The Seven Stages of H***...I mean A Kitchen Remodel!

posted May 10, 2018, 2:53 PM by Kathy Marr   [ updated May 15, 2018, 6:06 AM by Kevin F Pellatt ]

Why does it really take so long to remodel a kitchen? 

One of the biggest frustrations expressed by homeowners on remodeling a kitchen - besides how much it costs -  is how long it takes. There seems to be a belief (or fervent prayer perhaps?!) that it should be easily completed in just a week or two, and homeowners are often quite literally shocked when informed it could well take over three months depending on the how extensive the customization, the size of the kitchen, and whether or not the footprint is changing or plumbing and electrical is being moved.

How could it possibly take so long to redo a few walls, swap out some cabinets, slap on some paint and do some tiling?

Well, the reality of a kitchen remodel is far different than that view. But, a good design/build contractor is aware of the huge inconvenience a remodel project puts on a family, especially a kitchen remodel, and attempts to be as organized as possible throughout the process to reduce the amount of time the family is exiled from the stove and fridge.

Good pre-planning, and homeowner involvement from the get-go, is critically important in achieving that objective.

First and foremost, we want to make sure our homeowners don’t have to move out of their home during the remodel, so we work with them to find ways to adapt their home so they can remain in residence throughout the process. Maybe they take over an office, or mud room, or temporarily convert a laundry to accommodate the fridge and microwave, hot plate and crockpots. Where there is a will there is always a way!

Before the construction process starts, clients are encouraged to take as much time as needed in the planning and design stage. It is much easier to make changes at this point that after construction has actually begun…better an eraser than a sledge hammer! At this point its not just about deciding on layout, but also things like cabinets and countertops, appliances and tiles as well.

Many of these items have a direct impact on layout, timelines, and project coordination. Some items like custom cabinets and specialty tiles may have a particularly long lead time and you want to get a jump on the ordering of these so you don’t have a long gap in the production schedule later on.


The Seven Stages of the Kitchen Remodel

Alright, the design and planning stage is done. Everything is agreed on. Materials are ordered. We have a schedule and we are ready to get started. You are excited to get started! We are looking at about four to eight weeks from getting the space gutted to the “new” kitchen. Lets break the process down into stages now.

Stage One: Demo

Day one the dumpster shows up and all of the existing materials in the kitchen – cabinets, flooring, appliances, countertops, etc. – are removed and tossed. Then a careful examination of the exposed space is conducted to assess the condition of the floors, walls and ceilings. Was there any unforeseen damage exposed? Are walls and floor level? It is important to catch these issues at this stage rather than later, especially if it requires alterations to the framing to bring the ceiling or walls back to level or repair damage. When found at the time the contractor and homeowner can put their heads together and determine the best course of action before proceeding.

Stage Two: Electrical Location Mark Outs

A new kitchen more than likely means new lighting and new outlet locations, and maybe even new locations for the appliances. So during this stage we very carefully mark the exact locations for outlets and power sources so our electrician does not have to guess or try and determine location based on our sketches. By the time the electrician is on site, all electrical placement is fully identified and approved by us. We have full responsibility of this and have 100% confident in their location and know we will not have to move them later.

Stage Three: Mechanical Installation

During this stage the new plumbing, electrical and HVAC is installed. Also, if any custom sound or security system is being installed this is the stage that would happened. It could take between 5 and 7 days for this work to be completed, depending on scheduling of subcontractors. However, time for municipal inspectors is generally required before we can move on to the installation of insulation and drywall and that can add further time to the schedule. For this we are at the mercy of the inspector. However, here in the more rural part of Southern Wisconsin, that is generally not the issue it can be in more major metropolitan areas.

Stage Four: Insulation, Drywall, Flooring 

Now that the inspector has given the mechanicals the thumbs up we can begin to insulate the space and put up the sheetrock, or drywall. The room really begins to take on its new shape or dimension at this point. After the drywall has all been hung the next thing is to tape and prime the walls, readying them for paint. Finally, in this stage is the installation of the flooring.

Stage Five: Cabinets and Countertops

This is when things really start to get exciting…the installation of cabinets! And because of taking the time in Stage One to make sure all the walls, ceiling, and floor were straight and level, the cabinets and crown molding will install perfectly with little or no need to caulk any gaps.

Once the cabinets are installed, the countertop folks can come in with their laser levels and precision measuring devices and do the templating for the countertops. Once the meticulous templates are completed they will go back to their fabrication shop and craft a countertop that fits perfectly. Then the countertop will be delivered to the home and installed. Things are starting to look awesome now…

Stage Six: Final Interior Work and Painting

In this next to the final stage, the plumbing fixtures, decorative back splashes and final trim is installed. Also, if there is hardwood flooring involved, the finishing on the wood is completed in this stage, being sure to allow adequate time in the schedule for drying between coats. And finally, the walls and ceiling are painted.

Stage Seven: Install Appliances, Touch Ups, Clean Up

This is the end of the road stage…we can see the finish line. The appliances will be put in place and plugged in, any minor touch ups needed will be addressed, and the room will be given its final polish before handing the keys to new range to the homeowner!


