7 Criteria to Consider when choosing your Kitchen/Bath Professional

If you are considering remodeling your kitchen or bath in the near future, here are 7 Criteria to consider when choosing your kitchen/bath professional.

1. Showroom/Studio Appearance
A showroom demonstrates stability, providing insight into the company you are considering.  You can tell if the owners have invested in themselves in the business, they intend to remain in the community, and they run a professional business.
The showroom should immediately give you a look into the firm’s product selection, quality standards and design capabilities.  Consider these:

  • Are the displays unique and represent a broad range of styles?
  • Are they complete, in a state of flux, or missing elements?
  • How well are the components integrated into a beautiful, functional, ergonomically designed kitchen or bath display?
  • Look closely at the “fit and finish” – where the countertop meets the sink or the cabinets, how the molding mitre cuts come together and other details
Mary Ann Smarto Lead Designer at Lang’s Kitchen & Bath in Newtown, PA  says; “Homeowners today need to find real value when investing in a new kitchen or bath. Seeing is knowing. Even in today’s technology savvy world we live in, there is still nothing better than seeing and touching the product you are purchasing.  Make sure you are pleased with the firm you decide to deal with because typically the showroom represents how your finished product may look.”

2. An Educational Approach
Let the owner or designer educate you.  A quality kitchen is not about products or brands, but rather about you, your family and your lifestyle.  An early warning sign would be a firm that begins by promoting a specific product or brand.  Let the designer help you understand the pros and cons of each product in relation to your needs and budget.
A showroom should be an educational center.  You should walk out more informed and less confused than when you walked in.  Look for:

  • Information booklets you can take home to study
  • A “storyboard” outlining the steps involved in the design and installation processes
  • A “cabinet comparison wall” displaying the differences in construction and cost of cabinetry
  • A portfolio of designs on display, or in a book
  • Magazines or books that feature the publication of the firm’s kitchen or bath projects

3. Selection of Quality Products at Special Values
Value rarely translates to the lowest cost. True value is getting the best possible product for your investment.
It is a common misconception that only national and regional chain home centers can offer cabinetry at lower prices.  With the advent of national kitchen and bath buying groups, professional kitchen and bath design firms, through their membership, can offer quality cabinets (as well as many other products) at the greatest value.  Buying group membership assures you that the firm can offer the best prices, quality service and the best value overall. 

“As a member of the SEN Design Buying Group, Lang’s Kitchen & Bath enjoys national buying power on all produces specified for our clients.” States John Lang Owner/Designer of Lang’s Kitchen & Bath. “We pass on major saves we earn from our buying group vendors.”

4. Highly Trained Personnel
Cabinets can be a wooden boxes or works of art.  In the hands of an expert it’s an art, in your kitchen it’s your dream come true.   Staff expertise and experience are the most critical factors in achieving great design and incredible value.   A brief conversation can begin to tell you a little about the firm, but ask about

  • Accreditations from national industry organizations
  • Employee background, education and length of association with the firm
  • Certificates of training from suppliers, such as cabinet and appliance manufacturers
  • Continuing education requirements and proof
  • Testimonials from past clients
  • References that you can explore yourself
Lang quotes: “Lang’s Kitchen & Bath designers are required to attend a minimum of two national conferences per year. By attending these conferences Lang’s staff is kept up to date on all the latest design trends and installation systems proving clients the confidence in our firm”

5.  Documentation
If you have never experienced a kitchen, bath or other major remodel project, you need to know that the unexpected should always be expected.  How well the firm you choose prepares for the eventuality beforehand (through documentation), as well as the “crisis” itself can be the difference between a haunting disaster and a great experience.
An experienced firm will completely and accurately document the following:

  • Detailed floor plans, elevations and perspectives
  • Specifications for each product including costs, warranties, deliverables, timing, etc.
  • Complete specifications for the services provided; what is included, what is not included, what may be additional, and the like
  • Agreements for Pricing, Payment Terms, and Conditions

6.  Specialized Services
What are your expectations?  Some people just want a good design and will handle the rest, others expect the firm to manage the process from design through installation.  Be sure the firm you hire fulfills your expectations. 

  • What does the design process include?
  • Will they order everything you need to complete the project, including the little things you don’t see?
  • Will they manage the ordering process, or will you be on the phone asking about delivery dates?
  • Do you want the firm to hire, manage and pay the subcontractors such as the electricians, plumbers, tile installers, painters and others?

The rule of thumb in kitchen and bath design is the greater the specialized services, the greater the customer satisfaction.  Look for key indicators that demonstrate how well your firm is schooled in specialized services.

