Suggestions for Purchasing Your New Kitchen

          

 

            The staff of Cameo Kitchens, Inc. has written this guide to better educate consumers in important things to look for when purchasing a kitchen.  These suggestions will help you find the best way to select a remodeler, understand the buying process, and steer clear of potential problems.  We have all heard horror stories about incompetent or unscrupulous remodeling contractors.  A bad experience may have happened to a close friend, relative, or acquaintance.  These stories are pervasive in the remodeling business today, and can even keep us from wanting to remodel at all.  The following is a list of points to consider in order to develop an understanding of the level of performance a kitchen remodeling company should exhibit.

 How Many Contracts Should Be Involved

            At Cameo Kitchens, Inc. our installers are on our payroll.  They work for Cameo Kitchens full time.  We take total responsibility for the whole project- both in supplying the materials and in installing them.  There is only one number to call for any questions, and everything is under one contract.
            The current
trend in kitchen remodeling is the use of sub-contractors to install your kitchen.  In this scenario, the responsibility of the dealer ends when the materials are delivered to your home.  This makes it easy for the dealer, but much more difficult for the consumer.  Dealing with 2 (or more) separate companies can be a real hassle.  In effect, the consumer becomes the job coordinator.  This can take a lot of time and effort, and requires a certain amount of working knowledge of the business.
            Companies who employ their own installers have much more control over the remodeling process and the final project.  By dealing with a company that employs installers, you will never be caught in a dispute between the dealership and a contractor.
            The classic case, as cited in many articles about remodeling is as follows: A consumer finds a door has warped six months after the kitchen is completed.  He calls the dealer, who says the cabinets are not installed properly and this caused the door to warp.  He then calls the contractor who installed the cabinets and is told that the installation is good but that the door warped because of the inexpensive cabinets he purchased.
            Companies who employ their own installers co-ordinate the trades involved, do all the scheduling, and make all the telephone calls.  They are paid when the kitchen is completely installed and finished, not when the materials are dropped off at the house.  Furthermore, they cover all materials and installation with an inclusive warranty.  The advantages are obvious.

Insist On Permits

            While most kitchen dealers downplay the importance of getting permits, by law all Northern Virginia Jurisdictions require a permit for the plumbing and electrical portions of the work.  To agree to have a kitchen remodeled without a permit exposes you to the following risks: 

a.       Since there are no inspections, a dealer can use a “jack of all trades” or someone who is not specifically a plumber or electrician, to do the plumbing and electrical work.

b.      If fire or water damage should occur, your homeowner’s insurance may not be obligated to cover the damage since no permit was taken out.

c.       A nosy neighbor can call the county code enforcement bureau anonymously and inquire about whether a permit has been taken out on the work being done.

d.      At any time County Inspectors have the right to stop a remodeling job in progress, and demand to see work permits.  If no permit can be produced, they are required to stop all work until a permit is applied for.

For your protection, we use a licensed master plumber and a licensed master electrician to do our plumbing and electrical work.  We never fail to get a permit, and a county inspector inspects every job.

How Much of a Deposit is Required?

            Some of the larger building supply operations, which have a kitchen-remodeling department, insist on 100% down when ordering a kitchen.  This leaves you with no leverage if the work is unsatisfactory.  Under no circumstances should you put down more than a one third deposit.  The next third should be paid when the cabinets are delivered to your home, and the final third should be paid upon completion.  To pay for everything in advance puts you in the worst possible position. 

Ask to See a Contract

            A buyer needs to know the difference between an “open” and a “closed” contract.  An open contract is one in which the price you agree to pay is not final.  This means that if the dealer missed a construction detail, you as a buyer are liable to pay for it.  An example of an open contract is one designed by The National Kitchen and Bath Association.  It states:

            “It is understood that the price agreed upon herein does not include possible

            expenses entailed in coping with hidden or unknown contingencies found

            at the job site.  In the event such contingencies arise and the seller is

            required to furnish labor or materials or otherwise perform work not

            provided for or contemplated for by the seller, the actual cost plus (%)

            thereof will be paid for by the purchaser.  Contingencies include but

            are not limited to: inability to reuse existing water, vent, and waste pipes;

            air shafts, ducts, grilles, louvers and registers; the relocation of concealed

            pipes, risers, wiring or conduits, etc.”

All of these issues can be predetermined with the kind of attention to detail and close checking we do on every estimate.
           
