KD not stepping up. Looking for advice!

acgummadApril 19, 2013

Hi all,
I really need some opinions...
Our CKD is not stepping up on our kitchen reno project. We have so far paid him a cabinetry deposit of $2K on a $100K kitchen. We have to order cabinetry in one week, and he hasn't shown us more than one cabinetry sample. He is days late providing detailed cabinetry allowances, never noticed that his appliance outfit hadn't given us appliance quotes with builder discounts in them until we forcibly asked about it, and we have had to rely heavily on the builder to value engineer the kitchen design because the KD isn't doing anything to get the project down to budget. I have received no design timeline in the two months we've been working together, and have no line of sight into when we make what decisions. What do I do? I am sick over it, and in tears on a regular basis trying to get his attention. The builder is incredible. I would call this whole thing off if it weren't for him. My husband just wants to walk away from the KD altogether.

What should I do??

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If this is at the beginning, it will not get better. Why don't you want to get another KD?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:21PM
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not sure this would be at the beginning. the entire spatial plan is done. that piece, he's really stepped up at. it's the cabinetry, countertops, flooring, fixtures, tiles, and everything else... he hasn't said boo about it, isn't staying on top of the appliance stuff, and has done virtually nothing to faciliate a cabinetry selection, which is $35K of the budget, alone. it's not that i'm against working with another KD, but i hadn't honestly considered it given that we've built the entire plan so far with him.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Have you talked to him about this? He has to know HO's usually don't make decisions quickly.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:45PM
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Holly- Kay

The same thing is happening to me and I am so frustrated. I have 14k deposit down. We signed a contract the end of Feb. He met with us once at the house and once at the shop. He mismeasured and had to come out again. Since then I have talked to him three times on the phone and I can't even get a hardware number from him. My third attempt to get the count was this past Monday. I called his office, the receptionist put me through but it went right to vm. He still hasn't called me back. I told hubby I am ready to walk away from the whole deal. 14k is a lot to walk away from but honestly I don't think he cares at all about this project. There are some changes I want to make and all I need is some communication from him.

When we signed the contract he said the cabs would take approximately six weeks to make. I already have my appliances and faucet ordered. I paid 50% on all those items with the rest payable upon installation. If the kd doesn't come through I am still doing the floors and we go with a different company.

I am mad and sad at the same time. Mad at myself for not being more cautious, mad at the kd for not communicating with me, and for pumping out a plan that is not totally satisfactory. I am sad because I have waited for years to do this and the kd is turning a joyful, fun experience into a gut wrenching nightmare.

I know there are wonderful kds out there as many are on this forum. I totally trusted our guy because he did a previous project for us and it was outstanding but I just want to get my money back (I know that won't happen) and find a kd and cabinet company that wants my business. I will try one more time to contact him but I don't have high hopes for this happening.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:52PM
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have not talked to him about it. i don't know what to say. i honestly don't know how to have a conversation like this with people. i have no support from my husband, because he doesn't have a tolerance for stuff like this. if he hires someone who isn't delivering, he walks away from it. he doesn't bother trying to salvage things. that's what i do. he's responsive, but doesn't seem engaged. what can i say that will let him know i need to see a higher level of engagement and commitment, and more proactiveness from him? and how can i give him examples of what that looks like, so he understands what i need from him?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:58PM
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Honestly, you won't be able to change him. It will probably be a constant battle. I think people who are able to just move on are smart.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:01PM
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i hate it when people agree with my husband. lol. thanks a lot, snookums. maybe i'll talk to the builder and ask his perspective. we have a great relationship with him. he knows the KD very well and has worked with him a ton. perhaps a conversation with him will adjust my expectations. or should i go straight to the KD and talk to him first?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:13PM
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That's a good idea. Talk to your builder/GC, let him handle the situation. See if he can get him enlisted. One last effort. But don't make quick decisions!

At least you got a good floor plan out of this.

