Friday 02 Dec 2016

Kitchen Reno
Matt Seinberg

In January, I wrote about my wife Marcy meeting contractor Rich at the DMV, and setting up an appointment for him to come over and give us an estimate on the kitchen renovation.

Please remember as well all this renovation talk started because we had mice last year. Even though Daphne the cat and Suburban Exterminating stopped the problem, Marcy still wanted a new kitchen. This is our story.

We had a budget in mind, and really didn’t want to go over it. Some of the prices we got from those one-stop shop contractors were absurd, in the absolute, ranging from $25,000 to $43,000! The fellow that came in with the highest price was must have thought we were blooming idiots. I asked him how he came up with that for a 10-by12 foot kitchen; 120 square feet. All I got was a shrug and the answer of, “that’s my price.” He wasn’t in the house that long.

Before we chose a contractor, we started shopping for everything else we would need. That includes cabinets, countertop, a tile floor, back-splash and appliances. It all sounded so easy, until we hit some ridiculous prices.

Any smart shopper lives by the rule of three. That means you go to shop at least three places and see how the quality and prices stack up against each other. Of course, if you’re not happy with those three, keep on going until you find one that meets all your needs of quality and price.

A neighbour of my in-laws recommended a cabinet shop in Suffolk County, so we took a ride out there in September 2012 and met Tricia, who is very nice and we took a liking to right away. She understood what we wanted and needed. She was very professional throughout the entire process. 

I had made a floor plan of the kitchen, so she was able to give us a good ballpark price and it certainly fell within our budget. At that time, they were running about two weeks for delivery, which was fine by us. As we didn’t have a contractor, yet, we couldn’t make an appointment for Tricia to come to measure the kitchen and do her own drawing and floor plan.

When Superstorm Sandy hit, in October 2012, renovations slowed to a crawl. All of a sudden, the cabinet delivery was now 6 weeks, which still worked for us. We had finally had Rich come over to look at the kitchen and a week later, he returned with a price.

After haggling back and forth, we agreed to a price. The next day I called Tricia and scheduled a date for her to come over and measure. We also got Rich to come over as well, as it’s always a good idea for the contractor and kitchen designer to meet to talk about the little details.

Later that day, Tricia emailed me the final design and price and it was only a few dollars more than the first quote, but included slightly bigger cabinets all around. Storage was a primary concern to us, and Tricia certainly came through. We picked a delivery date of 19 March for them and the next item was to contact Rich and get a start date.

We had also picked out the countertop with Tricia. The price she got for us was thirty percent less than any other store we shopped. We chose a very nice quartz product called Cambria Bristol Blue, which went amazing with the floor and cabinet color we had choses.

One of my co-workers, Rick, used to work at local appliance superstore. I started picking his brain for appliances, as well as visiting a store we had purchased from previously.

As it turned out, Rich worked a few years ago with a fellow that was now across the street from us, and asked me when I would be able to go see him that day. The earliest would be at 6 pm and by then Chris would be gone. He told me to see Chachi. You certainly can’t forget that name, if only for the “Happy Days” spin off, “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

Anyway, I get to the store and ask for Chachi, and this fellow comes over. We look at each other and say, “Hey, I know you!” We used to work together, briefly, for a furniture store in 2004. Now, I really expected a good price, which I got. Marcy and I had picked out a Maytag over the range microwave over, and dishwasher. I set up delivery for two weeks later.

It’s amazing how time slows down when you’re waiting for something to happen. We had chosen a start date with Rich of March 25, so those days from the cabinet delivery to the start of demo felt like forever.

Marcy emptied the kitchen and everything was in the dining room or the basement. We had to put the cabinets in the basement as well, and Rich put the stove in the garage, as there was no more room in the dining room.

There is nothing more interesting than coming home from work and seeing the entire kitchen gone, nothing but the studs left! Rich had found a letter and check for $2 behind the cabinets from the former homeowner dated 1968. I didn’t think that check was good anymore, so I just threw it out.

Every day, we made progress. Rich and I made Marcy pick out a paint colour. We actually agreed to it, and hoped for the best. On the sample, it looked like a grey-blue, but once it was on the walls, it looked bluer, with a little grey.

One of the things we did was open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room. It was now a half wall, and a piece of the countertop would top that as well. One little problem popped up, which I had forgotten. That was painting the dining room.

Luckily, I had a paint can in the basement with the Benjamin Moore colour number on it, so I went and got a gallon of #813 Sweet Bluette. Yes, we have a very blue house.

When the kitchen is finished, I have to paint the dining room wall, a living room wall and entry wall. After that, I’ll work my way around the rest of the living room and hallway. Oh joy, something to look forward to doing.

Here is the biggest problem we have encountered so far. There is no sink in the kitchen yet, because we don’t have the countertop. The fellow from the fabricator came this past Thursday to measure and the usual delivery time is about 10 days from then.

Can you imagine trying to wash all the dishes, pots, pans and glasses in the bathroom sink? It’s no fun. The drain stopped up. I had to open it up and clean it out. The hard part is putting it back together.

I know the finished product will be worth it all and we’ve remained relatively sane during the whole process. Rich and his two-man crew were here for a week and did a great job. One thing that put them about day behind was totally re-wiring the kitchen, which was old and not up to code.

Now, it’s hurry up to wait for the counter to show up, then for Rich to finish up and cart away the rest of the debris sitting in the back yard.

My advice for anyone doing a major renovation project is this: get everything lined up before starting the project, and don’t change anything major on the fly, as that costs time and usually more money. By picking and choosing everything yourself, the project will cost half of what some large improvement will charge you.

Remember, it all started with a mouse.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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