When to Hire a Contractor and When to DIY

Contractor Talking with Customer Over Custom Kitchen Drawing.

Contractor Talking with Customer Over Custom Kitchen Drawing.If you’re Bob Vila, a general contractor yourself, or a professional handyman, obviously you can, and probably should, remodel your home yourself. Of course, in that case you’re probably not here reading this right now.

On the other side of the coin, if your idea of an impressive home improvement project worthy of puffing out your chest in pride involves swapping out a shower curtain and installing a new shower head … maybe just mosey on over to our find-a-contractor page and hire a contractor, because DIY remodeling will quickly find you in over your head.

But what if you’re in between? Here is some advice for those of us who aren’t afraid of a little sawdust and caulk, but aren’t quite sure if we can tackle a kitchen or bathroom remodel by ourselves.

Plan First, Do Second

The single best piece of advice we have for DIY remodeling is that you must, must, must plan first! By plan, we don’t mean stare at your kitchen and daydream for a while, we mean plan! As in measure, sketch, estimate costs, research, get proper permits if needed, source materials … the works. Before you pick up a single tool, aside from a measuring tape, you should know exactly what you’re going to do, have all the materials on site, and feel comfortable doing each step of the project.

Not only does a successful remodeling project, whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, depend more than anything else on comprehensive and realistic planning, it’s a great barometer for which option you should choose: if at any stage in your planning, you start to feel overwhelmed, or unsure whether or not you can do it … don’t. Hire a contractor, at least for that part of the work.

General Contractors vs Subcontractors

Most full-service remodeling contractors aren’t going to want you to touch the job yourself. A few might be willing to step in after you’ve done demolition, but most are going to want to be involved from day one, help you plan, estimate costs themselves, advise you, and then complete the job professionally and unimpeded.

But what if you’re perfectly comfortable replacing your existing kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanity, laying new linoleum, and painting, but you’re not comfortable rewiring to move appliances or change out lighting, replacing drywall, or upgrading plumbing? Chances are you can find specific subcontractors, such as plumbers and electricians, who are willing to do those parts of the job for a lot less than hiring a general contractor for the whole remodel. After all, a lot of smaller remodeling contractors do hire subcontractors for those more specialized jobs.

How Old Is Your Home?

Kitchen With Ceiling Falling DownA good rule of thumb is that if your home is more than 20 years old, you should probably hire a contractor, and set aside a good chunk of your budget to cover unexpected costs discovered during the job. The older a house gets, the more likely it is that as you get into a job, DIY or otherwise, you’ll discover rotting wood, mold, mildew, outdated wiring or plumbing that is no longer up to code. A competent contractor will be prepared to deal with all of this and more, and will be able to advise you on the likelihood of encountering it in your area, and for the type and age of your home.

If you do decide to go ahead with a DIY project, check out our free kitchen design consultation here. We even include 3D renderings to help you visualize what your new dream kitchen will actually look like!

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Kitchen vs. Bathroom: Which Remodel Increases Value the Most?

Property Report Indicates Business Graph And House

Property Report Indicates Business Graph And HouseOne question we get asked a lot is whether a kitchen remodel or a bathroom remodel will increase a home’s sale value more. Like many questions, that one has a short answer and a long answer.

The short answer? Kitchen remodels add more than bathroom remodels, but not usually enough more to make the sole difference in your decision. Instead, you should probably simply remodel the room that needs it more, or that will make the bigger difference to your own happiness as you live in your home.

The long answer? Well, it depends on why you’re asking, where your home is, and how much it’s worth relative to the average home value in your area.

Why are you Asking?

If you’re remodeling because you want to, great! That’s a fantastic reason, and you can add a lot of personal and emotional value to your home. But if you’re doing it solely to increase sale value, with some exceptions … don’t.

On a national level, according to remodeling information service remodel.hw.net, it may surprise you to learn that there are very few home remodels that add more value to the sale price of a home than the remodel itself costs. The top this year? Fiberglass attic insulation at 116.9%. Kitchens clock in at a modest 83.1% for a minor remodel (cabinets, flooring, new appliances, and hardware, but no major construction or demolition), or a tepid 64.9% for a major kitchen remodel. Bathrooms recoup about 65.7% of their cost in terms of sale value increase.

In other words, it’s better to think of a remodel’s value increase more in terms of recouping costs, than adding value to the home for its own sake, though of course there are exceptions. Also keep in mind that these are averages, meaning if you can do the job cheaper, you might be able to turn a profit.

Location, Location, Location

In general, in areas with a higher cost of living, and thus inflated home prices in general, it’s more likely to be worth it to do a remodel just to add value. On the west coast, for example, where an average midrange house can often push toward the half-million mark, a minor kitchen remodel recoups on average 103.1% of its cost. Major kitchen remodels and bathrooms are still typically not worth it at 74.8% and 69.5% respectively.

On the other hand, in the Midwest where average values are more like $130,000, forget about it; minor kitchen remodels there only recover 72.5% with bathrooms and major kitchen jobs just over half, a measly 54.1% and 56.8%. Does that mean you shouldn’t remodel in the Midwest? Of course not. Just don’t do it expecting to turn a tidy profit, unless you can do the job yourself, and use high-quality but low-cost materials such as RTA cabinets.

