience the KD who does hand drawings charges if you wish to take her plans and the other 3 KDs who did their plans on the computer did not charge me. I do not know of any benefits to having handdrawn plans, but realize this must take much longer to do and hence the fee to keep the plans.
I sure hope this helps! It can be very overwhelming and you should allow some time for the process. It took me about 6 months to choose my KD. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:45AM
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aliris- Nice of you to be concerned. Doing quotes comes is just part of the job. Most of us know that the average closing rate for walk-ins is around 33% nationally. So don't feel bad about it. Think about it as you are giving the KD an opportunity to make some money- we love "leads":)

I work with retainers so I encourage folks to shop before deciding. I have between 8 and 16 hours invested in a job before I am willing to accept a retainer. The client has seen several layouts and has gotten solid ball park pricing on the most likely layout: in this it is $X, unless you do something rash it won't cost more than $Y, or less than $Z. They have hopefully compared us to others.

The only obligation I expect from shoppers for my investment of time, simple courtesy... tell us once, you've decided, who did get the job and why we did not. A phone call is the best, email is better than nothing. It amazes me how many people won't even return a phone call.

How well the shopping process works for you, has a lot to do with how you go about it.

For best results make a list of what is important to you: Value, Quality, Price, Amenities, Service, Reliability, Design, Layout, Style, Installation Process. Be specific i.e. Quality alone is pretty broad so break that down.
AND have an honest budget.

Then go over the list and prioritize it. Decide if there are any things that are "deal killers" In the course of conversation tell them the top 3-5 things your looking for, any design "musts", what you will base your decision on, any deal killers, and your budget.

If you don't tell them then the KD will make assumptions. These may be inaccurate but will none the less determine how they work on your job if they don't have anything else to go on.

In the early stages both client and KD are cautious. Clients want the best arrangement they can make, have heard horror stories, few have done this before, it is a big deal to most.
KD's have had plenty of folks wasting their time and any experienced KD has had more than a few nightmare clients. The KD also has to make a living and maximize their time.

The clearer everyone is about what they offer and what they expect the better.
Try to relax and have fun. It's kinda like dating- sometimes good sometimes not so, meet some great folks that your sorry to see go, meet another who is the right one, most folks are happy when it is over.

IMO who you work with is more important than any specific brand if you want the most for your money.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:04AM
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I don't get why people feel bad about getting quotes. The bidding process often involves putting in a lot of work and not getting the job. That is the nature of the job. Sure, wouldn't we all love to be paid to bid jobs?

My DH is in the construction industry. Bids often take him days to complete. He doesn't get paid one dime though if he isn't the one selected for the project. That is life. Get your quotes and don't feel bad.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 10:01AM
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You need to clarify that you're talking about the design for some bookshelves, not a kitchen. Apples and oranges. All the contractor needs is a set of dimensions for the room, whether you want trim or not, and information about your window seat. Just the basics. That's not a lot of work. Nobody needs to design your molding profile or where the returns will go yet.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 10:55AM
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I just want to echo something that seems to get lost.

It's more about the KD and the relationship that you have with that person than it is about price.

A good KD can give you the kitchen that you want in numerous cabinet lines. If you want what 80% of everyone does these days, shaker cabinets, then every single line on the planet can give you that. You can buy 3K worth of Chinese cabinets at a discount warehouse, or you can buy 10K worth of stock cabinets from a box store, or you can buy 18K worth of semi-custom cabinets from a design shop, or you can buy 30K worth of cabinets from a full custom cabinet maker. They will all give you "the look" that you're going for.

No, I'm not saying that 3K worth of Chinese cabinets in limited sizes and styles can give you the "same" kitchen that 30K from a custom artisan can. Not at all. There are huge differences in construction quality and wood quality used there. The two kitchens will only superficially resemble each other. Like the old high/low design exercises that were in Metropolitan Home. There will still be huge differences between the two. What you need to decide is what those differences and costs bring to the table for you. And that's where the KD can help you to understand the value for the money spent.

It usually comes down to a quality of materials and construction and finishing increase as you go up the price ladder. Some features are worth paying more money for. For some people. Some people put budget first. Those are actually the easiest people to satisfy. It's always easy to give someone the absolute cheapest option without any thought or creativity having to be exercised.