  • Are they preparing a comprehensive “needs analysis”?
  • Is there an interactive budgeting system with a schedule of cost options in place to help quickly determine the scope of your project?
  • Is there a project manager on board that catches ordering mistakes and quarterbacks your installation and job completion process?
  • Are there forms and systems in place for written notifications after the sale such as change orders, delivery times, schedule dates, etc.?
  • Will you receive written tips to prepare for the projects?
  • Upon completion, will they ask you for a performance evaluation, regardless of the outcome?

7.  Business Integrity  
Your greatest fear is the realization of the story your neighbor or relative told you.  You know the one, the contractor took a deposit, ripped out the room, then disappeared – ran off to another project, never to be heard from again.  Be sure you judge the firms you are considering by their business integrity along with the other six criteria. 

  • Look for a solid reputation.  You can judge this from word of mouth in the community and written endorsements from recent clients
  • Look for a mission statement and values statement that resonates with you
  • Be sure the firm offers easy to understand warranties

As a home owner looking for the greatest value for your renovation dollar, you should consider all the 7 Criteria above when choosing your kitchen/bath professional.

Your Options

As a consumer, you have a number of options in searching for the best firm for your kitchen or bath project.  Although there are exceptions to each, you can generally expect the following to hold true.

Home Improvement Centers – like any large retail operation, these “big boxes” cannot always find the most qualified or well trained design experts for their kitchen or bath operations.  Although the price may appear to be the best in town, the value rarely is.  It is not uncommon to find design oversights, less than required customer services, and substandard installations.  In the end, you often live for years with the regret of not having done a better job shopping.

Consumer Buying Clubs – Despite convincing marketing, according to a design professional with 18 years of experience and a former short-term employee of Direct Buy (Laura Devlin, Boston, MA), “…the notion that the member would save half on the purchase of cabinetry was pure ‘BS’. Savings on plumbing fixtures, appliances, etc. were not that significant [either].” 

As the consumer, you provide all the measurements, including door clearances.  Without experience, your measurements are a “mistake waiting to happen.”  Ms. Devlin said, “Having to rely on the members giving you the correct measurements and information is a stab in the dark.  It is very difficult to design and follow through on a project with their [Direct Buy] type of selling. I wouldn’t recommend joining to anyone.”

Startups – These organizations lack the experience required to provide the quality you expect.  Without sufficient projects “under their belts,” they will likely not have the systems and quality personnel in place to give your project the attention to detail it requires to be successful.  In addition, knowing that startups often fail within a couple of years, this firm may not be in business when your project needs critical service a year or two later.

Truck Contractors – There is no doubt you can get the lowest price from contractors without the overhead of a showroom or studio, but at what cost?  You will likely receive an unimaginative design, inferior products and questionable integrity. 

Often consumers have difficulty getting home improvement contractors to finish jobs on time… or at all.  If you choose to do business with such a source, be sure to check the Better Business Bureau and Department of Consumer Protection for any complaints against the individual.

SEN Design Group Firms – These 200+ firms nationwide are members of the Kitchen & Bath Industry’s first buying group.  But more important is the SEN commitment to developing and nurturing kitchen and bath professionals so they embody each of these 7 criteria.  In fact, their continued membership is predicated on their ability to do so.
When you choose a SEN Design Group Firm, you work with

  • a reliable source of information and sound advice
  • one of the industry’s best businesspeople with high marks in customer service and integrity
  • a company that can get you the best value on your cabinets, fixtures, hardware, appliances and almost every element that makes up a kitchen or bath
  • personnel dedicated to continuing education and improving customer service
  • designers who often find themselves on the pages of Signature Kitchens & Baths (the most popular remodeling magazine at Barnes & Noble), and other national publications
  • a firm that often has multiple design awards or accolades

We are proud to be among the members of the SEN Design Group and pledge that when you make your decision to work with us, we will make your experience a positive one and your investment a sound one.  And you will be thrilled when enjoy your first meal in your brand new kitchen! Or your first shower in your brand new bathroom!

Value rarely translates to the lowest cost. True value is getting the best possible product for your investment.

kitchen2.jpg

It is a common misconception that only national and regional chain home centers can offer cabinetry at lower prices.  With the advent of national kitchen and bath buying groups, professional kitchen and bath design firms, through their membership, can offer quality cabinets (as well as many other products) at the greatest value.  Buying group membership assures you that the firm can offer the best prices, quality service and the best value overall. 

“As a member of the SEN Design Buying Group, Lang’s Kitchen & Bath enjoys national buying power on all produces specified for our clients.” States John Lang Owner/Designer of Lang’s Kitchen & Bath. “We pass on major saves we earn from our buying group vendors.”