When to hire a GC or KD?

tuxedord2November 5, 2013

I always feel like my questions are a bit ridiculous but the fact is I really just don't know. Call me a real new newbie. I am planning to give my kitchen a face lift and also the adjoining great room. The cabinets can be refinished with just a few minor modifications and trim added et cetera but basic layout of kitchen will be the same. Need new sink, counters, recessed lighting, appliances (all except fridge), new downdraft system more than likely, new paint for both rooms. Need kitchen and great room to coordinate.

I've been collecting info. and photos and samples. Have a general idea of what i want but am finding it hard to commit to things and to know what order to manage this re-do. Had thought I could organize it all myself since its not a total renovation. But...

Had a GC estimate that seemed very high and he wanted to do things that I just didn't want to do. Even said he would not do the job if we didn't make some major structural changes because it was in his opinion necessary (for 33, 000!!). Had just a cabinet guy estimate that seemed more reasonable and was willing to do what I wanted and make the more minor modifications.

Could a KD act as a GC sometimes? Thinking I just need someone to hold my hand a bit more.
Should I get estimates from more GC's or a KD or just keep researching and figure this out?

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Oh and backsplash, under cabinet lighting and i want my phone jack and some outlets moved because of the backsplash.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 8:54PM
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I can totally relate to your question. I am being my own GC using some subcontractors who are very smart. I tried to get one of them to be a GC and he said he didn't want to be responsible for work of subcontractors who screwed up.
Bottom line, I suggest you keep looking for a GC because it is VERY stressful trying to do it yourself. And you hit the nail on the head about "sequence". That seems to be the hardest part for me, i.e. what electrical gets done before drywall and what gets done after drywall, ... now that I think of it, it was finding a good electrical guy who could guide me instead of just wanting to take direction from me was the hardest part. Experience is so valuable with this kind of process and when you don't have it, it can be expensive learning. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 9:03PM
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On the other hand, now that I think more on this, I can't say that I mind having things done (mostly) the way I want them. I tried a KD , two of them, and they didn't want to guide but wanted to do it their way and I hated having to be pushy about what I wanted. Now it (mostly) goes the way I want it to and if there is a mistake, it is all mine.

So, if you have strong opinions, VERY strong opinions about what you want, or like to find new ideas on the web (including gardenweb) and implement, a GC or KD may just be bring more stress with them especially if they have no experience with those kind of new ideas.

Just thought I'd point out the other side and that only now that I'm through the hardest most design intensive part of my remodeling do I wish I had a KD or GC to make those nit -picky little decisions that don't matter a whole lot but do take energy that I seem to have less of these days.

This GC/KD work is amazing hard work that I had no idea of how difficult - all the research and worrying and worrying about money. Haven't found it easy but I HAVE found it thrilling especially when my ideas are implemented and they work even better than I expected.

I have one rule that has worked well for me with my limited experiencee: keep it simple. When in doubt, I find the simplest solution that works (but only when I am in doubt, LOL) . When I start trying to get too exotic in an area I'm unsure of is when the possibility of error becomes greater.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Thanks @elphaba! I originally thought I could do this all myself as we don't need a FULL tear down. But as I get deeper into this process I've realized that I'm already second and third guessing myself relentlessly!

I was put off by the first GC we talked to as he was really pushy and said he wouldn't even do the job if we didn't do xyz. If I were designing my dream, I would have done xyz. But the fact is we may need to move within a couple of years. So we need to update A LOT, but within reason.

I love your rule and I am trying for the same Keep it Simple attitude!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 9:58PM
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I think I'll just get a few more estimates and see if I click with anyone. I do want to be the lead on this, but don't want to do it alone I guess.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 9:59PM
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Research the reputations of some local GCs. This should be your top criteria, not price. Let him know what your budget is and that you are qualified to get the work done. You'll know him when you find him.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 7:31AM
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Thanks @Trebruchet!!!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 8:14AM
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Why don't you post a few pictures and details of what you want done in your kitchen, here on the kitchen forum? Questions about electric can be posted on that forum.
Lots of us are acting as our own GC. Some of us are professionals - some of us just think we are! ;0
Anyway we could help hold your hand a bit even if you decide to have a GC organize for you, you would have a more informed vision for what you want to do.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 9:13AM
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One suggestion I have is that you should only decide to take on what you feel comfortable and knowledgable about taking on. Otherwise it can get very expensive to cover up for mistakes you make along the way.

