Strategies for HD/Lowe's Design Services?

nynerdNovember 19, 2007

Starting to think through a kitchen redo to include new cabinets - appreciate input on how to tackle the design process. Based on what I've read here, Consumer Reports, and whether I can get the layout I think I want from the various cabs each manufacturer offers, I've narrowed my field to Thomasville/Kemper or Schuler. I guess my next step is to take my draft layout to HD/Lowe's (in Baltimore MD area) to find out if it needs tweeking and what the eye-popping price will be? How much time is involved in using HD/Lowe's design services? What do you actually get from them as an end-product? How much pressure do you tend to get to include lots of bells and whistles? Is there a better approach? My thinking was that if I've already got my idea of a layout on paper, I may not get overwhelmed (at least not yet anyway).

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Well when we went to our Kitchen designer I already had a layout from my GC. My KD asked me things like what sized fridge/stove/micro/dw I would have (other than standard) if I needed special storage cabinets for special pieces. what sort of cooking I do in my kitchen ie: a lot of big meals/general cooking/mostly baking/hosting parties etc? And lastly what sort of things I had in my kitchen now - what worked, what didn't, what sort of pants/pots/appliances etc. Just general type questions and then she prepared a cabinet layout for me. We went over the types of cabinets and what she envisioned each was going to be for, and we modified some but 90% of what she designed for me I kept. It was quite easy.

I don't know if you'd get the same personalized quality attention at home depot or not.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 1:26PM
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Yeah I had a horrible experience with Lowe's kitchen designer. The installers were even worse! I'm going into month three and still not done with cabinets. My kitchen is super small, simple, and all my walls are straight along with the level floors. This has become silly...

I would try a smaller local cabinet shop.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 1:51PM
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is there any particular reason why you would go with lowes/HD rather than a shop or custom builder? i've never really run across a designer working in a big box store. they're hard enough to come by in a cabinet store!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 2:20PM
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I tried a local cabinet shop and wish I went back to Lowe's! It's just the luck of the draw I guess. Perhaps somewhere in between like a local kitchen design place. Their service can be more personal and they have access to varied product lines like the big box stores but may cost a bit more. Either way we wind up paying in dollars, time and/or aggravation.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 2:30PM
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I have never actually used HD or Lowe's however, I always start my project research with them. I get an idea of what the project is going to cost, how long it will take, what I am responsible to do, ect. Then I go to an independent kitchen and bath shop. It has been my experience that I have gotten a better price and better service using the little guy. I like the personal service. They give me an exact date as to when the supplies will arrive and a day by day projection of the job. The place I use is a family business. They only receive payments as each portion of the job is completed. I meet all of the people who will be working in my home. It is impossible for the Big Box stores to provide that. If you are lucky enough the KD at the Big Box store may still be employeed when your cabinets have arrived.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 2:43PM
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We went to three places and the best design help we got was from EXPO Design Center (Columbia, MD). In addition to EXPO, we worked with an independent (but still a chain) kitchen shop and a small-independent kitchen/bath shop.

The independent/chain treated our kitchen like a cookie-cutter...our so-called designer asked the right questions, but his design did not incorporate a single thing we said! He basically put in new cabinets in our current layout with one or 2 tweaks. When we tried to contact him to talk about it, he did not return our calls/emails for several weeks...we finally eliminated his shop from our list.

The small-independent shop was very responsive but they were basically home construction-turned-kitchen designers. They really had no ideas but spent hours with us working on a design...most of the ideas were mine and he just put them in the computer! They were very pleasant to work with but I didn't feel as though I had gotten the best design I could since I was doing the majority of it w/o any knowledge on my part. The other issue I had was that since they dealt only in cabinets and Silestone countertops (no granite!), that meant we had to find places to do all the additional work and act as GC or hire someone to act as GC--something we do not have time to do. Cost-wise, their cabinet prices were competitive w/EXPO's.

The EXPO KD, while not quite as responsive (we've had to wait a couple of times for things), was/is by far the best. She's NKBA certified and teaches seminars in Kitchen Design for other KDs. She had/has a lot of great ideas, many things I never thought of! She has also helped us find things that we want, even if they're not through her (our tile, for instance--she couldn't buy it but she got our contractor to buy it for us)

I will say that GW has also been a GREAT resource and I highly recommend combining the design talents of your KD and the GW will end up with the best design possible for you if you combine these two!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 3:39PM
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nynerd - I was looking at the same manufacturers from HD. I wanted frameless, but couldn't even get them to quote Schuler to me (they said I wouldn't be happy with frameless). I had all of my cabinets picked out for Thomasville, on a diagram, numbered, etc. The girl did the drawings wrong, left out half of the things I wanted, took 3 weeks to get pricing, and ended up way over the cost of custom cabinets!

