Need advice - how to begin with budget, simple kitchen upgrade?

spike07August 7, 2013

I've lived in a rental apartment my whole life so have zero experience with remodeling. My mother moved into a condo near me and her kitchen needs some upgrading and appliances replaced. I don't even know where one begins. It seems all the blogs/internet info are either DIY or super high-end. Where do people go who need a pro to refurbish cabinets/install new appliances/replace countertops and other such mid-level upgrades? We don't want to spend tons of $$ but also don't want to go DIY IKEA.

Any advice, links, tips, starting points, etc greatly appreciated. We're in San Francisco if that helps.

thanks in advance!

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PS - she did have a Home Depot person come out and measure but the guy was really rude to her and we weren't that thrilled with how they handled things, so we are hoping to find a better alternative.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 4:09PM
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For GCs and cabmakers, I got recommendations from people I knew who had redone their kitchens anytime in the last few years. It's also worth a one-year subscription to Angie's List to be able to read reviews. Definitely google anyone you consider using. You can sometimes find reviews online, but do take some of the comments with a grain of salt.

You can get ideas for what appliances will work for you in your price range on the Appliances Forum. If you just want to see what they are likely to cost, check out someplace like Local appliance stores will sometimes meet an on-line price.

Did you look at the "New to Kitchens" post at the top? Lots of good info there.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 5:21PM
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Try a post on here for recommendations for KD, Cabinetmaker, Dealer in San Francisco.

Make up a budget number- simply how much your comfortable with. You will be get better results if you walk in and say "I want to spend xyz" than simply "I don't want to spend a lot". In any case they have to figure out if they can help you get what you want and meet your budget.

Make it clear that the budget is a priority. It is assumed that people hold back 10%. When I shop I don't, and assume that clients don't, but I'm a little different. IF they think what you want is a priority over budget they are likely to come back with a quote that is over budget. Why? Because everyone that walks through the door want more stuff than they want to spend for. So your leaving them with the choice of either not giving you what you want or not meeting your budget. The trick is to get as much of what you want for what you comfortably want to spend.
Decide what is important- my favorite is 3 things you need and 3 things you want. It's a great exercise because you have to figure out the difference between the two.

Have a target date for when you want to be done. Preferably a few months. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanza, Groundhog day as deadlines are not the best idea.

Then find 3 places to try.
Call ahead and make an appointment, you will be taken more seriously. Appointments do NOT carry any obligation with them.
Bring a dimensioned floor plan with you- it can be crude, the numbers are what matter.
You do not need them to do floor plans yet. You may decide to avail yourself of the help here even if your not DIY.

See what they offer, let THEM tell you what and how they do this. What can they offer to meet your budget.

Try to look at it as fun, makes it easier. You are just shopping- NO commitment until you are comfortable. Concentrate on gauging who you are working with- what brand is secondary.

It's kind of like dating- it can be fun, awful, tedious, absolutely hysterical, eventually you find someone to spend some time with and have a few laughs.
The bad news is you don't get a free dinner, the good news ...your not going to marry any of them.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 6:48PM
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If you mom is in a condo, can she talk to any of the other residents who might have done a renovation recently?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 7:36PM
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What valuable information and suggestions, Jakuvall.

Spike, I'm unclear what the actual scope of work you're envisaging is. In any case, I'd pay particular attention to Jakuvall's suggestions, but especially if "refurbishing" means replacing.

If what you really want is "refurbishing," maybe a little retrofitting, but not all new cabinets, etc., what you need is a good quality, independent handyman/carpenter. I can name 2 in my area who make a living doing jobs too limited for kitchen shops/contractors all the time and are good at what they do. They're also far less expensive than alternatives. I don't know what my guys're charging these days, but it's probably still around $35/hour labor plus materials. They come with tools, their own insurance, and links to other good independent trades in the area.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 7:59PM
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Fori is not pleased

Are you just talking appliances and countertops? Or a whole new layout? Or the same layout and new cabinets?

Just be SURE the cabinets are acceptable before putting on a new counter. Appliances can be shuffled around and reused but the counter usually can't.

For appliances, I agree that AJMadison is an excellent place to narrow down selections and see what is available in the desired sized appliance. In fact, the local appliance store guy was looking up things on AJ's website as an easy resource. Kinda funny I thought.

A budget reno will probably do fine with Sears because they have the standard stuff and frequent sales (although you may wish to special order a few oddball items). It's also not a waste of time to visit the Sears outlet store. Scratch and dent appliances are perfectly fine if the dent is on the side!

Counters--have Mom look at stone, tile, laminate (Formica), Corian, etc. and decide. Then you figure out where to buy it and who installs it.

If you're replacing cabinets, well, that turns it into a full on kitchen redo and it's the same whether it's budget or not.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Wow - thanks! This is incredibly helpful. Jackuvall - I will sit down with my mom this weekend and walk through your prep with her.

She wants to keep the layout and refrigerator. Her cabs are ok mostly - but they need either refinishing or painting. There is one door that needs replacing and the drawers are crummy. I'm also begging her to get rid of the circa 1979 ceiling panel style fluorescent lights and put in something more pleasant - nothing fancy just something that doesn't make everything that weird greenish color.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 9:02PM
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For the flourescant you can change the bulbs. In my studio/showroom we couldn't get rid of all the flourescent so I put in GE reveal bulbs-makes a big difference. Faster and cheaper fix.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 7:58AM
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If it turns out that she is considering replacing any of the cabinets, post your layout here first ! People here are amazingly helpful on getting the most out of your layout. Also, if she is considering refacing (new doors), that can get pretty pricey and for just a little more she could possibly get all new cabinets. Also, I have seen people use the same cabinets they already have but move them around in the kitchen to get a better layout.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 8:11AM
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