Professional designers
A variety of professional design services are available if you have done your basic homework. Costs vary with the level of service, beginning with very modest fees at big home centers like The Home Depot and extending upward to thousands of dollars for an architect who oversees an entire remodel.
If all you really want are new cabinets and countertops, without making structural or layout changes in the kitchen, minimal services at a home center or cabinet retailer may be all you need. Mike George, a designer at The Home Depot in Danbury, Connecticut, will come up with a cabinet layout and estimate for a $100 fee. That covers the cost of sending someone to your house to take careful measurements of the room, and the fee is applied to the cost of the cabinets. With layout in hand, George sits down with customers at a computer and in two hours or less can run through three or four possible layouts to get the one you want. But options are limited. His computer is loaded with information, but only from the four cabinet lines the store sells. You're out of luck if you want a different brand.
By spending more money you'll get more individual attention and time, and additional site visits to tailor the design to your needs. Certified designers also should be able to specify plumbing, electrical and mechanical alterations. Kitchen retailers and showrooms usually have designers on staff. Fees vary. They might charge an initial retainer, starting at $500 to $750, to get the design work under way and then an hourly fee once you decide to go forward with the work. But the fees are sometimes deducted from the overall project cost. As a result, according to Waterbury, Connecticut, designer Marsha Fried, showroom customers do not typically end up paying for design work directly. It is part of the cost of the project.
There are some designers who work as independents. Customers pay a fee for design work and take the plans to a builder, cabinetmaker or retailer. What these designers sell is the work itself, not the cabinets that go with it.
The best-known certifying agency for kitchen designers is the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The group can supply you with the names of certified kitchen designers in your area as well as a helpful kitchen planning guide.
Complicated projects where major structural alterations are likely may call for an architect. Fees will total 8 to 10 percent of total construction costs, but the level of expertise can be very high, particularly when it comes to blending alterations with the rest of the house.
When looking for a designer or architect, ask for a portfolio of past projects as well as references. "Shop for a person, not a company," says Krengel. "You want to find someone who cares about you and your project, and who fits well with you. "
Although many designers say their clients are fairly well informed about cabinet, countertop and appliance options, many homeowners are not prepared for the cost of a major kitchen overhaul. "Champagne tastes, beer budget," says Timothy Bates, a Santa Barbara, California, designer who tackles 25 to 30 kitchens a year. "It's always the same. When they get the estimate, they gulp."
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