Being your own GC could be a very good idea for a second or third remodel, especially if you have the time. For a first remodel, you need to figure out the scope of what you don't know, before you start. The subcontractors you hire will only be responsible for exactly what you tell them to do, while a good GC will take responsibility for the overall job.

The one thing you want to avoid is spending a lot of money on a partial remodel, going over budget, then realizing later that if you planned it correctly from the start you could have had done something more ambitious and better with the money you end up putting in.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 9:16AM
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We are GCing our entire house - building a new house - and I admit that I've found it very stressful. Granted, we are paying our lead sub - who is a carpenter and also functions as GC on many jobs - to be our site foreman and help us with scheduling, etc. I'm glad that we're doing it because we have found some terrific ideas and products on the web and in books, etc. Our foreman has great ideas, but there is NO way he would've found light fixtures like the ones we found on etsy, for instance. On the other hand, the frequent phone calls from subcontractors, etc., can be a bit tiring. This week is drywall week for us, and I'd been looking forward to a *day off* to read and take a long shower! But first I need to go to the house early to meet the new crew and get them started, then I need to come back and find heaters to dry the drywall and call the next sub to verify his schedule...each day is unpredictable; I've had to always carry my phone with me and be ready to do what needs to be done at a moments notice (no joke). Of course, it's probably easier if it's just a kitchen you're dealing with, but still difficult. Sure, I think it's worth it to be your own GC, but only if you are really prepared to do it.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 9:40AM
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Most of your project doesn't sound too difficult, but there are a couple of questions that I wonder about.

1) When you say you are going to refinish your cabinets, do you mean do a color change on your 10 year old cabs or a rehab on your 30 year old cabinets? Color changes are easy enough, but you need to be sure your old cabinets are worthy of putting a new granite/quartz/marble/soapstone countertop on. Remember that those materials will last another 20 or 30 years. Will the cabinets? If in doubt, consider laminate countertops or new cabs altogether. It's the penny-wise, pound-foolish thing.

2) Are you comfortable choosing your new appliances, counters, sink, faucet, and paint? If not a KD could be a help here, along with input on cabinet trim and decor compatibility between the two rooms.

3) You'll need a plumber at some point to hook up the faucet, DW, and possibly the line for the ice maker in the fridge. These are fairly simple jobs (for a plumber anyway!) and shouldn't be hard to get done.

3) The electrical and lighting items you mention are going to be the biggest part of this job. Do you have a lighting plan? Are you prepared for the cost? I'm guessing not less than $2500, possibly a lot more. A KD can help plan this or some stores which sell the lights, like Ferguson's, can help make the plans. This really isn't a seat of the pants item. You'll need a plan and an electrician. A GC can deal with this (but don't let him choose your lights!), but be prepared for it to be a major factor in this project.

So my answer to your question would be, "It depends." It depends on your comfort level in planning for all the elements in the finished kitchen. If you're not quite comfortable, then consider finding a KD to steer you through the planning and choosing. A KD is not the right person to supervise the remodel in terms of hiring tradesmen to carry it out.

It also depends on your comfort level in knowing what needs to be done and when and finding the right people to carry out the project and making sure that everything is done properly. If you're iffy on this, search for a GC that you're comfortable with.

One big thing that will help you regardless of how you decide to go is to take your time in the planning process. Time spent planning pays you back 100-fold.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 12:18PM
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Thank you for all the helpful advice. You've given me a lot to consider. I am narrowing down "wish lists" for my kitchen and continuing the planning research phase but I now do think I'm going to need some sort of professional hand in this process.