So, if you came into my shop with a basic layout and a list of cabinets wanting a quote, what would happen? I would give you exactly what you asked for! Give me the list, and the specs, and I can put you into a cabinet line and quote you exactly what you're asking for in about 15 minutes. That will let you compare prices for the same layout. Then, I'd tell you what's missing from the other quote (most don't include moldings, drawer pulls, toekick, finished sides and other needed pieces that add up to about 15% more than the "cabinet" quote.). Then, I'd tell you what I'd do differently with your layout, and if you'd leave me a copy, I'd work on it a bit in the quoted line and give you a price to be able to compare a better layout in the same line. At that second meeting with the better kitchen, I'd tell you how the line that you are in compares to the other lines that I carry and why you might be interested in better quality for not much more money, or maybe a less costly line that could give you more for your money. Then, if you wanted a third meeting, it's retainer time. No documents leave my hands until you pay me a retainer. I'll verbally give you a price and show you the renderings, but you don't get any copies of anything to take home until you decide you want to go to the prom with me.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 11:00AM
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Oh sorry -- quick quick quick -- as Marcolo says I need to clarify.

Only, .... sort of. I actually am interested in all this from that angle everyone has answered. Most particularly I am interested in the professionals' on this list's perspective. Thank you very much LWO, jakuvall and others. Thank you very, very much!

As for my specifics - Marcolo, yes, I am talking about library shelves. But also about: 2 vanities, 2 linen closet cupboards, lots of cabinetry in a laundry room, a couple closets: lots of stuff. It's none of it at this point kitchen because with the help of all of GW -- thank you!!!!!,, I've sort of btdt. And I realize that all of this other stuff is basically just re-visited kitchens after all.

And it was traumatizing. It's taken me nearly two years to get back up on this horse and think about finishing up this renovation: we still live in boxes.

My experience with our kitchen was so, well, vast. I did get a lot of quotes. I feel, still, really rotten about all the work that entailed from several folks. I got quotes from the gamut: HD (no plans, just looked at costs), local kitchen shop, another more design-oriented local kitchen shop, a third local shop that runs a maquiladora, a more far-flung very high-end on-site shop, a far-flung low-end on-site multi-generation shop. And then I think there was another one too who we didn't get terribly serious with.

This was over the course of some 6 months or so. It was really, really a big deal.

I ended up going with the maquiladora. And they did produce really beautiful cabinets for me, I think. But again, the process was uber-traumatic. And that process involves other people's expense. They gave me a good price because I had found someone who gave me a better one; they were very hungry, very, um, assertive.

And now I find myself back, with almost as much cabinetry as the original kitchen, just spread about in different nooks and crannies and rooms.

So to get the sort of good price I fear I would have to, basically, waste that many people's time all over again. And I just haven't the stomach for it?!

So ... that's where I happen to be coming from. Sorry, M & others - I wasn't trying to pull the wool over your eyes. But I am sort of looking for a couple kinds of question/answers at once -- how I should have done it, how it should be done, how a KD/artisan/retailer feels and thinks about the process and what they hope/expect -- I am looking for clarification of everyone's responsibilities from all ends of the stick.

Because also, when it came to getting bids for counters from stone men -- wow was that a disaster for me. The expectations from the other end were even higher; the responses rougher. It's all pretty tacit and yet there do seem to be rules. I don't know how you figure these out in advance and even though it's sort of horse-out-of-the-barn already, it's not really. First of all, people do read here for future reference. And second of all for me personally, I'm facing it all, all over again. And I want to be a little bit more sensitive, knowledgable and understanding of what you-professionals expect of me, and what I can reasonably expect of you.

If you follow....

And yes, it is all about feeling out an intimate relationship. I haven't actually ever done well in that department, and being a fence-sitter, I have lived with not-so-great decisions for decades and decades ... so again, I am absolutely and completely not wanting to hop back into the dating game. If it were up to me, I would prefer to die living out of boxes at this point. I don't like dating at all. Not one teensy weensy little bit.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 11:35AM
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Aliris, I know this is about cabinets, but since you brought up granite, it got me to thinking about that process as well. Granite pricing seems to be deliberately opaque. Slab yards near me at least won't give any pricing.

I was working with a fabricator recommended by my contractor, but their quotes were astronomical (when they could even be bothered to give me a quote). How am I supposed to know what I can afford? So I chose a slab and requested quotes from 3 different fabricators. Each was very responsive, but the slab was too expensive for me. I asked each to quote me some other stones that I liked. I did this for 5-7 stones until I found one I could afford. I chose a fabricator to go with.

