Finding a contractor
Before you start reading, please be aware that this is going to be an extremely long post. For those of you who make it through to the end, thanks for reading!
After saving up for 2 years, my wife and I think we are finally ready to start work on our kitchen remodel. We have been getting estimates from different types of sources. So far we have spoken with 3 different service providers and the results have been a bit disappointing. Compared to many of the kitchens I see on this site I felt my design was pretty reasonable and by no means luxurious or extravagent. I live in a solidly middle class neighborhood in a middle class suburb of Washington, DC. I am looking to build a solid, functional kitchen which has some upper end touches, but nothing too extravagant. Beautiful but affordable is the theme of the kitchen.
Here is what my kitchen currently looks like:
Here is a schematic my wife created that shows what we would like to do:
In essence we want to rip out the current cabinets and soffit, keep the current layout around the perimeter but replace the peninsula with and island, get new quartz counters, put in a counter depth fridge, induction range, bottom of the line miele dishwasher, rip up the old and damaged hardwoods and replace with ceramic tile, get new lighting, have a hood over the range instead of the microwave, add a simple subway tile backsplash.
We were hoping to accomplish all of this for around $40k. Unfortunately, the bids I have received so far have lead me to believe that my sparkling wine taste (notice I didn't say champagne) does not match my microbrew budget (notice I did not say ordinary beer). All of the companies we have solicited bids from were found through Angie's List and have A ratings.
1) Kitchen Design Company 1- This is a 1 stop shop kind of place. They Offer cabinetry, counters, flooring, lighting, and do all the work. One of their designers came over to my house, reviewed the design displayed above, and took some measurements. Based on our discussion with him it seemed like his company seems to offer cookie cutter kitchens and have a limited number of products they offer. For example I mentioned I wanted quartz and he kept trying to push me toward granite. It was clear that he knew nothing about quartz (he claimed it is weak and has a tendency to crumble) and it seemed that his company. His bid came in at 23k without appliances and when I asked him how much it would cost if I supplied my own cabinets he said the bid would only decrease 3k. I was a bit skeptical of their pricing to begin with, but this threw up a huge red flag to me.
2) Kitchen Contractor- This guy was more of a general contractor. He does not have a showroom and is willing to work with whatever products you supply though he does sell cabinets. He came over to our house, showed us many photos of his previous work, asked very detailed questions, and took a ton of measurements. His bid for all of the above excluding appliances came out to 40k. Unfortunately, the bid did not include any details, it simply said "Cabinets tile floor counter tops sink & faucet carpentry & painting lights electric & plumbing." We know the cabinets are kraftmaid, but don't know if they are playwood. If we supplied our own cabinets the price went down to 30k. I liked the guy during our meeting, but the very vague bid gave me pause.
3) Kitchen Design Showroom- The last place would not even come out to our house for the first meeting. We met at their showroom and brought a diagram showing the overall measurements of the space without any cabinets in it. When we told them our budget was 40k max, we were told that that would be very limiting and that their average kitchen usually starts at 45k. We spent 2 hours at the showroom picking out cabinets (they only sell jim bishop), counters (they sell cambria, but we also looked at granites for cost purposes), flooring (she tried to push us toward a laminate that looks like tile because it was cheaper than tile), a faucet (kohler touch), basic 18 gauge stainless undermount sink. We only spoke about appliances but she indicated that in our budget it would be difficult to get more than basic appliances. Overall we were basically told that our budget would be pretty difficult to work with and we would have to make some compromises and maybe switch down to builder grade cabinets or get some sort of flooring other than tile. We did not get a quote yet, but they are going to come to our house to measure and at that point will put together a design for us and provide a detailed estimate that lists everything in detail. I was impressed with the service provided during our visit but got the impression that you definitely are paying for their services and their products are marked up a lot. For example we mentioned we wanted an apron front sink and she said that was out of our budget and would cost $1000 when I know galaxy sells stainless apron front sinks in 16 gauge (not 18) for $350.
I should also mention that we got quotes from Oxford Cabinet Shop (an Amish cabinet builder) and he quoted us $12k for the cabinets in the diagram above. All plywood boxes, full extension drawers, soft close drawers and doors.
I guess the whole point of this long and rambling post is that I am wondering whether my budget is a bit unrealistic. I am definitely not the DIY type so I can't build this kitchen myself, but I am willing to put a lot of other type of work into it. I am willing to source my own materials as I have already done in finding my own cabinet maker.
I am starting to think that the one-stop kitchen shop is not going to be able to give me the type of kitchen I desire at a price I can afford. They seem to offer convenience, but charge you an arm and a leg for it. Would I be better off seeking a good general contractor who can just install the items I have picked out myself? Would this save me a lot of money compared to the kitchen design showroom described above?
Finally, does anyone have any suggestions for good general contractors in the Maryland/DC area? I am not sure how much I trust Angie's List given that I found the first kitchen design shop listed above on there and they had good ratings despite the fact that they seemed to offer a very unrealistic budget and were not 100% transparent about what we would be getting.