Who do I hire for my kitchen remodel?

Kitchen remodels vary drastically from small enhancements to complete overhauls. Whether you want to make some minor improvements like additional cupboards or a built-in breakfast nook, or your kitchen is dreadfully outdated and you want to completely update your design and appliances, where do you start? Do you need an architect? A kitchen designer? A remodeling contractor?

At Nautilus Construction, we prefer a team approach to kitchen projects. We bring in the necessary professionals at the outset, and work together to determine the best design and project implementation. Let’s take a look at who the players in your kitchen remodel might be:

An Architect

Architects are educated in design theory, project management, and building engineering. They work with clients to assess the architectural space, draw up plans and designs, and in many cases, oversee the entire project management. They usually have contractors that they work with, and can help with soliciting work estimates, choosing contactors and vendors, and keep your project moving forward smoothly. Because an architect’s real specialty is design and the best use of spaces, they can offer aesthetically pleasing and innovative design solutions.

A Kitchen Designer

Kitchen designers do not have the same academic background or licensing as architects, and are not typically trained in any engineering or building concepts. A kitchen designer is a type of interior designer who works with clients to create, remodel or update a kitchen’s layout, design elements, and fixtures. With a kitchen designer you discuss materials, themes, colors and patterns, and room layout. Designers keep up with the most current kitchen trends, so can help with incorporating the latest styles, layouts and innovated products to incorporate in your new kitchen. A kitchen designer will help you create a functional and attractive space.

A Remodeling Contractor

Building contractors who specialize in remodeling and kitchens will provide the nuts and bolts of getting your kitchen remodeling project completed. Their experience and knowledge pertains to building construction, sequencing of work, project management, and overseeing all the necessary trades involved in the project. They will make sure all the demolition occurs safely, install new materials, and either complete or oversee trades such as plumbing and electrical upgrades. Because a remodeling contractor likely has the most hands-on experience in this group of professionals, their expertise and knowledge is critical to your new kitchen remodel going smoothly and staying on budget.

What about costs?

Architects are not cheap, but they will ensure your new kitchen floor doesn’t sag and you can safely remove a wall to open up your space. Designers tend to charge less per hour than architects, but their structural skills are likely not comparable and they usually do not offer project management. You might hire a designer to create drawings of your overall look based on your needs, wants, space and budget. An architect might be useful to ensure all your proposed changes will actually work structurally within the building. Building and remodeling contractors charge based on the scope of the project, what role they will play in project management, and other trades that they will need to oversee and coordinate with during the project.

So where do you begin?

In some cases, you may only need a designer to help you figure out the look and functionality you want. In other cases, with larger remodels, you may need an architect for the building designs and a designer to help achieve the décor look you desire. In all cases, you need to work with a reputable, experienced contractor to help you get all the work completed.

Many people bring in their architect and/or kitchen designer first to create the design, then seek out the contractor who can create a plan of action and complete the remodel work. The challenge in this approach is that once your contractor is on board, they may very well identify issues and specifications that haven’t been considered. This will require your architect or designer to redraw designs and blueprints to fit the updated specifications. This is when projects become less efficient and budgets begin to dissolve.

At Nautilus Construction, we like to be involved right from the outset of your new kitchen concept, and work as a team with your architect or designer so that we can ensure your ideas are realistic with your budget, and plan the course of action for your remodel together. There is much less going back and forth, redoing design specifications, and, frankly, wasting of time and resources with this approach. We have a cadre of kitchen professionals that we have worked with for years, and have seen their abilities in action, that we can refer to you to complete your project. Of course, if you have already hired an architect or designer to come up with your new kitchen concept, that is fine too! We appreciate your consideration to help get you from design to DONE with your new kitchen!

We really enjoy helping homeowners make their homes more comfortable by creating an addition that meets their current needs, and blends architecturally with the existing structure. Planning an addition is exciting and nerve-wracking, check out our five best tips to get started on your way to success:

Know Your Property Options

Before you even get started with design, figure out what you are actually allowed to do about adding on to your property. You’ll need an accurate plot plan that shows exactly where your property lines are, and the location of any existing structures on the property. Your town’s zoning laws will determine what your required setbacks are which may have an impact on the options you have for the placement and size of your addition. Your local Zoning office or your local Registry of Deeds should have this information available for you. You absolutely should not skip this step! Any building too close to property lines or not conforming to your local zoning may have to be torn down, so this is a very costly mistake to make.

Needs versus Wants

It’s easy to be planning for the new bedroom you need, and suddenly find yourself designing a master bathroom with double sinks and a jacuzzi tub. It’s important early on to make a list of what you actually need that is motivating you to plan an addition so you don’t lose sight of that in the excitement of design possibilities. Be clear about what new functions you need from the additional space, then you can add in some special items or splurges if they fit in the budget. The clearer you are about what issues the addition needs to solve, the better you can describe your needs to your designer or contractor.

Budget Realistically

Your designer, architect or builder will help you determine the costs for your addition, but you need to have a number in mind that is affordable and fits in your overall household budget. There are also a number of costs to additions that are not direct building costs – items such as increased property taxes, utilities expenses, and the cost of new furnishings all impact the bottom line of the total cost of your addition. You should also plan a contingency budget, because all construction projects seem to go over for one reason or another. Sometimes materials have to be swapped out based on availability, or you might realize you want to add a design feature after-the-fact. Get real with your budget and stick to it so that your addition doesn’t stress you out financially.