It has been a process. But with careful planning, good homeowner participation, and strict adherence to plan the kitchen looks gorgeous, the work is quality and the homeowners are happy! 

Boring But Critical...Electrical Outlets

posted Apr 16, 2018, 9:07 AM by Kathy Marr   [ updated Apr 16, 2018, 9:18 AM ]

Some things seem simple or minor, but actually play an important role in the overall success of a rooms form and function. And electrical outlets are one of those things. 
When designing your new dream kitchen you start by thinking of cabinets and counter tops and appliances.
Maybe you move on to the flooring material. You think of the perfect work triangle, traffic patterns, and family and entertaining space. But when do you think of the electrical outlets? Well, you better do it pretty early! They need to be thought about by the time the electrician comes to do the initial wiring, especially if you want to avoid that big mistake of oddly placed recepticals. And frankly, there is a lot to think about when it comes to outlets...more than might come to mind immediately. 

Lets start with the big issue - Code. Working with a professional will ensure you avoid any code violations when it comes to type, placement, and quantity of electric outlets.  Electric code is there for your safety, and you can’t properly permit a project without code compliance. This part of the topic is the no-brainer. You have to pass inspection. When remodeling an older home, oftentimes you have to bring old wiring up to current code standards, including the inclusion of GFI outlets. 

Now that you have the all of the code restrictions and requirements figured out, you can look at placement in terms of how it will work within the design elements. Will there be outlets required in a tile back splash? Will an outlet be an eyesore if installed on the side of an island?
Thinking about the design of the kitchen ahead of time, you are able to work with the placement, color of the device and cover plates to achieve a look that fits within the overall design and doesn't look like an after thought. 

Now, you need to consider your use of small appliances. Will you always have a coffee maker or toaster on your countertops?  If so, ask yourself where on the counter you will keep these appliances and make sure that there is an outlet placed nearby or preferably directly behind the appliance. With the proliferation of electrical countertop appliances in use in today's kitchens - Instant pots, crock pots, blenders, stand mixers, air fryers - it is more important than ever to have enough outlets available at any one time.
Luckily there are some great new devices available to 
help with the function and aesthetics of your kitchen’s electrical plan. Consider one of these options in your new kitchen: under cabinet plug strip, countertop mounted pop up outlets, USB outlets, and inside drawer outlets and/or charging stations. 

Kitchens for Serious Cooks and Entertainers

posted Feb 8, 2018, 12:30 PM by Kathy Marr   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 12:48 PM ]

The kitchen is the heart and soul of the is the gathering place, the comforting place, the nurturing place. 

Whether you are a foodie family, a gourmet chef or the hostess with the "mostest", all traffic patterns in your house will lead to your kitchen. The kitchen is generally the heart and soul of the home…it is the gathering place, the comforting place, the nurturing place. And today cooking is an interacting activity and a great way for people to spend quality time together. It’s more popular today than ever before. Hello! Food Network, Cooking Channel!

Creating the perfect kitchen space can be a bit tricky as there are a number of potential “pain” points to consider. And regardless of your personal design style, you need to create a space that will work for you on an every day basis as well as during special events and at the holidays.  Often in older homes you will find the kitchen closed off or away from the rest of the house, which isolates the cook (and dishwasher!) from the rest of the family leaving them feeling disconnected. This sense of isolation is often the single biggest “pain” point faced when beginning many kitchen remodels.

Lets take a moment and look at a few of the key items cooks and entertainers will be considering when preparing for the perfect kitchen remodel.


Cooks need to be able to move about the kitchen without bumping into another family member or a guest. A single cook needs to be able move from the refrigerator to sink for prepping and then to the range with fluidity and a feeling of connectedness.

Also, cooking and cleaning areas need to be incorporated in the same space because those two areas are used the most. You need to be able to easily take a hot pan from the stove to the sink to drain it without risking someone else passing through your workspace.

The tried and true work triangle still holds true. Logical distances between stove, refrigerator, and sink and adequate counters will make the traffic flow seamless.



Can you ever have too much? As far as most serious chefs and entertainers are concerned, the answer is, NO! the more the better! By ensuring there is enough counter space between each appliance, you automatically increase the flow of traffic. See the point above! Adding a second sink, say on the island, will also help when there is a second cook in the kitchen.

Today it is very common to see multi-generational families gathered in the kitchen preparing meals. As Baby-boomers live longer and stay in their homes longer, three generations cooking together is common, so extra counter space makes great extra prepping space and allows for additional seating. Speaking of additional seating, raised snack counters on islands are an ideal solution if you are opening the kitchen to the living room or a family room. It incorporates the kitchen to the other room while keeping some of the typical kitchen clutter out of sight.  Quick recommendation: if you use a snack counter, make sure it is deep enough to allow for a full place setting as you will find it much more pleasing as additional seating at mealtime or during dinner parties.


