The question of where to start on a kitchen remodel might be the biggest in the entire process. Below are a list of questions that we asked ourselves before doing any remodeling and some that we learned the hard way.
I highly recommend that you ask yourself these and more before you do anything to your kitchen. Also, check out the video below as I point out a few things in the remodel that you need to consider.
Do I need a contractor for my kitchen remodeling project?
In the exploration stage this is the first question that many people ask themselves, and honestly it depends on what you want to accomplish. If your kitchen layout is where you want it and all you are doing is putting in a new kitchen on the footprint of your old kitchen then a general contractor is likely not needed. Many people are able to accomplish this type of kitchen remodeling without one.
If you plan to move walls, relocate appliances, reroute electrical then a general contractor is probably the way to go for you kitchen remodel. Something to understand if you have never worked with a general contractor, you can not just write checks and walk away.
A general contract’s job is to organize the subs and see the job move smoothly, however it doesn’t always go that way. You will want to be involved to make sure remodeling the kitchen doesn’t turn into an ongoing and forever painful project.
Can I do the work myself?
With today’s tools including online classes, in person classes at the big box hardware stores and youtube videos you can learn to do a lot of things yourself. You can potentially do some of the tasks even if you do have a general contractor. They probably won’t be excited about the idea so you will want to be upfront about it. Some suggestions I would make because I have seen some very successful and some very unsuccessful DIY projects.
Installing cabinets is a simple process if you learn what to do, but it is harder than it looks and you have to plan according to your appliances. If you want to do your own cabinets have it measured by a professional.
Painting is not difficult but it is all about the preparation. Many people skimp on the preparation needed to give you kitchen a beautiful paint job. The more work you put into taping and masking off the cleaner your lines will be and the less over-spray or bleed over you will have.
Tile is harder than it looks, especially in an older house. If you are remodeling an older house in which the walls may not be as straight as you like or the floors not as level, a DIY tile job can end up very badly. Paint and tile are two things that will really finish the renovation process but are very easy to do badly. For DIY projects consider laminate flooring which is easy to work with and comes in some very cool designs now.
Trades I highly recommend to hire no matter what are plumbers, electricians and countertop people.
You can find a countertop fabricator that can measure, cut and install your counters but will allow you to shop around for the pricing on countertops that you wan to pay.
Do I need permits?
This varies greatly depending on the municipality, because believe it or not in many places a permit is required to install a ceiling fan. Although it is almost never pulled, it is technically often a requirement.
Again a general rule is if you are leaving appliances and walls in place you probably do not need a permit. If you are going to rearrange floor plans, many cities allow you to pull your own permits online.
There is often a list of the permits that you can do automatically online and then just call to schedule an inspection when they are done. If you are moving walls and such you will probably need an architect to draw up your plans and submit permits.
Be clear about what you plan to accomplish before because permits requiring plans can take months, and during a pandemic may be even worse.
Is my budget realistic and does it include appliances?
Budget is something that you must have prepared before you begin removing any cabinets or begin remodeling the kitchen. Kitchen design can quickly get away from you if you don’t think through the process fully. Most people consider the major costs such as cabinets and counters, and probably appliances, but they forget some other important things.
Plumbing rough and final: Even if you are not moving appliances you may need to replace plumbing fittings, shut off valves, or change the angle of water lines or drain pipes to fit the new plan.
Electrical: If you don’t have experience with electrical hire an electrical contractor if nothing else. They will ensure your safety and move your process along. Many people want to upgrade their lighting at this time including moving to LED lights.
Tile: Choosing one type of flooring tile over another can drastically increase your cost, and adding a backsplash is a beautiful cap to beautiful kitchen renovations, but can be expensive.
Fixtures: Depending on the cabinets you choose, they may or may not include hardware. Handles and pulls add up as do new sinks and faucets. Don’t forget about these expenses.
AC contractor: You might wonder why you need an AC contractor, but something I learned is that the person that will install a hood vent over your stove is an AC contractor. (It isn’t your cabinet guy or your electrician as many people think.
What is my timeline for my kitchen renovation?
However quickly you expect that remodeling a kitchen will take, i recommend you add at least 20% to that time. Working with or without a contractor, things will take longer than expected. A kitchen remodel that drags on can make your life miserable for an extended period of time, so plan accordingly.
Here are some common reasons that a remodel can take substantially longer that what you planned at the start.
- Sub contractor delays: This has become especially troublesome during the Covid pandemic.
- Delays in materials: It may take longer than expected to receive cabinets, appliances or counter-tops.
- Poor time management: This can be on the case of you as the one in charge or it might be the fault of your contractor, but it can happen.
- Schedule conflict: If you have a delay in your cabinets, that can effect your flooring install, counters, and paint. A single small delay can cause scheduling conflicts that then cause other delays.
