Kitchen renos part II: bring on the designer!

By now you have decided to go ahead. You have looked at dozens of kitchen design magazines, and have watched all the renovation television shows at least three times. You may have even looked at the sample manufactured kitchens at CO-OP or Home Hardware, and have looked on-line at the kitchen brochures of the manufacturers you are most interested in. If you have decided you want a custom kitchen, then there are three custom cabinet makers I am aware of in Dawson Creek. Al’s Cabinetry, DC Cabinets, and RSA Custom Finishing. All three produce custom cabinetry as well as vanities, closets, and furniture. All of these companies also represent major kitchen cabinet manufacturers.
Ray Benning of RSA Custom, a long established master cabinet maker, is the latest to enter this field, recently becoming a dealer for MERIT Kitchens, a well-known Canadian semi-custom manufacturer that sells kitchens across North America as well as parts of Asia. If you want to go custom my best advice is to ask around, meet with the cabinet maker and ask to see samples of their work. In particular, ask how long it would be before they could take on your job. The custom guys are small companies that often get backed up with work. 
Manufactured cabinets are less expensive than custom, but not always. Dealers of manufactured cabinets generally have two or three lines that they sell, ranging from semi-custom, to high end, to most economical. CO-OP also has a line of European style cabinets that come knocked down flat in a box requiring assembly by the homeowner or a carpenter. These cabinet boxes are not as strong as fully assembled cases, but they are not a bad choice for the budget minded and are not difficult to assemble. The reason these types of cabinets are popular in Europe is that it is not uncommon for homeowners or renters in Europe to take their kitchens with them when they move.
When you decide on a cabinet maker or dealer ask for an appointment with a designer in your home to begin the process of planning your kitchen. Make sure the designer is experienced and knows the local conditions that could affect your project. 
For example, someone not familiar with Dawson Creek may not know that our excessively hard water is not friendly with brass or bronze sink faucets. Not knowing this could result in a badly tarnished or pitted fixture requiring replacement in as little as two to three years. Choose your dealer and designer carefully.
The cost of custom or manufactured cabinets is only one criteria you need to consider. Reputation and word of mouth reviews are also important. A good designer will be at your side throughout the project. He or she should know the reputable trades and suppliers in our area and can recommend them to you. Your designer may also offer to act as your project coordinator, arranging for trades and suppliers from demolition to completion.
This service can be invaluable to you and can save you time, headaches, and money. More about this later.
Working with your designer     
When you first meet with your designer he or she will ask a number of basic questions in order to scope out the extent of the project. Will the new kitchen fit within the existing kitchen footprint or will you be removing, adding walls? Will you be adding new flooring, and if so what kind? Will the remodel require running new electrical and plumbing lines? Are you adding recessed lighting, under cabinet lighting, and additional fixtures?
Are you adding a fixed island or peninsula? Is the ceiling below the kitchen open or is it closed in? If it is closed in you may need to tear down some drywall in the ceiling and probably in the kitchen itself to allow for the necessary electrical work. The same goes for plumbing lines if you are moving sinks and faucets or are adding an additional prep sink to the island or peninsula. Finally, and this is important, are you planning to do some of the work yourself? If you are a talented diy person you can save a lot of money by doing the demo and other work yourself.
If you don’t feel confident doing much of the work then this is where you may ask the designer to act as your project coordinator. This does not have to be expensive, but frees you up from worrying about scheduling trades and sourcing fixtures and other materials. In most cases the designer has contacts among the trades and suppliers and may be able to source materials and fixtures at a lower cost.
Typically, a coordinator will pass all savings on to you. A project coordinator will charge you a set fee for this service, usually less than 5% of the kitchen cabinet costs. Your savings in terms of money and time can be well worth it.
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