At the last minute, the slabs I thought were mine turned out to be on hold for someone else. We had to choose new slabs, and different kind of stone altogether. I wasn't thrilled with the new quote from our chosen fabricator, but another fabricator who still really wanted our business gave us a very competitive quote. So we decided to go with him instead. We told the first fabricator, and boy were they pissed at us! They felt we owed them the business. But all we had done was get quotes from them and speak on the phone a few times. We never signed a contract. We weren't trying to be sneaky. Did we do the wrong thing?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Soibean - I had an experience a little bit similar with you on the slab bidding process. Maybe I wasn't somehow as blameless as you? Or maybe not, dunno -- I don't even want to revisit it. I hadn't gotten anywhere near down the pike as far as you before I pissed someone off so mightily he physically threatened me. It was very upsetting and if you care you can likely search on the whole sordid awful experience.

Thing is, I think this kind of discussion, with professionals and consumers right here on this forum, can be very helpful in trying to air expectations and hopes within each industry, and I do think they are different, cab-guys to artisans to fabricators to designers to carpenters and on and on. It is for us consumers honestly bewildering and for sure I believe I and many are frequently, if sometimes unknowingly or at least unwittingly, to blame.

Maybe we should start a separate thread for each trade to have a chance to air their hopes/requirements/expectations from us consumers? That might be super-helpful?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 12:39PM
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With our original budget, we went to 3 kitchen stores. All of them came to the house and gave us the same ball park figure for what we wanted to do. This was without drawings. We then went with #3 and had some drawings done. He did not charge us. He did not detail the drawings with sizes but he did give the drawings to us at one point. He did verbally tell us what sizes the cabs were, so we could have written them down. Once we picked out countertops and tile, he drew up a more detailed drawing and price. He ended up being an ass (excuse my language) and I did not like working with him. I was also frustrated that I couldn't decide on a color of the cabinet based on what my dining room set was. So we dumped him.

2 years later, we upped our budget and we went to another place, we paid $200 for drawings and decided we didn't like his line of cabs and his style. We had another KD over and he gave us the same ball park figure in one visit. I decided to go back to the first KD when we started and talked with a different guy. He came to the house, gave us the same ball park figure as these last two guys. I felt comfortable working with him, picked out a cabinet color and countertop right away. He did not charge us for drawings. Glad I went back to the first KD!

So we only had to pay once for going to 5 (6) kitchen stores. Which to me, was definitely worth it. ALthough I only got detailed drawings from #3 and #4. And I was happy that the first 3 places gave me the same ball park figure as well as the last 3 places.

So meanwhile, we are on week 3 of renovation and so far so good! The worker dude that we have, nice kid - maybe 28ish, but I feel old (43)! He's doing a great job so far and even offered to remove wallpaper in the half bath that they tiled and is also doing some patching in there. Yes, I know, I'm sure that work is built into my price! :-)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 1:01PM
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aliris- to some it will matter that it is not a kitchen, to others it won't, most of us don't mind, some of us like cabinetry for "other" spaces.

as to counters- most yards in my area are wholesale, you need a fabricator to get prices.
Start with fabricators getting ballpark pricing and a sense of how they do things, what yards they use the most and others they have access to.
Have a budget? good tell 'em what it is and ask what stones fit into it- a good one will have a long list to pick from, a bargain basement fabricator will have a shorter list.

Looking for more exotic stones. If you pick a fabricator first you can get a few nicer stones quoted all at once. Then when at the yard they can tell you relative to "whatchamacallit" this is "likely" to a lot a little more or less. The best fabricators can help locate stones that suit what you are looking for, they will know what is out there.

Sure if you've led someone to believe that they have the job and then pull it at the last minute they are more likely to be ticked off. (Sounds like the second fabricator poached the job, lowered it just to steal it.) Kinda like canceling a date an hour before movie time. They'll get over it, won't be the first or last time.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Great thread ailiris!

I have similar concerns about wanting a ball park for a preliminary budget/fuzzy design but not wanting someone to invest a ton of time until we have a house plan solidified. I would feel bad if it changed immensely or worse yet I *LOVED* it and then couldn't have it due to home design changes, etc.

Very helpful and detailed responses. Thanks GW KD's and been there done that consumers. :)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 2:23PM
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Glad you asked this question. It's a lot like being Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole and realized she had no idea what the rules were.

