From file "044_PSs" entitled "NEWDIM10.qxd" page 01
From file "044_PSs" entitled "NEWDIM10.qxd" page 01
From file "044_PSs" entitled "NEWDIM10.qxd" page 01
From file "044_PSs" entitled "NEWDIM10.qxd" page 01

No matter how long you've been in this industry, you're still never truly prepared for how it feels to go through the building process as a homeowner until you've actually sweated out the devilish details yourself.

Recently, She Who Must Be Obeyed (my wife) decided that we needed a kitchen makeover. Being the dutiful husband that I am, I readily agreed and began to write checks (apparently my sole role in this endeavor).

Almost from the beginning it went badly.

First there was the decision: Do we completely remodel the kitchen or simply replace cabinets, counter-tops, appliances, and flooring? We decided on the “simple” route—minor kitchen makeover.

After that came the cabinet selection. I have decided that the most valuable words in the English language for a man to know are “Yes, dear, those are lovely.” I let She Who Must Be Obeyed conduct the research on brands, styles, colors, and suppliers. Those decisions having been made, I walked back to my garage muttering under my breath looking for a cold beverage to calm my nerves.

Then she had to decide on countertops, appliances, hardware, and floor covering. SWMBO decided on ceramic tile for the floor and chose a beautiful countertop design. But it took her three days to research appliances. Even in my line of work, I wasn't aware there were that many choices in the country for appliances.

Ron Chan

Now you may be asking yourself “Why is he doing this? He writes all the time about installed sales; he should have found someone to do this for him.” That's sound reasoning, but my lovely wife decided that since I had so much knowledge and knew about all these kinds of things, that we could pick out materials and I could subcontract the labor myself.

The next time I'm just going to go ahead and check into the Betty Ford Clinic early and get it over with. First, the cabinet style we chose was no longer available. Then the second choice showed up late, and the installer couldn't get to it when promised. And when the supplier delivered the material, we had two end cabinets that were damaged and had to be reordered. The flooring went smoothly enough—except the installer used 3/8-inch backerboard rather than the ¼-inch board specified; therefore, when the refrigerator was delivered and ready to install, it lacked ¼-inch clearance at the top, which is why I found myself in the garage at 9 p.m. that evening cutting ½ inch off the bottom trim of the cabinet that was going above the refrigerator.

When it was finally over, my wife loved the job and, thankfully, we're still speaking.

Even with my knowledge and expertise in the field, I couldn't have predicted the debacle that our project turned into. Can I place blame on anyone (other than myself for not running screaming into the night when this was first discussed)? No. It was just Murphy's Law raising its ugly head and making its presence known as it often does in our industry.

Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.–based LBM supply consulting and training firm. 517.668.0585. E-mail:

But I did learn a big lesson: Remodeling is stressful, and those of us who sell even a portion of material to homeowners need to recognize that. Whether you are offering installation services or not, your homeowner customers look to you as a resource for a variety of services and products. And if you do offer installation services to your homeowner customers, do whatever you can to make the process as smooth and seamless as possible for them. Train your sales force to communicate clearly at each and every step, provide guidance to them, and let them know what to expect. Keep everyone informed on the progress, or lack thereof, throughout the entire remodeling process. Don't make them wait on information or answers. You can't overcommunicate to your customers.

And, of course, make sure the backerboard is the right size.