Appliances: Which Package Is Right for You?

Appliances: Which Package Is Right for You?Choosing an appliance package is always a complex decision for a homeowner. Interestingly, a single appliance purchase can often provide the “tipping point” for an entire kitchen renovation. In fact, we routinely get calls from people who have put off redoing their kitchen for 20+ years, but suddenly their stove, refrigerator, or dishwasher breaks, and they jump into addressing the overall problem of the poorly designed or worn out space they have put up with for decades.

When we help clients make appliance selections, we first help them determine their overall kitchen renovation budget — this tells us what price point they should be at for both appliances and cabinets. And while the available selections run the gamut from the most basic to the very posh, here are some important things to keep in mind when making your selections.

Entry-level packages: There are many affordable, attractive, and serviceable stainless steel appliance packages from KitchenAid, GE, Frigidaire, and other manufacturers that include the four main elements that most homeowners need: a microwave/hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, and range. If you prefer a hood separate from the microwave, keep in mind that will add to the cost of the package, as will the extra wiring and ducting it requires. The biggest drawback at this price point is that the appliances sometimes have fewer bells and whistles and flimsier construction, such as feet that are prone to bending and breaking, and they can sometimes be harder to level and install.

Mid-range packages: This price point is appropriate for homeowners who are more serious about cooking and appreciate the finer elements of a well-appointed kitchen. Manufacturers targeting this range include Bosch, Viking, and JennAir — but before you invest in a mid-range package, it’s important to determine whether the items are in fact made and branded by the same company. When it comes to resale, future prospective homebuyers will appreciate that you have invested well in your kitchen.

High-end packages: You are likely looking at Sub-Zero, Wolf, Miele, Thermador, Gaggenau, or La Cornue appliances at this level. High-end appliance packages include highly sought after items like state-of-the-art, oversized, professional-grade refrigerators and dual-fuel ranges, double ovens, dual-drawer dishwashers, and other high-tech gadgets like warming trays and steamers. The upside of these appliances is they last many decades, provide exceptional performance, and have superior and impressive brand name recognition if and when you sell your house. The downside? Higher end appliances are super heavy and unwieldy to deliver and install. At one recent project, the fridge was so large it did not fit through the front door and had to come through a window. This was no small feat! Higher performance ranges will require the use of commercial-grade gas lines. And locating the electrical, water, and gas lines properly during planning and rough-in phases is crucial to the appliances fitting in their spaces later.

No matter what level appliance package you choose, it is important to understand that this purchase presents substantial logistical challenges. Aside from careful kitchen planning and design, someone has to deliver the items in perfect condition, install them, and ensure that the proper wiring and plumbing and ducting is all in the right place so everything fits and works as it should. What’s more, all of this must be done without damaging the project house or the surrounding cabinets and floors. For these reasons and more, we tend to use factory-certified installers on high-end packages. While it costs a bit more, these subs know the units, they get their work done efficiently, and the homeowners receive a better warranty in the process.

As with so many things in life, when it comes to appliances, you truly get what you pay for.

“Saving a Few Bucks” Can Cost You More

Over the course of many years in business, we’ve had many customers who look for ways to save money on their home-improvement projects. One way they attempt to do this is by purchasing appliances directly from a supplier’s showroom instead of paying a professional to manage these purchases for them. Obviously, contractors mark up appliances over cost to pay for the time it takes to do this task.

Sounds like a reasonable enough idea, at first blush. The problem is that, while appliances look self contained and simple on a showroom floor, in reality, they are not either of these things — and neither is the delivery process. Most people do not know what it is like to self-manage a purchase like this. This is a part-time job during a renovation project, and it takes both time and skill to do well.

Here is what the process is like on the purchasing end:

Shopping for appliances and most other remodeling products is both exciting and daunting. There are a lot of options to choose from, many functions to know about, and ramifications resulting from the wrong choice of size, specifications and/or requirements. It takes years to learn this stuff, and new products come along constantly. While the choices can be overwhelming for average consumers, they are not for reputable contractors, who are always learning about these new products because it is their full-time job and passion.

Price points vary wildly. An inexpensive kitchen appliance kit might cost $5,000 complete. On the high end, we have seen them exceed $40,000. Most salesmen will try to sell you what they can make the easiest commission, rather than what you really want or need. You may be tempted to cut corners and choose, for example, an appliance in a black finish because it’s $100 cheaper than a stainless-steel model. The problem is that it may be a special-order item that takes three to four weeks for delivery. Your kitchen is now going to take almost a month longer to finish. You will be frustrated by this, and the whole project will cost you more now in change orders than you saved on that cheaper product.

It’s very easy to mis-manage an order like this. For example, you probably don’t know what the letters SS, BK or WT mean on a model number. But these codes are second nature to an experienced contractor.

Your appliance salesman may forget who you are and may not return your calls. You will then have to call several times to set up and confirm delivery of your product. In fact, you will have to harp and nag to get what you want. You will also have to be on site to receive and inspect your order. And an incorrect or incomplete delivery can create many weeks of delay. It is common to have to make dozens of calls for items like dishwasher trim kits, missing knobs, damaged goods. Delays cost money because they cause you to reschedule or stop your project to wait for it the error to be corrected.

If space is limited on your project, you will have to arrange multiple deliveries as space is opened up and the product is needed. You will have to check each order as it is delivered to be sure it’s correct.

There is no room for change. If your cabinet layout calls for a three-door fridge 36x70x30, you cannot decide at the last moment to go with another fridge because it will not fit the cabinet space made for it, even if it is on sale.

There is no room for error. A 30-inch range is not always 30 inches. We need the appliance specs during design and installation because sometimes these ranges need more than 30″ to fit into their final location.

The more expensive the appliances, the less detail in the data about it and its installation is provided. This is true without fail. This is why these appliances must be on site during the cabinet-installation phase — and sometimes during roughing in — and checked for size and installation requirements. The gas line or electrical lines have a specific area where they need to be, and the appliance will not fit in its place if these are wrong. This wil l cost even more money because they will then need to be moved.

W hen you hire professionals to handle these tasks, you don’t have to worry about any of these details because they make the entire process seamless for you. And, in the long run, they can save you money on errors and mishaps that would almost certainly happen if you try to “go it alone.”