A good kitchen requires good lighting! A well-lit kitchen and proper outlets will keep things safe and efficient. To determine the number of outlets needed, take into consideration how many electrical appliances are used regularly and if they are left of the counter between uses or put away in a cabinet between uses.

Not having enough outlets – or in the right locations – is one of those “pain” points we discussed earlier.  You want your kitchen, actually your whole house, set up in such a way so you can walk through it, work in it, and generally live in it without any discomfort or little annoyances.


Nearly every kitchen could use more storage and space for organization, especially homes with open living concepts. If you can add a pantry or additional cabinets you can score an easy win with most chefs. With the current trend to open shelving, homeowners need to take a real honest self-evaluation on how neat and organized they really are and ask themselves if open shelves really a good option for them. They look great on Pinterest but in reality most of us would not measure up!


When it comes to appliances, the sky’s the limit! From double ovens and stoves, warming drawers, built-in refrigerators, dishwashers, and more, the key to appliances is ensuring each one has enough surrounding space to prep and display food once it’s finished and its location makes sense in the overall kitchen design and traffic flow.

Even smaller kitchens can be improved with the above points taken into consideration – they aren’t just for large gourmet kitchens. It’s all about good layout and efficiency of space – and thinking beforehand!


2018 Kitchen Trends to Look Forward To

posted Dec 13, 2017, 9:10 AM by Kathy Marr   [ updated Jan 19, 2018, 6:36 AM ]

2018 is shaping up to be a great year for kitchen renovations. There are many new and new-again and still-new trends 
to consider as you go about planning your kitchen update.

The difference between a trend and a fad is longevity. The styles we are looking forward to seeing in 2018 are going to be around for a while so they definitely fall into the former category. We will be seeing these trends for years to come, and some have actually already been around for quite some time and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!

So, what are the hot trends to be watching for in 2018? Thought you would never ask! The first one to keep an eye out for is quartz countertops.

Home owners are looking for gorgeous but don’t want the work of the sealing and scrubbing. Quartz-surface countertops offers the elegance and beauty of their granite counterparts but require less on-going upkeep and offer timeless appeal. A bonus with quart is the quartz surface has less glitter or shimmering in the surface, so you're less likely to grow tired of it.

The second trend to be on the lookout for is open layouts. This is one of those trends that has been on the rise for some time, but it is just going to keep on growing, so tear down those walls! No more will the kitchen tolerate being tucked away by itself, open layouts are here to stay. Family dynamics have changed over the years and a desire for more informal dining and relaxed cooking drives this design trend which supports a busy, casual yet very connected lifestyle. The open kitchen style encourages both family interaction and great entertaining with their smooth blending of living spaces.

Following right on the heels of the open layout kitchen is the trend toward the single-level island. Seems like just yesterday you had to have a multi-level one! But with the open layout, the single-level islands allow light to seamlessly stream through a space and offer a less obstructed view. Plus, counter-height islands increase the coziness of a kitchen while at the same time expanding prep space – which is always in short supply!

Here’s a new trend on my must watch list: ceiling treatments. Start watching for interesting treatments overhead to shakeup the boring nothingness of the typical kitchen ceiling. This area overhead is often overlooked in kitchen designs but next year we will start to see design elements like shallow coffers in smaller kitchens and moldings complementing the shape of an island or work space below helping to define larger kitchens.

The future of the kitchen is bright – with LED lights. Technology in lighting continues to develop and LED lights have lost their stark, chilly look and are being employed in many new and innovative ways. Try using them as under-cabinet work space lighting, or to light up your toe-kicks. They are energy efficient as well. These new lights last much longer that your typical fluorescent and halogen bulbs. So, switching to LED is a pretty bright idea all the way around!

This probably never went away, but is resurging none-the-less…white!  White kitchens will never go out of style.  White subway tile is super-hot again, and it never even really went out of style!

You're much more likely to grow tired of bold hues on major surfaces, so stick with accessories you can swap out to get that kiss of color. This is such a great way to inexpensively “redo” your kitchen from time to time – swap out your accessories for a totally new color and voile’! a “fresh, new” kitchen! Consider your kitchen's stone floor, backsplash, and trim to find the perfect shade of white for the space and you have perfect backdrop that will work for you for years to come.

While hardwood floors will continue to reign supreme, after all they work beautifully in tying together an open concept design, we may see some additions to the actual material used. They may not have the warmth of actual hardwood, but they will bring their own strengths to the party. Porcelain planks that look like wood provide the same inviting style but are easier to maintain. Same with some of the newer vinyl snap planks.

This trend just keeps on building steam…deep drawers in place of lower cabinets. They make so much sense. Extra-deep drawers make storage much more efficient and take the backache out of reaching for those heavy items at the back.

 They're more accessible and very easy to incorporate into a beautiful kitchen design. Add-ons, like pegboard and drawer organizers, keep drawers neat and organized. This trend comes to us from our friends in Europe who’ve been enjoying it for many years. It’s going to be around for a long time.

