Help us decide between two contractors for a kitchen remodel

vdinliApril 24, 2014

We are finally ready to get started on our kitchen remodel but can't seem to choose between two contractors. Both have excellent references, professional, licensed and insured, no complaints with the local consumers affairs office in the last 7 yrs. The job is a small galley kitchen but it is complicated as it involves removing some loadbearing walls and replacing with flush headers. They are both similar in pricing with Contractor 1 being about 1000$ more but that doesn't bother us too much as we are spending lots more$$ than that!
Contractor 1 is a smaller firm, has been in business for 30 yrs, only does word of the mouth jobs, lives nearby, has done jobs in the neighborhood. He spent over 2 hrs on his initial visit going over every single detail.FWIW, he said he does only one job at a time and didn't think our project would be more than a month from start. He was proactive and came up with a design with his recommended KD so he could give us a fair quote. He has promised us to get a discount on the cabinets-though we won't know actual nos till we sign, it looks like it will be a 8-10% discount on top of the discounted price at that store. My reservations with him are I am not sure how well he will handle the structural part of work. He also was quite sure he couldn't save the hardwood floors under the tile and I didn't particularly like his KD recommendation.
Contractor 2 is a much larger firm that builds houses on a regular basis and did extensive structural work on a friend's house. So I know he can handle the structural part of the project. He is much more tech savvy but as a younger guy has been in business only for the last 15 yrs or so. He is not local to us but does do jobs this far out. He does beautiful work but we probably won't be able to use his sources for many things. We will have to source our own cabinets, fixtures etc which we don't have a problem with. But obviously, we won't get a discount through him for cabinets etc. He didn't think saving our hardwoods would be a problem and I got the impression he will be more willing to listen to our ideas. My reservation with this guy is he straight out told us this will be a small project for him that he will fit in with his other jobs. He also thinks it will take 6 weeks for our job. We will also incur additional architect expenses with this guy as the architect we hired is not responding to us anymore. But that is a whole another story.
Sorry, this is so long! If you made it this far, do you think one is better than the other? We had such a nightmarish time with our last project with a different guy who took 7 months for a 2 month project that it has made us more than a little terrified at making a bad choice again.
Thank you in advance for any opinions you have to share.

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Texas_Gem

If it were me, personally I would go with the local guy.

Having to source all your own materials as well as being fit in with other jobs is more of a negative, IMHO, than not being able to save hardwood floors. Is it possible to go with a different KD with this guy? Is a KD absolutely necessary to you? (I only ask because I never used one for my project so I don't know what all the fuss is about)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:35AM
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jakuvall

#1-if he is right about floor you won't be surprised, if he saves it be happy. Use a different KD or tell them what you want. After 30 years a simple load bearing wall should not be a big deal, really.
With either get plan stamped for structural changes.
2 cents.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:39AM
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robo (z6a)

I went with the equivalent of no. 1 and was very happy. Loved not being squeezed in between jobs. Of course it ended up taking 9 weeks, not the 6 he estimated.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:00AM
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sas95

I would go with #1, the main being the one job at a time thing. Our contractor worked that way, and it became clear pretty quickly how valuable it is to have someone dedicated to your project.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:01AM
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jellytoast

I agree with the others. Bigger isn't always better.

Here is one thing, though, about your post that gives me pause ... "I got the impression he would be more willing to listen to our ideas." Impressions can be wrong. If this is important to you, it should be discussed with both contractors so there is no misunderstanding. If you got the impression that the one contractor wouldn't listen to your ideas, what gave you that impression? It could be that your idea just won't work (ie. saving the floors?).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:42AM
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Trebruchet

I'm not impressed that neither of these guys was able to close a sale. Each obviously has all the skills they need but one.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:22AM
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sjhockeyfan325

Being at the tail end of the 5-week project that has now gone on for 7 months, I would definitely choose the one who will dedicate himself to your project only, all other things being equal.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 11:51AM
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vdinli

Thank you so much for all your opinions. We are leaning towards Contractor #1 too.
Trebruchet, we are probably to 'blame' for that as we have been taking our time to weigh all our options. once bitten twice shy..
jellytoast, It might be a minor thing but we have this one area where we would like to fit in our fridge and use the left over space for a really tiny broom(6") closet. Contractor 1 and his KD were like 'that is not going to work'. Contractor 2 was open to that idea. Maybe it is just a communication issue and I will check with Contractor 1 again as to why he thinks it won't work.
sas95 and robotropolis, that is what I am looking for too-a professional dedicated to the job. He is doing a project at my friend's house currently and she has good things to say about him.
jakuvall, appreciate your opinion. I am still evaluating which cabinet company to use but if we go through his KD, I will have to be more on the ball. One of Contractor 1's referrals did say he took down walls for them but was not sure what kind of beam he put in place. When you mean stamped structural plans, do you mean from an architect? We had an independent architect draw up initial plans for us but we are not able to get him to clarify something for us now that he has our money already! I am not sure if it is just our area or our knack for picking tradespeople is lousy!
Texasgem, I agree local is best especially down the road if a problem arises. I have spent countless hours here and have a rough plan drawn up with the help of folks on this forum. But I would be more comfortable with a KD making sure the details like trim, fillers end panels are done right.
Thank you all. I hope and pray this is one decision I won't regret!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:18PM
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sjhockeyfan325

