Frequently Asked Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Questions Frequently Asked Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Questions

Q. How much will it cost to remodel my kitchen or bathroom?

A: The price for a new kitchen or bathroom will be affected by (1) where you buy it (2) what features it includes and (3) the brands/models you select.

For kitchens, pricing can range from $5,000 or so (if you do some work yourself) to as much as $150,000 and higher. On average, a kitchen will cost from $15,000 - $26,000, including design, products and installation.

Bathroom prices generally average between $6,500 and $11,600 when you're replacing everything. Again, the cost can be lower or considerably higher depending on what you're looking for.

Q. What makes a kitchen more or less expensive?

A: Cabinets account for about half the total cost of the project and will have the greatest impact on your budget. They range in price considerably based on quality, the type of material they are made of, and whether they are stock (ready made in specific sizes) or custom (produced specifically for your kitchen in whatever sizes are needed).

The material you choose for surfaces including counters, backsplashes and floors can also account for variations in price.

Other key elements that factor in to the equation are talent and workmanship. In the remodeling business, you tend to get what you pay for. An accomplished designer, skilled sub-tradesmen and expert installation crew may cost more. But you'll appreciate their ability every time you use your kitchen.

Q. What makes a bathroom remodeling more or less expensive?

A: No single element of a bathroom remodeling comprises a significantly larger portion of the costs than other elements. Cabinets are one of the biggest parts of the budget, accounting for 34 percent of costs, on average. So, the type and quality of cabinets you select will affect your total costs.

Not surprisingly, fixtures and fittings account for a high cost percentage in the bathroom. Expense for fixtures and fittings will vary depending on the brand, type of materials, and array of products you select.

In bathrooms, installation accounts for nearly a quarter of the total cost. This is because the installation work in a bathroom tends to be intricate (for example, tile setting). If you're looking to cut corners, this is probably not the place to do it.

Q: How can I possibly pay for a new kitchen or bathroom?

A: Like any major purchase, you should only spend what you can afford to spend. That means setting a budget and sticking to it. If you work with a professional kitchen designer, he'll help you make the most of it - and he'll respect the budget you've set.

As for payment, there are a number of options. Some homeowners tap into personal savings to get the kitchen of their dreams. Others take out home equity loans. And many times, professional kitchen/bath firms will work with lending institutions to offer financing options much like car dealers do. If you're buying a house and know you'll need to remodel the kitchen, you may be able to incorporate the costs in your mortgage.

Q: Who's the best person for the job?

A: There are a lot of professionals out there - interior designers, architects, remodeling contractors - but your best bet is to pick a designer or firm that specializes in the kitchen and bath area. There are thousands of companies that offer kitchen/bath design and installation services - many of them belong to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. There are also thousands of individuals certified by NKBA as Certified Kitchen Designers and/or Certified Bathroom Designers.

You'll probably meet first at his office or showroom to share your ideas and basic needs. Then he'll come to your home to take careful measurements of the space, make note of plumbing and structural elements, and get a feel for your home's style. He'll also ask a lot of questions about your kitchen or bathroom, lifestyle and family. He'll be listening carefully so that the finished room you work to create reflects your personal taste and how you use the space. You'll choose products, colors and materials together, working within your budget. The relationship can go only as far as creating your design, or you may have the design professional act as a consultant, or he may manage the entire project for you - including hiring sub-contractors and scheduling the work and supervising the installation.

Q: What can I do myself to help cut costs?

A: How much you can or should attempt to do depends on your ability and knowledge of remodeling. You'll definitely be able to tear out old cabinets (be careful not to damage walls and beams), take up old vinyl flooring and handle trash removal. You may also want to paint or wallpaper on your own. You're better off letting the pros handle plumbing and appliance hook-ups - if you try it on your own, you may violate building codes or invalidate manufacturer warranties. And let a professional installer put your new cabinets in so that they look their best.

Q: What about contracts and orders?

A: Before any work begins on your kitchen or bathroom, get detailed, written estimates, project specifications and signed contracts from the professionals you hire. Make sure they're bonded and insured. (If you work with an NKBA member, he/she will likely coordinate all of your sub-contractors for you.) Check references carefully. Your designer should prepare project drawings including floor plans and renderings that clearly represent your project. If anything changes mid-project, you should be asked to sign a change order.

Q: What about payment?

A: Most firms will require a percentage (usually 50 percent or so) when you sign the contract, additional payment (usually 40 percent or so) when cabinets are delivered or installation begins, and the balance (10 percent or so) when the job is complete. You may also be required to pay a design retainer at the start of the job.

Q: What is the kitchen "work triangle" and why is it important?

A: The "work triangle" is the kitchen area from the refrigerator to the main cooking area to the main sink. Connect the three and it should form a triangle (unless you have a 'one-wall' kitchen). It's important because at or immediately adjacent to the triangle's points, all the key kitchen activities - food preparation, cooking and clean up - take place. The work triangle helps to ensure that your kitchen will be functional. It keeps cooking activities centered in one area, with all the necessities close at hand.

Q: Where's the best place to put a microwave?

A: Like most things about your new kitchen, it will depend on how you and your family use the appliance. From a safety and accessibility standpoint, the microwave should be positioned so that the bottom of the appliance is 24" to 48" above the floor. Consult with your designer for the best place to locate it.

Q: What is GFCI and do I need it?

A: GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. GFCI monitors the balance of electrical current moving through the circuit. If an imbalance occurs, GFCI cuts off the electricity. Its purpose is to prevent fatal electrical shocks. As you know, water and electricity are a deadly combination. Since both are necessary in kitchens and bathrooms, all switches, sockets, breakers and circuits for those rooms should be GFCI protected for your family's safety.

Reprinted with permission by the National Kitchen and Bath Association

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