Getting The Plans For Our Dream Kitchen

View into kitchen/dining area with thick blue lines indicating change to ceiling line and where wall will move opening up the space.

View into kitchen/dining area with thick blue lines indicating change to ceiling line and where wall will move opening up the space.

Last we left in the grand saga that will become (already is getting to be?) this kitchen remodel, we had dreamed up some major changes.

A lot of them were aesthetic.  New cabinetry with a new layout and new flooring are the big aesthetic changes, which is pretty standard for a DIY kitchen remodel.  And the great thing about aesthetic changes is that most of the time they don’t need to be permitted*.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our city employees.  (Seriously, I was just telling Mr PoP how fabulous of an experience I had with our city’s public works office the other day.)  But if I don’t have to deal with an added layer of bureaucracy to make a minor change to our house, I’ll be glad to omit that step.

Sometimes Looks Aren’t Everything

But in addition to the aesthetic changes, we had some bigger ideas for the kitchen – vaulting the ceiling and moving the kitchen wall by about 3.5 feet to expand the footprint and make it feel much bigger.  Those ideas were definitely structural changes and we knew before we could move forward with the ideas we would need some help finding answers to these two main questions:

1.  Is the wall that we want to move load-bearing?  That would obviously impact our plans pretty dramatically.

2. How on earth can you convert a double fan truss to something more like a vault truss with three bearings?  Basically, how to turn these suckers that currently make up that roof and ceiling line

double fan truss

into something more like this:

vault truss with three bearings

without sacrificing any of the structural integrity of our roof or making it any more susceptible to the hurricane force winds that can cut through Florida on occasion.

While we can google and figure out what we want the ceiling to look like and sound cool like we know what we’re talking about by looking up truss types on the internet, we REALLY didn’t trust our rusty memory of college physics and zero base knowledge about the structural integrity of various construction materials to figure this problem out**.  We knew we needed an architect/structural engineer to (1) tell us if we were off our rockers with this idea and (2) draw up plans for these structural changes that would please our local permitting office.

But that turned out to be easier said than done.

We Felt Like Goldilocks

So the “to do” list got a new item added to it about 6 months ago.

  • Find an architect/engineer to provide plans for structural changes in kitchen.

Sounds simple, right?  This part was anything but – at least, while avoiding spending a small fortune.

It was March when we were pretty sure that we wanted to vault the ceiling and move that wall.  In April we started making calls to local firms.

Turns out, our timing with this remodel isn’t the best.  Remember that relative building boom causing our flat tires?  Turns out all the building designers around were pretty busy at the moment.  Just getting several firms out to get quotes was a challenge and made us feel all too similar to Goldilocks.

The first to come out to quote was a full-service building firm with an in-house architect who would be doing the bulk of the work.  They would supply the plans for $10,000.  My eyes almost popped out of my head when I read the quote.  5-figures!?!  For just the plans!?! No way!!  (As a side-note, the owner of the company who gave the quote remained convinced that despite this being a DIY remodel, we wouldn’t be able to do it for less than $60,000.  That’s probably why he felt $10K was a fair price for the plans since plans are often a percentage of the job’s total cost.  I look forward to proving him VERY wrong.)

The second to come out was a building firm that out-sourced design work but had a guy on retainer so could get jobs done in a timely manner.  That was going to run around $2,500 for the plans.  While that sounded better than $10K, it was still a lot considering we had ball-parked the cost of moving the wall and vaulting the ceiling at around $3,000, so this would almost double it.

The last was from one of the few strictly planning and design firms in the area.  Finally we were cutting out the middle-man on this idea.  However, these guys had so much work coming their way they barely returned our phone calls and it took weeks to get them out to give a quote.  But we liked the quote.  We really liked the quote.  Heck, we really liked the owner of the firm and he liked us too! – enough to be very fair even though he could have easily turned down the work since it was going to take up time.  We would pay the engineer’s hourly rate, probably around $500 total was the estimate.  3-figures!!!!  This guy was talking our language.

It still took another several months for the measurements to be done and for us to get the plans, and the total did come to a bit more than the original ball park, but now we’re sitting here with plans in hand that cost $800.


That’s right.  The plans sitting next to me cost less than 1/3 of the next highest quote, and less than 1/12th of the first quote we received.  Yet another reason to make sure you get multiple quotes when contracting out work around your house, ESPECIALLY if it is a firm or company that is new to you.