This one is a little hard for some of us to wrap our heads around, but here goes…fewer upper cabinets. I know, it seems a bit strange on the surface. But there is a minimalist movement in some design quarters. Less is more, as made apparent by this minimalist trend. We will see upper cabinets continue to keep coming down as some homeowners choose windows and an open look or choose to display dishware and artwork on open shelves. Don’t look for this to go away anyway soon. It won’t be for everyone but it suits a certain aesthetic.

Lets wrap up with one more new trend making an appearance in 2018 – large, practical sinks. Obviously selected for their workmanship and practicality over their beauty! When it comes to sink trends, the emphasis is truly on function over form. Generous, high-performance models with a single bowl accommodates large pots and pans and (small children?) or other items that require handwashing while at the same time keeping splashing to a minimum. 

Dreams Can Come True

posted Oct 18, 2017, 3:12 PM by Kathy Marr

Dreams of a New Living Space Can Come True

The first step of the remodeling process is what we call the dreaming stage. This is different than the wishing stage...this is where you start your actual internal planning, thinking and mental creating. This is also the stage where your dreaming starts to come out of the shadows and you begin to do your needs and wants evaluations, family discussions,  and you start actually looking for outside inspiration and direction. Finding inspiration in design layouts and styles in other people's homes or model homes can get you one step closer to envisioning what your dream home could look like. But there are other places to start looking for inspirations as well. Many homeowners research books, magazines or the Internet to get a spark. The internet is full of resources showing examples of remodels and new construction that should get your creative juices flowing. Check out for one -- they have thousands and you can search by room and by design style.

If you put in the time to research and build a list of what you like—with pictures— you will have a clearer sense of what you want which will making working with your professional design/build professional a much more enjoyable and successful endeavor and will ensure you achieve your goals. Then you can move into actually doing your personal and family evaluation. This dreaming and evaluating stage is really the foundation that the whole remodeling project balances on. You need to know why you are doing it, what you want to get out of it, and what you want it to look like. After that is all done, then you can move on to the next stage of budgeting. So lets get back to evaluating, shall we?

Undoubtedly, your reason for wanting to remodeling was probably one of the following, or very similar. 
  • You want to make your home more comfortable and attractive.
  • Your family is expanding, and you need more room.
  • Your home is outdated, and you want to make the style more current.
  • Your home is not functional for your lifestyle.
  • Your home is in need of repair.

But, whatever the reason, understanding why you want to remodel and by thinking carefully about what you dislike the most about your home right now, you can fully explore what specific improvements to your home will help you overcome those challenges. Also, you will be in a better position to decide if this remodel project will meet your criteria and have the return on your investment you are looking for. 

Don't just stop there, however. Turn your dream forward a ways, say 5, 10,15 years from now. Think about such things as:
  • Your family dynamics ... will they expand or contract?
  • How you may need to address changes to your family’s physical capabilities in time, such as aging in place conveniences.
  • Your finances and how much you’re comfortable saving to pay for your remodel ... will change over time?
  • The impact of the remodel on the environment or your energy usage. Is "green" an option to consider?
  • Your neighborhood and comparable property values. Will this overprice you in the neighborhood?
  • Technology and the role it plays in your everyday life. 
  • Needs versus wants; wants versus desires. 
  • Where to save costs and where extra costs will pay off over the long-term. Are you saving a dollar today that will cost you $5 in ten years?
Ok, now you've taken the time to dream, brought you ideas out into the sunshine, thought about what you want done, why and what you want to achieve with the project, and have some ideas of what you want the remodel to look like. You most likely have given yourself the GO! decision. Excellent! Next time, we will talk about setting a budget for the project. For now, lets just kick back and dream a little more about how gorgeous and relaxing that new room is going to be. Can't you just picture yourself in it? Ahhh.

The ABCs of Faucets

posted Oct 16, 2017, 11:54 AM by Kathy Marr   [ updated Oct 16, 2017, 1:00 PM ]

One of the more important selections in a bath or kitchen remodel is your faucet. But, all faucets are not the same. Selecting the right faucet for your kitchen or bath is easier to do when you understand the industry terminology. Gooseneck, bridge and vessel filler are some terms used to describe faucet styles and features, but what do they mean? Learn the language to help you pick the best faucet for your kitchen or bathroom.


Bar Faucets

A faucet that is used in conjunction with a small, secondary sink to allow for convenient beverage servicing is known as a bar faucet. Adding a bar faucet to create a mini-bar in your home is ideal when entertaining and will free up your main kitchen sink and faucet or to give access to water in other areas of the home. This sink can be located in a bar area (surprise!), in a master suite, family room/home theater or even in a kitchen/pantry prep area.

Pot Filler Faucet

The pot filler is characterized by a swing-out tap that is mounted at a higher level, this kitchen faucet makes filling large pots an easy task. A pot filler faucet is installed onto the backsplash of a stovetop to avoid having to haul heavy pans of water to conveniently boil large amounts of water.

Pull-out Faucet


A pull-out faucet has a nozzle on the end that is attached to the rest of the faucet by an extendable hose. A kitchen faucet equipped with a pull-out spray eliminates the need for a secondary sprayer and makes it easy to remove sticky foods from plates and silverware and to rinse out the sink.

