Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kitchen & Bath Designs Website

Please check out our company website for information about who we are and what we do. The site was initially launched in April of 2008 and continues to be a work in progress. By updating the site weekly, we will strive to make it as informational and current as possible. Follow this link and please contact us if we can help you in any way.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Building Equity in Your Home

2009 Started with a universal sigh of relief that ’08 is over and that we can start looking towards a better economy; though we may not be out of the woods yet. The 2008 overall numbers for new construction and existing home sales rank among the lowest recorded in the last 50 years. Most markets have seen a substantial decline in value of there homes with the median home price declining from 203,000 to 189,000. Most economists agree that 2009 will be a continuation of the last year and we will not see house gains until 2010 or longer. So what should we all do?

Investors often talk of the way to make money is to buy low and sell high. Then the question is, how do we know when the low part is? I think we all would agree that it is right now. Now is the best time to purchase or remodel a home. It is the absolute worst time to sell one, so please get that thought out of your (remember the idea is to sell high). Starting a remodeling project in the bathroom or kitchen area is the best place to start to recoup the lost equity from the past year. When the market begins to improve in a year or two, you will be well positioned to take advantage of the up swing. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so most contractors and suppliers are cutting margins to increase sales plus they have more time to devote to your project than they had two years ago.

Recently, three articles were published describing why this might be the right time to start a remodeling project. Please check them out and we have copies in our Montrose showroom if you would like a hard copy.

Though it is a great time to shop around for deals on cabinets and countertops, I would be weary of desperate sales people and firms that don’t have an office or showroom. At Kitchen & Bath Designs, we predict that many of our fly-by-night competitors will be closing their doors in the next fiscal quarter. You would hate to see your deposit and dream kitchen disappear, we have seen it happen.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chinese Cabinets, the good, the bad and the ugly.

At our Montrose, Colorado sales office we have been bidding against an outfit that only sells cheap Chinese cabinets. Their price point is very low and I know we have lost a few jobs to them. At the same time, the overall construction market is very slow. Money is tight and customers are asking for a low priced product. Not wanting to lose business to the competition, I started to research carrying an import line along with how the Chinese can produce such an inexpensive product.

The good.

The import lines are styled after traditional American cabinets. Generally they are of framed construction with hardwood door and drawer fronts in the typical American species like oak, maple and hickory. Boxes are either laminated MDF or plywood. All the suppliers I looked at offer only about four color choices. Chinese cabinets are priced about 15% less for a similar quality American made cabinets and are limited in the available sizes. Hardware options are also consistent with what is available by our domestic makers, though I know they are knock offs of Blum and Salice.

As a business owner, it is hard to argue with a better product for less money. Our company, Kitchen & Bath Designs started to really consider purchasing our lower end cabinet line directly from China but then we started to see the other side of the story.

The bad.
I am writing this towards the very end of December of 2008. There has been a 13% decline in home values this year, unemployment is rising to 10% (a 26 year high), we have a negative savings rate of $7500 per person and our government has been borrowing 1/3 of all the money it spends for the last half dozen years.

The Chinese on the other hand are doing quite well at our expense. They have had a consistent 8% growth over the last twenty years with 19% last year alone. They are also the largest holder of our debt. They own our country or atleast the future economic output of our country. Cabinets and the wood industry is one of the last industries that is left from our once great manufacturing base and now it is leaving too.

Global economics may not relate to your kitchen or bathroom project or you may not care. As we searched out the pros and cons of the import cabinets, we started to see real quality issues. Number one is that the panel stock for the boxes is of the lowest quality. We have seen issues of the MDF swelling from close proximity to the dishwasher and destroying the cabinets, the plywood we are seeing warping issues. Doors, drawers and counter tops look used prior to installation, my guess is that the damage occurred from the shipping containers crossing the ocean. The finishes seem to have an orange cast caused from using cheap lacquers. Drawer slides are stamped light gauge steel and do not last very long.

The ugly.
Most of our cabinet and countertop sales occur in Colorado, occasionally we have a customer in California who buys our products or services. Currently we could not sell the Chinese import cabinets in California because of their high formaldehyde content, it would be in violation of the CARB initiative meant to improve indoor air quality. As we try to offer th greenest products avialable, the import cabinets are decidingly not green at all.