use the left over space for a really tiny broom(6") closet

Well, although it probably could work technically-speaking, if the space is 6", the actual opening would only be about 4-1/2" at most. Maybe they're just saying it's a waste of dollars? I have a 6" lower cabinet with 4-1/2" of useable space. Could I fit a broom in there if it were taller - yes. Would I want to - no. It's really a PITA cabinet - we are debating using it for the pull-out towel rack (its next to the sink) or just using it for some tall flat items like cutting boards.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:23PM
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malabacat_gw

Another vote for #1. I think either will be fine, but local and one project at a time is pretty much a deal sealer. What made you think he wouldn't listen to your ideas? Or listen as well? Not having to source your own materials is a bonus imo.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:26PM
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ILoveCookie

One more vote for the local contractor (#1).

``Use the left over space for a really tiny broom(6") closet.``

We also have about 6" left over space, between a fridge and a wall. When I brought up the idea of doing a narrow pullout, our KD said it's really not worth the money -- it would cost a couple grand, if I remember correctly. She suggest that if we really want to do it, we should expand it to at least 12" wide to make our money worth. We decide to just do a fake panel.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:37PM
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Texas_Gem

As far as the broom closet is concerned, check the link I put at the bottom. Totally doable.

Here is a link that might be useful: 4

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:48PM
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jellytoast

Tre, you've made this "closing the sale" comment before and I really just don't get it. I think you are wrongly assuming that consumers need or want to be "sold" something. Many people, myself included, want time to compare options, give things some thought, get other bids, etc. If a contractor tries to push me into a commitment before I'm ready, that is one sure way to get me to look elsewhere. Actually, I am impressed with the Homeowner that they have the presence of mind to think things through thoroughly before making a commitment. And I don't see any shortcomings with either contractor because they allowed the homeowner the time and space necessary to make their own decision.

Vinudev, contractor 2 may have been "open" to the idea of a broom closet, but he did he actually say he could do it? If it is that important to you, you should find out for sure if he can make it work.

This post was edited by jellytoast on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 13:16

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:51PM
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hbrrbh

Slightly off topic, but check out this option from the Containter Store as a possible alternative to a narrow broom closet

Here is a link that might be useful: Store and Slide Tool Rack

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Trebruchet

jellytoast:

"Closing a sale" has nothing to do with high pressure sales tactics. I am a terrific closer and I will give you $10,000.00 for each of my customers that will swear out an affidavit saying they felt pressure from me. Customers don't feel pressure if you're doing it right.

Closing is a skill like any other such as learning to polish an edge or finish drywall. It is providing the information in the right way to get a commitment from buyers. It saves them time, money, and aggravation as perfectly exemplified here.

Contractors unable to close do themselves, and especially their customers, no favors.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:21PM
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jellytoast

With all due respect, Tre, I completely disagree. COMPLETELY. Closing the deal is the least important skill I want my contractor to have. Sure, comparing bids can be aggravating, but it is certainly not a waste of time or money. You know why con artists are so successful? Because they are skilled at closing the deal. That skill has ZIP to do with construction.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:29PM
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Trebruchet

jellytoast:

In my countertop selling days, I showed up at an empty-nester couple's home. I do my dog and pony show and she's in love but he's not buying. She tells me that she's been waiting 40 years for these countertops. You know what I did?

Shutup.

Yep. More listening and less talking. She's gonna close the deal for me, all I gotta do is be patient. I don't even need to address his concerns, because by closing this deal I am addressing his concerns. As a man married over 35 years, I know what this guy wants and needs and it ain't countertops, it's a happy wife.

I got the sale, she got her tops, and he got his happy wife. Win, win, win.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 15:51

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:48PM
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don_in_colorado

Well stated, Jellytoast.

Don B.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:51PM
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jellytoast

"Shutup.

Yep. More listening and less talking."

If this is the skilled way to close a sale, I'm all for it! Present your dog and pony show and then let the customer decide.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:53PM
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Trebruchet

jellytoast:

You notice how you take a skill like any other needed to be successful in this business and equate it with con artists?

How would you feel if a skill required in your field was associated with cheating?

It is an unfair stereotype and I resent it.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:56PM
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jellytoast

LOL. You're kidding, right?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:07PM
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snookums2

Agree with jellytoast. Not a consideration or characteristic I'd be looking for. Quite the opposite.