Wall Mount Faucets


Instead of being mounted on top of the counter or sink as is commonly seen, this type of faucet is mounted on the wall behind the basin adding a modern flair to your home design. A wall mount faucet can be installed above a kitchen sink, lavatory sink or a bathtub and is a true space saving design.


Bridge Faucet


Characterized by two faucet handles and a spout connected by a parallel bar, this faucet gets its name because of its resemblance to a bridge. Bridge faucets fit perfectly in both lavatories and kitchens, and while there is no special functionality to this faucet it fits decors that have a very traditional aesthetic.


Vessel Filler Faucet

A lavatory sink that is mounted above the surface of a counter as a separate installation in contrast to a sink that drops into the countertop is known as a vessel sink. A vessel filler faucet is constructed with a height to specifically to stand above the brim of a vessel sink and is typically a single-column faucet.

Deck Mount Faucet

Instead of mounting a faucet directly to the sink, a deck mount faucet is mounted flush to the surface of the counter behind the sink, which eliminates the need to find a kitchen or bathroom sink with a matching number of holes as the faucet. When referencing the bathtub, a deck mount faucet is may also be referred to as a Roman tub faucet.

Gooseneck Faucet

A faucet spout that has a rounded arch design is known as a gooseneck faucet. Gooseneck faucets can vary in height, but are most commonly found in high-arching faucets which measure over 8 inches high.  A gooseneck faucet in your kitchen makes washing large pots and pans a breeze.


Eight Top Reasons for Remodeling Your Kitchen...In No Particular Order!

posted Jul 26, 2017, 2:54 PM by Kathy Marr   [ updated Sep 13, 2017, 12:04 PM ]

A lot of thought must go into the big decision to remodel your kitchen, and everybody gets to the decision in their own way. Lets examine eight of the reasons most commonly cited as why they are remodeling. 

There are many reasons to remodel a kitchen, every one unique to the home and homeowner involved. There is no right or wrong reason; or no reason better than the next. It just depends on the situation at hand. There are, however, some more common reasons people choose to invest in remodeling their kitchen – whether it is a minor kitchen remodel or a major kitchen make-over. 

For clarification, a minor kitchen remodel generally involves leaving the footprint of the kitchen in place by not expanding the square footage or moving sinks and appliances around, replacing cabinet door and drawer fronts but leaving the boxes in place, also possibly replacing the countertop and flooring and maybe changing out appliances for new higher-efficiency models. One can expect a minor kitchen remodel to run in the neighborhood of $20,000, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Vs. Value Study.

A major kitchen remodel, on the other hand, is defined as replacing 30+ linear feet of new custom cabinets, new stone countertops and glass backsplash; built in refrigerator, high grade stove and oven and vent hood along with high-end fixtures and custom lighting. There may be a new room configuration and plumbing and electrical changes. The 2017 Cost vs Value Study puts this between $62,000 for a mid-range quality finish and $123,000 for an Upscale finish.

So, why do people make the decision to invest in remodeling their kitchens? It is expensive, it takes a lot of effort to find a quality contractor, the project can take a long time, it is a messy job, and it can be very stressful for the whole family – why put yourself through it? Well, there are some pretty strong and consistent motivators. Lets look at the top 8.


       Eight Reasons People Remodel their Kitchen:

        1.      Old,Tired, and Falling Apart. The current kitchen is falling apart. The home may be old and simply outlived its expected lifespan. The doors maybe falling off the cabinets, the old linoleum is cracking, the Formica is pealing, the Harvest Gold appliances have lost their luster…the room just doesn’t lend itself to an enjoyable cooking and dining experience.

       2.     Out of Date. The kitchen may be in immaculate condition, everything is well maintained and functions well…but the Harvest Gold appliances have still lost their luster! The kitchen is still in the 1970s but you and your family live in the here and now and you want a kitchen that reflects that fact. Its time your kitchen caught up with the times!

        3.      Family Lifestyle. The current kitchen layout just doesn’t work with the way your family operates. Your family likes to hang out in the kitchen together so you need a breakfast bar for quick informal meals instead of always having to go to the formal dining room. Or maybe you need an island for the kids to do homework at while you prepare dinner. Whatever the motivation, the current design just doesn’t jive with the way you and your family like to use a kitchen.

       4.      Value. Some homeowners remodel their kitchens with the intent of raising the value of their home – especially if they intend to put the home on the market in the near future. They believe that an updated and attractive kitchen will appeal to more potential buyers. This is where the difference between a minor or major remodel is important to understand – as you will most likely not recoup all of the investment with either but you may get the same effect of generating positive buyer reaction with the minor remodel versus the major remodel and lose less money in the transaction.

       5.      Energy Efficiency. For some people with strong conservation tendencies and a keen desire to reduce their personal use of non-renewable energy, energy efficiency measures in a new kitchen is enough to get them to commit to a remodel. Adding skylights and windows that allow in more natural light, thereby reducing their need for artificial light, is an attractive design element. Changing out old energy hog appliances for the new energy-efficient appliances and solar water heaters help cut utility bills and place less stress on the environment.

