general Kitchen Cabinet buying frustration

mlrprincetonNovember 13, 2013

People say car shopping is the most frustrating purchasing experience, but those people have clearly not tried to re-do their kitchen! Here's what happens, or at least what happened for us:

After looking on Houzz, etc and getting some idea of what we want, we started by visiting the kitchen designer the contractor recommended. She was an hour away (we don't live in or near a major city) so that took half a Saturday, but oh well. The contractor had sent her the measurements and rough plans before our meeting so she was prepared. She asked us enough questions about what we wanted but was not forthcoming at all about the price ranges for various options.

(Aside rant: too many people on GW say they're not looking for any complicated trims or millwork, but then they opt for custom or semi-custom, and I can't see the reason for it. I wanted the opposite--I actually did want a couple layers of crown molding, light valence above the sink, and other decorative do-dads, but I don't want to pay more than necessary.)

So the KD didn't get back to us but instead contacted the contractor, which I found condescending somehow. This was so the contractor could pad the cost maybe? But we didn't get any information from the contractor other than a price -- $17,000. But, 17k for what?! The price of some things, such as heavily milled door styles, various molding, trim, and a floor-to-ceiling pantry that I sort of want but could live without all together could change the price +/- 50%. I'd be happy to live without some of these things, but there's no transparency in pricing at all. Not to mention we don't know which details she included in her price, since she did not communicate with us directly! Was 17k just for the basic layout of uppers and lowers with one plain strip of crown? Did it include several basic pot and pan drawers? Did she include the pantry we mentioned but weren't sold on? Light rail? Etc. We could have driven back to see her and asked, and then found out it didn't include half of what we were hoping to include, and then asked for a quote with my "wish list," and then would've waited another week and heard another rough number second-hand through the contractor, and then if that was too much we would have had to go back again to start talking about dialing things down a tiny bit to rein in costs, and there's at least a month of Saturdays wasted.

We did the same at another KD, this time by ourselves, without input or recommendation from the contractor. This went better as we were able to communicate exactly what details we wanted and so we knew exactly what was in the quote, but this quote was for $23,000! So, maybe I give up some extras I wanted, but still the information on exactly how much each thing costs is some kind of state secret. One example is the pantry can be pretty expensive, over $1500 depending on the brand, shelving, etc. I'd do without that, wasn't sure I was sold on the pantry anyway, but give me the freaking price breakdown and let me decide!

Repeat with 3rd KD, just as vague, about to give up altogether. Then, enter Home Depot's cab lines and the trusty internet. The prices, spec book, etc are all to be found online! Ahh, transparency, clarity, and information! Now I can see and decide for myself how many layers of molding are worth it, how many floor-to-ceiling pantries, glass doors, pull-outs, etc. You can get plywood, you can get soft-close, you can get whatever trendy glaze you want with HD�s brands, and mostly you can get information to make your own darn decisions without having to waste half your weekends meeting with unhelpful people!

All in all I found the process of working with KDs condescending and frustrating, as they would not talk straight about the costs of various options and instead preferred to make decisions for me and come up with some vague meaningless price for some total package they chose. Did no one else have this experience? Why does this model persist? Anyway I�m not looking for anything as much as venting, which is not really what GW is for, but I suppose I feel better now�

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

First off, let me say I don't understand the fascination here on GW of hiring someone to tell you what you want to hear (KD). The minute you do, everything is 40-50% more.

Anyway, so, you drove to see your KD. hmm, seems odd. Why didn't he/she come to you? That said, I doubt if they are going to advise you anything unless you pay them or have some sort of agreement. It's sales. Keep it vague as you reel them in. They are feeling you out to see how big your wallet is.

Anyway (again), if you've looked on Houz and know what you want, just ask the cabinet maker, 'Can you do "this"?
How much? etc. etc.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 6:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This time around, we only went to two cabinet places, one higher end and one more middling. We focused on only one once we got a ballpark from both. Both the planning and the prices were totally transparent -- we knew the price of each individual item, both list and the price we would actually pay (which is never list) before we signed the final purchase order. It hasn't been delivered or installed yet, so we'll see if it all "lines up" -- we'll know in 3 weeks or so. I guess the answer is "it depends".

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 6:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the Home Depot info. Just curious, after seeing the price list, what features will you get rid of?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 6:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We went custom, not to get any fancy finishes or options, but for cost. Strange as that may seem. After getting several quotes from big box stores and a few kitchen design places, for giggles we decided to get a bid from a local custom cabinet builder (about a 2 hr drive away). We were surprised that their bid came back comparable to the KraftMaid cabinets that we liked. The clincher was that their bid included installation. None of the other bids did. So, we got cabinets sized to the nearest 1/8" (none of this only in 3" increments stuff), soft close doors and drawers, and were dealing with a local company (handy when we had some issues to resolve).

We didn't really have a KD. We drew up our own design and refined it as we talked to the KD's at the big box stores and kitchen design places. Of course, Garden Web is great for getting layout feedback. We sat down with the custom cab's designer (I wouldn't really call him a KD, more of a draftsman) and he got it drawn up in their software. He did help us tweak the design a bit, including customizing the height of the microwave for DW, who is on the short side. They did have someone come out to our house to confirm measurements before the design meeting. After everything was installed, they had a tech guy come out and do finish touch-ups where needed and to install some doors that needed replacement (finish issues on two and a split on one). Their pricing was pretty easy to understand. It was based on linear foot of cabinets, plus any upgrades that we wanted.

So, don't rule out custom cabinets, if you can find a local company that you can work with directly, instead of going through a KD. You might end up with a better value.

This post was edited by gpraceman on Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 19:30

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 7:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Fori is not pleased

Well, I understand driving to see a KD--how else are you going to see the cabinets they offer? A showroom is very useful.

But yeah, it's hard to do proper comparisons. That's why I find IKEA so appealing. There's a tag on everything.

But, don't deal with a KD who won't talk to you about cost on items. Be clear that you need this quoted a few different ways so that you can make your budget. If they won't play, let them know you're moving on and why. Being in the boonies, you aren't going to have as many choices of course, but if you can find a custom guy, get a quote from them. They don't always cost more.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 9:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We just completed our kitchen remodel a few months ago, and your note here makes me appreciate that it's done. Resign yourself to the fact that your journey will be long and frustrating, but if you do the research and don't rush the process, you will be pleased, overall, in the end.

We received bids from 3 local companies that carried semi-custom and custom cabinets. All 3 came to our house, listened to our wants and needs, measured, offered suggestions, brought door samples, and explained how their processes worked in terms of their own subcontractors for electric, plumbing, etc. A few weeks after each visit, we received bids from each that were fairly detailed in terms of materials (cabinets and trim), installation, labor, and trade work. Keeping in mind each company invested time on this bidding process--I found their bids to be a balance between explaining costs to us, without spending excessive time on their part on a job that wasn't guaranteed. What we were provided gave us the opportunity to compare cabinet lines, general costs, timeline estimations, etc.

I think you deserve at least a bid that outlines general line item costs, including specific cabinet sizes, door styles, finishes, and general trim work, in addition to labor, installation and the ancillary trade work they provide (electric, plumbing, etc.). This is not too much to expect, keeping in mind that they're offering you ballpark figures until you take further steps to pursue their business.

Based on what you describe above, I think you need to keep looking around for kitchen remodeling companies so that you have a fair comparison. What you've received so far is so vague (and, I believe, just plain pathetic) that it's not letting you compare fairly to Home Depot's offerings. This is a significant investment, and most of your headaches will be either predetermined or prevented before you sign on the dotted line.

Good luck. Hang in there.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 11:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hang in there! You are getting some great advice.