Last thing I want to deal with is manipulative sales & marketing tactics. Total turnoff. Trust and deal breaker.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:14PM
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snookums2

I can see your dilemma. I'd probably go with #1 too. Just make sure a structural engineer (or architect?) specs the wall changes and have it inspectyed to make sure they followed through correctly with the construction.

Better luck this time around!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:19PM
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jgopp

#1 sounds like a guy I work with a lot. Would give my vote for #1.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:45PM
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jakuvall

" When you mean stamped structural plans, do you mean from an architect? We had an independent architect draw up initial plans for us but we are not able to get him to clarify something for us now that he has our money already! "
If the plans from the architect specify the beam -size and type, should indicate where the load is carried down to footings or rest over existing bearing wall or foundation- and his letter head or stamp is on it then fine. If in doubt and you can't get the architect to play nice I'd hire an engineer just to spec the beam- future protection for $2-500. Sometimes contactors have a relationship with an architect or engineer who is willing to simply stamp plans for a small fee so long as they are well drawn. I do it all the time.

As to the 6" broom-I've looked into this recently- I'll try to solve anything....
... if framed cabinets you have a 3" opening less clearance for the door, the Rev-A-Shelf unit referred to in the linked thread is no longer available, the one from the container store can work in a frameless cabinet but would be a bear to work properly in a framed cabinet. That leaves a duct tape cob job on site for mounting door to wall and panel to the side OR spending a silly amount of money-FWIW while I might explain all of that once the job was mine, I might also tell you up front it was a bad idea. My job is to (use my experience) to solve problems while helping clients from creating them-I prefer to be honest over being loved.

tre- the national average closing rate in kitchens is 33%.
Nature of how people need to shop for them.
I'm not a salesman, nor am I a closer but run between 60-80% partly do to a high referral base partly because we close earlier than most. I put little effort into closing. Just bringing on a new assistant designer and specifically told her that closing is NOT a priority. My last assistant with 30 yrs in the business couldn't close the barn door. In kitchens I don't see it as useful to the business. My clients close (themselves) the ones that don't are well- "not my clients" There are lots of places, dealers, kd's; I'm not for everyone, nor do I want everyone :)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:04PM
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Trebruchet

"LOL. You're kidding, right?"

No.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:21PM
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jellytoast

Well, you cracked me up regardless!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:23PM
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Trebruchet

jellytoast:

I'm glad that you find stereotyping of an essential part of my skill set and job requirements so amusing.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:27PM
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jellytoast

Give me a break, Tre. What I find amusing is how you accuse me of stereotyping whenever I disagree with you. I find it absolutely hilarious.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:57PM
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Trebruchet

jellytoast:

There is no accusation, there is the written record here. Read it for yourself.

I explained the value of closing to contractor and client alike. I explained how it is not high pressure if it is done correctly. I explained how this is a skill like any other to be learned and perfected.

You compared me to a con artist.

Funny stuff.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:01PM
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jellytoast

Nonsense. If you want to take my comment and apply it negatively to yourself, that's on you.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:45PM
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lindanewc

I've been in sales for about 20 years and I always resent it when people say that sales people manipulate because I believe a good salesperson gives the buyer enough information to make an informed decision. I think what Trebuchet means when he says they aren't closing, is that they aren't addressing the concerns of the buyer enough for them to make a decision. Tre gives the "dog & pony show" i.e. informs them of the choices and then let's them make a decision based upon the information he gave them.

Jakuvall, you say you're not a salesman nor a "closer" but your definition of what you do actually fits my definition of a good salesperson: address the concerns of the consumer and give them enough information to make an educated decision. In a nutshell, you have enough education and belief in your skillset to instill a confidence in the buyer that you're the person for the job. That's why you have a better than average closing ratio: you're authentic.

I'm very proud to be a salesperson and a closer.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:35AM
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Trebruchet

"I'm very proud to be a salesperson and a closer."

LindaNew:

Me too. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:50AM
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Trebruchet

When I had my shop in Northwestern Ohio, I had a very reputable CKD as a regular customer. She hired a guy I'd worked with for design/sales in her beautiful showroom.

I hadn't see "Bob" in a while so I asked "Nancy" what happened to him.

"He couldn't close." she replied.

They had to part ways. Nothing personal, but after you've spoken to so many people, did so many designs, and "let them think about it" you've got to come up with a deal eventually. This is business life or death.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:02AM
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mdln

If you are really unsure, get a third opinion - to help point you in the right direction.

In medicine, I try to do this whenever patients are having difficulty choosing a specialist or complex treatment protocol. Many times they end up going with the 3rd referral; perhaps, because they finally know all the right questions to ask.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 3:09AM
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