Cameo Kitchens uses a closed contract.  Our remodeling contracts are very straightforward.  You will never be unpleasantly surprised by a “hidden contingency” clause that can inflate the final price.  If we run into something that we did not anticipate, we pay for it, not you.  To our knowledge, we are one of the only dealers who do not have a contingency clause in their contract. 

A Very Common Mistake

            The most common mistake made by buyers is attempting to judge the quality of a kitchen remodeler by looking at a showroom.  This probably stems from other purchases they have made such as furniture or automobiles.  While being satisfied with the construction and appearance of the cabinets is important, it is hardly as important as the quality of the installation, and this cannot be determined by looking at a showroom.  We would like to submit that almost all of our competitors handle a decently constructed cabinet.  The higher end custom cabinets are especially going to look good and give years of service, provided professionals install them.  This is where the differences in kitchen remodelers becomes apparent.
           
When our designers go to a home to take measurements and discuss a kitchen-remodeling project with a client, we are, more often than not, told about someone who has had a dreadful experience with kitchen remodeling.  These bad experiences always involve inferior installations, poor scheduling, or both.  It is extremely common to hear about installations taking months and months to complete.  Untrained installers and careless scheduling are the cause of unhappiness in kitchen remodeling.
           
Instead of fixating on the cabinets and other materials, a buyer is much better served by seeking out information on a company’s reputation, character, and skill level.  Their attention to detail and willingness to work long hours to insure their clients are inconvenienced the least, are of the utmost importance.
           
The best approach to securing this information is to ask people you know about their experiences.  Most people who have had their kitchen remodeled are willing to discuss what they went through to get a completed kitchen.  You’ll find they’re either delighted with a good remodeler or extremely displeased with the bad, with very few in-betweens.  Without any referrals from a friend, one must ask the dealer for names to call. 

Ask for Proof of Performance

            A reputable kitchen dealer should offer to give you a list of names of previous clients to call as a reference.  If no offer is forthcoming, ask for a list of at least six names of owners of completed kitchens.  Check the references by going to see the kitchens or at least calling the owners on the phone and talking about their experience.  This will help you protect yourself from a bad experience.  Ask the client if the kitchen was started on time, was finished when promised, and whether the workmanship was acceptable.  Ask about the installers of the kitchens, make sure they are the type of people you want to have working in your home.  For instance, check on whether the area being remodeled was cleaned up every day, and whether the trash was removed quickly, or left in your driveway for weeks.
           
The key to checking on performance is making sure the list of references is current.  Insist that the six names you are given are kitchens that have been completed in the last 90 days so you won’t be given names that are cherry-picked.  These six names will give you a good cross-section of current performance.
           
We offer every prospect as many references as they can call, so they can check our track record for themselves.  We are happy to offer names of current clients, any of our suppliers, subcontractors, and even our bank to establish the soundness and reliability of our company.

How Long Should It Take?

            A Cameo Kitchens installation normally takes about 4 weeks to complete.  Even a large kitchen with a lot of construction can usually be completed in five weeks' time.  A start date and a completion date are written right into your contract.  In 27 years of business we have missed two starting dates- one when several of our installers had the flu, and one when the truck from Honey Brook Custom Cabinets could not leave Pennsylvania due to an ice storm.  In an industry famous for delays and postponements, we are proud of this record.

The Cost of an Estimate

    We do not charge a fee for estimates.

The Design Fee

            A design fee of $1,000 can be given in order to reserve an installation date and take plans and sketches from the office before a final agreement is reached.  The design fee is credited to your contract, along with the estimate fee, at the time it is signed.  In the event that no order is placed, the design fee is not refundable.

 How About Pricing?

            We install over 100 kitchens a year.  Without competitive pricing, this would not be possible.  As always, be wary of a price that is either unusually high or unusually low.
           
When comparing prices, use care to examine in detail the work specified.  It is not uncommon to receive an estimate that is lower in price but that does not include all the work that needs to be done.  With an open contract, it is easy to underbid a job and then make up for it on the final billing.

 Back to the Contract

            Our feeling is that you can’t possibly write too much into the contract.  We go so far as to spell out the locations of each light switch, electrical receptacle, and under cabinet light in our work orders.  We spend an enormous amount of time making sure that every detail of the job is provided for, understood, and spelled out on paper, so there are no misunderstandings.  The work orders our men use as a written guide to install the kitchen are the same ones you receive are part of your contract.  This goes a long way towards eliminating misunderstandings.

 

Read Our Article in the January 2006 Issue of The Washingtonian

 

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