Now we’re moving on to the permitting process where hopefully our history of fabulous exchanges with our city employees will continue.  *Fingers crossed*


* All comments on permitting are specific to our knowledge of our little town.  Your town may be different… so don’t hesitate to call your permitting office and ask before doing any work.  Remember, since you pay taxes, they work for you!

** Seriously, would you?  We like DIY as much as anyone, but this is the structural integrity of our home!


What’s been your experience when quoting our projects around your house?  Have you ever gotten such a huge range in quotes like we did?

18 comments to Getting The Plans For Our Dream Kitchen

  • Good thing you sought out multiple bids! That’s a perfect example of why it’s so wise to shop around. I’m glad you were able to find something so reasonable–I’m excited to see the progress on this kitchen of yours!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..The Zen of VacuumingMy Profile

    • We’re pretty excited that there’s finally some tangible progress, too! Hopefully we’ll get our permits within the next couple of weeks and can start getting on to some of the prep work that’s happening in the garage (relocating plumbing and electric) before the wall can get moved.
      Mrs PoP recently posted..Getting The Plans For Our Dream KitchenMy Profile

  • Good job on getting plans for less. Looking forward to the before and after pictures of the kitchen. They always give homeowners the best bang for your buck.
    EL @ Moneywatch101 recently posted..The Financial PinnacleMy Profile

  • The best advice I ever got when quoting projects (especially concerning house projects) is to take whatever quote you come up with or are quoted by a third party and double it. But that aside, that first quote was crazy! Good luck as this progresses!
    Gretchen recently posted..Frugal Vacation – Is It Possible?My Profile

    • I think if you follow the doubling rule of thumb, you’ll be less likely to be disappointed. But usually we find that estimates are pretty well in line with the final cost. This one we knew we were paying the hourly rate, so some variation was definitely possible and weren’t too shocked with the total.

  • DH’s cousin is a draftsman and he actually designed his entire house (after it burned down and he got insurance money to rebuild). It’s simple and boxy but looks nice. :)
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..The New Flooring (and bonus toilet)My Profile

  • What a huge variance in those quotes! Just like you said, woe is the person who doesn’t competitively shop their quotes. I can’t even blame the guys who start with high quotes like that. If they get one sucker to bite, that makes up for a dozen or so other jobs they’d have to pursue to get the same revenue, and at 1/12th of the effort.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Social Capital vs. Financial CapitalMy Profile

  • Wow that’s a big difference in quotes. It goes to show that we should never take the first quote given and we should always shop around to lower the cost.

    Remodeling is fun, so enjoy it!
    Aldo @ million dollar ninja recently posted..Frugal Dates: NYC High LineMy Profile

  • Oh dear, that’s exactly why it’s so important to price shop for everything! Something similar happened when we bought windows for our old house.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..My Frugal Trip to New OrleansMy Profile

  • Wow – that’s a *huge* range. I’ve had some pretty good ranges, but they’ve been at most within 3-5k of each other (depending on the work). Glad you got your plans and can move on to the permitting stage though. Good luck!
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..Closer to ClosingMy Profile

  • Good thing you shopped around for these plans! Wow that’s a big price difference.
    Kayla @ Red Debted Stepchild recently posted..Minimalism: Getting on BoardMy Profile

  • That first guy was completely off his rocker. I’ve seen the same thing though. We needed some work done and the first dude wanted $65,000. The 3rd guy wanted #20,000. Guess who won?

    I think that sometimes contractors get really busy and thus, arrogant. They throw out some ridiculous number because while they don’t need the work, they’ll take it if they can catch a whale.

    I CANNOT STAND working with contractors. The bad experiences always outnumber the good ones, usually by a very big number.
    Mr 1500 recently posted..Blogs you should be reading, Part 2My Profile

  • Goodness. $10,000 for plans? We too have kitchen remodel dreams and want a structural modification. The wall is definitely load-bearing, so we need an engineer to come out and tell us if removing part of the wall requires extra support.

    From what I’ve been told, this is a pretty minimal cost, around $150.

    We’ll see. Also, I would not DIY structural things. I’ve seen some pretty shoddy DIY work that in the long run kills the wallet. That is, unless you plan to abandon that house in the next 3 years, then by all means 😉
    Mr. FI recently posted..September ExpensesMy Profile

    • I think we paid ~$200/hr for the guy to do the plans, so if it’s a matter of figuring out where to leave support columns and how big they need to be, that might be straightforward enough that it doesn’t take much time. Ours was definitely a bit more complicated because he had to map out the wall move and two separate truss modifications for the 2 types of trusses that are involved. But I still think we ended up with a good deal at $800 for what it’s going to end up like.