This time around, we kept our GC and cabinet purchases separate, and selected three cabinet lines and a custom builder for quotations. After interviewing and screening candidates, I got bids from all four (originally only intended to do three -- the fourth was an all-in-one shop). I used a big box shop the first time around, but this time I sought out specialists. I ended using one line for the kitchen and local custom for the FR, in similar styles. The KDs for the cabinetry line worked hard to keep costs in line and were fully transparent and knowledgeable about the right tradeoffs.

As an aside, I didn't realize that HD has a cabinet quotation online. I just plugged in the closest possible equivalent to my current kitchen (in the quick ship line). Even with the limited quick ship styles and sizing, the total was only 20% less for stock shaker overlay (with considerable design tradeoffs) compared to customized beaded inset. Handy tool, though, for budgeting.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 3:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i had a similar experience with a KD that a local contractor sent me too. she really didnt listen to my wants so not only was the price a lump sum, it wasnt close to what i wanted and i had to email and call her twice after waiting 10 days for a quote. she apparently sent it to the GC who i hadn't hired yet who also never got back to me! what a pair of bozos! then i went to a KD at a lumber yard who designed my small kitkchen with a 24" trash pullout and a couple of fillers. hello, i said i need more storage not less! very frustrating! i know lots of people have great luck with kd, but am stiking out here.
glad to know you can do all pricing online with home depot since my kitchen reno got put on hold due to exasperation with the kitchen process. i know you can do that with ikea too but most people have to drive hours to get to one. i know ours is 3 hours away.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 8:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes it is frustrating, time consuming and confusing! But once your kitchen is done you will be glad you went to the effort to research and get what you want. I got familiar with using graph paper and learned cabinet terminology.

We started our kitchen/house remodel with a one stop kitchen remodel place. He was very nice came out to measure and then it took him 2 months to give us a very vague bid for the work. Very high $$$.

Next - went to a custom cabinet shop that also sold other lines of cabinets. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted as far as layout and style. They gave us a price without installation that was also vague and no line item and it was a decent price but we did not like the custom built cabinets they showed us in the show room. The finishes just where not as nice as other cabinets we had seen.

Third time we tried to work with a local place that sold Mid Continent and Medallion cabinets. It was like pulling teeth to get a design and price. No line item and we had to call to check to see how the quote was coming along. 5 weeks later we gave up on working with them.

Fourth time went to Menards and got a quote on their Medallion cabinets on the spot. Love them! The finish was wonderful, and we got all the line item pricing on the spot and easily could change things to accommodate our wish list and budget. Now you do have to to know what you want because at least at our Menards they really are not very knowledgeable on kitchen design. Thankfully by the time we checked at Menards we had talked to other kitchen places and knew what we wanted. A little homework on our part and checking and double checking is required. We hired a trim carpenter to install and also do other work on our remodel.

I can not make a large $$$ purchase without knowing exactly what each item cost. I just want to be informed so I can make a informed decision on what I want and what I can compromise if I want to.

We just did our basement bar/kitchenette and used Menards Medallion cabinets again and hung them ourselves.

You just have to do your homework and it does take patience.
It is frustrating.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 10:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm with you, LongTime, that process and vagueness would drive me up a wall. We also used HD, primarily because they had a cabinet line that was just what we were looking for. We also did our own install, so we weren't looking for a package deal of cabinets + whatever. Even though we knew the basic layout we wanted, we did take advice from the KD on details he suggested would work better. When we discovered a small, but important, error in our measurements (our fault), he said, "No problem! We can reduce the width of this cabinet by 1" and all is well." Even so, after a couple of serious planning sessions, I talked him into lending us the catalog so I could see every possibility offered by the line. The immediate struggle was which thing I wanted to do for an inside corner cabinet, both upper and lower. It didn't change the plans, but I felt more confident that what I chose was what I would be happy with in the long run. While I was at it, I checked out all the trim options - I'm a browser.

One caution on using online pricing: There are frequently "deals" on offer which may or may not show up online. In our case, there was a store deal for a percentage off depending on how much your total bill was. The line was also offering "free" finished sides and the KD called the company and asked for a "free" sink cab, a frequent freebie, but wasn't at that time. They said, "Sure, why not?" All three together made for a nice discount.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 11:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm a KD- almost didn't touch this one, lately thinking of going back into lurk mode.

BTW I do give itemized pricing BUT once your a client, not immediately.

Sadly there is a large variation in KD's and practices. But how and why some of it is the way it is may help.

KD's only get paid once you order.

They have to put some amount of work into a job to get together a design and pricing- how much varies enormously but a good one will put together a complete design that reflects what you want and solve most of the little details needed to make the layout work. The really good ones will do several layouts. In either case a fair amount of time is invested. Now this is typically only the beginning of the process. (see the rest below)

So why can't won't they give you itemized pricing?

There are clients who simply wish to get ideas; go to several places, not for price comparison but for design. (a recent post on another thread boasted about going to 4 places and a box store for ideas and to tune up their design) Once they have a design they will go to whoever will give them the lowest price. There are KD's who love to poach designs- walk in with someone elses work and they will beat the price to get the job- they have a much smaller investment in time.
A decent KD can figure out the details of a design with room dimesnions, a rough layout AND an itemized list.

So to protect ourselves from the unscrupulous many will not give out itemized pricing, plans or drawings at the onset. If it is simple and requires no attention to detail, if your just buying boxes then I personally don't really worry. I don't see many of those though.

I've come to believe that the better a KD is the less likely they are to simply hand out their work, they value what it. Design is included, it is not free.

Unfortunately there are many who will never give itemized pricing- that is another issue (and I think stupid).

But to stand half a chance of getting it in the beginning of the process, to comparison shop and get an idea of what special wants add to your costs then bring in your own list.

Ask each place to price that.
If they still won't provide a full itemized list ask for pricing on a few specific things that are on the "maybe list" You ought to be able to get that.

Big outfits like the box stores have an IT department that can make the computers capable of spitting out prices- the small guys have a lot more work to do to get prices- often with a pencil and a calculator many can't run a spread sheet they are after all designers not accountants (I also think this is stupid but guess it's the side of the brain thing).

As to contractors and KD's-
many contractors mark up everything as part of a GC fee, it IS SOP in new construction. The best ones are transparent about how much, some aren't. I pretty much stick to ones who are up front. Since closing rates are better with the professionals who refer to me they (or their clients) get a small discount which helps offset the GC fees. Still on new construction some want estimates before even letting me speak with a client.

When a contractor who sends me several jobs a year sends a client to me I need to work the way they prefer- if that means the pricing goes through them then that what I do. It is not condescending, simply how I have to deal with the people who help me stay in business. If you wish to be given pricing directly tell the contractor to have it done that way. Ask and you may get what you want, assume and you get whatever is typical practice for that contractor/KD relationship.

As I said the first estimates and designs are only the beginning.
I use an atypical system that allows a client to evaluate
-how we work by going over several layouts,
-what they are buying-this brand, that layout, this style, with these bells and whistles.
-and the cost- this project "as it is now" in said style will not cost more than $$$ (unless something radically changes it will cost less)
-I also can offer the "least they are likely to spend" without killing the design concept and a rough idea of what they have to "give up" to meet budget.
I've invested more than a small amount of time at this point. This is typically after a site visit and at the second meeting.

Now the customer with a choice- make a commitment and sign a retainer agreement, or keep shopping.
While some of what I do is a bit unorthodox there are similar variations used. ASK!
If a retainer is paid the the customer is now a client and can have drawings, itemized pricing and so on...otherwise they can go shopping a little smarter but empty handed.

Most designs undergo (lots of) changes, fussing with details, and revision to MEET budget.

While I have no problem providing itemized pricing it is not the best tool to trim a budget. IMO the best way is to ask "how do I get this down to $xyz?" Since we did budget in the beginning things should be within the comfort zone and no one ever asks me to get the price down by 50 or 100 bucks, hey always want a few thousand.

