Planning Your Dream Kitchen

When it comes to turning your dream kitchen design into a reality, you may decide that working with a professional is the way to go. For kitchen design and construction, an architect or an independent Certified Kitchen Designer, or CKD, is the best place to start. The professional's advice will be unbiased, and will help you in determining what will look best in your kitchen.

Not all architects are willing to construct a domestic kitchen. The best way to find an architect is through personal recommendations. If this approach does not work, then consult your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. They will be able to provide you with information about architects in your area. It is essential that you and your architect work well together and share similar tastes when it comes to design.

Once hired, the architect will measure the space for the kitchen and produce a survey drawing, to show the area that already exists. Then, the two of you should agree upon style, function, and budget for the project. This agreement then becomes the basis for the production drawings, which the architect will now begin to draw up. These drawings show how the finished kitchen will look. The architect will also create a specification, which not only describes how it is to be built, but includes such details as a startup and completion date, which parts of the house the builders may use and how, and a payment schedule. Then it is your architect's job to shepherd the plans through the proper channels for permitting. Once any changes that have been made are incorporated into the drawings, the architect then gets the costs from the builders. The architect must then recommend a builder and a price.

It is possible to deal with the architect in only the early stages of the design process, and then to deal directly with the builder. This will reduce the architect's fee but may end up costing you more money in the end. With his or her expertise, the architect is often a better judge of when money is being spent wisely, can communicate more clearly with the builder, and has the inside track on competitively priced products and services.

Kitchen Design Services
Most retailers and manufacturers of kitchen cabinets offer a free design service. Kitchen designers spend their lives planning kitchens, and they know exactly what their brand products can do. If you have decided upon purchasing cabinets from a manufacturer instead of having them custom built, it is probable that the manufacturer's own designers can help to work out how to plan the kitchen. The only disadvantage is that these representatives work for the manufacturer and probably will not be impartial.

You might also consider hiring an independent Certified Kitchen Designer. Like their counterparts in the retail kitchen cabinet business, these professional designers work day in and day out designing kitchens and are skilled at making the most of your available space and dollars. Additionally, as industry specialists, they are often the first to hear of new innovations and cutting-edge products. Like architects, they too can do as much or as little as you wish - from simply drawing up a plan to working with the building contractor until the job is completed.

Choosing a Builder
You should choose a builder based on personal recommendations, previous work, and reputation. Select a building company that is just large enough to tackle your project. This way the boss will take a personal interest in your project.

Since the kitchen is the heart of your home, you will not be happy if you are forced to live with builders in the house. If you are purchasing a new home, it is wise to have all the building work done before you move in. If you are remodeling the current kitchen, it is smart to plan the building during a vacation so that you do not conflict with the builders. Remember: The more pre-planning you do, the fewer problems that will occur. Any change that you make to the original plan will cause a delay, and generally speaking, time is money. If you are dealing directly with the builder, and not through an architect, be sure to give all directions to the contractor in charge and let him or her work with the sub-contractors. If you do run into delays and additional costs, make sure that everything is agreed to in writing.

Doing It Yourself
If you have the time and energy, remodeling your kitchen can be fun and a money-saver. However, an unskilled operator working only on the evenings and weekends may take a long time to complete a relatively short project. Once you have settled on where you would like to position the stove/oven, refrigerator, and so on, add electric outlets and lights to your plan. Next, decide and note the floor and wall finishes. The completed drawing must then be shown to the local building inspector. Finally, it is important to write down exactly when and how everything will be done. New products and tools have made it easier for do-it-yourselfers to work quickly and well, and there are also some excellent instruction manuals and interactive software now available.

Do the Paperwork
Today there are regulations governing even the smallest building projects. It is vital to take your plans directly to the people concerned. The planning department needs to know such things as whether you will be adding another room, or if you live in a conservation area they will need to know if you will be altering the exterior. You must inform the building inspector if you are altering any of the walls or windows in your home. Whatever you do, just make sure that you have all the proper permits in hand before beginning your project.