One of the nice things about Home Depot is that you are not costing a designer income or wasting his/her time with your initial cluelessness. Their KDs are paid to help work up plans whether or not the customer eventually buys from them or not. Like you, I worry about that sort of thing. I think Lowe's has now also gone to this system. At the end of a session, you get print outs of what you've been working on. We did this several times so we could take the plans, sit in our kitchen (and later bedroom), and contemplate them to see if we needed to tweak anything. We also re-measured obsessively, put blue tape all over, and poured over the catalog. If at any time, you want to see how the costs are going, they can hit the calculate button and print that out too. We actually passed up a better discount in July because we weren't satisfied that our plan was totally acceptable until early August. Had we been considering multiple lines, we could have drawn up essentially the same plan for each of them. We also popped into the nearest HD -there are several around here - a couple of times to check on random quickie questions, so talked to other KDs. Had we not been entirely happy with the guy we'd been working with, we could have found another we liked better. Actually, we didn't sit down and draw plans until we'd talked casually to several people and found one we connected with.

Not that I'm saying everyone should do the Big Box route, just that there is a certain comfort level in moving the plan along while not worrying about sucking up someone's time when there won't be a job for him/her at the end of the rainbow. In our case, we ended up at HD because we wanted to look specifically at frameless cabinets (yea GW!) and found a particular frameless line that suited us to a T. It was the cabinets themselves that caused us to move on to official designs. In our case, we didn't need someone to plan our kitchen from scratch, we knew 90% what we wanted before we sat down. The other 10% was mostly stuff like toe kicks and finished sides. We really weren't interested in being "sold" stuff that wasn't cabinets. We went elsewhere for those things. The one thing we did need major help with was lighting, an area in which we were truly clueless. For that I walked into the lighting store and threw myself on their mercy. The lighting forum pretty much makes my eyes cross and my mind go blank.

I guess what I'm saying is that Big Box is a comfortable place to make a pit stop, especially if you are feeling really uncertain about how to do this; no income lost, no commitments, better equipped to check out other retail options later. A real bonus is that you get a plan in hand without strings attached.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 2:36PM
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I would think that most KD's know that people shop around so don't feel bad. Find someone who you feel will help bring your dream kitchen to fruition. Also don't feel obligated to go with a designer just because they're nice. At one place I had a designer who was just the nicest person but I wasn't happy with his design. I felt really bad going elsewhere but remember, you're not getting cabinets for free...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 2:43PM
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I am shy about going out and asking for cabinetry quotes when I know it costs the quoter so much time and money to come up with the quote. The cost of doing quotes is like rent and utilities. It's part of the cost of being a contractor.

Get a "ballpark" bid on the SAME set of cabinets to see how the prices fall ... and make sure they all include installation.

I am shy about scrutinizing their work and even judging it . As the client, you NEED to be scrutinizing their work and judging if it's right for you. If you want full traditional with molding and glaze and they are showing you nothing but Shaker stained wood ... it's not a good fit.

not to mention essentially demanding by my purchasing-power that they charge me less Negotiating prices is not wielding your purchasing power like a club.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:12PM
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Thanks for all these thoughts. As I think I mentioned (?) ... I did walk back into the kitchen shop that made our kitchen cabinets, despite having been exhausted by those guys and the process, the combativeness, etc. Their cabinets are very pretty, their price _was_ good once, but is unlikely to be so good now with the improved economy. But I never did love the KD, though probably she was fine -- she was a little bit imaginative, just not very energetic -- I wondered whether I could use the shop again but with a different KD, yet that just seemed like going out with the bf's best friend, and it's always going to have to be uncomfortable. So I finally opted not to do that, just walked in and talked with the old KD.

And she just left here having spent 3.5 hours going over these new needs/plans/measurements. No payment, no agreement ... that's what makes me so nervous! I am more of a good bet for them than someone off the street as I'm potentially a repeat-customer. But I'm also not a thoroughly happy one -- for example, many of the spaces we're talking about now, I have spoken with this KD about at least twice before, but never really ever did receive any real prices or thoughts about or plans for that work... as I said, not overwhelmingly energetic.

So ... it's really hard to muddle your way through this process honorably, I think. I do appreciate hearing from some of these professionals here who say things like 'won't be the first time'; they'll get over it, etc. Because it is nevertheless clear that this is not the case; some people get mad, really mad, about transgressions in the process.

So thanks, all, for helping clarify this process then.

I'm sure the big box stores are hugely variable, dependent on which 25 year old is hired at any given time. I think it's a good point not to count them out of the process at all. I can see that especially with proactive thinking, you can get great work and great value out of them (I sometimes find this to be the case, even, with car dealerships for example - they're often more expensive by the book, but they can and do just take care of stuff in a way that a smaller shop can't/won't).

