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Kitchen Remodel: Being The ‘General’

Kitchen Remodel: Being the ‘General’

There certainly is some potential economic benefit for a homeowner to act as their own General Contractor when the decision is made to re-do, re-build or create and entirely new kitchen space. However, before dismissing this key figure as the pivotal role in your kitchen endeavor, it’s important to understand what this professional brings to the table and fully comprehend if you, the homeowner, are up to the task and have the expertise to fulfill the role.

One of the most critical measures that is often overlooked when a homeowner decides to take the reins is the fact that other ‘titles’ don’t necessarily go away during the construction process. In other words, the titles of ‘spouse’, ‘parent’, and ‘employee’ are still very much yours and, in spite of the fact that you’ve added ‘General’ to your title, those other titles will still have their demands.

The Preliminaries

This project will probably involve the acquisition of building permits which are typically secured by the ‘General’ contractor. Make sure that you have drawings and quotations (from licensed contractors) to support your permit documentation. You will, no doubt, need to engage several licensed contractors to perform their services on your project; and this involves getting estimates, checking references, and reviewing schedules. You may also need to coordinate with one, or two, utility companies; and you must do this in accord with the schedules of all the trades involved.

Built in Sequence and Stages

This is a concept whereby a ‘General’, of homeowner genre or not, has to possess a great level of expertise in how a kitchen is disassembled and how it’s put back together; and this attention to strategic detail cannot be understated. If demolition or structural modifications are indicated in the project, it’s vital to accomplish such tasks while keeping the ‘working’ space intact and available for as long as possible. Even if several key appliances and prep areas are diverted to another room, temporarily, you’ll realize that the kitchen still draws traffic. So, quite often, a strategy of select demolition and select structural modifications are staged in order to keep the space accessible for as long as possible.

young couple looking at blueprint during remodel

Once the space or parts of the space are removed or re-worked, the mechanicals are the next series of tasks to be employed. These will come in the form of: new wiring of fixtures, islands, appliances; plumbing of sink(s), disposal, dishwashers, refrigerators; heating, air-conditioning, and exhaust handling; and, perhaps, natural gas or propane fuel lines. At this stage, these are usually ‘roughed-in’, meaning that wires and pipes (absent of voltage, water, gas) may be dangling and unattached to anything.

The next stage involves the ‘build’ end of things–when things, structural and finish start getting put into place and some of the mechanicals are tied-in once significant completion is realized. Typically, this stage is more rewarding because the vision is taking form and the household tends to see the value in the inconvenience they had to bear. Once everything is put into place, then the critical finishes like, light fixtures, sink(s) counters, flooring and painting are finally addressed. Tuck-in the appliances, plug them in, and you’re done. Too easy, right?

Value of Communication

One of the unspoken values that are possessed by a professional ‘General’ is that of their ability to communicate effectively. At the onset of the job, they have a comprehensive schedule mapped in their mind and work calendar. They schedule specialized contractors or trades-people in accord with a rigid schedule and understand that everyone involved must comply toward the rigid schedule set forth by the ‘General’. If one person falls from the schedule, everyone involved is pressed to alter their schedule to accommodate for the miscue; and delays are created. The demands of a professional general contractor carry a lot of weight with the subcontractors who work underneath him. He is their source of income, not just on your project, but many future ones as well. Do you have experience coordinating construction projects and a variety of contractors? If not, then consider hiring a General Contractor to get the project done correctly and on time.


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