Invite people into your home and invariably the group ends up in the kitchen. It’s the room that seems to nurture relationships as much as it nurtures our bodies, and careful consideration of your kitchen’s layout and accoutrements will impact large and small details of your daily life.
Kitchens are personal, which is why professionals who specialize in the remodeling of kitchens take the time to get to know you and earn your trust. “Good projects can take three to six months,” says Tim Sweeney of Sweeney Construction. “You can do it faster, but when you take the time to allow things to come together naturally, it’s that much more of an enjoyable process, and the homeowner gets exactly what they want.”
You begin the process with a simple phone call, which helps determine if Sweeney Construction is a possible fit. That is usually followed by a short visit to your home to hear your visions and discuss the extent of the remodel. Many homeowners share ideas from other houses or photos from Houzz and other online sites and magazines. The experts can help you decide if your goals make sense for your home, and work through the general finances and logistics.
Working within your kitchen’s existing footprint is usually the most economical option, but if the layout is awkward or crowded, solutions may be limited. Tim can help you consider how various alternatives will affect plumbing, venting, electrical, and heating components, and whether changes will impact walls that play key roles in keeping your house upright.
You may choose to build an addition to allow space for a breakfast nook, a center island, or an adjoining family room. Floor plans today differ from those of 70 years ago, when one person cooked meals alone. Now, more couples cook together, and cooks don’t want to be separated from the rest of the family. Open floor plans are popular, and the percentage of kitchens with islands goes up every year. Sweeney Construction can help you with practical suggestions for updating your space.
At this point, the Sweeney design team is ready to develop the plans for your kitchen and put together pricing. They will schedule a preplanning walk-through with subcontractors. This likely includes an electrician and plumber, and may include a heating-and-cooling contractor and specialists for insulation, drywall, and flooring. If your project involves new cabinets, they will also connect you with a kitchen designer to help with cabinetry selection and interior details.
You are likely to be making quite a few decisions about cabinet styles and finishes, countertops, lighting, and more. The Sweeney plan and proposal includes most of the product and subcontractor costs, as well as demolition, carpentry, framing, and finish work, and leaves allowances only for areas that are not definable. Experience has shown them that one decision affects another, and you will be much happier with the finished project when all the selections are coordinated. This gives you the chance to make any final revisions before you sign the proposal.
Once you sign, a start date is chosen and a detailed project timeline is created. At a preconstruction meeting, you review the timeline and meet the lead carpenter, who will be on-site each day and will serve as your first point of contact. For any project longer than three or four weeks, Tim Sweeney meets with you weekly to review progress and address concerns. Tim says most kitchen projects take about six months from the very first phone call, and you can expect the construction team to be on-site for about 90 days.
Al Curran from Curran Cabinetry and Design, LLC often works with Sweeney Construction on kitchen projects, and he reviews how you will use your kitchen. He’ll want to know how many people are likely to be in it at any one time, how often you shop, your storage needs, the type of cooking you do, and how you entertain. While the general contractor oversees the project and develops the overall layout, Al plans details and features to accommodate your needs.
Al mentions universal design options for almost every project because he sees that it helps spur thoughts on accessibility issues that are either already present or likely to arise. He recently helped a homeowner design a wheelchair-friendly kitchen with an accessible island, utilizing a taller toe space and deeper snack bar overhang for food prep, easily accessed storage for cookware, and lots of under-counter drawers. He designs to accommodate vision issues, and can help with handles and pulls for people who have trouble grasping.
Like Tim, Al works with homeowners to prioritize their needs and wants. He finds it useful to have clients come up with their 10 must-haves, which might include vertical storage for baking sheets, a built-in compost bin, or more involved requirements, like elevated countertops for taller homeowners or alcoves for feeding pets. Placement of large appliances is designed to accommodate homeowners’ cooking styles, and other details, such as towel bars, cookbook shelving, television screens, and display space for collections, are carefully planned.
The cabinetry Al sells is Amish-built, custom wood-framed cabinetry, which means he draws it specifically for your kitchen, you get to choose from more than 10 wood species and a myriad of stain options, and your cabinets are built to order. With over 32 years in the kitchen and bath industry, Al is able to measure, design, and coordinate the construction to keep your cabinets on schedule. He will also design dinettes, tables, bar stools, and maple tops for kitchen islands.
According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the average life of a kitchen is 20 to 25 years. Here in the Midwest, we’re a bit more conservative, and some of us live with kitchens that are up to 35 years old. Knowing that the kitchen you design could be around for that long explains why serious remodeling professionals encourage you to take time to consider your options and get it right.
Yvette Jones is President of designCraft Advertising in Madison and serves on the board of NARI Madison.
Trust a NARI Professional. These NARI members appeared in this article.
Curran Cabinetry & Design
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) represents people who work in and with the remodeling industry. NARI professionals are expected to be licensed and insured, educated about current industry standards, ethical, and dedicated to excellent customer service. Contact the NARI Madison office at (608) 222-0670 or at narimadison.org .