Yes, I know the cabinets aren't free and this is all the cost of business, etc. But there is such a huge variety of possible behaviour and expectations on all sides -- a little more evenness in the process would be good, if you follow.

Anyway, thanks all. I think it would be good to collect more opinions here if possible. I think everyone should think about this, preferably in advance of their bidding process.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 1:07AM
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Sophie Wheeler

As someone who briefly worked at a box store and still has friends who do, it's NOT true that all that they get paid for is to sit there and do free designs whether they sell them or not. Corporate policy is to NOT give out the designs, just like any box store. Some regional managers are more flexible about this than others, but some will write you up in a heartbeat if you do give the customer anything more than a verbal description.

Box store designers are evaluated on how many project they sell. They may no longer get commissions, but they have a dollar amount sales goal, and if that goal isn't met, then the punitive writeups begin.

I know plenty of good people who LOST THEIR JOBS for not closing enough sales. It was the down economy, but that didn't matter. Not enough dollar figures were being sold. Out they went. One locally was a CKD and had been there 20 years. And that was a lot of the ones that were fired. Older and making more money. They used the high sales goals to pretty much get rid of anyone who had a lot of experience or who made more than about $12 an hour. There were a couple of lawsuits filed over clearing house of the older people, but nothing really came of it.

So, don't think that the "free design service" at a box store comes without strings or obligations. It doesn't. And technically, it shouldn't come with any drawings or a copy of the quote either. Those who do give you something are risking their jobs to do so if the company decides to enforce that.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 8:03AM
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YIKES and Oy Vey.... I see much of "my story" in the preceding posts. I have also relied on GW for insights and education re cabinets and design. Generous contributors ie Jakuvall (one of several) have provided DETAILED info re construction, finishing techniques, and selection parameters for cab mfrs. and KDs. On my list of TTD today is to phone the last KD to be "voted off the island" as I have finally decided on the cab maker and KD for my reno. I know she is going to be disappointed, possibly angry and I feel pretty lousy. Thanks for sharing your experiences; from the perspectives of both "buyers and sellers".

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 8:23AM
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hollysprings...Not sure what box store that you worked at, but I've gotten drawings and detail price quotes from both Home Depot,Lowe's and Menard's.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 8:53AM
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I just finished a kitchen remodel and I got detailed quotes and drawings from the KD at lowes several months before I made up my mind and gave her a deposit. Obviously ymmv but
at my particular big box store this wasn't a problem.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 9:11AM
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I also once worked a Home Depot and have a few acquaintances who do now. Handing out layouts is done and it IS against policy, YMMV.
Two things to consider- 1-you want an honest up front relationship with your KD- it's a two way street.
2- remember the KD has to assess you, your project, and how much effort to put in. Walk in and hand them a Home Depot layout- what will they be thinking?
some will go "ohboy" others not so... Kinda like going on a date and handing a picture of your ex :)

aliris- glad you got a start. Might turn out that she did not put much effort into the "other" rooms because you were not specific enough about doing them, it's a possibility.

I do a fair number of full homes. Often clients vaguely mention other spaces, pick my brain a little (fine with me) but aren't that serious.
Often the "other" rooms are not in the budget, get distracting while doing the kitchen which they need for CO, and are done with stuff from Home Goods or BBB. So unless someone says to me "I want you to price this room..." it goes on the back burner till they bring it up again. Just a thought, sounds like your on your way now anyway. Good luck with it.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 12:30PM
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I think this is so helpful. I think you professionals may not quite realize it because from your side of the fence I can see why it sounds ridiculous, but before reading here (GW, not just this thread; it's been commented on before) I don't think it would really have occurred to me to contact the KDs-not-taken ... I guess that's not quite true. I would have known I should have, but it wouldn't have been quite the moral imperative you paint. Many thanks for putting so many perspectives on record.

Jakuvall -- well ... I hear ya, and perhaps. It's complicated -- we were doing a *huge* kitchen (OK, it's not huge, but all the effort and drama seemed it to me) and were in the midst of it and so your guess of it all just being too much -- that's probably closer to the mark. This person is very hands-off once the installing begins. She's kind of famous for it, her own workers say they wish she'd be around more, reviews online criticize her for it. She's just laid back to the point of, well, ... it's just a job for her and once she's done the job as she sees it, she's done. She was only marginally interested in seeing the final product over here the other day, forced as it was in front of her face. Tis what it is.... and what it is is part of the package that's far from in love with this particular date. OTOH I don't really believe in love ...