       6.      Special Needs. Sometimes a kitchen needs to be redesigned and remodeled to make the room more accessible to someone in the family who has become disabled and requires the use of a wheel chair or walker, or can no longer reach high cupboards. Remodeling a kitchen can make it Universally accessible to the physically impaired, the elderly, or anyone who just needs things a little bit easier to maneuver.

      7.     Gourmet Kitchen. The ever-popular gourmet kitchen! For someone who loves to cook and entertain, they constantly envision their “dream kitchen” -- the kitchen that allows them to whip out the fancy dishes to serve at their lavish dinner parties. This gourmet kitchen will feature higher-end amenities and possibly professional grade appliances. This kitchen will accommodate all of the needs of the true cook and baker.

      8.      Change. Sometimes you just need to change things up! You might just be tired of the old cabinets and flooring. The old countertop and backsplash make you yawn. You’ve watched enough HGTV to know there is more out there than you have in your kitchen! Also, maybe you’ve been making changes throughout the rest of your home and now the kitchen looks a little sad next to the other rooms. Either way, you just know you need something new in your like and you know it is in the kitchen!

A Smooth Running Remodeling Project

posted Jul 7, 2017, 3:03 PM by Kathy Marr   [ updated Jul 7, 2017, 3:04 PM ]

Your Roadmap to a Smooth Running Remodeling Project

The new kitchen is done, the contractors have packed up their tools and gone home. You walk in to your brand-new kitchen and it is exactly as you imagined it from the beginning. Everything, right down to the last light switch cover is the right color, pattern, and came in on time and went in without a hitch. And it looks EXACTLY like it did in your mind when you first started planning to do this remodel. Squeal…Halt! Let’s stop right here and put away our unicorn and sweep up the fairy dust. While we would like to say it always goes like that, it is rarely the case.

The reality is that more than likely something will go off the rail, an unexpected and unavoidable delay will occur, a part will get back-ordered, or maybe good old Mother Nature won’t cooperate. Sometimes, the vision in your mind just isn’t a real possibility due to space or cost constraints. There are simply things you just can’t prepare for, but the good news is that there’s plenty that you can. Costly changes and add on, time-consuming work can be kept to a minimum if you fully comprehend all the details of what you are building before you start. By having a good grasp of the construction process and keeping a close eye on the budget, and also by becoming an integral part of the construction team, your remodel project can result in the room or home you had in your mind at the outset!

It all starts with having a well thought out and organized project plan. So, what does the road map look like?

Stop #1 Start by Establishing your Goals – and Frequently Refer Back to Them 

Establish what your priorities are for this project…and rank them. This way when you are forced to make decision down the road due to budget overruns or material changes, etc., you will be able to easily make the decision because you have clearly outlined, in advance, what features are most important within the project. These decision points will make it easier, overall, to get to the final goal. On a kitchen remodel, you will already know that the sink in front of the window is much more important than having the appliance garage and wine fridge when cuts have to be made.


Stop #2 Establish Your Budget – and Set Aside an Addition 10-15% Buffer

After setting aside what you have determined to be the amount you will spend on your remodeling construction project, you need to set aside and addition amount as a contingency. This money is not intended for upgrades to your plan, rather it is for covering the things that come up in a project that are totally unexpected. For instance, when existing walls are torn down it may be discovered that wiring or plumbing is not up to current code. That may have been unforeseeable at the time of bidding but once discovered must be rectified. Anytime demolition for a construction job begins, there is the potential for discovering these hidden drains to the budget. These are what the buffer budget is for – not for upgrading the countertops! Without this buffer, you might find yourself short of cash to finish the job and meet your obligations.


Stop #3 Don’t Forgo Working With a Design/Build Contractor

A Design/Build Contractor melds the need for an architect, in many cases, with the construction contractor, bringing the project under one roof. A Design/Build professional contractor brings skills to the job that a run of the mill remodeler does not possess. They can provide guidance on what team members will be required on the project, what complexities the structure bears, the creativity on space design/utilization, knowledge of architecture styles and structural design, and well versed in current codes and regulations.

Two key advantages for utilizing the services of a Design/Build contractor over a traditional remodeler or an architect and remodeler in tandem, is: One, it is more cost effective to have the design and build under one roof. Always. Two, it is more efficient. If designers and builders are not the same people, a project is always at risk of plans not matching up, one side may not know exactly what the other is planning, etc. Economy and Efficiency, it is a great combination when you are trying to get the most out of your remodeling dollars.

Stop #4 Become a Player on the Team

You, as the homeowner and visionary of the project, are the leader of the team. You need to stay involved and up-to-date with the progress. Staying involved from beginning to end is vitally important to keeping the communication channels opening and functioning. None of us are mind-readers, and we all know the problem with assumptions, so staying on the same page throughout is the best way to make sure the project continues to flow in the right direction and nobody ends up surprised along the way.


