Photo by Ricardo Diaz

Update: Plenty of homeowners love getting stuck into a home remodeling project on a do it yourself basis. But a kitchen remodel is a pretty specialized area where even the most skilled DIY enthusiast will need a professional to come in and help. A good compromise is to find a kitchen contractor that you can work together with; map out your skills and your ability to do certain tasks and leave the stuff that’s beyond your capability to the contractor. That way you can still have the satisfaction of working on your kitchen remodel without sacrificing the high quality or safety measures that an experienced kitchen contractor will provide.

If you think you probably do need a kitchen contractor for home remodeling because of the size or difficulty of the project you are planning, you probably do need to hire a kitchen contractor. There are many parts of a kitchen remodel that either must or should be done by a professional. In addition, there is abundant opportunity to make a dangerous mistake.

Many kitchen remodeling projects can be accomplished by do-it-yourselfers, especially experienced do-it-yourselfers. Many tasks involved in kitchen remodeling, however, should not be attempted by a beginner.

Many states and localities require that licensed professionals and only licensed professionals handle work with gas lines, plumbing lines and connections and electrical wiring. Most of these states and localities also require various permits for remodeling work and inspections of completed work. The requirement for a permit and inspections could apply to framing, roofing, flooring, electrical wiring, plumbing, gas lines and connection of gas lines to appliances.

It is possible to find and hire a kitchen contractor who is willing to work with you to help you reduce costs in safe and reasonable ways. Some contractors will work with you to decide what it makes sense for you to do, how it will affect scheduling, and how much money you will save. Let’s look at an example.

My friend Sam and his family decided to completely remodel their kitchen. They want to use a bump-out to extend the size of the room so they can have a breakfast room. They also want to open the walls between the kitchen and the family room. And they want to convert from an all-electric kitchen by including some gas-operated appliances. The plan will add both a breakfast room and convert the space to a gourmet kitchen with lots of cabinets and double pantry space.

Sam hired a kitchen contractor for their home remodeling project. He explained that he wanted to do as much of the remodel as possible himself. He also explained that he was looking for ways to save money on the project. He discussed this with the contractor before they drew up a contract.

  • They decided that the kitchen contractor will be the project manager.
  • They decided that they would both price out needed items and compare prices, with the lowest price on the highest quality being the item they would purchase.
  • They decided the best way to keep the project on schedule was for Sam to focus on tasks that would not greatly affect schedule, projects that could be completed in advance, and projects that were relatively easy to complete but were time-consuming.
  • Sam will do the following tasks:
    • Remove appliances
    • Remove old floor covering
    • Remove counter and cabinets
    • Purchase and assemble all cabinets, including tall cabinets to provide extra pantry space, finish all cabinets
    • Dispose of all trash and used items
    • Handle all site preparation and daily cleanup
    • Finish trim work
    • Paint
    • Make/install backsplash areas
    • Obtain permits
    • Purchase fixtures and appliances
    • Install cabinets and countertop
    • Install switchplates and light fixtures
    • Install finish plumbing fixtures Contractor Selection Workbook

By working together with the contractor, Sam will save on labor costs for each of the tasks he does and allow the kitchen contractor and subcontractors to focus on more skilled tasks. Because most of Sam’s tasks can be accomplished outside of the actual project schedule, a delay will not affect the progress of the contractors.

By working together, Sam and the contractor can compare prices and shop carefully for the items needed for the kitchen remodel. Sam can learn from the contractor how to determine quality and durability of various items and become a discerning shopper.

By working together in this way, the kitchen contractor will be able to work with a very tight schedule, knowing she will be working with professionals during the construction phase of the project. The construction phase will be much shorter. The kitchen contractor, subcontractors and crew will not waste time on clean-up, site-preparation, or un-skilled tasks.

Finally, by working together in this way, Sam will be involved in the project in important ways. His contribution will be significant, and he will save money. His involvement will allow him to claim ownership of the finished kitchen.