In a perfect world where nothing goes wrong, all the materials show up on time, and there are no delays with city permits or your condo board, a kitchen remodel can be done in about 3 weeks. But this is the real world, and the average timeline ends up being a few months. Sometimes tiles are broken in transit or your building’s elevator is reserved for people moving for the next few weeks. The granite countertop of your dreams might not be in stock for months, and the cabinet makers might be especially busy this time of year.
They say that when it comes to the triangle of price, speed, and quality, you can only choose two. At 123 Remodeling, we prioritize quality over everything else, so this week we’re having a conversation about how to manage your timeline expectations. Here are a few things you should plan to encounter that’ll slow your work down, and some suggestions to counteract them.
The Age of the House
Okay, so there’s not much you can do about this one. We see a lot of projects like this in Chicago. People buy these old houses because they have a great location, a cute exterior, or HGTV convinced them that the place has “good bones.” So our job is to bring these houses – some of them over 100 years old – into the modern age.
Older homes are always a difficult canvas. The kitchens are usually small or have an inconvenient layout, so you have to move a lot around. You’ll probably open up a wall and find bad wiring. Loads of unexpected problems come up, things need to be updated or retrofitted, etc. Sometimes you even need to do chemical testing to make sure there’s no asbestos or other toxins that could be released. If your kitchen is in an older house, the best way to save time is to do research early. Get your walls and ceilings tested for toxins, try to find house plans that show where plumbing and wiring are, and be prepared to stumble upon some extra projects.
Usually standard materials will suit your project just fine. You can buy cabinets, tiles, lighting, etc as-is from a store and make it work. But custom is always the ideal. All the kitchens featured in this post have custom cabinets, cut specifically to fit the dimensions of a particular space or match with chosen appliances. If you’re on a tight time budget, stick to standard materials and only edit where you need to. When you’re doing custom, order early so you and your remodeling team aren’t waiting around because they need the cabinets in before they can work on the counters. Most importantly, take accurate measurements – measure 3 or 4 times until you get the same number each time – and have everyone on the same page with them.
You fell in love with a very specific slab of granite. You’ve always dreamed of a cherry wood kitchen. You saw some Italian designer tiles in a magazine. You can have them, but it’ll take some patience. These materials can be hard to track down, limited in quantity, or made exclusively in some far away country. Once again, if you’re going that route, order way in advance. One project we do pretty frequently, especially in Chicago condos, is installing automated shades. They’re a great product, and we’ve never heard a complaint once they’re in, but they take several weeks to make and ship. Another example is if you’re ordering some exotic wood flooring. You want to order that as soon as possible so the planks have time acclimating to your home before we actually have to install them.
Knock on wood right now. After all the searching and waiting, there’s always a chance that your materials don’t arrive safely. Wood warps, tile breaks. Tile is actually the worst offender here, but you also have the best chance of correcting this one. So I’m not asking, I’m not suggesting, I’m telling you to order extra tile. Even if every single tile comes in without a crack or scratch, tiles are always gonna be snowflakes. It’s impossible to cut them all exactly the same, whether factory or hand made. You can usually expect around 10% of every tile order to be unusable, either from damage or because it won’t lie well with the rest of the tiles.
Wherever you have the budget space to order extra material, do it. Even if you don’t need the spares now, you’ll have it in your attic 5 years from now when someone drops heavy pots and pans and you suddenly need a quick floor fix.
It’s rare that the plan you start with is exactly the same as the one you finish with. Change orders are so common that it’s strange when at least one doesn’t come up. You might decide that a different tile layout or grout color looks better on the backsplash, so we’ll do a change order. Or it occurs to you that it could be useful to have more drawers in your lower cabinets. The fridge ended up being a few inches wider than anticipated, so we have to cut the counters down. Suddenly, you know you need a cabinet tv. Change order.
The best way to handle change orders is to do lots of research before you start work. Make your measurements exact. Try a few tile layouts before you do any grouting. So many homeowners are in a hurry to start and finish their projects, but the best advice I can give is to take your time. Look at lots of material options. Experiment with ideas and colors. And don’t choose something just to have the choice made. If it takes a few extra weeks, it’s a fair trade for a kitchen you’ll be using for the next few years (and I can say that, since we don’t charge by the hour).
Now that you’re better armed to take on this project, give us a call when you’re ready to start. We have a crew of contractors experienced in beautiful, modern kitchens, and we’re more than happy to help you get yours.