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Everything You Need to Know About Remodeling Your Kitchen

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Builder Specialties was originally founded in the mid 1980's. I went to work for the original owners in 1987 and by 1991, I was the only one left who was interested in staying in the company so I bought it from one of the founders. The company was originally set up as a wholesale to builder operation but I realized early on that in order to make it successful I would have to add retail sales to the mix. We started with a small showroom on River St in Montpelier. As we grew, we decided that more space was required and moved across the street to a location next to the House of Tang restaurant. There we had 4000 square feet of office, showroom and warehouse and the staff grew to 9 people. Starting in about 2006 during the height of the economic downturn the city of Montpelier decided to tear up River St for 3 consecutive years, which had an impact on our business. We started to downsize the operation and found that it made a lot of business sense. We had a separate location where we built countertops and performed other shop work, which was closed. Our sales and support staff dwindled until there were just three remaining. When it was decided that the last salesperson was no longer needed, the staff was reduced to just myself.

I rented a house on Berlin St and moved the showroom to a that location which had a full walkout basement. After a couple of years I decided that I needed to have a better retail location and moved again to the Barre Montpelier Rd. where we have a small showroom and office. That move has been a great choice as it is much more accessible for customers and deliveries, but still small enough so that we can keep costs under control. Since the move the staff has fluctuated between one and two with a current level of one.

Much of our work now is commercial so the need for a large showroom with fancy displays is minimal although we do have displays and a large selection center. We still work with local builders and retail customers frequently and find that the showroom size and location is perfect for our business model.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We tailor our services to the needs of the customer. For instance, with commercial jobs, we provide documentation and supply materials only. For contractor and retail customers we are much more likely to provide full service which would generally include meeting with the homeowners to perform a needs assessment, discuss material choices and budgets, provide detailed plans and three dimensional drawings of what the space will end up looking like, then order, deliver and sometimes provide installation for these projects.

Can you walk us through the general kitchen remodeling process?

Once the homeowners decide that they want to consider a kitchen remodeling project, the best step is to consult with a kitchen designer such as myself. We can perform the tasks detailed in question #2 with little to no investment on their part so they can make informed decisions about whether or not to move forward with the project and if so, how best to do it. Many customers will have a contractor that they are already working with to perform the general construction and installation of the kitchen. In those cases, we will coordinate between the parties so that they all know what to expect from the process.

Once the commitment is made to move forward and the cabinets are ordered, the homeowners main responsibilities are to empty out the existing cabinets and then just be available for questions that arise. Depending on the scope of the main construction the kitchen may not be usable for a week or two, but could be out of commission for as a little as one day. A typical kitchen can be installed so that it is functional in 1-2 days and while countertops then take some time to measure and order, a temporary sink, countertop and cooking arrangement can be set up so that the owners have something to work on.

Factors such as adding windows, moving walls, changing floor or wall materials will all have an impact on the process. In a full kitchen remodel there are literally thousands of component parts and decisions that need to be made to have a successful project and each project is different. That is why it is critical to have an experienced designer work with customers to ensure that the project is completed to their satisfaction.

How should a homeowner prepare for this process?

The best way to prepare for this type of project is to do your research in advance. There are numerous books, magazines and websites available to look at completed projects and the individual components of those projects. The most important thing regardless of where you start is to cut out or print pictures of kitchens that you like and to try and identify what it is about those projects that you like. With a collection of those we can combine the ideas along with the physical space dimensions to create a project that is tailored specifically to that customer. It is also important to have a solid idea about what type of an investment that you want to make in the project. If you are comfortable sharing this with the designer it helps to funnel down the product and design choices quicker and more accurately. For those clients who need help developing a budget we perform a budget estimate using a good better best system that is based on their design and space available for the project.

What is the average time it takes to remodel a kitchen?

This is largely dependent on any additional construction that needs to happen. If the project is a fairly simple remove and replace type of project, the time from cabinet ordering to when the project is completely finished is likely 2-3 months. If the project includes major renovation then the time can be as long as 6 months. When we do a project we try to make the actual time that the kitchen itself is torn up as short as possible.

How is a contractor typically paid? (e.g. per hour, percentage based, etc.)

The contractor performing the installation of the project is typically paid one of two ways.

  • Bid price. This is when the contractor gives a fixed price based on the design drawings and scope of work prepared by the designer. This price is the price paid by the homeowner unless something unforeseen such as rotten flooring happen, or changes are made by the homeowner. This may be a higher price than time and materials, but it is a known amount at the start of the project, which many homeowners prefer.
  • Time and materials; this is where the contractor is paid an hourly wage and a markup on materials that he purchases for the project. This is a more effective way of paying a contractor as you are only paying for the time spent and materials used for the job. it is, however, harder to estimate the total up front.

Designers and dealers are paid by supplying materials to the project and may also get a coordination fee for overseeing the installation. The designer can go over all of the options with the homeowner during the design consultation phase.

What are the advantages of working with a professional when remodeling your kitchen?

Experience makes a difference. There are many sources for kitchen and bath products but not nearly as many individuals qualified to offer reasonable and accurate guidance due to the difficulty of many projects.

What is the best way for people to reach you and your company?

  • Call 802-223-5583 or 800-479-3636
  • Email matt@builderspecialties.com
  • Visit at 338 River St., Ste 2 Montpelier, VT 05602, it is best to call ahead for an appointment. Being a one person operation, I am frequently out of the office.
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