Computer tablet showing kitchen illustration on house plans, pencil, compass.

Renovating the kitchen is on the top of the wish lists of many homeowners.  In addition, it has been a primary source of consumer complaints across the country, according to SF Kitchens & Bathrooms.  To better ensure a successful renovation, the best place to begin your search for a skilled contractor is to get recommendations from family members, friends and colleagues.

The fact that kitchen renovations are complicated should come as no surprise.  From the construction elements when the floor plan is being changed (paint, drywall, plumbing, electrical, outlets, etc.) to the finishes (cabinets, flooring, millwork, backsplash, countertops, etc.) and even the finishing touches (furniture, appliances, accessories, window coverings, light fixtures, etc.), there are a lot of moving pieces. 

This is also an indication that it can get tricky when budgeting for a kitchen renovation.  However, with some amount of professional guidance, estimating the level of investment for the renovated kitchen does not have to be a headache-inducing project.  So, should you always go for the lowest quote for your kitchen renovations?

Number of Quotes You Should Get

Generally, the rule of thumb is to obtain three estimates for the project you wish to get done.  However, this is not always required; there are a number of factors that must be considered when planning a remodeling project.  If you have received a referral for a contractor from an individual you know and you are pleased with the quality of his or her work, you can go ahead and schedule an appointment for the contractor to come out and provide an estimate for your project. 

Following this encounter with the contractor, if the price seems reasonable and you are comfortable with him or her, then a single estimate might be all that is necessary. However, if you are taking bids from contractors with whom you have no experience, it is a wise idea to obtain three bids.

If the bids you receive are within 10 percent and 15 percent of each other, you should not automatically go for the lowest one.  Instead, you should go for the contractor with whom you were the most comfortable.  If the price differences among the bids are greater, a bit of further investigation might become necessary.  

There is a possibility that the contractors might have opted to use different materials; they might have recommended a different approach to getting the renovation project or they might have left some things out of their estimate.  Essentially, the estimates could vary for many different reasons.  As such, further investigation could help you to make an informed decision.

While consulting with a contractor, ask him or her for references.  Another thing you should do prior to hiring a contractor is to get the license number of the contractor and go online to the Department of Labor in your state and get a deeper insight on the contractor you are considering ensuring he or she is properly insured and licensed.

Balancing the Budget

Below are some guidelines that can be used to get a high-end look for your kitchen renovation project on a budget:

Stainless Steel Appliances

If you love how stainless-steel appliances look but not the cost, there are ways in which it can be achieved.  In recent times, near-record stainless steel costs have driven up the price of pro-style appliances to as much as 10 percent. A pro-style dual-fuel, 36-inch range now costs $6000 or even more.

Reasonably-priced Alternative

This look can be achieved by having a six-burner pro-style cooktop installed for a cost between $800 and $2,500, along with two mid-range wall ovens (approximately $1,500) for a saving of $2000 or more.

Additional Storage Space

If you need extra storage space, but you are planning on moving in a few years and would prefer not to make an investment in customized cabinets.  Custom-crafting each part of the kitchen to suit your cooking style might not be the most cost-efficient approach when someone else will be using the kitchen before the repayment of the home equity loan.

Reasonably-priced Alternative

Consider including a walk-in pantry into the plan.  This provides an incredibly economical route for a kitchen upgrade.  A pantry will provide as much storage compared to walls of custom built-ins.  You could end up saving as much as $1100 for each linear foot.

Budget-friendly Countertop Allowances

Marble, granite, soapstone and other natural or handcrafted stones could bust the budget.  Granite, in particular, is resistant to high heat, scratching, and moisture, consistently making it a popular (if costly) option.

Reasonably-priced Alternative

If you love the look of any of the previously mentioned alternatives, you can work it into your plan.  However, rather than using it on every countertop, consider limiting it to the areas bordering the range or a high-visibility island.  Less costly options such as ceramic tiles or plastic laminate can be used elsewhere.  

Alternative to Knocking Down Walls 

The kitchen may be dingy and drab but it still plays a vital role and a major overhaul is not currently in the budget.

Reasonably-priced Alternative

Sometimes all it takes to brighten the space is a well-planned lighting scheme.  Use the money for the services of a lighting designer or professional planner.  Additionally, simple cosmetic upgrades like new cabinet hardware, a fresh paint job, upgraded flooring or countertops, and a few new appliances could completely transform the space. Thousands can be saved by sticking with the original layout.

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