After reading some of your posts, I am now thinking I should meet with a few KDs as well and just gather estimates. A good KD can help with the PLANNING (lighting, flow). So once I have the PLAN, I'll have more time and confidence to see if I can steer the ship myself with regards to the sub contractors. But..

I think I'll meet with both GCs and KDs to see if I can find the right fit. In the meantime I will look to GW for my handholding!!! I'm learning there are things about kitchens I had never even thought of before! I'll be posting a lot!

With regards to my project, my current cabs are "white" but have yellowed over the years. They are MDF from 1995 but in good shape. The most recent cabinet person said it would be "easy" to repaint them "white" (which is what I know I want) and that they would support a quartz countertop (also what I know I want). I also need to add a few pull out drawers where a desk used to be and reconfigure my current space that houses a micro/oven combo (the micro part has been broken for years). I need the peninsula trimmed out too... Will need all new appliances and new downdraft vent (that is a long story!!). I have a current folder (via GW) of what I think I want. Lighting is the biggest issue indeed. My kitchen is very dark and poorly lit now.

My kitchen could benefit from a major redesign. It is not bad now in terms of flow but it could be better. It would involve rebuilding all new cabinets and moving the current cooktop position to the outside wall so that I could install and hood, getting rid of the peninsula and installing an island. But financially I cannot afford to tear everything out and start over especially since I am not building my forever kitchen at the moment (on the other hand, as I talk to more GC and KD, I may find that I should be more aggressive here so I will listen with open ears)...

And thus my current plan (though subject to change) is not a big huge renovation but it will be a major facelift. I don't want to have regrets as a) I need to like the finished product and b)if and when I need to sell in a few years it will be designed reasonably well. Hence the handholding desire. Other kitchens in our neighborhood are NOT spectacular. I think our facelift will leave us with a very nice kitchen- just perhaps not dreamy top notch.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 1:25PM
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I hired an interior decorator who sourced all of the labor. We are 3/4 done with our remodel. I would have not done it differently. There are so many things that the professinals thought of, that I would have totaly blown off or been paying more to fix down the line.

Also I got lucky and the ID's workers are awesome. I just about died when I saw the cost, but it will be totally worth it. There were a number of things that didn't make sense to me that they had to touch, but when it was explained to me it made total sense.

FWIW - What I estimated my project would cost ended up being double. I sorely under estiamted the scope of the work and the cost.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 1:36PM
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You can be your own GC, but not really.

A good GC has long-term relationships with his subs that have been cultivated over years and money.

Let's say you're a sub with a good reputation. A nice homeowner calls you and you agree to terms. The good sub gets a call from a GC that gives him $100,000.00 worth of work every year on a job that would compete for his time with yours. What do you think he is going to do? Your $5,000.00 job is 5% of what the GC gives him every year. Contract, schmontract, this is a no-brainer.

Let's say there is a problem on a job with a reputable GC and there's enough blame to go around. He calls his subs and tells them to work it out and eat the costs because the homeowner's pissed. They won't like it, but they will suck it up and do it. That takes leverage built over years and dollars. A homeowner/GC has none.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 7:38PM
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Good points @Trebuchet!!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 8:16PM
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Maybe good points in the abstract, but we GC'd our last remodel and had no such issues. The electrician came when he was supposed to, the plumber came when he was supposed to, same for the tiler and the painter. The carpenter and his ass't were on the job almost every day.

This time around, we hired a GC due to the nature of the work and the fact that we just didn't have the time to do it ourselves.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 11:29PM
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Old thermofoil cabinets? Tread very very carefully. Trying to put money into them is usually of the penny wise and pound foolish referenced above. Rehabbing those usually best involves replacement, not refacing.

There's another red flag about the structural changes that the GC recommended. I wouldn't put that off as him trying to pad the bill. I'd investigate the issue fully. If you want an unbiased opinion, hire in a structural engineer to give you an opinion.

Overall, there's not enough information here to do anything but say that I think you may be vastly underestimating the project's needs and scope of work.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 7:39AM
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I am listening :-) and will certainly entertain the thoughts of others including the professionals. You have all convinced me that I need to talk to more GCs and KDs to find out exactly what they can offer and what their thoughts are regarding my re-do. I will definitely tread carefully.