Holly - that's really interesting. It really is a tango fraught with issues -- I don't regret this thread and I hope it sticks around for reference.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 1:46PM
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aliris-just an fyi follow up. We are in a similar position and figured with the kitchen being the most expensive room in the house we'd better get a budget narrowed down pronto to keep the surprises from that room toned down.

We were interested in pricing Shiloh after all of the good reviews on here to see if they were within our budget, don't even have a house plan yet. We are planning on meeting with a house designer in March but wanted a rough estimate for the kitchen now since we know roughly what size we'd want.

So - in October we went there and told him straight up that we would like a ball park range for cabinets to see if it was even feasible for us. I asked him to not spend a bunch of time with it since we don't have a firm plan yet, aren't building until 2014, but please quote this layout with painted cabinets, inset drawers, NO RUSH. I mocked up a layout that would be similar to what we'd end up with in size even if it changes shape. He thought he'd be back to us in 3 weeks or so. We didn't hear from him for about 3 months! I figured maybe the job was too small and he wasn't interested...even though I said no rush enough time had passed that I was getting a bit skeptical. Anyhow, he did finally get back with me and we met with him yesterday.

He gave us a price range for what we asked, told us the % up-charge if we were to go up to the next line of cabs he carries and what the major differences were. If we wanted the plan it's $500 retainer and that is deducted from the cost of the order when we get there. Otherwise if we choose to go with him we can submit firm plans when we are ready, he does as many changes as we want, his design cost is part of the cost of cabinets.

I think he spent about an hour with us talking through different things and was very helpful. Best of all it was within our range of what we thought it would cost. Yay!

I didn't feel too badly since I gave him something specific to price but he did still spend his time putting it on google sketch up for us to see a 3d visual and then sitting down to talk with us about options. I hope this information is helpful as you start your process.

Side bar: He did bring up a MW drawer in lieu of one on a shelf as I had sketched - I hadn't thought of using a drawer due to cost and that moment it struck me how easy the slippery slope is of wants (dreams) vs. needs. This is going to be interesting! Dh is thinking it may be worth it to upgrade cabs and me - I'm thinking I'd rather spend that extra on some nicer appliances/bells whistles. Weehoo! Let the juggling begin! :/

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 3:08PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

New home needs serious updating. I am taking all your comments to heart! An architect friend recommended 5 kitchen cabinet resurface/remodel companies in our area. They only work with their dealers or builders. I know from articles I read on yahoo and other online informers that the big box stores have a commission in the price they offer. Wish there was some way to avoid that. Not sure that can happen. Love the websites they have for ideas!


    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 5:03PM
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Hi Folks,

I am FINALLY remodeling my kitchen. We are not changing the layout, simply replacing cabinets, countertops and backsplash. I want custom cabinets (Brookhaven, DeWils, etc), but haven't figured out which one yet. Do I have to hire a KD, or will someone simply measure my kitchen and order cabinets for me? One KD I considered said the approximate cost would be 10% of the cabinet price. Really? $1,500 to simply measure and order my cabinets?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 1:20PM
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I honestly don't want to spend lots of time and effort on my cabinet search. I don't think I want big box mainly because it's installer roulette and also KD roulette. My son once worked in flooring at one of them and he had zero flooring knowledge when he got into that dept.....That's the kind of thing that worries me about bigbox, you must do your research.

I took a photo of my kitchen, measured the cabs and took it to my local store, Cabinets and More. I was considering just changing my thermofoil doors out for white wood, but they told me new cabs wouldn't be much more, and painted is more than stained. So he ballparked it for me. I had him come out yesterday to officially measure and price me the exact same cab layout in maple, and then give me some options regarding drawers and pull-outs etc.

I don't feel bad using their time because my layout is pretty well locked....we tired of our cabinets and floor (formica and vinyl) long before our white cabinets (which still in good shape--just tired of thermofoil). Now I have these granite counters which I considered a long long term investment, so the new cabs must fit where the old ones were. Not much room to innovate except for drawers vs. doors.

I can't even imagine the headache of designing a new kitchen with new counters and cabs and having all those options open! I think the OP is like a lot of us, but you have to get over it, ask for what you need, and if they expect $ they will ask for it. Why do so many of us (me too) feel like WE owe the people we are possibly going to hire anything? They should be trying to woo us. I always feel guilty taking their time too.

