With the current economic crisis threatening pocketbooks nationwide, budgets are emerging in the decorating life. Remodeling one’s home has taken a backseat to many budget cuts, but with the expert advice from New Orleans local businesses, updating and remodeling one’s kitchen or bathroom will be less of a headache and may even end up saving you money in the end.

The main idea with remodeling a kitchen or bath on a budget is to purchase cost-friendly items. “Doing a proper budget doesn’t necessarily mean buying the least expensive,” says Randall Shaw, president of Nordic Kitchen and Bath. “Make sure to get the prices up front. Prices will generally increase twice during the project. When at all possible buy the products early to avoid price increases.”

Elizabeth Sullivan, interior decorator and showroom manager of Interior Designs, Inc., says, “My money-saving recommendation would be to get lots of quotes from many contractors. The one that is the least expensive in the beginning may end up costing you the most in the long run if it’s done in a shoddy way.”

By spending a little extra time asking around for quotes and researching products early, budget woes could possibly be avoided. Having a correct idea of what one needs versus what on wants in the kitchen or bath can eliminate difficulty in creating an adequate budget. However, according to Shaw, going over budget isn’t uncommon. Shaw says, “Be prepared to go over the budget. Most people go over budget 10 to 20 percent.”

Budget-friendly service begins with whichever company one decides to go with. Fortunately, many local companies keep the customers in mind and pride themselves on giving the best service with minimal to no subcontracting. When deciding which company to hire, make sure to obtain as much information about the company as possible. If it’s a company that sub-contracts, make sure the company is a reliable source through references, pictures and past customers.

Dina Pieri Chevalier, general manager of Pieri Tile and Marble, says, “Our installers are all employees of the company. We don’t sub-contract any of our work out. This provides for quality control at every level.”

“In order to keep costs to a minimum, we suggest having a clear, detailed plan of what would be remodeled or updated,” says Peggy O’Niell Stafford, sole owner of Stafford Tile and Stone. “For instance, if we’re looking at a bathroom floor and we can see that the remodeled floor will involve 80 square feet of material, we can price the job accordingly. Understanding these parameters is important in an initial meeting with a customer.”

Even though kitchens and baths are remolded about only twice in one’s lifetime, many New Orleans business owners
give the same advice: Decide on timeless pieces and colors and stay away from trendy items so that cabinetry and countertops won’t need to be replaced in a few years time.

Mona Vinturella, showroom coordinator of Southland Plumbing Supply, says, “Chrome is the least expensive finish; this finish has improved tremendously and quality vendors are supplying a beautiful lifetime finish that never goes out of style. White

and biscuit colors (just a soft white) never go out of style and remain the color which can fit into any situation: contemporary or traditional.”
“Keep colors and finishes simple, clean and classic so that they’ll look up to date for longer,” says Sullivan. “If you choose something that’s very trendy or specific to your taste today, it’s going to be dated sooner.”

By staying with classic colors, one can spice up design and add personal flair through accessories or appliances in the kitchen or bath. Paul Corona, franchise owner of California Closets, says his company can “organize and maximize the functionality of pantries by use of a wide variety of accessories (drawers, baskets, wine racks, spice racks) and an adjustable shelf system.”

Adding these accessories to neutral-colored cabinets and countertops allows the consumer to update his or her look more frequently. This way, one can work the budget to include more inexpensive accessories instead of plumbing or cabinetry.

Sullivan suggests to, “Invest money in unique lighting and modern fixtures and appliances. These will freshen up any kitchen or bath and provide resale value.” Interior Designs, Inc., for example, offers unique blown-glass sconces and pendants that would liven up any kitchen or bath.
Of course anyone who’s investing in new appliances for the kitchen or bath wants products that are not only inexpensive but also cost-effective, in order to help bring down the costs of the home’s water and electricity bills.

When speaking of the importance of incorporating green into the home through appliances, Melissa Dupre, a showroom sales manager at Coburns, says, “Choosing kitchen and bathroom fixtures and faucets that are green can help the consumer save money by using a lower rate of water. Surprisingly, some of these green products cost the same if not less than regular conventional faucets and fixtures.”

“There are many of bath and kitchen faucets that are offered with a lower gallon per minute rating while still achieving a generous flow,” Dupre continues. “There are also more and more toilets that are offered with a 1.28 or 1.2 gallon per minute flush.”

Investing in a “greener” toilet will not only help eliminate some of the house’s water waste, the typically toilet uses between three to five gallons per flush, but will cut costs on the water bill, hence saving money monthly.

Dupre says, “The governmental standards on plumbing fixtures are always changing. Each manufacturer is trying to be the first to produce a product that operates at a lower gallon per minute rate, yet achieving the approval of the consumer. Products in the plumbing industry are always changing and will continue to do so to meet governmental standards.”

After Hurricane Katrina, several foreign companies instantly arrived in New Orleans pushing inexpensive products for a quick remodeling fix. Many locals fell into the trap of inexperienced craftsmanship, and had the possibility of being exposed to hazardous materials. When shopping local, this isn’t anything to worry about.

“You get what you pay for,” says Shaw. “Since the storm, many foreign companies have come in with inexpensive products. But now we’re seeing problems with chemicals such as lead and sulfur. Foreign cabinetry hasn’t been in the states that long. The products aren’t visually bad but [there is a] real concern over the expense or health risks.”

Stafford says, “Fortunately for our clients, we don’t expect our bathrooms or kitchens to be remodeled very often at all. Unless there’s a flood or Chinese drywall, we don’t see much need to tear out an area that has been recently remodeled. At Stafford Tile, we stress the importance of ‘doing it right the first time.’”

Shaw says, “If you’re purchasing items just because [you’re] trying to meet a budget, some of those items will not last a lifetime. The price of an item doesn’t reflect the quality of it.”

This summer, some of the local companies interviewed are having sales to help with remodeling one’s kitchen or bath. Pieri Tile and Marble is having granite countertop specials in July; call store for details. At California Closets if you mention this article you’ll receive 10 percent off your purchase. Contact Nordic Kitchens and Bath for the in-store specials for July and August, including great incentives for appliances and cabinetry. Stafford Tile and Stone will be celebrating its nine-year anniversary and will have promotional events in the fall.

The final advice for remodeling and updating on a budget is to not only budget for the renovations but for the lifetime of the kitchen or bath. Purchasing an appliance or choosing timeless pieces may seem more costly now, but will save money in the future when the item won’t need to be replaced.

Updating and remodeling the kitchen or bath can be easily started. Whether it’s a complete makeover – including plumbing, cabinetry and appliances – or a quick pick-me-up with new closets and a pantry, remodeling on a budget is achievable this summer thanks to local companies.