The lady at Lowes was more responsive, but was more expensive.

I went to a small shop for pricing on Diamond (same as Thomasville), but they were more money than a local custom place. I ended up getting frameless from a great local custom shop. I'd check custom if you can.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 3:59PM
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I had a very good experience at Lowe's. I talked to at least 5 designers at Lowe's and HD over a couple of years. Three were really worthless and I walked away. The one I picked spent easily 5 hours with me and we got along well.

Picking a good designer is the key. Be prepared to walk away and come back on a different shift to try someone else. Ask them what their experience is with kitchen design and with the software they will be using.

Once I was friendly with mine, I asked her about the installers they use. She told me was supposed to just take the first one the computer offered, but she knew ways to manipulate the system, and there was one installer who was vastly better than the others.

After she finished the design with me, I took the lists home and went over every dimension with a fine tooth comb. I measured and marked and remeasured. I measured every appliance and window and door myself. Home Improvement stores are not places you can just go into and turn your future over to them.

I knew exactly what I wanted going in, and I got it. It wasn't trouble free, but almost no one gets that lucky.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 4:21PM
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I shopped at 4 different places: Lowe's, HD, and two local kitchen design shops. All 4 did designs from semi-custom lines. I allowed each of them to recommend a line that was the best value for the money (not cheapest, not highest end, but good quality for the $$).

Lowe's and HD sat with me and designed together so I had something when I left. The two local places took general notes and then constructed something without me. Given that a kitchen is pretty complicated and generally requires a lot of back-and-forth and rework, the "work it together" is way better--and more efficient--in my book.

Local place #1 did ok on the design, but it was about a 4 day turnaround and they were the most expensive.

Local place #2 was supposed to take a week, but took nearly 2 weeks (the first lady got sick, and only when I called to follow up did they hook me up with someone else to finish it up). And she didn't do half of what I had mentioned I wanted.

The Lowe's KD was helpful, and had an average level of knowledge/helpfulness. But their schedules rotate around, and his schedule didn't gel well with mine, so someone else had to pick up the job. Their price was the best of the 4.

The HD KD was fantastic. We had actually used him for our master bath vanity complex and he had been extremely helpful and patient with our endless tweaks and reworks. But he still wasn't a slam dunk for our kitchen because I was concerned about price, which is why I went to the 3 others. We went back a couple times to ask him questions about installation on the vanities (we DIY'ed it), and he was very knowledgeable. He was just as good with the kitchen. At our first appointment, we went through the room cabinet by cabinet, he told me the options, asked me what I wanted, gave his opinion if he didn't think something would look right, but let me choose what I wanted if I disagreed ("it's your kitchen") without snobbily making me feel like I was total idiot for doing that. I probably did a half dozen re-works, and he never once complained. I turned him loose on one problematic area and he worked out a good solution. He never tried to upsell me on frou-frou stuff (but let me wander into the frou-frou on my own), let me fine-tooth comb the estimate to find ways to save money, and again, was extremely patient with me, letting me work through everything I needed until I was satisfied. The price wasn't the lowest, but I got in on a 10% off deal, plus it overlapped with a couple other promotions that got me another $1000 gift card, free sink base, and free hardware. So overall it did end up lower than the others.

The initial process was about 2 hours, and the follow-ups were 1-2 hours each (really me driving that, not him). If you've got a general sketch, they should be able to work that up in a couple hours and give you a quote. Do call to make an appointment to make sure someone will be there. They also print out elevations from all views, measurements from birds-eye view, layout for the counter provider, etc.

This is more long-winded than I had intended, but the bottom line is that there are a range of KDs at the big box places, and it's possible to get great service and great prices there. Just take your time to get exactly what you want. If you aren't under a deadline, and can wait for the sales, the discounts can save you big $$ (ours totalled about $4000), and the delivery is when promised.

BTW, we went with Kraftmaid cabinets...and our kitchen is arriving tomorrow morning!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 4:37PM
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IMHO, whether or not to use a big box store, independent KD, or a local cabinet shop depends a lot on the size and complexity of your kitchen, how many "custom" or upgraded features you want, how much you are willing to become involved in the design and measurement process, and of course, your budget.

