Updated: Oct 4, 2018
This past year we had a leak in our kitchen that led to a major kitchen remodel. It was a process to say the least. I learned a lot about water damage, remediation, and dealing with insurance claims AND put all my knowledge of home renovations to use. We ended up totally remodeling our kitchen and family room for a very reduced price - thanks to USAA - in only 8 weeks. As much as I like my new kitchen, what I have been enjoying more is sharing what I learned along the way. Much like a difficult child, major house fiascos can make you a better friend and neighbor if you are willing to share your failure along with your success. So here are all the details before I forget.
Our biggest challenge (and mistake) was doing everything at high speed. I've been told kitchen remodels done via insurance claims often take 3-6 months to complete (sometimes even longer if you have larger home renovation plans). It is time consuming to line up adjusters and contractors to build your claim. As you begin work and uncover additional damage or upgrades that need to be made, you go back to the insurance for more coverage and begin their process again. The most distressing part is once the insurance company makes payment on your claim, the funds don't go to you! Funds go to your mortgage company (unless you own your home out right). It took our mortgage company another 2-4 weeks to send us a check. Thankfully we had an adjuster that knew her stuff, a very good insurance carrier (USAA), and some money in our savings account. Our project only took 8 weeks to complete from date of damage to functional kitchen. This is REALLY fast, but it took several more weeks before we received the final payments.
Rushing the process was ultimately our biggest mistake. We were securing our contractors so the project could begin before we understood the extent of the remodel. We were also going on our first international family vacation (YAY LONDON!) in the middle of it all. This was unique to our situation (due to the water damage) and easily avoided when planning a kitchen remodel. It would have helped if I had started with a detailed plan and stuck with it. Our plan kept shifting as the contractors talked logistics and permits. Everything snowballed. What started as a simple cabinet rebuild, fireplace demo and reflooring ended with all of the above PLUS new cabinets, counter tops, backsplash and electrical upgrades.
If You Have Water Damage
CALL A REMEDIATION COMPANY. I cannot recommend ServPro enough. Not only do they help you evaluate the problem, they also act as your agent with the insurance company. If you get stressed out about disasters and tend to talk too much like I do, you can say more than you have to or honestly should. ServPro can help you to assess the situation, fill out the initial paperwork and be your contact with the insurance company. They even meet with the adjuster and explain the damage and remediation plan. The best part is most homeowners insurance policies COVER their fees. So its kind of a no brainer.
Where to Start
For those of you who are hoping to remodel and trying to get organized, start with your design. Use your resources (friends, designers, Pinterest) to find some inspiration before you start talking to contractors. Contractors can bring in their own design team and make suggestions, but they can also overcharge you by selling you their design and construction services. Instead, take control of the design. Print out inspiration or save photos on your phone that can be easily referenced. Do a sketch of your desired layout and chat with interior designers and friends who might find flaws in your planning. Once you have a good sketch, start shopping for materials.
Find Your Materials
There are SO many different options. It's easy to get caught up in the details, like which white tile will look best. In the end if you follow your design inspiration, the nuances between the two white tiles are not going to make a difference. If you watch home renovation shows like Fixer Upper or Property Brothers, where they always provide a digitally generated model, you have probably noticed that the end result is never exactly the same. BUT the style, texture and contrast is typically spot on. Remember this when you are shopping materials, so you don't get caught up in whether to choose moroccan or fish tail tile. Countertops often hold people up as well. Function and color tone is more important than the different grains. Purchase the one that's most reasonable and check it off your list. Save the $$ for statement pieces, like a light fixture or cool hardware. The finished product will reflect the collection of items, while your individual choices will not stand out as much.
Call a Contractor
Once you have your design and preferred materials (take photos or buy samples), then call some contractors. Its difficult for contractors to give you an accurate estimate when you do not know what you want. They also will use estimates for your materials that might not reflect the great deal you found on your chosen backsplash tile or flooring. If you have samples of your chosen materials and a layout, the contractors estimate is more accurate. It should also eliminate costly overages caused by last minute design choices. Contractors can address detailed elements in your estimate, like herringbone tile, which is more expensive to install, or a custom appliance that requires an additional outlet. These details can jack up your estimate halfway through the project if you do not discuss it beforehand.
The other benefit of picking your materials first, is that it will help you evaluate how much you are actually paying the contractor. Estimates can be so overwhelming, but if you know up front that your materials alone are going to cost about $15k, then the $25k estimate isn't so surprising. If you find a good contractor, they might even get your costs down a bit with contractor discounts.
Enjoy a Cup of Tea
I am still learning to love my new kitchen. Because I remodeled the kitchen completely, I feel responsible for EVERY element. It is hard not to notice the little details that didn't turn out the way I expected. Over time and lots of gratitude work, I am enjoying the space more and more. Good luck with your project! Remember to take it slow and enjoy a cup of tea along the way. Take time to be in the space and remember its purpose. It will guide you.
Vendors that I used in the Sacramento Area for my materials:
Backsplash Tile - Home Depot - Glossy White Beveled Subway Tile (2"x4") Sheets
Countertops - Granite Outlet - Calacatta Gold Quartz
Cabinets - American Woodcrafter custom cabinets painted with Gale Force by Sherwin Williams
Flooring - German Flooring, Beach Pine #5201
Light Fixture - Build.com
Cabinet Hardware - Lowes - Champagne Bronze cup pulls and knobs; Bronze for island
Appliances - Lowes and Home Depot (Shop their sales)
Sink and Faucet - Ferguson Plumbing (Sarah Coles is the best!)
Wall Paint - Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams
Referrals and Contacts in the Sacramento Area:
ServPro, Folsom/Fair Oaks, 916-987-0400
Mitzi Zauner, Design Consultant, 916-764-9305
Sergey Kravtsov, Contractor, Goldstar 916-712-2680
Sarah Coles, Designer, Ferguson 916-338-8300
Jarrod McDade, American Woodcrafter 916-912-7663