How do I find the newest building products?
Websites like Houzz and Pinterest can provide you with pictures and ideas and are good places to see what other people are doing with new products. Access the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s web site for their quarterly newsletters on the latest in design trends. http://www.nkba.org/Learn/Homeowners/ConsumerNewsletter.aspx
Consider visiting parades of new or remodeled homes as well as local showrooms for items like plumbing fixtures, lighting, windows, doors, etc. All these suggestions can be helpful in seeing the latest trends.
Should I buy online?
Some items are fine to by online, others you should steer away from. Any more appliances have become a commodity and shopping for the best price can be done online. As long as you are getting a brand name and warranty, virtual showrooms can get you the best price. The manufacturer’s have local appliance service providers they recommend if you every need service. Other items like light fixtures and stand-alone bathroom vanities have extensive options online. As long as you are comfortable purchasing something without “touching” it, it can be a nice way to shop. Just beware of return policies if you don’t end up liking it. Building materials in general are heavy and bulky and returns can get complicated and expensive. It would be unusual and somewhat unconventional to expect your remodeling pro to do much ,if any, online procurement. Established companies know how to use and leverage local supply channels to bring the best value versus cost to their clients.
What is the difference between big box stores and specialty showrooms?
The big box stores carry brand name items that are often specially made for them and are at a lower price point. The lower price point is achieved by a lesser quality product. This is especially true for plumbing fixtures, but can also be true for things such as tiles, light fixtures, bathroom vanities, etc.
As with all purchases, let the buyer beware. If in doubt, ask your contractor for his or her input on how wise a decision it might be to purchase through the big box stores.
What should I buy and what should the builder/remodeler supply?
It is easy for homeowners to provide anything that is on the “outside of the walls” or can be replaced if necessary, like surface mount light fixtures, accessories, or stand-alone bathroom vanity. Let your contractor supply and install things like plumbing fixtures, can lights, and tile. If your contractor supplies and installs these things, they will fully warrant the products and the installation. It is also their responsibility to make sure they have the right product, quantities and other items necessary for installation. Anything you supply, the contractor will not warrant the product and you may have to pay them to reinstall a faulty product. As an example of a nightmare scenario: you purchase a cast iron bathtub and have it delivered to the site. You inspect and the plumber inspects the tub and then installs it. The faucet and drains are installed along with the tile backer board. The tile is then installed along with the light fixtures. It is only at this point the new lighting reveals a wavy flaw in the tub porcelain that looks terrible. You call your supplier who is more than happy to replace the tub free of charge. All you need to do is to return it to the store where you bought it. Now what? But what if the plumber had supplied this on behalf of the contractor? It would be up to the remodeler to make it right regardless of the cost to the company. This is a real world example of why you need to be very careful of products that you might supply in order to save a few dollars.
Are all warranties the same?