In all cases, the knowledge and expertise of the person with whom you are working is the most important. Big box, local custom shop, or independent KD; there can be problems no matter which one you choose. So research, research, research. This site is a very good place for info.

Because our kitchen was small, and we needed to fit an exact footprint, and we were capable of doing much of it ourselves; we settled on Schuler cabinets through Lowes. I think they are a bit more money and perhaps slightly better made than Thomasville. They are semi-custom so you can, for a price, specify exact widths, heights, depth, etc., to fit without the use of fillers. We were very pleased with Schulers and LoweÂs service, quality, and finish. Note also, that there is little if any difference between Schuler and Medallion other than the names used for styles, finishes, and options. I suggest you find a Medallion dealer and have them quote on your project as well. Get a catalog from both and you can figure out which is which so you can compare apples to apples.

At our Lowes, the salesperson knew his product well, there was no pressure, and was very helpful. He did the design from our dimensions right on the computer as we spoke. If you go to a big box store talk to a few of the sales staff about cabinets in general, not your design or measurements. This will give you an idea as to which sales person has the know-how and with whom you want to work. They are not all equal! Then make an appointment. Bring in your measurements, photoÂs, appliance needs, pictures from magazines, anything you can think of. Even though we did our own measuring and thus were responsible for the fit, it still took several visits to finalize the order. We asked for, and the sales person gave us, lots of options, with lots of different prices.

We did our own install, but if I needed to use a contractor, I would first look at a couple of independent handymen whose work I could see, and whose references I could check. If you use the storeÂs installers, sometimes the sales person will tell you who is the best. Even still ask to see some jobs or get some names. The local custom shop usually has their own people, and independent KDÂs have lists of subs as well.

When we purchased at Lowes, we went to and got a coupon for 10% off one invoice up to $10,000 . Added to the special free sink front offer, we saved about $1500. We also got a Lowes project card: 6 months no payments and no interest. By using the card, we didnÂt have to put down a deposit when we ordered. IÂm sure HD has similar promotions.

All in all it was a very satisfying endeavor.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 5:06PM
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We got our Schuler Cabinets through Lowes and have been quite happy. We lucked out and got a very good KD through Lowes -he is the number one KD in the country for Lowes and came highly praised from previous customers. I can give you his name if you would like me to send you an email with his contact info. He is presently working at the Lowes in Columbia,MD. We drove from DC to the Gaithersburg Lowes where he had previously been working becuase of all the positive feedback we had heard abot him.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:20PM
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I tried and there is no such URL.

Is there a mistake in the above address?

Thanks, Rae

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 6:30AM
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I found it.


10% off coupon for up to $5000


    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 6:41AM
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Thanks to all of you who took the time to offer such thoughtful advice! That was the first time I'd posted and I'm glad to now be part of the GW community. You've all given me a lot to think about and I'm very grateful. This certainly won't be the last time you see input from me. Happy Thanksgiving - esp. to those of you who are doing so for the first time with brand new kitchens!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 9:09AM
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Sorry wrong address, and I see that Lowes has dropped the total purchase amount from $10,000 to $5,000. I don't know if they still will do this, but we also got another coupon for a 10% discount on $5,000 when our project card came in the mail. We used it to purchase our appliance package along with a $400 rebate from KA.

The big box stores are frequently running promotions. Sometimes it pays to wait a bit for them. Lowes announced yesterday that their third quarter sales were weak and profits were down. Maybe some new incentives will be coming?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 9:13AM
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I chose the Schuler cabinets from Lowes. I think the quality is outstanding and Lowes was easy to work with. This is my third kitchen in 5 years so I do have some experience. I would choose to use Schuler again without hesitation.
I also wanted to let you know that I just asked for the 10% off my cabinet order. They had to approve it through a manager but it was not a problem. I just let them know that I was not going to order the cabinets until I received the coupon in the mail. So they gave it to me without the coupon. It saved me $2500; basically paying for my advantium

Important things if you use a lowes KD....Or any KD for that matter...

Lowes KDs are usually beginners. My KD was great but I am sure there are some bad ones too. You will need more than average understanding of the process.

Bring copies of the appliance spec sheets for the KD to keep. That way there is not any confusion. Bring all measurements, elevations etc. Recheck your measurements several times before you order.