I do think your husband has a good point of view, to just find someone else. We women tend to want to work things out.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:18PM
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i hadn't really thought of talking to our builder about this, because it's our KD who brought on the builder. so, i consider our primary relationship to be with the KD, even though we've all been working together for the past two months. but over that time period, the builder has really 'brought it,' and the KD has not. so, perhaps you're right. maybe i should just turn to the builder and ask for his advice. he's got a lot of hours into this and we haven't committed to anything yet, so i know he wants this to work out.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:22PM
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I see. Thought it was the other way around. Your GC's problem with his contractors. I think you could still talk to him about how this guy works and see if he will still do the installation if you get another designer. Maybe it's just not a good match with this KD, if you have different working styles. That probably won't change.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:27PM
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snookums, thanks for your thoughtful replies on this. at the end of the day, i want it to work out, so i feel like i owe the KD an opportunity to listen to my expectations, and step up. perhaps the builder can give me some advice on how best to approach this. then at that point, if things don't improve, we can move on. i don't want to be rash. at the same time, i can't stay upset like this as the project progresses either.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Sophie Wheeler

First of all, IS it his responsibility to help you with all of the selections that you listed, or is he only there for cabinet design? What type of relationship was spelled out in writing at the beginning? Or are you assuming that because he is a KD that he will provide those services to you? Not every KD will do so, and not every KD even has resources to do so. Usually, when working with an upscale builder, he has a ID on staff or that he works with to assist customer with a timeline for color and style selections for the home and the KD consults with the ID and homeowner on the cabinets and perhaps counter tops and the ID does the rest.

Have you actually selected your appliances? You cannot do anything more than a preliminary design without the appliances selected. You say that the project is over budget, but did you share your budget with him at the beginning? Your want list? Were the two realistically compatible?

I'm not defending the lack of communication here, but the relationship and responsibilities isn't clear, and perhaps that is the real root of the problem.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Sounds like a plan! With some insight from the builder before you head in, lol. Ask him how he works, how the project will unfold, what each of your expectations are. As a customer, you need to know the work plan and responsibilities!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:50PM
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Circus Peanut

It may be productive to put your concerns in writing, particularly as the KD appears to have difficulty contacting you in a timely manner when you have questions. This will accomplish two major things: gives a solid, numbered list of issues/questions for him to answer -- and for both of you to track -- and it also provides you with documentation of the communication difficulties should worse come to worst and you do have to fire him. Some folks are better when things are listed in front of them than relying on conversational notes.

It certainly needn't be confrontational, simply factual: "we are planning to achieve XX by YY date and urgently require your input on the following decisions". List the concrete issues: cab selection, countertop, appliances, whatever decisions are keeping you up at night.

Absolutely have a casual chat with your builder to discover his understanding of the scheduling process. I'd recommend portraying the difficulties in the most positive light: What have you heard from the KD on the schedule for installing xyz? rather than Why on earth hasn't this bozo been helping us more?

In writing messages and having convos, try to emphasize the ultimate goals of the process, keeping communication productive and forward-looking. (You can vent here to the forum all you like about the guy's unprofessionalism and/or screwups, people here really understand and have infinite empathy for what you're going through.)

Crossing fingers for you!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Holly- Kay

Circuspeanut, thank you for posting about keeping conversations positive. I am going to call our kd today and just ask about progress and what the time frame is for install. I know he isn't open to any changes so I am just going to scrap the idea of a hood and maybe switching the location of the double oven. My new kitchen will be far better than the old one anyway.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 10:13AM
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I guess I don't need advice so much on the 'how' to have the conversation, as the 'what' to say. He is responsive, but he's not driving anything. I am constantly asking him what the next step is. I need a schedule. Not for build, but for design and plan. I'm just going to ask for this. But what approach should I take in addressing the issue that overall, he's just not being proactive? I am very disappointed that the appliance quote was supplied to both of us nearly two months ago, and he never looked at it to see what we were focusing on, or that we erroneously hadn't been given builder discounts. This bothers me a great deal, as it suggests there are other things falling through the cracks that I don't know about.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 11:49AM
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"Some folks are better when things are listed in front of them than relying on conversational notes."

This is interesting. I find that people immediately gloss over or look like they want to run when a "list" or something organized comes out. They seem to just want to work casually, flying by the seat of their pants. A designer I knew said he wouldn't work for a certain occupation because they had all these "lists".