I don't know if I'm more happy not having to make big decisions, or more sad having so few options. My kitchen is below. the other wall has pantry with sliding doors, but I won't spend the $ right now for pantry cabinets. Other wall also has fridge with cabinet above and one 24" upper and lower next to the fridge. The blue backsplash will be going, I love the one that Jodi has. I WANT THIS BACKSPLASH!

Here is a link that might be useful: finished kitchen blog, jodi

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Here is what I have found out over the last months spent trying to select cabinets for almost a pull and place.

-Try, try, try to take accurate measurements yourself. Do it enough so you trust these measurements. Crawl around, under and over to get these measurements. Have someone take them with you and work out the differences until your confident. Check for plumb walls and floors with a large level-borrowed if need be. Measure toe kick region, draw out plumbing of sink and read up on DW's, and try to figure out your new sink if it is being replaced. Check specs on each and every appliance: read installation specs. You're basically learning the details of your kitchen. The same goes for ventilation.

-Don't hire a KD until you have spent some time honing your design layout : functional layout and aesthetic. It saves time and aggravation in the end.

-With design and function in hand (and measurements), approach a big box and talk cabinets, finish and design. I received incredible wisdom from a certified KD there, and am still deciding about ordering from him.

-When you pick a designer, check their background and stay with one, by and large, who is certified. I'd suggest a design contract stipulating maximum you're willing to pay up front. Your own design should shorten their work if you have done your homework. Verify their starting measurements: ask them what they are and contrast them with your own and figure out what's up. Make sure they use a recognizable design format, like 2020 etc. Know why you are hiring them, what your goal is with them (design to shop cabinets with, or to proceed to buy lines they rep).

The more you clarify ahead of time for yourself, the more time you will save. Time is precious for us all: wheel spinning is a waste so define your needs and don't be timid in this process.

If the above suggestions do not appeal to you, pay the asked for $1500, but try to make sure your designer has the credentials, experience and interest to earn that money.

Good luck to you!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 2:56PM
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I can't speak for getting quotes from custom cabinet makers but we received quotes from suppliers and it did not take them long at all. It depends on the store I would imagine, but the ones we went to had a database into which they put our layout and cabinet choices and it spit out a price right there. We shopped the same style as much as possible and the exact same cabinet choices.

I did call on one place that sent out a designer (we didn't really need a designer as the layout would be essentially the same) and we would have had to pay $300 for a quote. It seemed silly to pay someone to come up with a scheme we wouldn't be using since we were not making any structural changes.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Thank you all for this thread which is so thoughtful and timely. I entered into this process feeling very sheepish and even down-right intimidated. (Okay I still feel a little bit of both!) I am so respectful of the time it takes to put together a comprehensive quote and layout. But it is part of the process, I think. I think you just have to be honest about your priorities. It is- as someone said above- like dating. And it takes a lot out of you, do you know what I mean? Probably does on both sides. I surely hope I don't have to date many KDs before I find my match. I think you need good chemistry... and there's no way to know if you and the KD will be a match without having an initial conversation and brief back and forth on design. Each professional will have a particular approach and style. Now that I am (just a little) further along, I am more enjoying each step and learning about each detail. I have a small kitchen and I want to really maximize the space while creating the best looking space possible. I want a KD who is passionate and will work collaboratively with me- who will hear my ideas and offer his or her own and will help me work through options. I appreciate having someone who knows more than me and can make sure that what I "want" will actually work in my space.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 7:43PM
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I have a similar "is this right?" type question. We hired a KD, paid a design fee, and she came up with a great plan and quoted two cabinet lines her firm offers. We were up front and told her we would be shopping the cabinet quote around. She quoted using Medallion and Seville (custom).

I just finished meeting with another Medallion dealer and Lowes for Schuler quote. My design is fairly large and involves a lot of cabinets. The Lowes designer was SUPER thorough and even noted a problem with my built in oven fitting in the suggested cabinet by the KD. His quote was also nearly $20k less. The Medallion dealer was not as thorough, and I would need to be very on top of the situation to make sure it is exact, but his quote was also $20k less than the KD firm.

My question is whether I am offending the designer by not choosing to buy cabinets from her? We did pay her for her time and design, and $20k is about half of the total cost, so it's a pretty significant difference.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:03PM
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Something is wrong. 20k in Medallion is huge.
The margins in the business are not hi enough anywhere to account for that kind of a difference, even at the most boutique hi end dealers I know of (who are really unlikely to carry Medallion in the first place)
Something changed, or is missing, or a mistake was made.
But if I'm wrong take the 20K in savings, just check first.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:48PM
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I am a cabinet maker by trade, so I can give you my perspective on the situation. No, you are not offending the KD. Would the KD like you to buy from them? Of course! As part of business, one cannot take it personally because it is not personal.

