Process/Steps of ordering kitchen cabinets

azmomMay 25, 2013

What is the right "Process" of ordering kitchen cabinets?

We chose a cabinet brand we like and is talking with one of the local dealers who is also a kitchen designer. We will use the same design (with lots of invaluable inputs from folks here) that I posted here a while ago, may make a few adjustments.

We were told that in order to work on detail plan before placing order, we would need to pay $500.00 retention fee. The retention fee will apply toward the actual purchase price. We have no problem with it.

Yet, we then learned that all the drawings will stay at their show room, no hard copy or electronic copy will be provided to us. If we want to have the drawings out of the showroom, the charge will be $1500.00.

Is this the right expectation?

We thought it would be better for us to review the plan at home and discuss the details between DH and me, instead of driving to their showroom every time we need to review the plan.

I also want to get additional inputs and feedback from GC, appliances dealer, as well as to post it on this site to get feedback. There are so many experts on this site, I have been depending on the advice and inputs from fellow posters on the Garden Web forums.

As regular home owners, working on remodeling has been very challenging to us, as we are not familiar with âÂÂprocessesâ or âÂÂunwritten rulesâ involved in many aspects of remodeling, such as sequence of events, required protections, important clauses, detailed steps of ordering, installations...etc.

At times, it feels like there are landmines everywhere in this remodeling field, it is hard for regular homeowners to fully understand the potential damages until they explode.

We are so grateful that we could turn to this site for help.
Could you please share your insights and experience so that we would take the "right way" while going through the project. Thank you.

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it doesnt sound right to me but i too am new at this. i can say that i went to 2 box stores,1 kitchen supply and 1 lumber yard kitchen design center and haven't been told anything like that. i've gotten all 4 designs on paper. 1 true kitchen place sent me designs and quote by email. none of these places wanted any $$ to do my design. the one custom cab maker i talked to would have required a hefty deposit before doing the design and i just wasnt comfortable with that or the cost overall. hope this helps

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 9:34PM
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I haven't given anyone a dime yet either. The plans I've received haven't been real detailed - no dimensions, for example, but just for getting an estimate the various KDs sent pdfs via email. No one even offered to sell me the plans - they are in the business of selling cabinets, and giving me renderings or plans is (they hope) helping them do that.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 9:37PM
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I went to a cabinet maker with my sketches (no KD). He drew up my plans, with dimensions, and included them with his bid. I had them for weeks before I paid him anything.

I made a 25% payment to get on his schedule; I'll pay 40% when he starts construction in June, and the balance on completion. I'm comfortable with that arrangement - I live in a small city, and know several people who have had been very happy with his work (and never heard anything bad about him).

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 9:47PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The process you described is how some upper end "name" designers work. Most designers don't require an extra fee to receive copies of the plans though if you purchase the cabinets from them. If they do require the plans themselves to be paid for to be received, it's usually taken care of by the retainer fee/design fee on the front end. Or, there's a modest retainer to begin, and then you get to see the design on screen and have the designer to revise it, but if you want the design and not the cabinets, then there may be an additional design fee to be paid to receive the actual plans. Or once a larger deposit has been paid towards the cabinets, the plans are released to the customer to do the site verification from their contractor instead of the store's contractor.

There is NO WAY that I as a designer or a customer would ever order cabinets without some form of site verification of the plan's measurements against the actual measurements from the installer. If that installer is a DIY customer, then I for sure want to go through the plan with them enough for them to be sure they understand what all the parts and pieces will do and where they go.

I think if you like the brand of cabinets, you may want to find another retailer that sells them and find out what their policies are to work with them.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 10:12PM
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I don't agree with them not giving you a copy of the plans. Sounds like they got burnt on something one time, and now they never do xxx again, unless yyyy is paid. Makes you wonder how they will be if there is an issue during the installation.

Unless their prices are so low the $1500 makes up for it. Are they going to charge the GC for the plans too?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 10:15PM
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Thank you so very much for your inputs, it is helpful to hear how others are working on their projects.

We wanted to maintain most of the foot print of our current kitchen. DH put detailed measurements of the current kitchen on the paper; all the initial ideas of our new plan are based on brainstorms between GC and us.

I then posted the measurements with these initial "wishes". Folks on this forums, such as hollysprings were so helpful, they provided lots of invaluable suggestions and critics. We then incorporated the feedback into the new design.

I was actually surprised while was told that we would have to pay for the drawings, since the dealer/KD did not even design our new plan.

LoPay, yes, the reason the dealer gave was that they got burnt before. It makes little sense to me as why people would take such a winding road of using drawings from one dealer to purchase a different brand of cabinets from other dealer.

You raised a good point, it is clear that they put their own interest before customer's, what we would expect once they have our money and there is any issue down the road?

Hollyspring, thank you for the suggestion. I do need to check out another retailers. I assume that we would need to have detail design for drawers and cabinets placement, adds-on, and measurements before finalize the budget. I expect we may need to have a couple revisions before placing order. Is it the process of ordering cabinets? Are there any other things that we should watch for?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 2:16AM
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"It makes little sense to me as why people would take such a winding road of using drawings from one dealer to purchase a different brand of cabinets from other dealer."

You'd think wouldn't ya? But it happens all the time. After all the design is free right?
Over the years I've had, and seen other KDs have, clients walk off at the end taking plans to another dealer who now doesn't have to work much, solve details, etc. So discounts the job. Hence some dealers want retainer.