Further research lead me to this article in a recent New Yorker.
The author explores the booming Chinese wood industry. The majority of hardwoods used in the construction of cabinets is illegally logged out of the Siberian wilderness. China itself has few trees left and began to purchase its raw materials from Russian loggers about a decade ago. Please read the article if you would like to learn more about the deforestation of Siberia and the huge illegal logging industry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cabinet Styles

What cabinet works for you?
When first shopping for cabinets, you may become bleary eyed sifting through the terminology and the minor differences between box styles and wood species. The big picture is that your Kitchen is the largest investment that you will make in your home and the cheapest way to increase equity. With cabinets, you get what you pay for.

Cabinets come in two styles, frameless or framed. Frameless cabinets stem from Europe and are often referred to as Euro-style. In frameless cabinets, the door covers the entire front of the cabinet, details and styles come from the door itself. Frameless cabinet boxes have more usable space than framed cabinets and are generally built stronger than framed cabinets.

Framed cabinets are easily identified by having an exposed solid wood frame surrounding the door. Framed cabinets are the most commonly purchased cabinet and offer a very traditional look. The face frame is ¾” solid wood and is finished to match the doors. Cabinet boxes range from 3/8” to 5/8” thick material. Because the face frame stiffens the cabinet box, lighter weight material can be used opposed to frameless boxes.

Cabinet boxes are made of three different possible materials, medium density fiberboard (MDF), particle board or plywood. MDF is a poor choice for most cabinets due to it’s a ability to absorb moister and swell. Particle board is the most popular material and is generally coated with a melamine veneer to help protect it. Melamine is a highly durable and easily cleaned alternative to wood veneer found in plywood. Plywood is always the most expensive option and holds up well against moisture and abuse. It is also the mandatory material if you are going with concrete countertops due to the added weight. The added cost of plywood with only a moderate increase in durability compared to particle board makes it a less popular option.
Doors and face frames are either solid wood or a veneer glued to a substrate. The price of the cabinet brand will often dictate the quality. When looking at doors and face frames, feel for sturdiness, look for grain selection, check smoothness of finish and material thickness.
Wood selection is also very important. Denser woods such as maple, hickory and cherry will hold up better than alder and pine. Ask a qualified sales person about the pros and cons of the different wood species.

Cabinets are the most heavily used items in the home, unfortunately with cabinets you get what you pay for. The more you spend the longer they will last. If you know your family is tough on cabinets, then look for a lifetime warranty, dovetailed drawers and a sturdily made box. For extremely heavy use, avoid the softer woods like pine and alder, they just do not hold up as well.

It is the kitchen options that really defines a great space. Including crown moulding, finished ends, drawer inserts, wine racks, lazy susans, pantry pullouts, etc. These features add cost to the job but can also turn an average kitchen into an amazing one.

With cabinets, you get what you pay for. The budget cabinet lines will have only a few door styles and finish options compared to a high-end cabinet line that will have unlimited combinations of woods, finishes and styles. Other components such as hinges and drawer glides will differ substantially from the budget to the high-end. Generally a budget cabinet will give 5 years of problem free use, a mid to high end cabinet will provide 15 to 25 years of service before replacement will be needed. Options will also increase the cost of your project, but will also add the most value.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to start a Kitchen or Bath project.

Kitchen and bathroom decisions can be the hardest in the home industry. There are many choices and they are all expensive. You are also stuck with your decision for a long time so you must choose wisely.

First Steps:
Answer these Questions
  1. Find Drawings, samples, photos of what you would like to see in your project
  2. List functional items that you would like to see.
  3. Figure out your budget.
  4. Establish a timetable for project completion.
  5. Choose general types of appliances, if possible, get product Model Numbers
  6. Determine who will do the labor involved.

Find a Designer
Your project will be expensive and you will be stuck with the results for a long time. Choose a qualified designer who is certified or working towards it to do your design and provide your cabinets and countertops. Also look for a company that has an established showroom and long history in the business, if there is a problem a few months or years down the road you will want to make sure that someone will be there to solve it.
Trust is a major factor in this line of work, generally I would stay away from lumber yards and home centers for cabinets and countertops. Their staff is usually not trained in design and they are never there after the sale is complete.

A designer will generate drawings and pricing from the information obtained. Ask many questions, review drawings and make sure that the designer understands your needs given your specific budget. Designers are not mind readers so providing the correct information is very important.
Once a design and price is accepted, cabinets will come between 2 and 10 weeks depending on the brand. Countertops are turned around in 3-4 weeks. A designer will check over your order and schedule deliveries and installs if required.

After the Sale
Cabinets and countertops can be very difficult. There are often variable that are unforeseen such as appliances not matching their specs, warped sinks, out of square walls, rotten framing etc. How these issues are dealt with is what separates the true professionals from the rest of the group. A good design center will have protocols and staff dedicated to handling any problems if they occur.