To be able to do that requires understanding how a brand works, what the details are, what the effects of changing them are. Ive handed clients itemized lists and had to accompany them with two pages of explanation of the "mfg codes" then spent two hours going explaining it only to have clients still lost.
Yes it price reduction must be done in collaboration with the client, not simply handed to them. But if you've found a decent KD, your better off making them do the work and then offer the options for discussion.

Who you work with is more important than what brand. If all you want is the lowest price then that is what you are likely to get. If you want the most value you need to seek out a relationship.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 12:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I feel your pain. When we finally settled on a KD and had narrowed the decision to one of two brands, the KD left the company to go into commercial work in the city. We had just paid the KD's company $500 as a good faith deposit, then later went to another supplier of the selected brand due to some friction loaded conversations with the replacement KD. I understand but do not need to hear about their extensive overhead etc. as to why they would not discuss details. Detailed pricing was Top Secret, which I found not exactly comfy and cozy. Vendors of inexpensive imported cabinets and the big box stores will share details with you. My feeling is just play fair, and do not take advantage or screw any one over. As someone said above, when talking an investment like this, $100 is not going to sway you, and you certainly need to feel a right fit with the KD and supplier. We do, and have invited the chosen supplier and the initial KD to the grand opening.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 1:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You don't know what you don't know.

If you can tell me what the following means, and why it's all included and needed then, you may not need a KD. I'll even include a pic of the design to give you a better clue. It's a 9' dining room buffet, in Dynasty, Porch Swing color on cherry. The whole design is around $7800.

1.0 W1D1860L 660
1.1 MWRPEBL 271
1.2 MWMFI 66
1.3 GREPH 223
1.4 MWRPEBR 271
1.5 MWMSFEL 27
1.6 MWMSFER 27

That's one cabinet in this order. With all of those modifications to make it what it needs to be.

The bottom line is, if you'll actually be real, and share what your budget actually IS, then the professional can sift through all of the mind numbing alterations in order to give you what you need. I also did a version of buffet in a lower cost cabinet line, that no gray stain was available in, so it went into a gray paint. It was $7100. Would have been $6200 in a stained finish, but the customer wanted gray. I can't tell you how many times I do the "double design" thing when a design is borderline close from one line to the other. Then, I explain the differences in the lines, and where the $$ figures are coming from, and let the customer decide how to spend their money. However, they don't get a print out, or even a perspective until a deposit has been paid. That's just business. I sell my creativity and knowledge, and it DOES add value to your kitchen design experience. IF you'll let that happen!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 1:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I found the same kind of issues. I had my layout, and cab sizes all figured before I went anywhere. When I got a quote from lowes they gave me the layout they printed, and the list of everything included. As livewireoak pointed out much of the list was product numbers, but all I had to do was ask and the helper told me what each if them was, and for some of the smaller things why I needed them

Now, the kd at the local cabinet place took my design (done on lowes software at home) plugged it into her own, gave me a price quote but no breakdown of what that included. When I asked she said she couldn't give me that or the floor plan as it was copyrighted (?) as their design. Wth? It was my design, I handed it to you to start with. And I can't compare apples to apples without some details. I also felt very much that because I was doing a kitchen on a budget, and didn't need install services that I was wasting their time. My $6000 cabinet budget seemed a joke to them.

The custom company was much the same, but nicer. Their quote came in about double that of lowes.

Things I would not do again if ordering through big box would be ordering extras (trash pull outs etc). There are so many choices that getting the right one seems a long shot. Also, customer service was not great. We had some issues with flaws, and getting those fixed was quite painful. Also, if you don't already have a firm design in mind big box probably isn't for you. The kitchen helper at lowes offered very little by way of feedback for layout and functionality.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 2:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, thanks everyone! Thought I'd get some remarks in response that this is not the forum for vague ranting but it seems like there's a lot of empathy here. I should feel fortunate to be in a position to design my "dream" (within reason!) kitchen, and I do, but it's frustrating getting information. Which makes GW all the more valuable.

The thing I keep seeing on here is that custom isn't always more expensive, which surprises me and is something I otherwise would have dismissed as being way too pricey.

RT Williams, one of the KDs we met with did sell Medallion, all together we looked at dealers of Wolf, Ultracraft, Kraftmaid, Mouser..

I guess I'd say the more you know what you want, the less value a kitchen designer can add.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 5:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

A lot of people know what they "want", and a lot of it violates good design principles, and sometimes even building codes. Just take a look at the many layouts posted on here that have everything all crammed together, or the fridge next to a wall where it won't open, or an island 24" away from the range.........and the list could go on and on. People tend to try to perform all kinds of silly acrobatics to get an island crammed in because they "want" it, even if the kitchen can't support it. Be sure that wants are grounded in reality.

Professionals do thousands of kitchen remodels, and are up on the latest technology, the changes in building codes, the newest finishes and cabinet offerings in the different cabinet lines, and about a thousand and one other things. Using a professional doesn't equate to a kitchen that's not "yours". It equates to getting a kitchen that is both yours and better than anything you could imagine! There is just too much to know and learn for the typical one time remodel homeowner to be able to learn in less than a year's worth of research.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 6:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If I were a kitchen designer, there would NEVER be a potential customer walking out of my studio with a design in hand for which they haven't paid or at least put down a deposit.

Where on earth do people get off going from shop to shop poaching design ideas? Do you go from stylist to stylist getting just a little hair cut at each place until you get the look you want for free? What nerve.

"They are feeling you out to see how big your wallet is." You betcha. I not only want to know how big your wallet is, I want to know if you're realistic about how much you'll have to spend to get what you want and if you're willing and capable of doing so. It's a kitchen designers job to qualify potential clients. Those that don't are wasting time and that will take you out of business if you do it enough.

Any good business relationship is based on mutual trust and respect. That can't happen with one party expecting something for nothing and/or withholding information.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 6:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I totally get the design and knowledge thing, but we all spend time and money putting in bids that we may or may not get. I do that as a freelancer all the time and I'm lucky if I get 10% of my 'bids' taken up. If you want the work, you make a detailed offer.

The KD, who is presumably attached to a cabinetry shop, may not hand you complete plans but she should hand you a drawing that shows what you'd be getting with various options. Design software makes this pretty simple. She can give you a price with crown molding and without, etc. with very little effort. She should get that you need to be able to add and subtract options until you can make a final decision that fits your budget and style.

Take it from me (much sadder and infinitely wiser and poorer after dealing with an incompetent, uncommunicative and billing-happy general contractor) --you need to have really detailed communication about everything.

The contractor will be taking a percentage, and if he's going to do that, he should earn it. If you're NOT going to be going through the contractor, he needs to know that upfront before you sign his contract. Getting a vague "Cabinets--$17,000" really isn't going to hack it.

I'd suggest you tell the contractor that you liked x but you aren't comfortable about giving the project to anyone who can't give a price breakdown. She'll either get back to you or she won't.

Some salespeople are oddly fatalistic about customers--they enjoy rolling their eyes and calling you a cheapskate instead of saying 'huh, how can I communicate what I have to offer more effectively?"

A good (but honest) salesperson is a real joy. I wish there were more around.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 9:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For those customers who take a KD's plans and shop it around, well, that's going to happen sometimes. And those are the customers you probably don't want, anyway. They would be the 20% who take up 80% of your time.

But if this is what drives a KD from being transparent in pricing and design, then my bet is that they're losing more business by not being forthcoming, than they would be by sharing this information with a potentially deceiving customer. At the end of the day, creativity is subjective. Honesty is not. A smart customer knows the difference. And I'm speaking as someone who has had her professional work copied by others without credit or financial gain. I'm proud of my work, but I'm humble enough to know that it's not so special that it couldn't be replicated by another professional in my field.