The majority of dealers don't ask for a retainer. Many that do want it up front to do any work. Some don't want to scare clients but want to be covered so charge in stages, a small sum to start and establish price, then more for finals. It sounds like that is the model your place uses since 500 is only adequate for a really small simple job. Places that ask for a full retainer up front want much more.

I realize you believe you have a finished design already. Based on average experience, the dealer may not. It is rare for someone to walk in with a plan that doesn't require a good bit of work and revisions. I can't tell without being there.

Hollysprings says hi end shops charge retainers. While I do plenty of hi end I also do lots of little jobs. To me it is a matter of respecting what I do. I am convinced that it makes for a better relationship with the client.

I do retainers, after the second design meeting. By then I've been to the site, a scheme is chosen and clear pricing is provided. Typically I have 12-20 hrs in by then. I get 10%, commit or shop.
I always release drawings -drafts (and parts lists with itemized prices) from then on. There can be as many revisions as needed. This is not the typical model uused by anyone else though.

Occasionally I will release a draft without a retainer: when it doesn't matter, not much work is put in, a referral from a pro, or I really trust the client. In your case I might but hard to say.

Finals are more work, should be few if any revisions, and require a final site visit. They come at the end. (I've done plenty of jobs where the finals were 8-10 pages, 11 x 17)

I get paid by when you buy cabinets, but I sell kitchens. Kitchens involve design, details and service - all included but not free.

Someone suggested that renderings, design and such are provided in the hopes of selling the job. That is how many dealers work and I believe it accounts for some of the problems folks see with lackluster KDs.
Not unlike- Your boss asks you to put in a week and half on a project, but won't let you know if your getting paid until your done.

Edited to add:
There is a legal liability attached to drawings. I know of one case where client took drawings from dealer A, bought cabinets from dealer B, had problems and sued BOTH dealers. And won the suit against both. Hence "drafts"

This post was edited by jakuvall on Sun, May 26, 13 at 8:48

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:29AM
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My cabinet guy usually doesn't release drafts until you sign a contract to move forward after initial meetings. He did release my drawing long before that since I brought him the almost finished design (thanks, GW!) we used, and I was working something like 7 months ahead of my order to hit a specific project window. I did ask him to try a design one time, but I wasn't keen on it, and he even said the space was challenging with everything I wanted and HE wasn't happy with his first attempt. So we just went ahead with my design, which I could already shop around since I brought it in with me. He also knew I was ready to move ahead with them, so I think that helped. I don't think many people are just fishing around for quotes 7 months ahead of order date (which was 4 months before start date) with detailed plans and specs, lol!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 9:49AM
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Hello jakuvall,

Thank you very much for sharing a retailer's persepctives and experience.

In our book, taking one person's design to another outfit for a reduced price is not only unethical; it is illegal as stealing intellectual property. Too bad a few bad apples create mistrust and insecurity that everyone is paying for that.

It sounds like we are in a chicken egg senario based on this deale's demand. I don't know how we can nail down a final budget and plan without going through detail design for drawer/cabinets placement and adds-on. We do not have expertise to judge validity of the plan/drawings, yet without paying $1500.00, we could not get 2nd opinions. Without additional feedbacks from experts, we feel uncomfortable to pay for $1500.00 or commit an order.

We beleive everyone is making an honest living and we have always participated in 'win win' business transactions. We hope that we could find a dealer who carries the brand we like and order the cabinets, instead of "shopping around". It seems we need to find 2nd source.

Going back to the original question, what is the Normal process a regular homeowner should go through when they start shopping for kichen cabinets? This information will help us to be a better informed consumers.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 4:58PM
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Does the $1500 go toward the final project price? If so, and you're not trying to pull any funny business, then I wouldn't mind doing it. You could ask the designer to write it in/amend the contract.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 5:12PM
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Azmon-in your case you have a plan developed here so it would have pretty clear list of function. Just have them price what you have to find out if it's in the ballpark. They should be able to give you an idea of how much if anything the price can change.
You already have a budget, everyone does, everyone. Now you can see if they fit.

If they won't do that without payment see if they can give you a reliable ballpark, but not an off the cuff guestimate.

In the process see what you think of them, how you feel.
Budget fits? Designers fits? Then commit, if not move on.

To your question. Decide what you expect, your priorities and budget are. A total budget is usually easiest and best. Go to dealer and tell them what you want and what it will take to get the job.

If priority is price, use the same plan with a list of options for each, don't even bother to ask for designs your looking for relative price.

Shopping for a cabinet brand is about the same.

Shopping for a designer is little more complicated, but what I think is best. (course I'm biased :) You are after all looking to end up with a kitchen and not just a bunch of nice boxes. The equation is not as straight forward. You have to go by instincts some, fit, reputation, referances, past projects, service and still factor in price and product.
I always say it's a lot like dating-the good bad and not so. When it's right you know.

In every case you get the best results being clear (same as when dating) on expectation and what they need to do to get paid.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 11:57PM
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Hello jakuvall,

You are awsome! The way you deliver your advice totally in agreement with the way I learn, I got it!

I just re-read your other posting (see the attached link) about cabinate construction, it is such an useful crash course. I am going to seach and read all of your postings in regards to kitchen cabinets; hopefully they would better prepare myself before calling other dealers.

Many thanks to you and Holly Springs again, your assistances are sincerely appreciated, I believe not only by me, but also by many folks on the garden web forums.

Here is a link that might be useful: Disparity of pricing in Kitchen Cabinets

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 12:51AM
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How does this process change if we are using a builder who offers his own line of custom cabinetry? Do we still go out to different kd's on our own for a bid?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 8:29PM
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