I lost a project last year to a lumber supply center that has in house kitchen design. I figured it was lost due to the price, which it wasn't. When I asked what it specifically was, the owner said it was my presentation.

They thought my price was very acceptable, my cabinets were obviously way better quality than the KD center, I could get it to them in less time, and they were close friends of a close friend of mine. They just felt the salesman was "a nice guy" and presented better. No matter to me, I am not a salesman and he is not a cabinet maker. Not hiding that fact anywhere. A month after their installation, I hear the never ending statement from the customer "oh I wish I didn't make that decision"

I still did not take it personally. People don't buy the product any more, they buy the feeling it will give them.

Go with your gut feeling. It is usually correct. If you can get the same exact product from someone else for $20K less....does anyone really need to tell you what to do? That is one heck of a mark up.

Also, just to address the original question...just make sure of the number you are getting that you know the difference between an estimate and a quote. I can give an estimate over the phone. A quote is going to cost money because it takes time out of my life to do that.

I truly appreciate the ones here who empathize with us cabinet makers on our time we spend drawing up plans for your kitchen or bath. It takes time. My time. It is not free. If ones intent is to take my FREE design and hard work and shop it around to three other places to get a better price, then I have better things to do, like spend time with my children, because I am not going to be less than a KD center and they are not going to have the attention to details and quality and service that I provide. One can call me on a Sunday evening and I pick up the phone. Does anyone know of a KDCenter that does that?

Now if you pay me to design a kitchen and tell me up front that you will be shopping my design around and getting apples for apples comparison, I have absolutely no problem with that. Don't tell me AFTER I hand you the design.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:49PM
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I bought my cabinets from a local custom cabinet maker for exactly the same reasons your customer bought from the big-box store.

My cabinet maker has a humble, well laid out, professional work shop. They happen to have a few cabinets on display in the front room. No fancy showroom, no massive amount of inventory on hand. Out of the way in an industrial area of town.

Their cabinets are top-notch and cheaper than Kraftmaid etc. Full custom plywood cabinets.

If you're not talking to the person who is actually making and installing your cabinets, or for that matter hanging your drywall, putting the wires in your walls, soldering the copper pipes etc., then you're just wasting your time and money.

Work directly with good quality professionals, not the untrained yabos who 2 weeks ago were stocking lightbulbs on the shelves, and are now 'designers' who have had the 2 hour training course on the in-house design software and can read a catalog and add things up on a calculator.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:01PM
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I'm not in Toronto, but your cabinet maker sounds like mine (right down to the location!). It's 2 brothers, but each works with separate customers - I met Dan the first time I walked in, and I will deal with him start to finish. He is (so far) very conscientious about clarifying details, schedules, what he does and what he doesn't. He will supervise the installation.

He recommended his favorite electrician (though he would be fine if I chose someone else). I won't - the electrician impressed me too. He had good suggestions for my kitchen - some of which involved him doing (and charging for) less work. He, in turn, pointed me to his favorite lighting store for undercab lights, and told me which ones are easiest to install.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:24PM
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This is such a timely thread. I'm new to GW...at least for posting. I'm planning for a reno this fall and am in the process of researching cabinets and everything else - this is a full time job - whew!!! I completely understand why folks are disappointed when the finished product is not exactly as they envision.

Anyway, I just wanted to say I appreciate all the insight provided on this topic. It's very helpful - it will make me more conscientious in my requests and diligent in my research. Hopefully, I will have a layout to post soon to help with that process.

Good luck Aliris and thanks for initiating this discussion!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:40PM
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Great thread, thanks to all contributors! I think the dating analogy is apt, and I dread the inevitable "it's over" conversations with the guys I'm not choosing :(
Learning what kind of service I needed was a journey in itself - I thought I just needed cabinets but I actually needed a designer, and a plumber, electrician, cabinet builder, flooring installer, etc...so at this point I'm pretty sure I'm going with the guy who can do a turn-key job for an inclusive price: a general contractor with employees. This may be the beginning of a bigger relationship (the bathrooms look bad now, will be worse in comparison to new kitchen) or I may learn enough to be my own GC in the future.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 10:12AM
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