I'm guessing they think you're going to waste some of their precious time (money) being all organized and thorough about things.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:27PM
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Sophie Wheeler

I'm sorry, but you still haven't answered my question as to whether or not the KD does provides the services that you are asking for here. Or if you are merely assuming that because the word "designer" is there that they do assist in all of the coordination of the decorative elements and assume construction management scheduling duties. Construction management and coordination of the different trades and installs is typically provided by the general contractor, not the kitchen designer! So, it's good that you plan to talk to the GC about your expectations.

Communication is a two way street!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Sound like he's a good KD, but not a good project manager. If that's the case and you know he wont change then move on to someone else. Use the design, but get someone else to implement it.

However maybe he never intended to be the project manager in the first place, so that's the first thing you need to clarify with some direct questions. The first being, Who is responsible for project managing this reno?

It's good that you can talk to your builder and that he's been helpful, but if it isn't his responsibility he's going to eventually have to move on.

You mentioned you don't like to have these kinds of conversations with people and I may be way off, but if you're passive, he may sense that and you can pretty much expect to get walked on going forward. I hope you can find it in you to get tough and let DH know you need a little more support from him too.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:02PM
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7 posts so far from the OP in this and it's still unclear if you are dealing with a design/build firm here, or merely a cabinet supplier. It's unclear if you are dealing with a Builder General Contractor for a new build or a renovation contractor for an existing structure. It's unclear if you actually have a contract with any of these people. Or if you've received bids for specific services.

You imply that you are getting estimates from different trades for different portions of the project. That is the role of a General Contractor. Are you assuming that role in this project?

Please clarify, in writing, the exact relationship that you have with each of these professionals. That will help us and help you. And yes, I am implying based on all of the postings so far is that the communication problem could perhaps be on your end.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:17PM
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OP may just be learning the language and organization of the construction industry at this point. I would think he would have said "that's not my job" by this time or spelled out terms, the process, and what he does do already, like at the outset. That is, after all, his job.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 14:28

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:26PM
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GreenDesigns, my impression is you've missed a lot, here. Not sure it's communication so much as it is, you seem to have a lot of assumptions. My original post clarified, perfectly, the role of the person I'm struggling with. He's a CKD. Not a GC, not part of a design/build firm. He does kitchen design. That's it. He introduced me to the builder we're using. They work with each other often, though they are not part of a design/build firm. The CKD is stand-alone, and sells Grabill. The builder is separate, as well. Additionally, where you see that I imply I'm getting different bids from people? I havent, and I don't plan to. ?? I have one CKD, one builder, one ID. Not sure where the confusion is. Have you carefully read this thread in it's entirety?

As for your question on contracts, I stated that, as well. The contract is with the CKD because they, generally, expect a cabinetry deposit up front in order to start design. I have no contract so far with the builder.

All, it's important to separate out these two pieces for the sake of this discussion: the CKD is doing the design, for which I would expect a timeline and a line of sight into when decisions need to be made relative to the design - cabinetry, countertops, flooring, lighting, tile, fixtures, etc. I would also expect a timeline from the builder, which I will get once we demo. Up until that point, however, my expectation is that the CKD is driving the planning piece of this work, and that I am provided with an advanced line of sight into when all of the design decisions need to be made, and what each decision's predecessors are.

Honestly, my hunch is that he's not as interested in 'picking stuff out' and would just be happy if I used my ID for that, but at the very least, I would expect some service as it relates to the cabinetry he sells, and some assistance in making sure I'm getting what I need from an appliance perspective, since he's relegated me to one source that he uses for all of his clients.

If, where I'm off, is that I have an expectation that the CKD take the lead on driving the design part of the planning, please let me know. Perhaps, I do need to level-set expectations, but then who's managing the design part of the project?? My assumption, indeed, was that this was the role of the designer, and that when demo started, my PM from the build firm would pick up. So far, our builder has been driving all of the conversations and facilitating all of the decisions relative to the design, and this has surprised me because I don't see this as the builder's role (or expertise).

