Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rocky Tops vs Home Depot: Homer Takes a Beating

Suppose I told you that I would make you a special deal that could save you 18% on counter tops for your kitchen. Then, when you came to place your order, suppose I told you that the deal wasn't quite as good, that after the conditions exclusions and fine print, you were only saving 8.5%. Would you buy? Or would you look elsewhere?

That's what happened to us at Home Depot.

We started out our search for new materials for the kitchen with the counters. Our existing counters are particleboard covered with plastic laminate. While it has the virtue of being very cheap, it also looks very cheap. It isn't very durable either, so we wanted to upgrade. We looked into different materials, trying to find the best value. Not necessarily the cheapest, but the one that gave us the most bang for our bucks.

We went out to our local Home Depot to look at some of the different materials and color choices. While we were there, the sales person came up to us and started talking to us about the "Big Sale" they had coming up in a few days on Silestone, a manufactured quartz counter top. The Silestone came in several different color groups, starting at $42 per square foot and going up quickly after that. You also have to pick the edge treatment you want. The basic edge include with the price is okay, but boring. The edge upgrades started at $16 and went up, particularly for the built up edges. The Silestone slabs sold at Home Depot are only 2 cm thick, which works out to about 3/4 inch. Without building up the edge, it looks thin and flimsy. The built up edges are 1 1/2 inches and started at $28 bucks per foot, with an upgraded edge costing $40. Our kitchen design includes a lot of counter space so the edge charge was significant particularly when added to the cost of the slab itself.

The sale was a color upgrade, an edge treatment upgrade, and a free sink. With a kitchen as large as ours, that could save us a ton of money and since we have a tight budget anyway, every little bit helped. He told us that the sale started in a few days, and only lasted 5 days, so we had to hurry and decide. We chose a color, and an edge treatment and then came back to the store once the sale began.

That's where things went bad. The vendor changed their pricing scheme on the same day the sale started. The edge treatment we chose went up significantly in price, and the edge upgrade we received didn't fully offset the increase, meaning we were paying $3 more per foot than the original pricing scheme. Also, the color we chose wasn't eligible for the color upgrade, so we would end up paying full price for the slab. Finally, we were told that while the sink was free, the mandatory installation fee was an extra $225 dollars. All in all, our projected savings went from about $1200 to $600.

Now I don't mind saving $600, but the way everything changed on us left a bad taste in my mouth. Add to that the total cost was in the realm where I had a hard time spending that much for a quartz counter top.

So Saturday, we went investigating other options. I called several shops around town, and while several were closed or closing for the day, when I called Rocky Tops Marble and Granite, the phone was answered by Frank. He said the shop was getting ready to close down for the day, but that he would be happy to stay late if we wanted to come out and take a look at their stock and their facility. His energy and enthusiasm impressed me and put Rocky Tops at the top of my list of places to check. I told him about my experience with Home Depot, and he told me right up front that wasn't how they did business. The quote would include everything, fabrication, installation, polishing, edge treatment, the whole nine yards. No deceptive add ons or exclusions, or anything like that. The price was the price, period.

Lissa and I drove straight out there and met with him and another Rocky Tops employee, Jerry(?). Frank was busy with another late customer, so Jerry took my drawings of our kitchen and began writing up an estimate for us, while we walked around the cavernous storage and fabrication area. We looked at slabs of granite with the most amazing colors and figures. We picked out several that we liked, and when Frank was done with his customers, he came out to meet us. The estimate was done, and for about $500 more than what Home Depot was going to charge for the 2 cm Silestone, Rocky Tops would sell us 3 cm granite. With a finished edge and installed sink.

In fact, they were willing to bring the price down even further for us if needed, although they couldn't match the Home Depot price. But I didn't really want them to match that price. In the first place, we were getting an upgraded material, from quartz to granite. In the second, we also upgrading the size of the slab, from 2 cm thick to 3. While that doesn't seem like much, compare 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch. It really makes a difference on the edge. You get the feel of solidity, of real weight. 2 cm seems almost fragile, which is why so many people pay for a laminated edge.

Long story short, the difference between the two establishments was like night and day. It wasn't just that the price was competitive for a better product, it was that there were no surprises, no up selling, even though they do work on commission. Better products, sold by a local company, and at a competitive price, by people who are enthusiastic and professional. What more can you ask for?

We'll be going back this week to put the deposit down on the counter top slabs so that once I've finished the cabinets, they can make the template (which is what Frank does when he's not selling) and machine the countertop.

I've never spent that much for a rock before. Not even for an engagement ring!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Our Kitchen Nightmare: The Beginning

There are actually two nightmares. The first is the kitchen itself; the second is that we are going to completely demolish and renovate it.

In 9 days.

Yep. 9 days from kitchen pathetic to kitchen fantastic, and we're doing all of the work ourselves. Well, except for fabricating and installing the countertops; we're letting professionals do that. But everything else, we're doing.
  1. I'm building custom cabinets.

  2. We're doing all of the demo work ourselves.

  3. We're taking out a wall, one sliding glass door, and a window.

  4. We're installing a larger window, a smaller door, and not replacing the wall.

  5. We're rewiring the kitchen to bring it up to code, and improve the lighting, which right now sucks.

  6. We're replumbing the sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher and refrigerator.

  7. We're moving the stove to a more useable location.

  8. We're repainting, installing a new subfloor, and new flooring.

And we're going to do it all in 9 days.

We will be doing some prep work ahead of time. Obviously, I'll have the cabinets built and finished prior to the day we start, and we'll remove the appliances and empty the cabinets before we begin. I'll also clear out the attic over the kitchen and pre-stage some of the electrical wiring for the job, Other than that, and the 2 week wait for the fabrication of the counter top after we install the cabinets, everything else willo be done during the nine days from March 17th to March 26th.

I hope.

Follow the link to see some images of what we have now, and where we're going to be soon.

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