Learn the codes so you can check everything. My Lowes KD gave me an old spec book so I could work on my design at home. It is really not hard to do.

Bring pictures of your space. Anything like that will help the KD get a visual of your space. Also bring pictures of things you want in your kitchen. For instance, I wanted a hutch looking run of cabinets. It saved time describing what I wanted.

Order extra fillers. they are cheap. It takes 2 weeks to get extras if your installer makes a mistake.

You can go in Lowes in between your visits and sit with the spec book.

Don't count on them to cover every detail. My KD missed a few things because she didn't order the modifications correctly.

Schuler can do more modifications than most cabinet companies. But it costs a lot. If you are doing a lot of mods- you will likely be better off with custom. Depth mods usually add 15%. End treatments another 15%. My herloom finish was an extra $5000. It can really add up.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 10:17AM
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Cleo and SVWillow are right on target with their comments. I've posted some about my experience with Lowes in another thread and it was pretty positive. Compared with some of the nightmare stories I have heard (not about Lowes, just in general) about Kitchen rennovations it went very smoothly. One additional note, though. The install department at Lowes got very irritated when they found out that the installation did not include the electrical and plumbing. I had covered this clearly with my KD and he put the order through as asked. I made it clear that they were never in the running for the entire project because I have contractors that I know and trust for that work. They eventually accepted this, although not without some grumbling. This was the only friction during the project, and they remained professional and helpful throughout.

As for the cabinetry, I love the Natural Cherry Schuler cabinets. I had no damage, finish defects, or issues with excess sapwood. Do order extra fillers/molding and maybe even light rail. My installer was able to use it to customize and finish some things that made a really big difference in the finished product. Keep in mind that it cannot be returned though.

Good Luck!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 1:55PM
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We just got through using the design service at HD and so far it was good. Spent a lot of time there, about 3hrs ea day for 3 days (spread out over 9 days). He was OK. We pretty much knew what we wanted, so if we wanted something different than his design, there was no objection to changing it. We took off the bells & whistles we didn't want with no objections. When we came in for the final,11/17, they had a 10% off sale, so that saved us $1K we weren't expecting to save. We'll have to see if everything is like we visioned it, when it arrives in mid- Dec. Went to one KD center prev and the sales person there tried to push an expensive line on us saying the cheaper line was junk! Wanted to ask her why they'd carry this junk in their center ( she was an owner).

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 1:02AM
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I'm currently using Lowes to do my kitchen design. The KD is great! She is very patient with all the design changes and has had some great suggestions. No pressure at all! Lowes design services are free, compared to HD who charges. I may go with a custom cabinet maker, but I have a design completed and can now shop around for best price.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 12:47PM
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I admit, I was a little miffed at the $100 charge for HD design service. but, it's refunded if you buy cabinets. I can understand that with the amount of traffic thru HD that some people will sit down and want a kitchen design done, with no intent of buying....just something to do! And, kudos to Lowes for doing it free.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 8:00PM
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We went through four KD's at three different places; 2 local shops, and 2 KD's at Home Depot. Finally went with the 2nd KD at Home Depot because she actually listened to what we were looking for. Like angeldolly, I was also miffed at the $100 "measuring service" from HD, but we ordered cabinets from them and got the $100 back.

We went with the Thomasville cabinets. Right upfront, HD told us "4 - 6 weeks". Exactly 4 weeks and 2 days from the day we placed the order with HD, our Thomasville cabinets were delivered directly to us.

We hired our own GC to do the kitchen gutting and remodel, and to install the cabinets. HD sent out a contractor to give us a bid for installation of the cabs and the rest of the job, but there were 3 things that set me off. First, we just didn't get good vibes when he came out. Second, he told us he'd have to get permits for things that we KNEW weren't required to get permits for (so we suspected he was going to charge us for non-existent permits). Third, his price was way too high AND Home Depot would not let us take his bid home to really look at it. It was sign then or not at all. So we went with "not at all". We'd already gotten the bid from the contractor finishing up our family room remodel, and knew it was more reasonable.

BTW, HD will have special deals. Make friends with your KD and maybe they'll let you know when the special deal is coming up. Ours let us know and we got in on two special deals ... $1000 off Thomasville cabinets was the first deal, and then a free sink (under $500) with any sink cabinet purchase. I was surprised we could cash in on both, but we did.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 11:45PM
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