- Inspection: Some cities may have delays in inspections and if you don’t pass an inspection the first time you may have to call them back and re-arrange sub contractors
It is very important that you plan two steps ahead forecasting when the next trade is going to be needed otherwise you will be spending a lot of time waiting.
Do I need a kitchen designer?
I have never personally used a kitchen designer because my wife and I we have a good eye for design, but many people love having a professional guide them.
I can’t speak to the cost of value of kitchen designers but I do know that many design ideas can be found in magazines pictures, and other blogs. No matter what you choose, make sure to do your homework.
How can I get high design without high cost?
High design is all about the finish, and those final touches. We have found that in remodeling in general but specifically in a kitchen remodeling project high design can be accomplished on a budget. Here are some things to consider that are high design touches that aren’t as expensive as they seem.
- Flooring choice: There are growing numbers of national retailers that offer some very competitive pricing on beautiful tile that has the high design look. Also start by considering laminate flooring for look, simplicity and durability.
- Back splash: Having a beautiful and professionally installed back splash in your kitchen can really make things pop!! Again, you can save money on the tile by shopping around.
- Counter-tops: Again, shopping around for a deal can give you a million dollar look on a budget. Some of the modern laminate counters also hold up very well and we have used them in rental properties.
- Counter waterfall: This is a new feature, but is is considered extremely high design. It raises your counter top costs but is a great finish for a peninsula or island.
- Hood vent: Choosing a well sized and upscale looking vent can bring your kitchen to another level.
- Focus wall: Somewhere around your kitchen think about how to finish off your kitchen remodeling with a wall your guest will talk about. We got creative with our dining room wall and designed an art project. We have had so many comments about it and people couldn’t believe we did it ourselves. You can also install rough saw wood, laminate, paneling. Look online and you will find lots of cool ideas.
- Pantry Door: We just painted the pantry door and frame a great stand out color at a house we are currently building. We loved the way it came out, and there are a lot of cool ideas online.
What finishes do I want?
Find pictures online of the appliances, counters, cabinet, colors and style, backsplah, faucets, floors, etc. As of this writing grays and whites are very hot for kitchens, but there are many places to follow the trends. Rather than being extremely trendy take the things you like and be creative so that when you finish the kitchen remodeling you love your final product. Start with the end in mind though to make sure your choices are consistent.
Note: If you are remodeling with the intention of selling then make the choices that most people will want to improve your investment.
How do I control dust?
Dust is a part of remodeling and you cannot avoid it. However, you want to make sure you control it. This will involve a detailed conversation with your contractor or solid planning on your part if you don’t have one. There are tools on the market that work very well in dust control.
The most important thing is to have each trade clean up after themselves and to be consistent with your agreed procedures.
I highly recommend you have the zipper door covers that allow access but seal up. To partition off part of the house you can also use portable plastic walls that make life easier.
Also double check that the kitchen area under construction does not have an AC return. If you are sucking in dust from the room it will get spread around the house. Believe me, that is NO FUN.
Am I going to live in the house during construction?
Your kitchen is the core of your home, and a remodel changes things much more than you could imagine. Every day life becomes stressful if you are living through a kitchen remodel. If your family does not do well with stress and change then you should plan to not be in your home during that time.
If you can handle it or don’t have another choice just know what you are getting into. And keep in mind that you living in the house can slow down construction, and in today’s environment be a potential risk to you and your contractors. You will want to spend some real time thinking about this part.
How will this effect my resale value?
A kitchen remodel is one of the things that really helps your property value, but there are some things to keep in mind. With any remodel consider your goal before you start.
If you don’t plan to sell the house any time soon then make it your own and try new things. If you plan to sell, limit your personal choices that might alienate other buyers.
For example if you are a person that likes entertaining adding a wet bar might be a huge selling point. If you live in a family neighborhood that extra cost you invested may not help or may even hurt your sale. Be aware that on a one to one basis, most home improvement projects do not increase home value by the same amount.
Should I save my cabinets?
This is a big question that people ask, and if you can and do save them you can save yourself a LOT of money. Here are some things to consider before you try and refinish your cabinets.
- Is the layout what I want?
- Am I moving appliances?
- Do I like the cabinet door features?
- Can my cabinets be repainted to the color I want?
- Will refinish and new hardware make my cabinets match my new kitchen?
- Will I be happy with a brand new kitchen and recycling my cabinets?
- Are my cabinets solid?
- Do I have problems with the drawers or doors already?
If you feel comfortable after asking yourself those questions then you should save your cabinets if you can.
After reading this list of questions I hope that you haven’t been scared off by the idea of a kitchen remodel. If you do it right, your final product will be worth the trouble and all the money you are about to spend. Take the time to plan it our right so that you end up with a space that you absolutely love!!