How Fancy Is Your House?

Perhaps slightly counter-intuitively, it’s almost never worth it to remodel a high-end home. More modest mid-range houses on the other hand, are your best bet for remodeling with increased sale value in mind. Here’s why:

Shower Doors from EnigmaImagine yourself buying a midrange home. Often a first or second home purchase, people shopping for a home in the $150,000 range probably aren’t going to be able to add $100,000 to the purchase price to cover a $75,000 major kitchen remodel plus profit. It’s just not gonna happen. That being said, shifting the price up to $165,000 for a minor kitchen remodel you were cunningly able to pull off for $12k, and that they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own outside their mortgage, is pretty doable, and worth considering.

Contrarily, if you’re about to buy your multi-million-dollar dream home, you’re going to want to remodel your kitchen yourself, to get exactly what you want, so that extra $100,000 the previous owner spent on their dream kitchen is, well, not that impressive to you, and thus not worth a hundred grand on the sale price.

As a rule of thumb, try to spend no more than 20% of a home’s value on a kitchen remodel, and 10-15% for a bathroom. Even better, remodel because you want to enjoy a nicer kitchen, or a more modern bathroom, and think of the increased sale value as a way to recoup the cost later on, after you’ve already gotten some enjoyment out of it!

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3 Ways to Renovate Your Bathroom Without New Cabinets


Heritage_OakOne of the most popular ways to renovate a bathroom is to replace the vanity or cabinets with newer, more modern models. But let’s face it, that’s a lot of work! If the new vanity doesn’t fit quite precisely into the old one’s spot, there’s a good chance you’ll have to repaint the walls, or replace the floor covering, and the whole thing can cascade and get out of hand pretty fast. So here are three ways to give your bathroom a great new look without the need to replace the entire vanity!

Replace Just the Vanity Top

A new granite bathroom vanity top can go a long way toward updating a bathroom’s look and style, without nearly as much work or risk as replacing the entire cabinet. In many cases, the cabinet itself is perfectly serviceable, especially since it’s the top that makes the first and biggest visual impression.

Just replacing the top can save cost as well, as it’s smaller and lighter to ship. Plus, as with our own granite models, you can even find vanity tops that ship with the porcelain sink basin already installed, saving you the time and hassle of trying to center it yourself.

Swap Out Hardware for a Fresh New Look

An even easier way to help your bath’s new look really pop is to simply replace your bathroom cabinet hardware. By matching hardware to other design elements in your bathroom, such as towel racks, shower rods or door hardware, and the mounting or frame of the mirror, you can create a coordinated look. It may not seem that important, but often it’s little details like that that give a room a feeling of quality and comfort, rather than something just slapped together out of whatever parts were cheapest at the time.

ProTip: If you plan to live in your home for many years to come, or if you live in an area where retirees are likely to buy your house when you sell, you may want to consider sticking to pull handles as much as possible. Arthritic hands have a much easier time manipulating pull handles than knobs, and that may make the difference between a pleasant and saleable bathroom, and one an elderly resident finds slightly uncomfortable and difficult to deal with.

Luxury on a Budget with New Faucets and Shower Sets

ariel_platinum_am128_1__66297Right along with new hardware, a third way to update not just the look of your bathroom, but its feel of luxury and quality, without uprooting any major fixtures is to replace your sink and tub faucets and your shower hardware. You might be surprised how far a new set of faucets can go toward changing the look of a bathroom, but from antique to ultra-modern, few fixtures have greater impact.

What’s more, a new shower set doesn’t just look great, it feels great too, with options ranging from firm sprays and massaging jets, to shower heads that mimic natural rainfall, you can incorporate exactly the kind of shower experience you love, with the style you want, without breaking the bank.

You’ll be amazed how much of a difference these three things can make! A bathroom with a new granite vanity top, a new set of hardware, and matching faucets and shower set will look like a whole new bathroom, at a fraction of the expense and time commitment of a full bathroom remodel!

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5 FAQs About Bathroom Remodels

Where To Get The Faqs

Where To Get The FaqsWhen it comes to bathroom remodels, there are a lot of frequently asked questions many homeowners have. This FAQ will attempt to answer some of the most common questions, and you can find tons more information throughout RTACabinetStore.com’s blog if your specific question isn’t answered here.


How Much Does a Bathroom Remodel Cost?

The national average cost for a bathroom remodel hovers around the $10,000 mark, depending on general cost of living in your area, the age of your home, and what exactly you plan to do. A minor facelift for a small half-bath could cost $1,000 or less, while a major renovation to a master bathroom, involving relocating plumbing and fixtures, could push well into five figures. Still, most homeowners wind up spending between $6,000 and $13,000, so that’s a pretty good range to keep in mind if you’re in the early phases of planning.

ProTip: Don’t use up all of your available budget in planning your bathroom remodel. Depending on what is found as cabinetry is moved and walls are opened up, extra costs may be incurred. Plumbing and electrical wiring may need to be upgraded or moved, for example, or floorboards might be found to be rotting. If you plan for the worst, and everything goes smoothly, it’s a pleasant surprise!