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:23PM
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hollysprings - i just saw your post asking for clarity on his role. his role is to create the spatial plan for the kitchen, design the cabinetry, and provide guidance on decorative elements and finishings. it is the role of the builder to implement the design and do the build. he has been great with the spatial planning, i have seen no output in the form of cabinetry design or decorative elements. cabinetry order supposedly goes in on may 1, and i've seen nothing. as is common in most instances, the builder is managing his subs.
as for your question about upfront communication, i provided clear expectations on requirements for spatial design, cabinetry design, and decorative elements. I also provided him a budget at the time we signed the contract, and have held firm to it, though he has yet to design to it.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:33PM
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You've easily expressed your expectations here, just do the same with your KD.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:51PM
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Yes, exactly! Make a written list and go down the list in the conversation, after emailing it to him.

However, I have to say that you are doing things somewhat backwards from how many major renovations work. A contractor is usually the first trade engaged, and he is the one who sets the schedule and gives you referrals to other professionals to be used on the job, like the KD, or the ID or the landscape architect or whatever other professionals will be needed to complete the project. The ID and KD coordinate under the umbrella of the GC's leadership, not the other way around. And the ID usually takes the lead on decorative finishes, not the KD. The KD's usual role in a renovation like this is to create the space plan and cabinet order in conjunction with input from the GC as to feasibility of the technical aspects of the plan and with input from the ID as to materials that satisfy the ID's lead on colors and textures.

It's sometimes best if the GC hires both the ID and the KD rather than the homeowner as then he is for sure the single go to person to assume responsibility for everything. With 3 different people hired by a homeowner muddying the field, you often have miscommunication and no one is willing to step up and assume responsibility for the lead, (or they all fight for it, which is worse!) That is what is appearing to happen here. You need to formally designate whom the buck stops with. It can be the ID, or the KD, or the GC, but the chain of command needs to be very clear. Typically either the ID or KD can assume project management if discussed at the outset, but for an additional fee beyond just the fee for their professional design services. But, it's partially already what you're paying the GC for, so having him assume the project management is a bit of a given.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:47AM
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It doesn't sound to me like the OP is asking the KD for project management. At least half the time I am hired before a GC. I'd expect a CKD to be producing drawings on the order of the test-cabinet plan and elevations, mechanical and electric plans.
I also don't find it uncommon to be responsible for the front end of the timeline- seeing that everything I suppy will be finalized and ordered to meet a timeline. I'm not responsible for the GC's timeline. I am responsible to have or get any samples needed for what I provide. I also believe it is part of the job to offer ways to make a budget OR inform the client early that they must change expectaions, brand, or budget.
My take is simply be direct without confrontation. The sooner you get to that the easier it is to remain unemotional.
Hollykays problem sounds more difficult but should be dealt with as quickly as possible also.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:46AM
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"I know he isn't open to any changes so I am just going to scrap the idea of a hood and maybe switching the location of the double oven."

I would be pretty bothered if my KD wasn't open to changes I wanted. Maybe I am missing part of the story here. Have you already gone through a lot of versions of the design, and the KD has said "no more," or does he just do 1 design and you are expected to take it without changes? If there is a good reason he can give for why something you want will not work (i.e., budget, bad flow, etc.) that is one thing, but just refusing to make changes because he doesn't want to would not fly with me. You are spending a lot of money for this remodel, and you should get what you want, unless there is a reason why what you want is a bad idea.

You might want to post your design plan here for comment -- that helped me improve my plan. If you think you might want to move the ovens, but are not sure, you can get opinions here about which option looks better, before you "bug" your KD with waffling.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 2:31PM
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Why don't you just send a friendly but firm email to your CKD and let him know that you would like to meet to discuss A,B, and C so that your project can continue to move forward. Insist on anappointment to discuss your agenda and set up a timeline for moving forward. I might even have the GC participate in the meeting to ensure everyone knows the timeframes and what's involved cause how its built will effect the cabinetry.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 5:58PM
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" i provided clear expectations on requirements for spatial design, cabinetry design, and decorative elements. I also provided him a budget at the time we signed the contract, and have held firm to it, though he has yet to design to it. ", -

Did you have follow up discussion(s) to make sure that your CKD and you are on the same page? If you both are, do you have means to hold him accountable, such as to receive, review and rework his outputs on specific due dates? such as making incremental payments based on the work completed? such as specify penalty clauses if deliveries do not meet expected quality and deadline?

