Project #4: Kitchen
“This is like any relationship. Sometimes, we are going to love each other and sometimes we’re going to fight.” – Our Contractor, Bob*
Our house was built in 1901, and it had practically no kitchen when we moved in. It had two upper cabinets, no lower cabinets, a dishwasher, a fridge, a microwave on a table, and a free-standing stove. The main sink was a three-basin one with no access underneath. And the second sink was a pedestal on a wall by itself. Yes, there were two sinks. The ceiling was covered in metal roofing materials, painted white. It wasn’t pretty. When we bought the house, we knew we were going to have a blank slate in the kitchen. And we wanted to make it beautiful.
I’ve written in prior posts how our relationship soured with our first contractor (Cliff*). In case you missed it, I’ll summarize. During the inspection period, he told us the kitchen would be $17,000 for “high-end finishes.” After the inspection period ended, he sent us a quote for $20,000. I promptly budgeted $25,000. Once we closed, we started finalizing decisions about moving the main sink, removing the small sink, shrinking a window, off-white non-shaker-style cabinets, etc. Cliff then sent us a revised quote after we purchased the home for $47,000. I don’t care how good or bad you are at math, it’s easy to see that’s more than double! Simultaneously, he dragged his feet on the ordering the materials and scheduling the roof replacement and subbed it out after assuring us the roofing company owned by his (parents’) company was doing the roof. He told us we had a 40-year warranty on the roof, when really it was 25 years.
We were already contracted for the roof, so we played nice there and quietly started shopping around kitchen quotes. We received one for $35,000 and one for $28,000. Luckily, the lower priced one also came from the one we liked the most personally. Bob is potentially the most energetic person we’ve ever met. He knows when to push back on design and budget decisions and when not to. He listens to our concerns and lives by his above quote. He was keenly aware we had a budget and didn’t make us feel bad about it. Sometimes we got mad, and he let us complain. I only yelled once.
Like any contractor, there have been some issues. It was not unusual for us to have a conversation early in the week about scheduling, then some of the trades just not get to the house during the week. He was often “coming first thing next week,” then showing up on Friday or Saturday…or not at all. As a result, the project took longer than anticipated (which is in itself, somewhat anticipated).
The kitchen specifically had some issues. Here are some quick examples. After demo, the plumbers didn’t actually glue the cap they put on the pipe where the pedestal sink was. We turned on the water, took our time getting back inside, and found the kitchen being flooded. The cabinets were delivered before they could be installed, and they sat in the way of paint prep. Bob told us often our trim was in stock when it wasn’t. I drove an hour during rush hour one day to pick out the granite, but two months later I was informed it wasn’t enough granite. This resulted in an emergency trip to a granite place, a rushed decision, a massive hit to the budget, and a delay. The new cabinets didn’t cover the holes for the old plumbing. This was a combined failure (but mostly I blame Bob), and we had to order an extra lower cabinet. Since we had to custom order it, we had to wait an additional week and it costed $500. Someone miscalculated on the amount of backsplash needed – luckily that only added a day, but that meant a day of labor we paid for. Aric has a strong affinity for yellow-ish lights. We said this repeatedly and were therefore surprised when we saw that the electricians had installed white lights. You could have done a surgery in that kitchen.
We’re partially to blame with the lengthening of the timeline. What started as a kitchen project combined with removing a door and replacing it with two windows quickly turned into much more. We added things in August and September, such as inside plaster and drywall along with painting inside and outside of all 3 buildings, which led to a lot of repairing and replacing trim inside and replacing siding on the outside of the main house. He replaced a slider with a door. He had his plumbers and electricians replace our water heater with a tankless one. The last step was removing yet another superfluous sink upstairs and framing in some closets. Did I ever tell you this house had one tiny closet when we moved in?
And it’s not just Bob and us contributing to the scheduling issues. We had permit issues. We were initially told we didn’t need one for the kitchen, then were told we did. We were also told they didn’t need the “before” drawing, but then they did. And when it came to scheduling inspections, it turns out our city requires very specific paperwork that needed to be resubmitted multiple times.
We love our new kitchen. It really is the highlight of the house. Everything was supposed to be done by November 19th, and we ended up being done December 12th. With overages, we ended up spending $30,000 on the kitchen, and we are confident it added at least that much value to the home.