Budgeting basics: Confessions of a bitchy kitchen designer

About five times a week I run into the same situation with starry-eye, but very unfortunately mis-educated, homeowners that end up walking out my door with their hearts sunken and heads hung low. I never see them again, and I don't know where they go or if they even begin the project of their "dreams" at all. All I can hope that that I don't sound like a bitchy queen and that I'm letting them down softly.

The problem with these situations in particular is always the same, the budget isn't realistic. I'm not sure what happens in the morning when these unusual consumers wake up, they must be pouring Bailey's instead of milk into their cereal, but regardless, before you walk in any place of business you should know what you are getting into. With information now so readily accessible, there is absolutely no excuse to not be somewhat (if not very) knowledgeable before you walk into any showroom. Frankly, my heart is done bleeding for the ignorant so you should always do your homework.

needs assessment

The needs & requirements tend to always be the same:

  • Knock-out a wall to the family room
  • Move a whole bunch of plumbing and electrical
  • Install new cabinetry and countertops, add an island
  • Have the hottest new fixtures & fittings (sinks & faucets)
  • Get some new techy commercial-looking appliances
  • Gussy up the flooring, back-splash, drapery, and wall colours

These are great project goals to have, and there's nothing wrong with them, but figuring out a realistic plan can be tricky so it's always best to haul in the pro and pay for their time right up front. Be sure to have about $2,000 set aside to pay for your designers time because the planning of your project is absolutely key to it's success. And, of course, you don't like working for free so you shouldn't expect the same out of your professional.

realistic budget setting

Starting off with a wish list is great, but when it comes to the conversation about the budget, this is where things go sour quickly.  When I ask what the budget it, I seem to always get the same two statements: 1) "Oh we were thinking around $10,000 should be sufficient." and the infamous 2) "There is no budget."

Okay people, I'm just going to say it: #1 is painfully blind to the facts that any renovation can be done for that price, and, #2 is a complete and utter lie. A kitchen renovation is the same price as a brand new car - just some of you have a Rolls Royce and others have a Kia. To find the right budget your wish list you should account for about $10,000 for each wish-list item. So like the wish-list above, it would account for a $60,000 budget to start. If you need to edit your wish-list to fit your budget, you can safely do so without dashing your dreams (and those of the commission salesperson on the other end.)

categorize the project

There are always ways to fight the budget monster, and determining the overall objective before starting is important. Write it all down, see what you're looking at, and see if you can fit it into one of the three categories below:

Stock: You are doing lots of work yourself (except electrical, plumbing, and structure), you're shopping at Home Depot and IKEA

Semi-Custom: You're hiring people to do the majority of the work as your own contractor, you're shopping at dealerships and selecting a mix of products

Custom: You're relaxing on a yacht and hired a design/build firm to do it all for you

It is vitally important to know where you fall in in scheme of things because you must know what you're in for before you walk through the wrong door, setting yourself up for failure before you begin. No matter what you're budget, there are ways to accomplish your project goals, they may not be what you initially set out to do, or thought you could do, but there are ways.

have a plan

Every project, even Christmas Dinner, has a plan and there's usually one person in charge of it all. Take the time to plot it all out in a calendar, set yourself realistic timelines, and keep asking how long it will take for people to do things for you. Keeping on top of your project timeline is essential because the little things can run away on you, and those take time and money. As you're running your project, you should keep a list of to-do's (we call this a 'Punch List' in the business) so that you be efficient and effective, don't let things slide because like a diet it can be so hard to catch up again.

That said, this bitchy kitchen designer is taking a nap because ya'll are wearing me out.