Some of the things a homeowner needs to keep a close eye on are the schedule, material selections, the budget, and that the job construction and quality seems as it should. Mistakes do get made, drawings get misread, or a sub installs a door on the wrong side of the shower. An involved homeowner might catch something before it becomes a big issue. Bottom line? Communication is key to everything!

Stop #5 Set A Realistic Project Schedule

This new bathroom should only take a week or two, right? I see, the unicorn is back! Even a small remodeling project takes weeks. Sometimes there are weeks involved before our craftsmen ever show up for the first day on the jobsite. The weeks preceding that are spent designing, carefully developing the team, ordering materials, pulling permits and generally getting the job ready to rock and roll. It really takes time to work out all of the details of a construction project. The more effort put in up front, the more pot holes avoided later on during the actual construction. Problems avoided generally equals money saved and headaches averted!

So just like putting in a budget buffer, it is a good thing to put in a timeline buffer as well. If you have a big event like a wedding or graduation, for instance, you are trying to be ready for, you definitely need to have that buffer or contingency time build in. Murphy is always waiting to bring down his law, because what can go wrong, most likely will go wrong if you absolutely, positively, have to have it done by a certain date!

Stop #6 Consider the Challenges of the Construction Itself

Working with a Design/Build contractor eliminates most of the constraints an average homeowner trying to manage a job on their own would face…how to get permits, knowing when and how to get structural engineer drawing, where are the load bearing walls, how to deal with HVAC runs.

But don’t forget the challenge of living in a construction zone. Are you ready for that? You may be without a kitchen for some time, or you may lose access to your master bath for a few weeks and have to share with the kiddos (eek!). There will be noise, drywall dust, strange people in and out and the stress can be overwhelming for some. This is why working with the right contractor, who knows how to put together a well-planned, and well-executed construction plan, is vitally important.

Step #7 (Final Stop) Team Communication

For the last stop on our Smooth-Running Project Road Map, lets detour back to Team Communication. This remains the single most critical element of a well-run project. Scheduling a once a week (at minimum) meeting with the project manager is a great way to keep up-to-date with the status of the project, any bumps in the road coming up, any discovered opportunities and generally a chance to discuss the little things going on. Because, experience tells us…it’s the little things that make the big differences!

On the Surface of It...Counter Selection for a Universally Designed Home

posted May 24, 2017, 2:58 PM by Kathy Marr   [ updated May 24, 2017, 3:00 PM ]

There are many considerations when making the selection of your kitchen counter-top beyond aesthetics and price. These considerations get expanded, or more important, if being considered with Universal Design in mind. Universal design principles require counters be easy to care for, fairly resilient, often heat-resistant and flexible to allow for visual or tactile contrast. Before looking at these requirements in more depth, lets step back and define the concepts of “Universal Design”.

Universal design requires an understanding and consideration of the broad range of human abilities throughout the lifespan. It features items that most people can use, regardless of their level of ability or disability, whether from aging or physical disability from injury or disease, thus they are considered universally usable. For an example, round doorknobs are not usable by people with limited use of their hands, but lever-style handles are usable by almost everyone, even those people with no hands.

Some items are made more universally usable by their placement, such as placing light switches at a lower level and electrical outlets at a higher level. This way people have to do less bending or stretching.

Accessible design is generally considered to mean that a home or building is designed to limit accessibility issues – it meets prescribed requirements for accessible housing. The features in an accessible home may include wider than standard doorways, sufficient clear space for wheelchair maneuverability, lowered cabinets and countertops, lever and loop type hardware, knee space under sinks, etc. Accessible features are permanent features of a building, generally.

Adaptable design features items that can be easily added or removed to a home to “adapt” it to the individual needs of the occupant. In an adaptable home, the wide halls and doorways, no steps, knee spaces and light switch locations, and grab bar reinforcement features must be built in, but the grab bar can be left off if not needed and added at a later date, because the backing is already in place. Knee space can be concealed by placing a removable lower cabinet or rolling cart to removed when the space is needed later.  Adaptable design means readily adjusted.


Notice the beautifully trimmed off edges on these wooden counters.

 OK, with that out of the way, what do we need to know about counter-tops in a Universally Designed     home? Let’s start with the list of typical and most commonly chosen counter materials and their associated benefits:

