Kitchen & Bath Remodeling is Like Planning a Wedding

Article written by Sam Brusco, owner of Brusco Design and Renovation. Published in Oct 2010 edition of Rhode Island home and Design Magazine

In my class, “How to Avoid a Renovation Horror”, I often get the question “How much does a kitchen (or bathroom) cost to remodel”. Typically, I answer it with the question “How much does a wedding cost?” A marriage license only costs $24 in Rhode Island. But the average person lays out more than $24,000. A few people can splurge $240,000. Ultimately, the price tag comes down to how much you are able to spend. Factors include the number of guests and the reception venue. What do you want at your wedding? Band or DJ? Chicken or filet mignon? What kind of experience do you want to have? Budgeting involves balancing all these aspects into a price you can afford. The problems happen when you try to get the $90,000 wedding for $20,000 – it just can’t be done.

Just as planning a wedding requires choices, so too does planning a kitchen or a bathroom renovation. Do you want beautiful cabinets and granite countertops or will you settle for the stuff you find at a home improvement store that won’t stand the test of time? Do you want to have great service before, during and after the sale or will you have slobs at your home for several weeks who are rude or won’t return your calls or don’t speak English? Are you leaving yourself open to legal troubles because the contractor didn’t pay his insurance, pull a permit or goes out of business? Will they make you and your family sick with stress or dust from lead paint? You will have to live with the results and the experience for decades — good or bad.

What is the bride’s most important selection for her wedding day? It’s not the dress or the banquet hall. It’s the groom. Think about it. If you pick the wrong guy, all the thousands of dollars you blow on the reception will be wasted in a few years. The same is true for a general contractor. Hire the wrong one and you’ll be regretting it forever. People say hiring a contractor is like a short-term marriage. But if you expect him to stand by his work, it’s actually a long-term relationship, and that’s what good contractors have with their clients. Most people spend months arranging a wedding down to the smallest detail, but only take a few hours to select a contractor and plan a remodel with him. The results of not doing your homework for a renovation are usually disappointing at best and disastrous at worst.

A wedding day team includes the florist, the clergyman, the photographer, the chef, the hall manager, the waiters, the band/ DJ — dozens of people. All must be skilled and courteous and work with precision timing. The general contractor has his team too. There’s the plumber, the electrician, the carpenters, the plasterer, the floor guy, the painters — dozens of people. If any one of these tradespersons does not do a good job, the entire project can be ruined. When picking your general contractor, remember that he will be the person choosing and managing all of these professionals.

So whether you’re planning your wedding or planning your new kitchen or bath, it comes down to working with the right people who will help you make decisions that fit your checkbook. The big difference between a wedding and a kitchen is that the money you spend on a wedding reception is gone the next day. What you invest in your kitchen or bathroom, on the other hand, will remain in your home, like a piggy bank, until you sell it. And you get to enjoy it every day… for decades. That is, if you make good choices.