It's rather lofty to expect anyone to sign on the dotted line for thousands of dollars without sufficient explanation and detail, isn't it?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 11:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

Y'all aren't understanding how things work if you think that you don't get a breakdown of item by item costs. You just don't get that without paying a retainer. You get a basic meeting, basic design services, and maybe even a revision or two.And a lot of conversation about if you are on the right track, and the specifics that went into the design. But, nothing leaves a true pro's hands until money goes into theirs in the form of a deposit.

I don't count box store drones in the category of a true designer, because they try to turn kitchens into a commodity, and that's what it ain't. That's the confusion in this thread. You're not buying bread and peanut butter. You're buying ideas first, and the boxes that make those ideas work second.

And there's a world out there well beyond the peanut butter sandwiches of Ikea. If you're creative you can take the 199 offerings there and do something quite nice. But, you are limited. Take the 199,999 choices in a mid grade line, and you can create something that fits you even better. No amateur would expect to have to sift through all of that though. Much less the 1,999,999,999,999 choices that are available in a custom line. No, I ain't kidding. Heck, I'm a pro, and I don't even know what I don't know about LWO's customization of that cabinet above. It's beyond me without getting some training from a rep and a couple of months back in the saddle with active work. I'd rather drink my tea and grow roses and not have to think about that anymore! And leave it to the pros to get me what I need when I do take on the occasional retirement project.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 7:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It seems to me that part of the problem is kitchen designers have this belief that their ideas are so unique and special that they are worth paying thousands of dollars for. Seriously, show me one flash of brilliance that a kitchen designer thinks is unique that hasn't already been done and featured in someone's picture on Houzz or discussed on here.

Certainly in my initial meetings with 3 separate KDs, none impressed me with any initial thoughts that were out of the ordinary or unique in any way. Maaaybe they were saving their big guns for after we'd signed a deal, but probably not. Just face it, if you have a reasonably normal house and you don't want a kitchen that's completely wacky, there's not a whole lot of ideas that haven't already been shared online. Fine, a good KD can come up with the exact optimal positioning of every spice pull-out, every shallow depth cabinet, etc so that the space is completely optimized for your super-special kitchen and your super-special needs, but for that matter if you look around online enough you (with the input of fellow GW'ers) can do that too, and you won't charge yourself for it, and plus you know your own family's needs better than a stranger does.

I guess I feel disappointed and also frustrated that I wasted a bunch of time meeting with KDs and was being asked to spend in some cases Ten Thousand dollars more than I could with a big box line of similar cabinets and there was no evidence that they were going to give me anything so special I couldn't think of it on my own. /rant off/

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 8:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The difficulty and importance of choosing the right designer, contractor, and/or tradesmen cannot be overstated. Peony4's statement deserves prominence "most of your headaches will be either predetermined or prevented before you sign on the dotted line"

I'd really like to hear from the pros here about how a consumer can find people like them in her own community. IMO, only very skilled or very naïve consumers believe we are better off on our own than with professional guidance. But I suspect that pros like jackuvall, live_wire_oak, hollysprings, and trebuchet are few and far between.

My kitchen remodel is the largest single purchase I have ever made except for my house: it cost more than my car, more than my kid's pre-paid college tuition, and more than any vacation. I didn't do a lot (or enough) shopping around before contracting for the work, in part because I was doing my best to be fair to the designers and contractors and custom cabinet makers with whom I explored the project - I specifically wanted to avoid using their time without paying them.

Finding and evaluating professionals still seems like the hardest part of remodeling - it makes backsplashes seem easy!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 9:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well said by many, the over arching theme is that everyone should simply play nice. Don't treat someone differently than you would want to be treated. If you get that far in, where you feel the need to stiff someone, you've gone too far without following your heart and soul.

I paid my KD $500, as a deposit on a project. I then went shopping, to various places for various lines. I am an educated consumer, no reason not to be in this age. I do not feel bad, I think $500 is a fair price for the time she spent. Probably close to $50 an hour including time spent meeting her at her store.

I found option and features are similar across quality buckets of manufacturers. Finishes if hand applied separate further. If you are in a mid range, does it really matter which mid range? Thats where the personal relation comes into play. it is still very important. Perhaps the most important ingredient.

How many will invite their KD to their open house party to show off their new kitchens? How many KD's would bother accepting and attending. A true mark of a project well done, IMHO. Peace Out.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 10:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think a key point is that communication is lacking. I bought from a big box store because the local place was stratospherically priced--and I had no real sense of what I was getting. I had the basic layout that I'd done myself; she tweaked it a bit (and seriously...A BIT) and that was that. Later the contractor said 'they include the install in the price.' Seriously? Then why didn't they tell me that? It would still have been a lot more, but I'd have considered it much more closely (and it would have saved me a lot of grief). I've never done a kitchen before and I said that upfront. Let me know what you need me to know, KD.

If I went to a designer and s/he said, here's the deal, I can do a quick rough out but I'll need a $500 retainer to do more complicated plans, deductible from the final cabinetry price if you go with us, and this is what we include..." then it would be well worth it. But they don't. I talked to a couple on the phone and got cold waves of ... well, what Lurker was talking about.

They're really woolly, as if they're too good to get down to brass tacks. Everyone from the consumer to the KD/salesperson seems to feel that it's embarrassing to discuss price. Price is important for most people....including the KD.

Years ago I sold real estate; you'd drive people around all day and then they'd call and say hey! I just saw an open house on a new listing and I bought it. Aren't you excited for me?

So I quickly figured that with many customers I had to sit down and educate them about how I made a living first. I was very straightforward, and most people appreciated it. Things were much better after that. And now I totally appreciate people who are honest about making things work for both of us, and virtually always buy from them.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 2:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i understand what the KD on this forum are saying about time invested for a great design, unfortunately most of us never encounter your counterpart in our kitchen search. i had my own kitchen design done before going shopping simply because there isnt alot that can be done in my space without a major reno and i do think that many kitchen remodels are similarly simple redesigns. i have had an island pushed on me by every kd even though my kitchen dimensions do not allow for proper clearance. i haven't experienced a new design or a good design yet and it has taken a lot of my time which i feel is also valuable.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 2:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm with kksmama: getting to "I trust you" is probably the hardest part for me. I really want to trust the folks I talk to. I'm looking for reasons to trust them. I find it surprising how few reasons they provide.

This is a big investment. I'm probably equally excited and scared. It's less about the money than the consequences. We've all read the horror stories.

But I guess it's just the way the world is: most of the people that buy cabinets aren't on GW. So the expertise and care we on GW are looking for is neither necessary nor selected for in the KD/Darwinian sense. Many folks are more salesperson than designer and probably most of us on GW would give our right arm (and $) for a true designer that was thoughtful and creative.

Honestly, I've yet to meet one. I have no doubt they're out there. There are several on GW. (And I'm bummed that none are near me.) But they're a needle in a haystack. Or a diamond in the rough.

Of course, to be fair, I could say similar things about other design professions (I've dealt with a number, entirely unrelated to building/construction.)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 9:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

See hoolysprings, I think you are missing the point that many of us are not looking to buy ideas, we have our own and just need the "boxes" as you put it, to make them work. My kitchen (and many others I'm sure) was keeping the same basic layout and replacing everything. It wasn't difficult and I didn't need design services per se. All I needed was the kitchen consultant to say "this is option a and this is option b, what would you like?" I needed a consultant to point out the little items I would need to make things look finished. Finding information online about designing kitchens is fairly easy, and not rocket science.