Will I Be Able to Use My Bathroom While It’s Remodeled?

During the actual construction, probably not. Water and electricity will need to be shut off for the demolition and construction, so you should plan on sharing your home’s other bathrooms, or if you live in a one-bath home, a hotel stay during the remodel isn’t a bad idea.

How Long Will a Bathroom Remodel Take?

Well, this question, like that of cost, has a lot of answers, that depend on just what you plan to do, and the skill of the people doing the work. A typical remodel, from initial planning to completion, takes anywhere from one to three months, with the actual time the bathroom is unavailable due to construction tending to run around three weeks, and extending up to several months if unexpected problems are encountered.

ProTip: Minimize downtime by doing your homework ahead of time. By developing a detailed plan, deciding exactly what materials you want to use, such as bathroom vanities, sink cabinets, lighting, and flooring, and making sure all materials are delivered ahead of time, you can minimize the time of the actual construction project.

Do I Need to Obtain Permits to Remodel My Bathroom?

Permits Concept on Folder Register.

If all you’re doing is upgrading your bathroom vanity, or replacing a sink cabinet or tub, probably not. However, if you’re doing any structural modifications, such as opening up or moving walls, moving or changing plumbing or electrical outlets and wiring, you may need to obtain permits for that. If you’re changing the total living area of the house, almost certainly yes.

Most good contractors will handle the permits for you, but if you do it yourself, obtaining the permits ahead of time, before any demolition is done, is a great way to save time during the actual construction.

Can I Save Money by Remodeling My Bathroom Myself?

Maybe. Again, if you’re just replacing or updating your bathroom’s vanity, or putting new doors and fronts on the cabinets, this is something a typical homeowner should be able to handle. If you’re planning on doing more though, chances are if you need to ask this question, the answer is no!

If you are planning a DIY bathroom makeover, a great way to save money is by using RTA cabinets! Check out our range of cost-effective, yet high-quality ready-to-assemble cabinets and vanities to get some great ideas of what you might be able to accomplish yourself, with a modest investment of time and expense!

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Save up to 30% during our 2016 Memorial Day Sale!

cyber monday cabinet savings

Beginning Thursday, May 26th through Tuesday, May 31st, you can enjoy exclusive access to the following discounts on all of our cabinet lines:

10% off orders of $1,500 and up (MEMORIAL10)*
15% off orders of $3,000 and up (MEMORIAL15)*
20% off orders of $4,500 and up (MEMORIAL20)*

ADDITIONAL 10% OFF $6,000 and up on SELECT LINES!

In addition to our 6 day cabinet sale, we’re offering additional savings on Glideware!

Purchase $2,000 worth of Kitchen Cabinets and qualify for 25% off Glideware Cabinet organizers!

Pick out your new kitchen here!

Or, if you want to play around with the design first,
sign up now to use our Custom Kitchen Layout tool!

To take advantage of these savings, simply enter the above promo code at checkout between Thursday, May 26th through Tuesday, May 31st 2016 11:59 p.m. PST.
Note that these coupons cannot be combined with other offers, must be used during this timeframe, and may not be applied to previously placed orders.

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5 Common Mistakes of Kitchen Remodeling

Common mistakes concept on lined paper

Common mistakes concept on lined paper

It’s time to perform a kitchen remodel.  Great!  But there are a few mistakes that many people make, which you can easily avoid.  Check out the following tips to find out how your kitchen remodel can be a successful one!

Choose Your Appliances

modern built in kitchen appliances in stainless steelDon’t even think about beginning your remodel until you have chosen your kitchen appliances.  Whether you are doing it yourself, or having a contractor work the project, make sure you have all of the exact specifications of all the appliances, including the colors, before the first cabinet is ordered.  Wall ovens, built in microwaves, stove tops and large refrigerators all must be decided on first.


Don’t Pay Until You See It

Unless you are doing the job yourself, your contractor will need a down payment, as they need to order products and parts.  Make sure that you leave a part of the payment unpaid, most often 10%, until you are satisfied that the kitchen is perfect.  You may want to work out a rolling payment plan with the contractor, based upon target dates.  For example, 35% to start, 35% after another milestone, 20% when the frames are on the walls, and 10% for a final fee.

Sign Up Now!

Any place that pushes you to sign a contract immediately in order to get some sort of discount most likely had high prices to begin with, and needs to bring in some business.  They may also have a light workload, as compared to an honest contractor who will give you his price at a fair rate and work with you if it seems too high.  Most contractors have a small amount of negotiating room built into their prices.

Check the Cabinets for Quality

It’s your kitchen remodel, so you have to make sure the mistakes are kept to a minimum.  You need to choose a style you like, and make sure the brand produces quality cabinetry.  Here at RTACabinetStore, it’s easy, since we refuse to sell any product that is not up to our quality standards.  Make sure that whatever you choose, it will last, and last well.

Consider the Floor

Most people do not consider the floor when looking at cabinets.  This is a must.  Are you going to replace your floor?  What will the material be?  What color?  These things must be answered and your floor completely redone before you begin work on your cabinets.  Once they are placed on it, it’s too late.

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