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How to Save Money on Remodeling Your Kitchen

How to Save Money on Remodeling Your Kitchen –  Should you contract one company to manage all aspects? Or, should you be your own project manager and hire out and oversee each phase of the (grueling) process?


They say hindsight is 20/20. Well, it’s true. We recently had our kitchen done by a very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company, and it wasn’t the ideal process. Unfortunately, we know now what would have made it better. Here’s what you need to know about going through a one contractor job who “does it all.”

We had a complete kitchen remodeling job done – new appliances (fridge, stove, microwave, dishwasher), new floors, new lighting, had a wall torn down, new countertops, new sink, an island installed…. the works! We KNEW it would be an ordeal. We couldn’t find one quote that said it would take less than 3.5 weeks. Lesson #1 – be prepared for at least 3 weeks without a kitchen and a dumpster in your driveway. I was prepping meals in a laundry room with a microwave for weeks.

We went with the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company to have our kitchen done. When I sat down with the salesperson, he gave me the “we do it all” attitude. I was grateful for this since we weren’t planning on doing any of the work ourselves and wanted a white knight that could handle the many facets of a complete kitchen remodeling job. Other companies might do the cabinets, but wouldn’t knock down the wall, handle electrical, etc., etc…

Well, now I know what very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company and other companies mean by “We do it all.” Basically, you can translate that into “we build the cabinets, and for everything else… we have relationships with various businesses that we contract the work out to and upcharge you 2.5-5 times so we can make a further profit.” They contract the work out for cheap. I get it, everyone needs to make a $, but I was surprised HOW MUCH they contracted out and HOW MUCH they kept for themselves and how easy it was for me to avoid some of those charges.

Of course, it’s my fault for not understanding that these contractors were not employees of the cabinet company. It was never explained to me and I didn’t know it was possible so I didn’t ask. Basically, it was explained to me like this “If we do your kitchen from A to Z, I feel confident because I know exactly who’s going to be in your house. Our guys are trustworthy and good workers.” By this, I was thinking THEY were employed by the contractor. My bad.

We proceeded with the contract. Another flaw on my part was that the individual components were not monetarily itemized. Had the costs for each job been listed, I probably would have questioned the process at this stage in the game because I would have realized the inflated pricing I was being charged by the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company. Lesson – get every aspect of the job itemized!

I finally figured things out when a painter had come in to do some patchwork after drywall repairs were made. The very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company told me that I would be on my own for painting the kitchen, i.e. that was not part of the contracted job. So, when their painter was at my house, I asked if he could quote painting my kitchen after all the construction was done. I figured that was an easy move since he was already there and could get measurements for a quick quote. Not so. He told me I needed to go through the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company because he didn’t want to spoil his relationship with them and lose their business. Kind of odd since this was all outside of the contracted job anyway so it shouldn’t have mattered, but it alerted me to the fact that these were not the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company employees. In the end, the quote from very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company came in 3x higher than another local painter! I realized I was being charged about 2x what these same employees would have charged me if I hired them out independently.

Two more scenarios followed. The electrician had a huge look of surprise when I told him what I was paying for the upgrade to LED bulbs and I overheard the WHOLE electrical team saying “Wow, that’s a lot!” Additionally, we decided to expand the flooring into the dining room so the salesperson had to get me a quote to add in another 100 square feet or so of flooring. When that quote came in from the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company, I was floored (pun intended). You wouldn’t believe what the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company wanted to charge me for a paltry 100 extra square feet of flooring! I put the entire project on hold just so I could quote out the job to other area businesses. I ended up getting the job done for HALF and saved almost $3000 – just by parting out that aspect of the project! I was upset that I spent 10s of thousands of dollars on kitchen remodeling and the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company was unwilling to give me a break anywhere. Lesson – “Part out” every portion of the project you can.

How to Save Money on Remodeling Your Kitchen

1. If you have the patience and a little bit of know-how, try managing the project yourself and line up your own contractors that work direct, not out-sourced. You will save THOUSANDS of dollars. Many of the local businesses have installers, e.g. go directly to a granite place like Diamond Granite for your countertops and sink, or a tile shop like Virginia Tile for the backsplash. You’re going to have to go to these places anyway to pick out your stuff, so you might as well arrange the installation through them.

2. Keep it organized… know how long each phase takes and try to create a schedule that the contractors can follow. Be prepared, things will get messed up… some things will take longer than planned.

3. If you’d still rather have someone else take care of it all, I strongly suggest that you definitely go directly through a cabinet-maker since that is the biggest cost and you wouldn’t want to pay a mark up on that. I’d also ask that the full bill be itemized so you have the opportunity to question costs and/or look elsewhere for those specific projects.

4. I will say that the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company was accurate in their statement that their workers were good people. Everyone who stepped foot in my home was kind and did a great job. So, if you manage the project yourself, be sure to get referrals. There’s greater risk of getting screwed when doing all the hiring yourself, so do your homework. With regard to the flooring, I will go ahead and recommend Perfect Floors in Rochester Hills. I thought they would be expensive, but when they came in at half of what the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company was going to charge me, I was pleasantly surprised. And, they did quality work.

5. Do whatever you can to prepare for 3.5 weeks without a kitchen. Try to set up a mini-kitchen with your old appliances in the basement, the garage, ANYTHING. Our project stretched to 5 weeks and patience was paper-thin by week 2.

Even if I had to do all over again, I wouldn’t have changed too much. The very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company did my kitchen in the time they said they would (outside of the delay I caused by changing my flooring plan). Had I itemized every cost, I likely would have had the very well-known SE Michigan cabinet company handle cabinets, and granite – I absolutely LOVE the work they did and the quality is top notch. THEN, I would have parted out the other aspects of the project (floors, electrical, appliance installation, etc) and saved $.

Overall, I’m very happy with my kitchen, and, I’m not even sure I would have had the time to manage the entire project. But, it would have been nice to know I had the option and it would have been nice to save some money.

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