Now, if I had an enormous kitchen and budget to match I wouldn't hesitate to use a KD. But I don't, and it struck me as though the KD I saw didn't want my business because I wasn't a big enough fish. I was a budget shopper on a fixed income with my own layout. And as a budget shopper I need that breakdown. I need to know the cost of things I'm on the fence about (crown molding for example) so i can decide if I want it.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 6:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

Chrissy, it may surprise you, but that's the situation that most renovators are in. Or, even new construction. Architecture limits a lot of what you can do as far as re-arranging the bits and pieces. Builders are the cheapest sons of guns on the planet and don't want to spend a dime more than they've budgeted towards cabinets, and they haven't budgeted very much. It actually takes a lot more creativity in a small and limited budget kitchen to maximize the effect of the dollars spent than it does in a larger kitchen.

Most kitchens that I did during my active years involved 5K-20K worth of cabinets in them in today's prices. That's well below the national average expenditure. To get people dialed in on their budget, the absolute FIRST thing I or any other KD needs to know is what that budget might be. Even though you might want a "price list", and I have a spec book that does give a "list price" of all of the possibilities, that spec book is 700 pages long for even a relatively simple cabinet line. Multiply that by 4-7 lines, and add a couple in that are over a thousand pages.

And no one pays list price for anything. So, even if I gave you an old copy of a spec book, you couldn't figure out where to effectively put your funds in your kitchen without some help from me. Unless you looked them up and memorized them, you wouldn't know about the needed safety zones around a cooking surface, and the recommended landing space for a fridge and where it should be located. You wouldn't know the code distance for a combustible surface over a cooking source, or egress path from a flame source, or the electrical requirements for your island.

Not that all of that information isn't available to the person who wants to find it. Heck, with the internet, it's a lot more available than it used to be back in the dark ages! But, learning all of that just so that you can be sure your kitchen is the best it can be takes a lot of time. If you've got that time, and want to do it, I'd be happy to be your partner on the possibilities that satisfy your needs that each line offers. I'm just a shortcut who already knows all of that stuff that you don't have to research unless you want to. I'm another "research aid", if you like.

And I've worked with people for months and months to get their design as perfect as it could be for their 5K budget. That's a lot harder than you think it is. Everything has tradeoffs. And no, I don't make the decisions to choose 42" cabinets without crown, or 30" cabinets with crown. the customer always makes the decisions. I'll present them with both choices, and sometimes even more either/or scenarios than you can even imagine. Any designer is always working hard to get the customer exactly what they need, at the price they can afford. And any good one does much more than present the bottom line, take it or leave it. We'll partner with you. IF you'll make a partner of us and let us help you.

Design services typically costs ZERO above the cost of the cabinets. The designer makes their money off of the cabinet purchase and is folded into that. Even if you show up with a design and the designer does nothing, you don't pay any less. So why not take advantage of a FREE interactive encyclopedia with experience to make your kitchen better?

Now, no one wants to do a lot of work for nothing, so a retainer is usually involved after a meeting or two. For people that haven't undergone the process before, this may sound scary to them. It's getting engaged, and you're not sure you've dated enough to do that. You've decided you're serious about the project, and you trust the other person to work with you for the common good. And that's where picking the person instead of the product comes into play. The right person makes all the difference. There are a lot of white shaker cabinets being produced out there at all kinds of price lines. If you pick the right person, you can let them take the lead in suggesting which lines fit your budget. And, we're back to that. If you'll be realistic as to what that budget is, and communicate it, that's the first step to a great relationship, and to getting exactly what you want and need. Even if you prefer to take the lead all the way with no design input, without sharing what your budget is, no one is going to know where to suggest you start your project.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 9:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ugh, HollySprings, the whole concept of a "budget" for the kitchen or for any particular element of the kitchen irritates me because I don't think it applies to the majority of us. Not to say GardenWebbers are the 1% of society -- not at all! To me the idea of a budget is offensive because it implies we've arbitrarily decided we're going to spend a random amount on cabinets and that's what we're going to spend no matter what.

In reality, if we learn that there's a superior product that meets our needs perfectly, most of us will probably be happy to spend MORE than we'd mentally budgeted for and cut costs somewhere else. But if we told the KD our budget was X, she might not even mention whatever better options to us. Similarly, if we have a budget that's high, it might be in a KDs interest to show us a higher priced line even if there's a lower priced line that exactly meets our needs and wants, because she knows we won't balk at the price.

I honestly had no "budget" when choosing cabinets. We know we're going to spend more than 100k on house renovations before we move in, and some large part of that will be the kitchen. As far as the nickel and diming about whether the cabinets will cost 25k or 12k, well, I'm not going to arbitrarily assign a dollar amount going in.

Instead, the "right" way to approach it it is to ask, "What's the best price I can get for the features and quality I want?" I don't know how I'd answer a KD's question about budget when I honestly don't have one. -- I guess I don't want the cabinets to cost over $40k, but for our size kitchen that wouldn't be possible even for the most expensive choices.
And even then, if you were able to completely blow us away with some fantastic cabinets and mind-blowing ideas for 40k, then maybe we'd go for it!

So far after meeting with 3 KDs, one of them twice, I can't say they had anything impressive to suggest that we hadn't seen elsewhere or already thought about with the help of GardenWeb.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I totally agree with you on the "budget" issue. I have had many experiences where once you say a number all they want to sell you is stuff at that price or higher. We never had an actual budget for our remodel. We went one room and one item at a time. How can you set a budget when you don't know what things cost? Researched cabinets and found what would give us the best value. Balancing quality,function, and price. We set our "budget" for cabinets after getting general estimates. Then we priced out detailed plans from 8 different cabinet lines. Before researching, our "budget" for cabinets would have been much lower. Once we learned what you get for your money we adjusted what we were willing to pay. I hate telling any sales person any price point. When looking for a used car recently, I told sales people what I wanted to see cars that fit my list of needs/wants between $5,000 and $15,000. Quite a range but I didn't want to miss out on a great value.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 12:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Considering cars can cost from $50.00 to $50,000,000.00, you narrowed it down for your car dealer quite nicely. I don't understand why a kitchen dealer deserves any less.

No one would argue that an educated consumer might want three estimates. As a home-improvement contractor, I'd like some information too. I need to know that you're being realistic about what you can get for how much you'd like to spend. I therefore need to know how much you're comfortable spending. I need to know if you can really spend the money you're dreaming of spending.

You get your three things, I get mine. Seems fair to me.

Most importantly, I like to get a feel for a customer's attitude. To me, this should be more like doctor/patient. You come to a home improvement professional with a problem and together we try to solve it. We need to be a good fit for each other and fortunately the "patients" I don't want usually give themselves away at the first meeting.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Sun, Nov 17, 13 at 13:31

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm glad to hear that we're not the only ones who went into a total kitchen renovation without a set budget. Before we did any shopping at all, we spent probably three months looking at our space and mentally exploring all the things we could do to it to make it more functional. We could add on here, move a wall there, or swap A and B plus bump out an exterior wall. In the end we did none of those, not because of budget, but because none of those plans would have significantly improved what we already had. In the end, we decided to remove one small stub wall that was just in the way and keep the layout close to the way it was. Then we went shopping.

We didn't know what we wanted in the way of cabinets, so we spent time looking at what was available - and reading GW. We weren't in a hurry and didn't have a deadline. We weren't concerned with white shaker or walnut whatever, we were looking at construction and function for our space. When we finally had that "Ah-ha!" moment, then we sat down and talked specifics. There still wasn't a budget. We'd decided on a basic layout and found cabinetry that suited. At that point, the HD KD plugged in our measurements and cabinetry and came up with a number. At this point it was still ballpark because we weren't done with details, but we finally found out what we were going to spend more or less. We could have looked at that number and decided our house didn't warrant that kind of investment. We could have decided Ikea was looking better all the time, but we didn't. At that point, the number on the page (approx. $14,000) seemed reasonable and doable. I know that's not the way it's usually done, and it might have driven a real KD nuts, but it's how we did it. It's just kind of the way we function.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 3:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

DebraK, the same thing happened to me--before I got into the nitty gritty, I would've thought cabinets were much less. If you'd asked me to set a budget or produce a number for the first meeting with a KD, I would have said maybe $7k! Of course for our reasonably average sized kitchen you're not getting anything too nice for that price.

