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Beware of kitchen redo deals too good to be true

We recently came across a newspaper advertisement inviting readers to take advantage of an “unbelievable” kitchen remodeling “package” for just under $10,000! The display showed a photo of a lovely kitchen, and even offered to throw in a free sink with presentation of the ad.

Upon closer examination, we noticed a small asterisk next to the price that referenced some very fine print at the bottom of the ad. It said the special “base package” included: removal and disposal of existing cabinets and countertops; installation of up to 12 cabinets; two 8-foot slab granite countertops with a bullnose edge and 4-inch backsplash ; cutouts in the slab for a sink and faucet; and installation of a sink and faucet.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Wrong!

What stood out to us as veteran remodelers and consumer advocates were all the missing details. There’s no way a consumer could end up with a completely remodeled kitchen for the price being offered. Less-than-respectable contractors use such ads to get their foot in your door, and then can bury you with change orders that can double, triple or even quadruple the price.

Sadly for the unknowing consumer, the small print at the bottom of the ad didn’t include many items or details that typically accompany a kitchen remodel — new appliances, for example. What could be more wonderful than having a brand-new kitchen with beautiful cabinets and countertops with your old coppertone, harvest gold or olive green appliances?

OK, it might happen that you recently purchased a kitchen full of new appliances in anticipation of remodeling. But even so, there was no mention in the “special offer” of the cost of labor to remove and reinstall existing appliances.

What about electrical and lighting? Nothing in the fine print suggested that outdated electrical circuitry would be brought up to code. It’s no secret that most older homes — the ones that can most use a kitchen remodel — don’t have enough electrical circuits or outlets to accommodate all of today’s appliances. And electrical work isn’t cheap.

Is there a dedicated circuit for the microwave? For the automatic dishwasher and garbage disposal? Are electrical changes needed to accommodate new appliances?

What about lighting? Any kitchen designer will tell you that lighting is one of the most important elements of a remodeling project. Beyond improving the space’s aesthetics, good lighting makes working in the kitchen safer and easier.

Although the “special package” did mention installation of a sink and faucet and offered a “free” sink, there was no mention of a new faucet. How great is that? New cabinets, new granite counters, a new sink and your old mineral-deposit-covered faucet that has been leaking for years!

Now let’s look at plumbing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a more powerful, quieter garbage disposal? An instant hot-water dispenser or sink-mounted soap dispenser? Does your refrigerator have an icemaker and, if so, has the water supply been run? Have you dreamed of cooking with gas and chucking your old electric cook top? That could be a problem unless you have a gas line installed. And if you do, the gas must be connected to the cook top, and a more powerful range hood ducted to the exterior.

Whew! Plumbers, like electricians, aren’t cheap. Your budget could easily triple with these few considerations — and that’s only if nothing goes wrong. And in remodeling something always goes wrong. A good contractor expects it and knows how to deal with it.

Other glaring oversights in this “kitchen special” include flooring. Are you prepared to live with your ’70s brick-pattern worn vinyl floor, or did you have visions of new hardwood or ceramic tile? More often than not, kitchen flooring continues into adjoining rooms, so a flooring budget can be sizable. And don’t forget that existing flooring must be removed and disposed of. Ka-ching!

Other costs to consider:

1. Drywall patches and finishing: Cuts for plumbing, electrical and mechanical work, along with damage done when removing the existing backsplash, will need to be patched and finished.

2. Painting and/or wallpaper: Although you might like your existing paint or paper, 9 times out of 10 it will require repair, replacement or a fresh coat of paint.

3. Carpentry: Want to install a garden window or pantry, or install decorative crown or chair rail? Add it to the budget.

4. Plans and permits: We can’t stress enough the importance of a good set of plans that all parties — contractor, subs, inspectors and the owner — can rely on. Most kitchen remodels require a permit or permits from your local building department. Permits and the accompanying inspections don’t cost much and typically don’t affect the assessed value of your home, but they do offer the benefit of a set of trained eyes making sure the work meets minimum code.

Truly “special” remodeling projects contain all the details you’ve been dreaming of and can afford. Spend lots of time planning, ask lots of questions and deal with a professional with a track record to get a dream kitchen without the heartburn.

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