Hire Professionals

Additions are not DIY opportunities. Find a designer, architect or builder that you are comfortable with and let them help you design an addition that meets your needs and adds value to your property. When you are adding on to the structure of your home, you want to know that all the code and safety requirements are met, and you want this project to be completed in a timely manner, not drag on endlessly while you try to fit it in on the weekends. If you are financing your project, your bank will likely require a licensed contractor. A good architect or contractor will listen to your ideas, work to meet your needs, but also not lead you down a path that isn’t feasible. Not to mention, these folks do this every day so their knowledge and creativity is likely beyond what you are capable of coming up with. These professionals also know other quality vendors you may need to handle other aspects of your project. Not sure where to start to find someone? Check out our blog about hiring contractors.

Have a Construction-Free Zone

Having construction in your home is disruptive, no matter how carefully you plan everything out. Work into your plan some livable, construction-free areas where life can go on with some normalcy. If you are redoing your kitchen, for example, create a small temporary area with a small refrigerator, microwave and hot plate. Create a space where you can escape so the inconveniences of an addition don’t get to you – this is when people make rash decisions that they regret.

How Nautilus Construction Can Help

Who you hire to work with you on your addition or remodel is the most important decision you will make in the whole process. You want to work with someone you can trust, communicate easily with, and who has the experience and expertise to bring your vision into reality. At Nautilus Construction, we offer design-build services to help you from conceptualization of your project, through to the finishing touches of your new addition or remodel, and we can manage all the pieces in between. Call us today so we can discuss your new project with you!

Choosing the Right Contractor

When choosing the right contractor for your project your choice should be based on proven experience and skill, customer service, references, and then on price. You are building a partnership with your contractor, and you will work very closely with this person for several months or more. You need to feel comfortable, like your questions and concerns are listened to, and you need to feel that you will enjoy working with this person. Many homeowners try to force their dream into a budget that is too small, and then decide on a contractor who offers the lowest price. In the end, that scenario is fraught with disaster. It will be a painful process that results in an inferior product, delayed by change orders and disappointments.

You need to find someone with the technical expertise to complete the work and you want to select someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing your needs.

Pay careful attention for cues that you are being listened to, and that your questions are being answered thoroughly and thoughtfully. A contractor should be taking the lead from you as you describe your vision for the project. Their suggestions should reflect your description of what you want, and you should not feel rushed or pushed into any particular decision. Even small jobs can be fraught with complications and present many judgment calls, so you want to be working with someone who is qualified and approachable.

Finding skilled craftspeople can be tough. Always begin with “qualified referrals” from family, friends and others you may know who have completed a similar project. Your neighbors are also an excellent resource. Most professionals in the industry and specialty retailers can also recommend people. Someone who is familiar with a contractor’s work and can speak about his or her experience with that person is invaluable. A random Internet search is best left as a last resort.

Once you have some referrals, then head to the Internet and check out their websites. While contractors don’t generally have all the bells and whistles on their website, they should have some web presence and a site that is professional looking and sounding. They should also have a project portfolio where you can look at pictures and read customer testimonials about their work.

A good contractor should have a professional looking website with project pictures and customer testimonials.

Before you grab for the telephone, take some time to carefully think through your project. For even the smallest renovation you will have a picture in your mind of what you want it to look like. For larger projects prepare checklists, an outline and timetable, budgets, sketches, magazine clippings and pictures. The best contractor is limited by how clearly you can express what you want done. They aren’t mind readers, so the more time you put into preparing and being able to describe your expectations, the better your project will turn out.

When you talk to contractors, be prepared with questions that will draw out their knowledge and working style. A good contractor should be able to speak with technical expertise and describe their approach to you clearly. Expect to be offered several options for your project, ask for clear descriptions of how the options differ, and the pros and cons of each.

If you are unfamiliar with a contractor, ask for several customer references. Take the time to make these calls and prepare some questions. You want to know if the project was completed on time and on budget, what the contractor and his crew were like to work with, did they do what they said they were going to do, and would they hire them again.

The process of checking professional references is very important so don’t skip this step!

Consider the “fine print” and choose an insured professional running a legitimate business. All the contractors you hire should carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance, protecting their workers and your family. You want to be sure that you are not held responsible for any accidents or mishaps. Be sure you are clear on guarantees and any restrictions involved with the work or products being used. State contract law dictates guarantees on work to some degree, but there are always exceptions. Some contractors are committed to certain product lines, and this may or may not fit your project. Layout your timeline and your expectations for the schedule, as there is nothing worse than having someone fail to show up when expected.

Pay attention to experience and technical expertise, how seriously a contractor takes their business, and how they communicate and present themselves professionally, and you will find the right person for your project.

At Nautilus Construction, open communication and customer service is our top priority as our clients will tell you. Our daily attention to project progress means you can get an update whenever you want one, and you will never feel left in the dark. At Nautilus – you get the owner on the phone – call Chris today so we can discuss how we can help you!


©2022 Nautilus Construction

Chris Legare of Nautilus Construction is a general contractor in Southern Maine, specializing in Design Build Construction, general contracting and remodeling. Serving Kennebunk, Wells, York, Saco, Portland, Scarborough and beyond.

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