So, Trebruchet, I don't think it's like buying a car at all--everyone has bought several cars, everyone you know has bought several cars, so you go into that having a good idea about how much cars cost. Here, I didn't know anyone who has done a full kitchen remodel recently enough that their cost info would be current, so I have nowhere near enough info to tell a KD what my "budget" should be.

This is a chicken and egg problem--I don't want to throw out a nonsense number until I've gotten a lot of information, but KDs don't want to waste their time working with me on the details until they know I'm a serious buyer.

And Suzanne, hehe, we're well past the number where we're thinking our house doesn't warrant all this investment! The fun thing, though, is you then start to think, Gee, now that the kitchen and master bath are getting done and the floors refinished, the powder room is looking drab in comparison, it wouldn't take TOO much to update that....

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

No one begins a project without an idea of how much money they have to spend for the project. You DO have a budget, you just don't know what the exact number is. You know the range, without even trying to think about it. Or, at least you know the top end. A car analogy is fairly apt, as most people end up spending the same amount on a kitchen as they do a new car. Half of that number should be cabinets. So, a new Spark, or a new G class Mercedes? You know what's parked in your drive.

Another guideline is % of home value. 10-20% of a homes' value is what a kitchen remodel budget should look like, again, with half of that going towards cabinets. It makes no sense for someone to have a wishlist that ends up being 50K worth of cabinets in a 150K starter home. Nor does it make much sense for someone in a 2M house to be thinking about 6K worth of American Woodmark cabinets. Your neighborhood and location drive what you will consider to be an appropriate expenditure.

That information is online in many places, and you should have come across it in your preliminary research about how to begin the process. It's disingenuous to throw up your hands and proclaim helplessness about not knowing how to set a budget for a home project. There's plenty of information out there from multiple sources.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen Remodeling Calculators

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 6:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hollysprings, most homeowners come to know these budget standards a few steps into the remodeling process, not at the start. Even then, these standards are vague. On a $500,000 home, a $50,000 budget is very different from a $100,000 budget.

Regardless, an average homeowner first encounters the KDs in the initial stages of this entire process, when they're still trying to get a grasp of how this all works.

"Hey, honey, I think we should remodel our kitchen next spring. Why don't we stop by the kitchen remodeling place this weekend, meet with a designer, and get some ideas."

It's at THIS STAGE above that we first encounter KD #1. We don't know our budget because we aren't even sure what type or scope of remodel we need--isn't that what we're meeting with the KD for? So, at this first encounter, the KD #1 views us as non-committal and without a budget, and so, not worth their time. We will walk away with that impression. Then, we'll start doing some research, become more educated... and when we are at the point at which we can make more informed decisions and have a more concrete budget, we've already ruled out KD #1 because they were so dismissive of us the first time around.

Admittedly or not, KDs are salespeople, and customers have the money. KDs need to sell their services, and part of this is transparency and honesty. Most people won't invest in someone who claims they'll deliver what they want, but won't tell them what it is until after it's paid for. (Like my brother-in-law who's a financial planner, but claims he doesn't like salespeople. Ummm... yes, you have to *sell* yourself to people who have money to spend, whether you like it or not.)

As an added note, our kitchen remodel budget doubled during our education process because we became more aware of costs and what we really needed to do to get a quality remodel. And we wrote off a few KDs based on their poor reciprocation and lack of transparency.

This post was edited by peony4 on Sun, Nov 17, 13 at 22:43

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'll add even a further note here, if anyone is still reading. My husband used to work in the homebuilding industry before the recession, and also, equally notable, before Pinterest, Houzz, and design blogs became widely viewed. His company provided architectural materials to high-end customers. He predicted the longevity of designers based on their personalities and willingness to work with homeowners, not on their creativity alone. And he's been on target, based on what we've witnessed once the recession started and the Internet design sites took over.

Early in our kitchen remodeling process, we walked into a high-end custom kitchen store in a trendy downtown area to look at their countertops on display. A salesperson greeted us and said she was one of their KDs. We asked her about the countertops on display and she proceeded to spend a half hour of her time with us, explaining the pros and cons of each one, offering examples, sharing her perspectives, etc. Never once did she ask our budget or any other plans of our remodel. And we made it clear from the start that we were "researching." Nonetheless, she was kind and generous with her professional time.

Our remodel was mid-range, and she was high-end. We couldn't afford her services. But her attitude has left an imprint. If I'm ever lucky enough to afford a high-end remodel, or if I'm ever asked for a reference, she's at the top of my list. Does my impression make her money today? No. But I'm sharing this for what it's worth. Real life KDs still have an advantage over Houzz and Pinterest and even Home Depot if they just realize and adapt to what that advantage is.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I'm glad you had a good experience and that designer can look at the time she spent with you as a farmer would look at planting seeds. Something good may come up later.

Imagine if she had spent several hours with you and several more designing a kitchen but didn't qualify you, only to find out that, yes, you did have the budget, you were willing to spend it, but it was an inheritance. Unfortunately, your benefactor wasn't dead yet and was quite healthy.

There is a thing in business called opportunity cost. A business person invests time/money in potential customers, since there are only so many hours in a day. If you invest too much time in people that can't use your services, you will be broke very soon.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I'm glad you had a good experience and that designer can look at the time she spent with you as a farmer would look at planting seeds. Something good may come up later.

Imagine if she had spent several hours with you and several more designing a kitchen but didn't qualify you, only to find out that, yes, you did have the budget, you were willing to spend it, but it was an inheritance. Unfortunately, your benefactor wasn't dead yet and was quite healthy.

There is a thing in business called opportunity cost. A business person invests time/money in potential customers, since there are only so many hours in a day. If you invest too much time in people that can't use your services, you will be broke very soon.

Here is a link that might be useful: Opportunity costs

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Sun, Nov 17, 13 at 23:41

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Trebruchet, if a KD has a fortune-teller's ball to know which customer who walks in the door has the dead relative, then there you go. Opportunity cost is defined in that moment.

Otherwise, the KD leaves a lasting impression long before that ball kicks in. In a thing in business called sales, there is a concept called persuading those who have money to spend that you are worthy of that money.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 11:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had a similar experience with a couple of KDs. I was very upset by it, but realized that that's how they run their businesses. They expect that you will hire them first, perhaps because of their reputation, and then and only then will they actually tell you what they're going to do, and of course, how much it will cost.

I think kitchen cabinets are outrageously overpriced. The markup is huge, so KDs get a big cut of that inflated price you pay for those "boxes."

How is it that Ikea charges so much less for cabinets that are essentially the same as many mid-level lines? Partly it's volume, and partly it's just that THOSE BOXES DON'T COST THAT MUCH!!

When I go shopping, I want to know how much things cost so I can compare prices. I don't see why I can't do that when I'm buying something as expensive as kitchen cabinets!! When you are paying more than $10K for anything, you really ought to know what you are getting!

People have been "trained" to overpay for kitchen cabinets. We're told they cost a certain amount, and we say OK, I'm building my dream kitchen, we'll pay! It's like wedding pricing -- didn't the flowers at your wedding cost twice as much as they would if you were ordering them for a regular event?