Even if you have clearly communicated expectations to each person on your team, such as GC, PM, ID, CKD...etc, and yourself, did you share roles and responsibilities with/among all of them? Did you arrange frequency of communication channels, such as weekly meeting, emails and phone calls as needed? Did you give them feedback, and listen to their inputs periodically?

Have you received buy ins /agreements for each role's inputs/outputs and dates for each integration point? Does everyone understand the hierarchy of taking, giving orders? Does everyone know how to communicate if anything goes wrong?

Have you periodically reviewed your plan with people on your project and make adjustments and take corrective actions?

"i honestly don't know how to have a conversation like this with people. i have no support from my husband, because he doesn't have a tolerance for stuff like this. if he hires someone who isn't delivering, he walks away from it. he doesn't bother trying to salvage things. -

This is your project, your time, your money and sanity. You have to have a conversation with anyone you have issue with, and you have to do it yourself. You may ask GC and PM to talk to other subs, what if you have issues with GC or PM? State the fact; focus on the task on hand. Present your thoughts in an honest, straightforward way, be considerate and nice. Most important, listen carefully, read between the lines if necessary.

Anyone can fire a person who does not, or seems not, deliver. Sometimes, you may not be able do that due to available pool of talents, or budget or time or various reasons. The challenge is to prevent project from being off track, and to recover it back to the planned schedule and budget.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 8:44PM
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OK, so first of all, I want to thank GreenDesigns, jakuvall, and azmom, in particular, for this last round of feedback. Your points were very helpful. There are some things I need to do.

To clarify on a couple of comments: GreenDesigns, it's not backwards here, for some reason. It's more common than not to hire a CKD for concept to completion. Maybe it's because there's not a lot of reno work going on. For new home construction, what you say about the builder being contracted, and then bringing on the ID and CKD is absolutely the way it happens in my area, as well. But according to my CKD, most reno projects are being done by his own network of subs, and so builders are not often used. So with his clients, we're going to the CKD first, determining scope as a result of the initial plan that gets put together, and that's when we decided we needed to bring in a builder.

To jakuvall's points - this is exactly where I'm at. I don't think my expectation that the CKD provide a line of sight into when decisions have to be made is unreasonable, or that I should pay extra for PM services. I think this is ridiculous. I'm paying a kitchen designer $35,000 for cabinetry in a 10x12 kitchen, who is also responsible for selections of countertops, tile, and finishings. He can certainly drive that bus. I don't expect the GC to be responsible for this piece, nor do I expect the CKD to be responsible for the build timeline. But again, I see two phases here: design and build. I expect the CKD to present and manage a timeline associated with design decisions for the design phase, and I expect the builder to present and manage a timeline associated with implementation.

On another note, I spoke with the builder today. He said this is typical of our CKD's approach. He needs to be pushed on quite a bit, apparently. On the one hand, I feel somewhat better that my expectations don't see to be out-of-whack. On another hand, I do need a designer with strong PM skills, and I clearly don't have that. The builder is willing to help with that piece because he cares about the experience we have, and knows we've hired experts for this because we don't the time, ourselves, to dedicate to managing this. He also is feeling a bit of the pinch with decisions lagging, knowing his demo date is coming up and we still haven't seen cabinetry options from the CKD, and the order has to get placed in a week. Lastly, he offered that the CKD might have confusion relative to what role he is expected to play in some of the finishings, as he is accustomed to the ID driving that piece. Despite the fact that I had already told the CKD that the ID was playing less of a front-end role, and more of a back-end "yes, that palate will work with the rest of the house that we will be designing for," the builder has offered that both of them might benefit from some clarity. He offered, himself, that he is confused about who's making what decision. So, clearly, I need to step up and carve this out for everyone.

Based on a successful call with the builder and all of your input, I plan to get the GC, CKD, ID, and us together to piece this out one-by-one so everyone knows what I need them to do. Then I'm going to ask for timelines for both phases, confirm the budget, and request weekly meetings with them.

I wish that the CKD had taken charge of this. I've never been through this, admittedly, and don't know what I don't know. I thought I had been clear at the on-set that this was a new experience for me, and that I needed him to inform me of what, and how, all of this should be done. I made the assumption that the CKD took PM responsibility for the design phase of the project. I still think I'm right about that in theory, but clearly only the real-life situation is all that matters. :/

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:10PM
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