Kitchen Renovations

By: Dale Goldhawk

Installing a kitchen is a job for professionals - a whole parade of professionals. If you are having a kitchen installed, you'll see tile setters, plumbers, electricians, appliance installers, rough and finish carpenters, stone masons, and others along with the designer and project boss. However, there is a major role for the homeowner as a kitchen installation inspector. If you don't take on this role, your $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 plus kitchen could see some serious flaws built into it.

You don't have to peer over the shoulder of each worker every minute as they build and install your kitchen. You should, however, inspect the results of their work periodically through each day if you can and, certainly, at the end of each working day.

Before work begins, in fact, inspect your contract with great care to see what is included and what is not. The contract should call for complete finishing of the job or spell out what is not part of the agreement. For instance, you may end up paying for baseboard, register covers, door hardware, ceiling fixtures and other finishing touches unless it is specified that all finishing work is the responsibility of the installer.

The job itself may begin with structural work. You may be having a doorway enlarged or a ceiling raised or windows cut into your new kitchen. Some of this structural work may require a building permit. Even though it is the responsibility of the professional to get that permit, if they do not, you're on the hook as the homeowner for non compliance and the work will go uninspected by experts in the municipal building department. Check with city hall yourself to see if a permit is required.

At the end of each day, look at the structural work yourself to make sure studs are securely fastened, drywall is even at its joins, drywall compound is smoothly applied and so on. You don't have to be an expert to wiggle a stud or eyeball drywall. If it doesn't look good to you, ask your contractor about it first thing in the morning or sooner. In particular, make certain all finishing touches are done within your contract or be prepared to pay extra. And don't ask for changes unless you are willing to pay a great deal extra for those as well. A change in wall paint color could be very expensive unless you negotiate to have it included in the original price.

For each inspection, take measurements and make sure everything is level. For this, you'll need a tape measure and a spirit or laser level. These are simple tools to use and they don't lie. Make sure all measurements are to plan and watch for differences as little as a quarter of an inch. You may not be able to install a large appliance in an opening that is 'just a smidgeon' too small and a gap of 1/4 inch can look huge in an otherwise beautiful kitchen.

If workers are using materials like cement, grout or drywall compound that will set like rock overnight, try to inspect their work before they leave for the day. You may find grout on top of tile backsplash or floors or drywall compound that is rough. Scraping or sanding poorly applied finishes like these can take hours and raise considerable dust in the home.

One disastrous grouting job on 45 square feet of backsplash took workers seven hours to rectify and was barely acceptable when completed. As well, make certain the right kind of grout is used; wall grout is unsanded and is not be strong enough for use on floors while floor grout may look and feel too harsh on walls.

Make certain flooring is level across its entire expanse. Any high or low spots will be magnified when cabinets sit on your new floor and cleanup will be difficult if your tile or wood floor has wide gaps or uneven levels.

Check each cabinet to make certain it is free of scrapes, nicks, dents and other defects. Don't accept cabinets that are marked in any way. Check all hardware including runners, hinges and self-closing devices to make certain everything is in place and tight. Check each drawer to ensure you have proper liners, trays and other extras in your order. Use your level to ensure each cabinet is installed correctly.

Check, as well, the trimming around cupboards to make sure it looks good; some trim can be appear homemade or caulking can be used too liberally to hide poor joins.

Check your counter top to make certain it is cut properly, especially at joins and around the sink area. If you have a sink installed, the countertop will be cut using a template supplied by the sink maker. Ensure the template matches the sink exactly before cutting and ensure the sink fits the cut top before it is installed. This is critical when installing an undermount sink since there is no sink surround to hide poor counter cutting.

Inspect the plumbing work to ensure there are no leaks. Try your taps and dishwasher before the plumber leaves to ensure they are working properly and that drains are not plugged by debris or kinked hoses.

Inspect electrical hookups to ensure everything works and that you have safe Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) plugs and switches near the source of water as in your sink or dishwasher. Make certain all plugs in the design are installed and, in the beginning, make sure you have enough electrical outlets in your kitchen for all possible large and small appliances, fans and other equipment. As well, ensure the plugs for the stove, dishwasher and refrigerator have enough clearance for installation of the equipment.

Ensure your appliances, including the range hood and microwave, are properly installed and in working order before the installers leave. If the appliance is improperly installed or set up, it could be damaged by use and you don't want to be liable for this.

As one can see, there is a lot to inspect in an average kitchen installation and these tips don't cover everything that can be eyeballed and measured by the homeowner. The better your designer, suppliers and installers are, the better the job will be and the easier inspection will seem. But, you are the one who will have to live with the installation for many years. It's worth the work of inspecting the job daily to protect your investment and make sure you're getting everything you want in your dream kitchen.

Kitchen Design
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