If KD's charged per hour, rather than by taking a commission on cabinets, then I'd feel better about them. I'd never hire a decorator who charges a commission -- what incentive does she have to buy the right things for ME, instead of steering me towards the items that will bring her the most profit?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 12:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

After reading all these posts, I feel pretty fortunate. I got 4 bids, all four came out to my house and took measurements. Two gave me a written proposal including cabinets, installation, electric, plumbing, an appliance budget & floors. The third gave me a max price that included most of the bells & whistles she thought I'd want. The fourth took about 2 months to call with the proposal. I did give them a budget. Did I stick to that budget - no. Could I have gotten a kitchen within that budget from the KD I went with - yes. I chose to add tons of drawers (thanks GW), crown molding, more expensive appliances, etc., all the details that increase the price. We were quite far into the planning process with multiple drawings before a deposit was required. I was upfront that I was getting other bids. I would never have "shopped" her drawings. I'd be embarrassed to show one KD a drawing from another KD and ask for a price. Of the three KD's I actually got bids from, I think I could have successfully worked with 2 of them. The third, I didn't like their cabinet finish.
I do trust my KD. I think I drove her crazy with all my ideas from GW. I know she has worked hard to incorporate all those ideas. I regret that I never posted my floorplan on GW. Hopefully, I'll have a functional kitchen. It's definitely a prettier kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 1:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
robo (z6a)

I feel quite lucky - we went in to see a KD with a good idea of what we wanted (already had lots of help here and from an architect). Custom cabinet line. He was great with pricing, provided a plan promptly, and was up-front about what would be an upcharge and why. I don't think he priced us out every single cabinet, mind you. But the upcharge stuff we wanted (and we had a ti-i-g-ght b-u-d-g-e-t) he had no problem rattling off an approximate cost per change (e.g. glass fronts, custom paint color, upgraded slides, etc).

I feel like although we came in with plans, we made it clear we would have been open to re-imagining the space. He had a few ideas that tweaked our design for the better, but nothing major. We wanted things pretty plain as is. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful in talking my husband out of his pet bar fridge :(

I don't think the car analogy holds up because car prices (and specs) are published, so you usually have a good idea of both what you can afford and what you can get for your money before you go car shopping.

DH and I definitely have a set budget for our renovation and a very strict (not unrealistically so) budget for cabinets + installation. So we are walking into places with a "max price" and realize we aren't going to fulfill the whole wish list by any means.

DH's parents, on the other hand, would be more the type who would have a flexible budget depending on what they saw as value for their money. A kitchen reno could be anywhere within 1-4x their lowest budget depending on what they saw that they liked. But they aren't extravagant just for the sake of it, so it would have to really wow them--and meet their needs--to get to the 3-4x budget mark.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Mon, Nov 18, 13 at 1:35

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 1:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Trebruchet, if a KD has a fortune-teller's ball to know which customer who walks in the door has the dead relative, then there you go. Opportunity cost is defined in that moment.
Otherwise, the KD leaves a lasting impression long before that ball kicks in. In a thing in business called sales, there is a concept called persuading those who have money to spend that you are worthy of that money."


You are correct; remodeling professionals don't have crystal balls. Since they don't, they have to use a system by which they qualify potential customers. Why would they waste time and money persuading potentials they are the best value if the potential is incapable of making a purchase?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 6:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Think of how qualifying works when the shoe is on the other proverbial foot.

After my wife and I sold our house in Michigan with the big fat mortgage payments, we bought a home in Florida for cash. We wanted to make sure the sellers knew we were cash buyers. Why?

It puts buyers in a position of strength. Let's say a seller has 2 offers. One from a couple needing a mortgage approval and an appraisal. One from me for cash, no mortgage, no appraisal, we'll-close-next-week.

I don't play coy, I play have your realtor call my bank and see I'm not joking. I have minimized the risk of the deal derailing for the seller. I suggest cabinet purchasers take the same tack.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 6:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, yes, yes! You described my experience as well as my thinking about budget--we bought our house this past spring and knew it needed a lot to make it what we want. We have a total number that we are willing to spend for everything, but no idea what's realistic as far as allocating it not just for the kitchen but for everything else, so there's a ton of flexibility depending on what we learn in the process. One example: We demolished the wall between the kitchen and dining room--that actually cost less than I expected, freeing up money I'd mentally budgeted for the demo to spend on other things.

By the time I got to a point where I knew pretty specifically what I wanted for cabinets, you're right that I'd written off some of the KDs as not taking me seriously, and they probably wrote me off as not a serious buyer as well. But it takes talking with people (this was before I'd found GW!) to GET educated, so someone's got to do it, and if the early KDs we met with had been more informative about pricing, we'd have been more interested in working with them once we were ready to buy.

Baltomom, I've also thought of the comparison between kitchen cabinet buying and wedding planning! Because in both cases you are expected to produce a budget figure before you know what things roughly cost, and because in both cases I feel like price information can seem secretive and inflated.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 7:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Most KDs at independant dealers get paid by what they sell. It is not what we do, just how the boss decides the number on the check. More than half, come from some art or design background and have to learn how to sell, some better than others.

Most customers start out with little to no idea what things cost. Surprise surprise. One of the first thing a KD has to learn in sales is how to help customers determine a budget.
They may not do it the way you want it done, but every one of us has a way to help clients figure out a budget. You just have to be willing to have that conversation. .

Worth noting:There is a higher percentage of good ones than some believe, and far fewer that only do hi-end than you think. All are just human. The better a KD is, the busier. The more they care about taking care of the clients they have, the less time they put into getting new ones.
Getting the KD client relationship to work well is a two way street. Just as you are evaluating the KD, they are evaluating you. The better they are, the less nonsense they need to deal with. Try to have fun, maybe smile.
I can guarantee that some will dissapoint you. It is also likely you will miss the best if you don't try.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 11:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think wedding planning was easier!

We started off first thinking we were going to have the cabinets in our "new to us" house repainted, since the off-white paint was peeling off. The granite countertops were in great shape, and it was obvious the previous owners spent a lot of money on these counters. We received an estimate for $4500 for repainting.

Then, I figured it would be better to reface, and get a whole new look. I received estimates ranging from $12k- $20k (with one place being very high pressure, "will drop the price if you order today" type of attitude). One place I called, also did remodeling, and I called them in asking for prices for remodeling, not refacing, yet told me remodeling would be "much more expensive" than his quote for refacing. How much more? He would not elaborate. At this point, with particle board cabinets that really were not in the greatest shape and could stand for a lot of improvement, I figured I had to try to get an answer from SOMEBODY about a remodeling price. We were not even trying to change much - just pretty much keep the same layout in terms of appliance placement, but make a few modifcations to get it to where I thought it would be more functional.

I finally got one place, when he saw in person that our kitchen wasn't as big as he thought based on the pictures I showed him, to give us a quote for remodeling. Came in around $32,000. Ok, finally!

I tried a few other people, both of whom wanted a budget. I explained how we went from spending $4500, to $15000, to now maybe $30-40k? But that honestly we wanted to spend as little as possible to get the look and features we wanted. My DH was not thrilled at the thought of spending $45 (as one quote came in) and the idea of redoing the kitchen fizzled. But I knew there had to be a way..

I called a custom cabinet maker that had done a few kitchens in our neighborhood, and I went to their homes to see his work. Beautiful! I was shocked to find out he came in the lowest out of them all (around $20k for just the cabinets - since at the time we were thinking we would save the granite, and he was able to do that.)

We are still toying around with what to do - we have another quote from a friend who has told us that the markup on cabinets and granite is just ridiculous.

Some of the quotes I received were more detailed than others. I have been trying to get more specific on other quotes so that it would be easier to compare them - I am so afraid of choosing one, thinking it comes with everything I want, then finding out it will be extra $ here and there after we've signed on.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 12:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Huge markups?

The standard profit margin on cabinets is typically 30-33% -the national average is said to be 40 which means some hi end places are more. Still far less than clothing. Granite is often as little as 12.
Home Depot is a publicly held company so you can go to the corporate web site and look up their gross margin in the reports-usually around 35.
Search "kitchen designer salary",look at a few results, most are pulling down under 50k a year.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 7:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Heck, even the box stores margins are in the 30% range, and that's after all of those perpetual discounts that they offer. Regular shops sell at those prices every day for the most part, without the hype.