The GC that was here proposed knocking out a wall and a half and relocating every single appliance including the sink, constructing an island, adding a prep sink and pot filler... While I can certainly see the vision and know that it would be a gorgeous design I would out price the neighborhood and frankly it was his attitude that really rubbed me the wrong way. But yes! I will ask other GC's and KD's for their advice.

I was told by a carpenter/cabinet maker that my cabinet doors were oil based painted MDF without damage and
that it would be reasonable to repaint. This is a company that also makes custom cabinets.

I will investigate more! I so appreciate all your great thoughts and opinions. This community is so very helpful!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 8:40AM
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OK, I see that the contractor was the one proposing the changes as an option, not that the house needs to have structural issues addressed! That makes a big difference! :) There's still the red flag matter of the island cooktop, but that hopefully can be addressed to make it more functional and safe.

If you are really not doing any substantial changes, then you just need to bounce ideas off of someone rather than a true kitchen design. For that, sure, a KD or ID can do that for you, and will have the network of associated GC's to do any changes that you might be interested in doing. But, so can this forum----if you're not overwhelmed with the magnitude of choices beyond what you've ever imagined! That's what's good and bad about this forum!

I think if you did a separate post with the layout of the space, plus pictures, you could probably get a lot of ideas that would help you to move forward. Also, finding an "inspiration picture" is often helpful to be able to zero in on a look.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 9:17AM
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Make sure you know what you don't know.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 5:02PM
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@Trebuchet, words to live by!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 6:45PM
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I gotta write something so all the followups will be mailed to me, so ...

I'm going to be doing some fairly extensive upgrading but mostly avoiding big things like moving walls or plumbing.

So far I've been straddling the line of owner-builder and getting a GC. I have a friend who's an inactive GC that has been giving me hints but his background is commercial, not residential and from another who is an architect, but, again, not residential.

I've started by getting estimates from the major trades: HVAC, electrical, plumbing, cabs, fencing, paint. This was to see how rough estimates matched against my budget to see what was in and what was out. (At this point, wholesale replacement of windows is out.)

That's my first big task: figuring out what's in and what's out.

I've talked to a couple of GCs, still trying to judge their approach. I'm pretty careful about spending money where it returns value and I've gotten mixed results from talking to the individual trades. Some are very flexible. Some want to run it their way. I'm waiting to see how that falls out with the GCs.

Anyway, I'm reading carefully what everyone else has written ...

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 12:27AM
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I can relate. We GC'd the last time around and I wouldn't do it again. We 'thought' we were DIY'ers since we had previously done a lot of DIY. Didnt think the kitchen would be that difficult since the layout and things like plumbing was not going to change. The comments about GC and subcontractor relationships we found to be true. Also we had several contractors working in empty house at the same time...they didn't get along. More headaches than value.

I agree that trying to use existing thermofoil cabs may be a mistake. We currently have yellowing thermofoil cabs and it *is* the reason why we are doing a complete remodel. I briefly considered just doing new counters and the typical facelift, but the cabs although in really good shape, were really the problem. I hated the thought of wasting money on the new materials like flooring, countertops, appliances,etc. to still be unhappy. So I put kitchen remodel on back burner till we saved more money. You can still look at all the wonderful photos here and on houzz! And work on a game plan.

This year with a full design set in hand, I started looking for a GC. I found in my area, there are 2 types of GCs. Some do design-to-build, others just install. For most of the year, I guess I was contacting the wrong ppl - design to build ppl. They would come in and begin to re-design my design (we used a KD this time which we did not use the last time). Our design was based on "our" lifestyle. Many, of course, like the KD, wanted the cabinetry piece of it. I was already leaning towards a cab company (dutchwood) and didn't want the GC job to be tied to cabs. It became very frustrating looking for just the right person. Of course the design-to-build firms were much more expensive than an install only (plumbing, electric, etc). Just some things I've learned along the way.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 1:05AM
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