Angie’s List has one, Service Magic has one, even the online YellowPages has one – it’s a rating system representing consumer confidence.  From low to high, how does this company treat their clients? 

The Better Business Bureau is now applying the same thought to their rating system.  The old ratings were based on how a company resolved its complaints.  But the limited information provided often left consumers in the dark and reputatble companies were misrepresented.  Replacing “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory”, are insightful ratings shown as letter grades A+ thru F.  The new system provides more specific information.  Where Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. once had a “satisfactory” rating we now have a more meaningful “A+.”

“In today’s tight economic times, these ratings not only spotlight the honest and ethical companies customers look for, but the ratings components also assist companies to see where their operations may be improved.” Says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

The new ratings take into account 17 weighted factors, using objective information and actual incidences concerning the business.  For more information about the BBB’s new rating system and specific rating factors, visit www.bbb.org.

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I Blog, Therefore I Am

September 22, 2009

I see a lot of blogs about remodeling and what is starting to come to mind are the TV commercials where someone stays at a particular hotel and that immediately makes them an expert in everything.

Blogging is a wonderful way to spread information quickly and easily, but there are no checks and balances as to who is authoring them.  Just because you write a blog does not make you an expert.

So, why would someone write about something they know nothing about?  Google has a product called AdWords.  If you want to advertise your product or service online, AdWords is an easy way to do it.  Not only can you get top listing on Google Search engine, but you can have your ads placed on other websites that are registered with Google.

If you are a blogger you can set yourself up with Google to have advertising placed on your blog.  Every time someone clicks on the ads listed, the blogger makes some money.  So to make money, the blogger writes articles on hot topics hoping to draw an audience – not to educate you and help you, but to hopeful get you to click an ad.

The downside is that many of these blogs are not only poorly written, but they give bad, and potentially damaging advice.  This is very much the case in remodeling, where DIY projects are all the rage.

Next time you are reading a blog that tells you how to do something, research the author.  Are they an expert in their field or are they just a billboard.  Most of the time these authors won’t even list their name.  If they are listed, what else has they written about?  If the topics don’t coincide, chances are they don’t know what they are talking about.

If you are looking to remodel any part of your home, get expert advise from someone in the field.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

How Much Does a Remodel Cost?

September 16, 2009

About once to twice a week I find a blog asking “How much?”  How much is a bathroom remodel?  How much is a kitchen remodel?  How much to finish my basement?  And this is best answered with… how much is a car?

It depends.  What are you trying to achieve?  What products do you like and in what finishes?  What are you looking for in a designer or contractor?  People who are practicing their craft are often less expensive upfront than the seasoned professional.

Unlike the car industry, the remodeling industry doesn’t have factory set standards and internal quality control.  There is no government instituted lemon law for a botched remodel.  It is our hope that companies who are affiliated with professional groups like NARI and NKBA are playing by the “best practices” standards and their pricing should reflect that.  When you purchase a $10,000 car it is an economy vehicle, $30,000 is a mid range and anything above $60,000 is luxury.

My point is this; I could say a modest bathroom remodel is about $30,000.  But your bathroom is 5×7, $30,000 would be a bit luxurious… while $30,000 in a 12×20 master suite would not go far.  And to make matters even worse, your location also determines your investment figure.  People who live in New York city are going to pay a lot more for a kitchen remodel than someone who lives in Sandwich, IL.  Labor is more expensive in New York because the cost of living is higher.  Not to mention working in a high rise is more expensive than working in a home.  Just unloading tools and materials can take half a day when working in a high rise.

So, for a true idea on how much to expect your remodel to cost you, stop blogging.  Most of the people who will answer you don’t have a clue – even if they are professional remodelers, they don’t know your space.  Call a few local contractors.  Give them the same detailed description of your space and what you would like to do with it.  A veteran in this business will be able to give you ball park figure (ie. “Expect your bathroom to start at about $15,000.”)  For a more definite estimate, have them out to your home.  The Better Business Bureau recommends starting out with three bids on your project.

But you say that you don’t want to be completely in the dark before you pick up the phone.  You would rather suffer sticker shock in private.  Then the best place for a jumping off point is Remodeling Magazine.  Every November they put out an issue called “Cost vs. Value.”   This annual survey not only shows you the approximate cost of a particular remodel in your region of the US, but it will also tell you what kind of return you could see if you were to sell your home after the remodel.  You can find this information on their website: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/remodeling-market-data/remodeling-cost-vs-value-report-2008-09.aspx .

If you are improving your home with the intention to sell, remember that low-cost, low-maintenance improvements are where you are going to see the greatest return for your money.  However, most of us remodel our abodes for ourselves; it is about investing in our happiness at home.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Budgeting Your Remodel

July 21, 2009

In light of today’s economic climate, more than ever we are asking ourselves where we can scrimp, where we can save, and where we should spend.  When doing a remodel these are very important questions, which a respectable designer would be able to answer for you while keeping your budget in mind.  A dynamite remodel does not need to blow-up your wallet.

 This leads me to my first note of import; tell your designer your budget right from the beginning.  This will save time and frustration.  A loose range is fine, but without this important information your designer could design for you a dream bath that doesn’t fit your financial situation or they could design a less opulent space because they thought your budget was less than it really was. 

 Your designer should be your partner.  Just because you’ve given them a budget doesn’t mean that you’ve given them access to your savings account.  Your budget needs to accurately reflect how much you are willing to spend.  We’ve seen it happen, where the client is afraid that their prosperity will be taken advantage of by the designer, so they give the designer a lower budget than they really have in mind.  The designer respects the modest numbers that their clients give them and designs the space accordingly.  The result – client is disenchanted with the design and the designer, and then goes on to do business with someone else.  It is a big waste of time for everyone involved.  Honesty right off the bat is always the best policy.  If you share the same vision between multiple designers when quote gathering, you will know who is taking you for a ride if there is little similarity between the quotes.

 Based off of your budget, a designer will point you in the direction of particular products and structural possibilities.  Share with your designer what is important to you and what is less important.  Maybe removing the linen closet for a stand-alone shower is more important than exotic stone counters… or then again, maybe not.

 From a construction standpoint, there are places in the bathroom where you will want to spend the extra money.  Anything that is not easily removed and replaced should be carefully considered.  The list below illustrates which products can be easily replaced and upgraded and which products cannot be changed without major disruption of the room.

Least Disruption Accessories (TP Holder. Etc)
  Knobs/Handles
  Lavatory Faucet
  Toilet
  Shower/Tub Doors
  Shower/Tub Trims (This is tricky, make sure if you want to upgrade this later that the valve that is installed will work with the future trims.)
  Vanity Countertop
  Vanity Cabinet
  Tile
Most Disruption Shower Base / Bath Tub

 While this list is not exhaustive and it may not apply to your particular situation, it is a jumping off point showing that when it is time to make decisions as to where to skimp, save and spend there are guidelines that give you flexibility.  Open communication between you and your designer is the key to getting the room that you want at the investment you can afford.  A wise designer will know how to allocate your money appropriately for the biggest impact.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel (CBD).