And don't confuse margin with profit. Margin is just how much over their cost they charge. Building rent, utilities, employee salaries, display costs, training costs, software costs, other equipment costs, and a whole host of other business expenses come out of that margin.

No one is getting rich selling cabinets. Unless they are at the extreme top tier of designers in America. Just like other income distribution, the top 5% makes more than the 95% put together.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 9:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Considering KD margins isn't really something buyers should be doing, I don't think. I don't think it makes any sense.

It's a bit like buying a car (and a lot not like buying a car: not trying to cast aspersions here) in the sense that some people approach buying a car by trying to figure out what the dealer is paying and how much they're marking it up. Why would I care about that? I may want a particular model but I couldn't care less about how they price it: all I care about is the net out the door from my available sources. If they all won't sell for less than 10% margin, I either pay that or get a different product. Makes no difference whether that margin strikes me as fair (and goodness knows I'm not in a position to understand their business.)

Simple economics says the margins on cabs aren't outrageous: if they were, more people would be entering the field and the margins would fall. The barrier to entry isn't so high that margins are (artificially) high.

The transaction is complicated by the fact that it's a complicated product: design, order, installation: for the same cab source, those factors can vary significantly and have economic value. (Big distinction with cars where the sales person is pretty low value add, at least for me.) Since the cost is generally bundled into the margin/net cost, it's significantly harder to evaluate/allocate. Which seems like a challenge a KD has to meet. Same issue occurs in many fields ... maybe all.

I'm in the position of trying to do this kind of thing right now. I have to decide if I think a higher end product is worth the money to me. Within a quality/price point, I have to decide whether I think an individual KD is worth more money with other possibilities. I actually don't want to chose based solely on cost but the other factors are much less objective/quantifiable.

The most interesting thing for me at this point is whether I think any (possible) advantage of working with a local builder has any lasting value. I find that question really interesting. I gotta admit, I really enjoy talking to the people that put the stuff together.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 1:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@LongTimeLurker - I SO agree with you!!! Decided I'd rather have a root canal, gyne exam & buy a car - at the same time - compared to buying kitchen cabinets.

There is anti-big-box discussion, but I see why people turn to them; at least you can get an itemized quote in less than an hour.

Waited 3 weeks to get a non-itemized quote, and sketch that did not reflect what I asked for, from KD's. They lost my business!

Decided am not going to care about wasting KD's time getting quotes. It's their lack of transparency regarding pricing that puts them in this position. Wouldn't it be nice see price lists posted in stores or on-line so I can compare a W2142 in one brand & door style to another?

Sorry, venting...spent the day going to 4 different cabinet showrooms.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 1:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"No one begins a project without an idea of how much money they have to spend for the project. "

That's simply not true. Everyone starts somewhere and I don't think the tools for estimating costs are nearly what you think they are.

We had a general idea of what we wanted to do with the kitchen (remove two walls, put in an island) but had absolutely no clue what this was going to cost. $5k? $50k? Absolutely no idea.

I just pulled up a "remodel calculator" from the link above and it had two options: enter your budget, or enter your house value and the percent of that you wanted to spend on a remodel. Neither of those is even remotely helpful.

Another site gives the median remodel cost for a kitchen in my zip code at 18k. That's only slightly more than the cabinet (and installation) cost! If I had started there and taken that number to my KD we would have ended up with a project that couldn't encompass our "must haves" and we would have abandoned the project altogether.

Fortunately I have a good friend and neighbor who's a kitchen designer and she was willing to work with us and understood that this was not a project we were going to embark on immediately. It could be six months, it could be a year, it could be that we'd have to scrap the remodel altogether since we had very specific goals not just "new kitchen". If we couldn't meet those goals we didn't want to do it at all.

She came up with a design and price. I got lots of feedback here, talked with her about where the majority of the cost was, and ultimately decided to move forward. It was around a year between her taking measurements and us starting the remodel and we shared equal "blame" for that delay. Once we had an estimate we had to decide whether it was an amount we were comfortable spending and whether we could arrange financing. On her side we made it very clear that ours should be a "back burner" project for her since we couldn't guarantee if or when it would move forward. There were plenty of times we spent weeks or months waiting on information from her and that was perfectly fine.

This thread is making me appreciate her even more than I already did. If I had encountered some of the attitudes I've seen in this thread (both from KDs and from consumers reporting on their experience) we probably would have abandoned the project before it began.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 1:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

" Once we had an estimate we had to decide whether it was an amount we were comfortable spending and whether we could arrange financing."


I hope you can understand how quickly a K&B dealer would go bankrupt working up free estimates for people uncertain about how much they were comfortable spending and whether or not they could get financing.

After a brief conversation an experienced professional will be able to tell you approximately how much your ideas will cost and to ascertain that you are comfortable with the amount and are able to pay.

We all have our dreams, but business people can't afford not to separate the dreamers from the doers.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 14:55

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 4:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@ trebruchet - That is exactly why I wish they would post prices.

Maybe all do not need to be posted, but at least the 20 most common purchased cabinets (e.g., W1830, DB30, etc.).

Would save us all a LOT of wasted time & aggravation.

I have gotten a lot of free estimates, and have wasted a lot of peoples time - the KD's & mine.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 6:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All these posts sound like my kitchen experience so far. I am hoping it will get better and soon I can share more. Thank you everyone for sharing. I will write more after I meet with the two kitchen designers I am choosing. One sells what I think I want but the other also has a cabinet I like. Whichever cabinet will give me the look I like at the better price and layout is which I will go with. All the other stores and salesman/kitchen designers were not a good fit for me. I had to put off my kitchen plans as my little dog was in the emergency room and has been getting worse each day so I have to make a decision that I never had to make before. Again, thank you for getting my mind off of the stress in other aspects back in my life to how hard it is to buy a kitchen.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 7:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I work in a fairly specialized design field that most people will probably never use. When I get a homeowner calls to get a price quote, we know that they don't have a clue about how much it will cost to do the design (much less the fix and/or install). However, we can say, given the size of your property and what you're looking at doing, it will take about X amount of work and cost about Y for the design. We do give a price range of Y and are fairly conservative but know that if they decide to continue down the path, they are going to get more and more information and narrow the price range as they go. We explain we're being conservative because we haven't actually spec'ed anything out and would need more information from them before continuing down the path. At this point, we've probably spent about 15 minutes but haven't alienated anyone (except for the cost, likely).

If someone comes into a KD's office, as the OP did and says, this is what we're thinking about. Why couldn't the KD say, for a kitchen that size, you're looking at about 10 LF of cabinets and the mid-range price is $6 - $10k (I'm just throwing out numbers) depending on your options. The crown molding you're looking at adds about 5% to the price. The pantry you chose costs about $5k over just going with cabinets. So long as both parties understand that nothing is written in stone and it's only a ballpark estimate, then why wouldn't that be enough information?

It seems like a lot of people are looking for that level of detail, at least in the beginning. The KD hasn't lost a sale and hasn't even drawn anything that could get shopped around. And the buyer and KD can get a feel for each other. At the beginning of my kitchen shopping; I want to get a feel for the designer's work, an idea of the cost range they work in and whether we could work together. Getting told that will cost $17k with no further information will pretty much mean I'm going elsewhere.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 8:54PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Granite Countertop seam question
I have a new construction house on contract. The granite...
Specific stacked upper cab questions
I'm looking for input as I get closer to finalizing...
Soapstone in the Midwest/St. Louis area?
Hi everyone. I've been lurking here for the past year,...
Gap between backsplash and over-the-range microwave?
Hi, all. Does anyone have an over-the-range microwave...
Anyone used solid surface backsplash with granite countertops?
I am considering doing full backsplash in Corian (or...
Carol Vesier
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™