I must give a nod to The Kitchen Designer, Susan Serra, for her masterful opinion in her blog dated 04/06/08, Lessons Learned from New York Times “Dream House Diaries”. Susan Serra’s 14 points are a primer for anyone planning a home renovation project.
A builder who assumes the cabinets are to be built around a predetermined plumbing and mechanical plan means someone put some thought in planning the kitchen, you would think so. But to read in the “Dream House Diaries” that the builder suggested to leave the kitchen planning till the point where the floors are down is nothing but a** backwards. It indicates the builder is interested in a cabinet order taker to come in later to get it in and get it done. This causes a huge disservice to the homeowner who is intent on a “Dream Kitchen for their Dream Home”.
Whether building from the ground up or renovating an existing home, the mechanical locations for plumbing & gas lines, go hand in hand with planning the kitchen. Also, the placement or relocation of windows and doors is a critical stage in planning the kitchen. The design of the cabinetry, the doors and windows and the appliances must all be factored in at the beginning of the project, not the middle and not after drywall is up. For the do-it yourself crowd, I admire your fortitude to handle the project yourself, but it would not hurt to get a second opinion from a kitchen designer before ordering your cabinets. See the article link by one homeowner, “Did I get it right”.
You can’t leave planning the kitchen foot print to chance, thinking or hoping that the architect or builder is intent on the specifics, making sure the appliances and cabinets will fit. As much as we hope to see standards in the appliance industry, there are no “standards” when it comes to appliances. See an analytical point by point appliance comparison at the Kitchen-Exchange by Peggy Deras, Comment on Arrol Gellner’s Appliance Advice. A builder that allows a variance of (+ or -) 6″ can cheat the space with over sized cabinets and therefore cheat you by not allowing for the trash base or a proper bank of drawers or a lazy susan or a larger refrigerator. Kitchen Designers are not order takers. Planning the flow of space around appliances, cooking and clean up zones requires specialized training. A kitchen or bath designer will factor the dimensions of a space down the to the 1/8″ inch and provide the builder a detailed plan ready for installation.
As Susan Serra stated in her article, the other problem by not planning the kitchen in the beginning creates a problem of cabinet size continuity. Wall cabinets with different door widths creates disharmony. Anybody with a tape measure can fill a wall with stock cabinets and fillers. To me, this is a waste of space and a waste of money when the design is washed down to nothing more than a bunch of boxes on the wall when the home owner’s intent was a dream kitchen. Please refer to Peggy Deras excellent commentary Choosing a Residential Remodeling Architect.
The next factor the client has to be ready for is patience in planning. Don’t rush into signing a contract until you have thoroughly interviewed the candidates. Take time to interview the architect, the builder, and the designer. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Signing a contract with a professional who starts promising he or she will throw in free enticements or prices “good today only” are red flags. See NKBA for more advice on hiring a Kitchen and Bath designer. Go to NARI and AIA to find professional Contractors and Architects in your area. Check the BBB Reports to see if the business is in good standing. As a professional, I am so frustrated when I see a client taken in by the lowest bid, and outright lies about materials. To have a client compare my all plywood cabinet construction backed by a lifetime warranty against a 45# particle board box with a 5 year warranty and be taken in by lies by the “cabinet order taker” who says they are the same quality really frustrates me. My recommendation for homeowners is to be patient in the process of finding selections. As one homeowner said, she hoped she could just breeze right through this. This is not the same as ordering take out food. Patience is required.
No one can discount the value of the Builder, an Architect and Designer; each professional has the task at hand to provide the client a beautiful project. While a builders’ interest is to get the project built on time and on budget, there is no fault in that. But, a quality builder will recommend you start working with a Kitchen and Bath specialist from the beginning so that the client can achieve their Dream Home.