Building a New Home?

Kitchen design is a formidable beast. Each project has a wide variety of challenges. Each is an ever-morphing creation, and the rules are completely different for new construction versus renovation.  First, let’s discuss new construction.

If you’re plan is to build a new home – good for you! There are a couple of keys to your success and you should consider them carefully.  Most importantly, start the design process early. As soon as you have some form of plans from the architect, get with your kitchen designer and be sure the space is efficient. Architects love to make space with few walls, and that presents a special set of challenges.

Be certain that you have the right designer with plenty of experience in new construction.  You will need someone to hold your hand before it’s over because it is a long haul.  The mechanical considerations and visualization of the space, before it even exists, is absolutely critical to the success of the project.

Be sure you have a handle on the kitchen budget before you close on the construction loan. Should the kitchen total exceed the allowance, this can be rolled easily into your mortgage upfront because it is part of the real estate. Otherwise, you are suddenly left with a large out-of-pocket expense that you had not anticipated.

Be aware that there are several line items that tend to come up short on the construction allowances. Look for the window allowance to be on the light side. (Pay attention to the overall size of the windows relative to the structure.This tells the tale of where the allowances will fall, in general.) The lighting budget is also critical.  The worst thing is to have the house completed and realize that there just is not enough light available throughout. Even if you have to pay for extra fixtures – do it.  You won’t be sorry.

Decisions about the kitchen are among the first and largest that have to be made. Typically, you might find a builder’s allowance of 3- 5% of the cost of the structure.  More accurately, 10% is a better number to work with. Remember that the kitchen is really the center of your new home – so don’t skimp there! An “open vein” for the kitchen budget, however; is the appliance line item. Be careful that you don’t get carried away with the gorgeous appliances and leave nothing for the real bones of the project.

Keep in mind that the construction process is a long one.  A rough rule of thumb is that construction takes about one month for each 1,000 square feet of construction. At the beginning – even before the ground is broken – you should be starting the design process. Depending on how quickly you can make decisions, this could take a few months.  The cabinetry construction can also take between 5-12 weeks, depending on the manufacturer’s lead times.

Throughout the construction process, your designer should be at your fingertips answering any questions that arise and seeing it all the way through to the end.

If you’ve not built before and decide to go it alone, you are truly brave. It is a very difficult process even if you have done it before, or know how to do it. Even though new starts are off, Pittsburgh’s real estate market is stable and the great upside is that you will ultimately have a fantastic home – exactly the way you want it! •