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Kitchen and Bath Planning Guide

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The process of renovating a kitchen or bath can easily feel overwhelming. With a project of such magnitude, every choice can seem daunting. But taking the things step by step and working with a professional can make the process easier.

Most homeowners start the process by browsing magazines or websites such as HOUZZ, says Seth Teitelbaum, vice president and general manager of Direct Cabinet Sales. Whether you're renovating a kitchen or a bath, getting some ideas flowing will help guide your project.

"It's helpful to look at rooms that are similar to yours," says Teitelbaum. "If you have an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen, for example, try to find photos that show ideas with the same layout."

The first steps
Many of our experts also suggested visiting the contractor's showroom to begin the process of renovating a kitchen or bath.

"You have to get in there and look around and start getting a sense of what you like," says Ron Massaro, CKB and showroom manager with Miller Kitchen and Bath. "Getting into the showroom will also give you a better sense of the process you're entering—what's really involved. A total kitchen or bath renovation is like major surgery—it's a big process—and it's best to be prepared going in."

Visiting the showroom also gives you the opportunity to research the contractor you're considering for the project, says Tim McHale, head coach with McHale's Inc. "It is critical to visit the showroom and review their processes," McHale says. "Ask them how they run a remodeling project from planning to painting."

Visiting the showroom early on can also prove beneficial to the design process. Jean Taylor, owner of Master Shower Doors, says that homeowners and their contractors should visit the shower door showroom before the shower is underway if possible.

"It can save them money and make the design process easier," Taylor says. "A lot of times, the shower opening is designed larger than it needed to be and that winds up costing a lot more than if we had helped with the design early on."

Taylor adds that [her company's] website has some design tips that could benefit both the homeowner and the contractor to peruse.

"Educating the homeowner is something we really value," says Taylor. "If they come here they can expect to get a thorough education on what has to be done."

In addition to visiting showrooms, Dan DiFrancesca, CKD, sales manager with Bella Kitchen Design adds that visiting fully furnished model homes might be a helpful stop in your quest for ideas.

"Most of these houses have really dialed up the samples so you can get some great ideas," he says.

Finding a contractor
Finding the right contractor may feel like yet another overwhelming task but the experts suggest narrowing the playing field.

"Try to narrow it down to three contractors," suggests Paul Echavarria, CEO with One Day Bath. "Make sure they are all licensed by the Attorney General's Office. A lot of people look at the Better Business Bureau, but what you want to know for sure is that they're licensed, and it's the Attorney General's Office that does that."

DiFrancesca agrees on keeping the number of contractors to a minimum.

"A renovation is complicated and to try and work with more than three companies on possible designs will just get totally confusing," he says.

Once you have two or three licensed contractors that you feel good about, Echavarria and DiFrancesca both suggest taking advantage of those "free estimates" or "preliminary designs" that most contractors offer. Have them out to your home, discuss their ideas and get their estimate. Then you have two or three different options to compare and make a decision on.

Of course, you should already have a budget in mind from the beginning, says Dave Dilworth, head of sales and design with Dilworth's Custom Design Inc. "It's almost impossible to decide what options you want if you don't have a budget already in mind."

Budget can determine the level of amenities involved, just like for any other purchase.

"It's like saying you want a car," adds Massaro. "You can go base [model] or you can go loaded. You can do a room for $10,000 or the same room could be $80,000. It's all dictated by what's going into it. You have to have a budget already in mind so that it can guide you."

The latest trends
Sometimes keeping up with the latest trends can help in the decision making process. One of the key trends in bathrooms these days is a clean-line look, says Nicole Cummings, a staff designer with HomeTech Renovations.

"Many homeowners have moved away from that traditional look and are going with something a bit more contemporary," adds Cummings. "Whether it's fixtures or even a free-standing tub with a bit of a modern curve, homeowners like something more modern."

When it comes to kitchens, though, Cummings says many homeowners like a transitional look—a little more midline. But many homeowners are opting for clean-lined cabinetry—something that's a bit simpler."

Teitelbaum says that painted cabinetry is a trend right now, but it doesn't work for everyone.

"We've seen some homeowners select some really bold colors because it's what they love," says Teitelbaum. "But you do need to ask yourself if you're going to be staying in the house for the next 15 to 20 years. Going bold might not be the best choice if you're going to sell."

McHale says that, in addition to painted cabinets, other notable trends in the kitchen include "tile that looks like stone, stainless steel appliances, and vinyl floating floors with a corked back."

Dilworth adds that with countertops, quartz has been very popular.

"That's mainly because of the ease of selecting from samples, due to the consistency of the product," Dilworth says. "Homeowners also like the lack of maintenance associated with quartz."

Stepping stones
Whether it's a kitchen or a bath, Cummings adds that homeowners can easily feel overwhelmed if they don't take the project one step at a time.

"As you begin the process, just take it step by step," she says. "Little stepping stone decisions will make the whole process easier. As you make each decision, you'll see the entire project coming together."

RESOURCES
Bella Design Center

Wilmington, Del.
(302) 502-3600
BellaKitchenDesign.com

Dilworth's Custom Design Inc.
Phoenixville, Pa.
(610) 917-9119
DilworthsCustomDesign.com

Direct Cabinet Sales
Dayton, N.J.
(908) 587-9577
DirectCabinetSales.com

HomeTech Renovations Inc.
Fort Washington, Pa.
(215) 646-7477
HTRenovations.com

Master Shower Doors
Newark, Del.
(302) 368-7888
MasterShowerDoors.com

McHale's Inc.
Levittown, Pa.
(215) 493-3399
McHales.net

Miller Kitchen and Bath
Siklerville, N.J.
(856) 831-5966

One Day Bath Inc.
Bangor, Pa.
(877) 656-7875
RenewYourBath.com