  • Butcher Block
    • It is resilient, a good cutting surface and has excellent flexibility in the fabrication process. If somethings is dropped on the counter, chances are better than average that it won’t be damaged. Being able to cut right on the counter eliminates the need to access an additional cutting board. The edges, corners, curbs and contrast can be cut into the surface during the fabricating, cutting down on maintenance needs. Butcher block scores high on resilience, flexible fabrication and durability, but misses on heat resistance and easy care. 
  • Tile
    • Top notch heat resistance surface. If machine cut tiles with smooth edges are chosen, then grout lines can be minimized which cuts down on maintenance. Tile opens up many color, pattern, and texture opportunities which are great for visual and tactile contrast and some spill protection. Tile scores well on heat resistance, flexible fabrication, durability and easy care (to some degree). It is not inherently resilient.
  • Laminate
    • Easy-care, economical, and with common fabrication techniques allowing for a variety of treatments to create eased or clipped edges and corners. Colors and patterns are virtually limitless to provide plenty of contrast for the visually impaired.
Laminate is cost-effective, has flexible fabrication, easy care and can be somewhat resilient. It does not score well on heat resistance and durability.      
  •     Solid Surface
    • Solid surface is the king of easy maintenance and offers tremendous flexibility in design and fabrication. There is no limit to the contrasting patterns and edging treatments that can be created. Integrated sinks add even greater ease of maintenance. The material is extremely durable and is resistant to cutting and heating. And while it shouldn’t be used as a direct cutting surface, if cuts or nicks occur, they can often be repaired. Top marks for flexible fabrication, easy care, and durability and some resilience.
  • Stone
    • Stone counters are very heat resistant and make great transfer counters from ovens and stoves. With careful fabrication, edges and curb treatments can be created.
      Darker stones with more dense colors are the most durable. Scores high for heat resistance and durability. So-so marks for easy care (in dark colors) and flexibility. This product is not resilient.
  •  Stainless Steel
    • Great heat resistance and remarkably durable. Fabrication of stainless steel allows for a variety of edge treatments and in the right environment can add some excellent contrast. Heat resistance, easy care and durability are its core strengths.


Just a couple of quick items to think about the fabrication of counter-tops in a Universally Designed kitchen, while we’re on the subject:

  • Whenever possible, counter surfaces near the oven and stove should be heat resistant to allow for food transfer with the least amount of grasping and lifting.
  •  Color contrast at or near the counter edge will help a person with visual impairment see the edge.
  •  A change of texture, such as a lip or curb, will provide a further tactile indication of the edge.
  •  Contrasting colors in the counter surface will assist the visually impaired in working with light and dark foods – flour on a dark counter, coffee on a light counter.
  •  Edge treatments should include clipped or rounded corners and eased edges so there are no points or sharp edges.

A lot of these last fabrication points mention the visually impaired, but this does not just mean those with eye diseases or injuries. One of the things nearly all people face as they go into their senior years is a decrease in their visual acuity. Things start to go fuzzy and colors are less sharp. So this is where aging in place really melds into the “Universal Design”. These are considerations we can all take when making updates to our kitchens if we plan on remaining in our homes into our twilight years.


Is There Anything Better Than a New Kitchen?

posted May 17, 2017, 1:54 PM by Kathy Marr   [ updated May 17, 2017, 3:01 PM ]


It’s Time for Your New Kitchen!

You finally decided it’s time to update your kitchen. Maybe the space is dysfunctional or its just outdated and tired. The layout could need a complete overhaul, maybe a cramped space needs better function, or tired materials just need to be modernized and refreshed. Its time to look for inspiration! There are many places on the internet to find the spark…Houzz, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram. Or go check out some Parade of Homes and see what is being displayed in homes in your area. You just need to find what really stirs you and gets your juices flowing! Then, you have some important things to consider for your new kitchen design. 

How does your kitchen function?

This is the most important thing you will need to clearly understand in your planning. Does the existing layout of the appliances provide a good working triangle with sufficient countertop space for food preparation - or would a new layout be more conducive to your personal cooking style? How about your current appliances – are they in line with your cooking and baking needs or should they be replaced? If you are a gourmet chef, professional grade appliances might be a more suitable option. For a large family the emphasis might be more on food storage, counter and eating space.  Couples and families who entertain a lot may be looking for kitchens that allow for great people flow through the room, because we all know that everyone loves to congregate in the kitchen!

What is your personal design style?

You will be working with a designer to help create a space that meets your design style and incorporates perfectly into the available space. By collecting photos of spaces that inspire you, swatches of colors you love, you can give insight to your designer.  A good designer can then help translate your ideas into a new design that meets your personality, your function needs, and your personal style. If you are inspired by the sea, a beautiful aquamarine back-splash could be the cherry on your kitchen sundae.

If you are a busy working couple with lots of demands on your time, maybe ease of maintenance and long terms function are equally important as beauty in your design. A beautiful quartz counter-top may be exactly what’s needed to achieve that goal.  The ideas can be combined to create a new kitchen that defines your aesthetic.

What Design/Build firm to work with?

Committing to a contractor is no small decision. There is a lot at stake. With many contractors and the various options to go over, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Remodeling a kitchen is a large task with many moving pieces, and working with a professional ultimately provides the best outcome. But that comes from picking the right contractor. You want to find out how long have they been in business, do they have the right skill set in design and selection assistance, are they fully licensed and insured? In a room that is the heart and soul of your home, where you spend so much of your quality time, and you are planning to invest some significant money, choosing the right company can truly make a difference in the outcome. Working with experienced individuals will make all the difference in how the process goes and in your personal satisfaction in your newly remodeled kitchen.

Like most things, doing the work up front pays dividends in the end!

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