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How to remodel a kitchen in five steps

In this post, we’ll take you through the full process of a kitchen remodel from start to finish. This is the same process we’ve used to complete all our projects. You can also utilize this as a checklist when planning your project.

Step 1: Determine the approach for the kitchen remodel

The truth is that any remodeling project serves a purpose. Your purpose could be you want your kitchen to look better, or to increase storage of the space. Did you know kitchen remodel generates the highest return on investment in remodeling projects? 

Question is:

How does your objective determine the approach you will take with your remodel project?

Here are a few scenarios and the next step:

Resale- There are several approaches that a homeowner can take when the objective is resale. First, look for an unrepairable deficiency within the space and the amount. Some common deficiency includes grout crack, defect cabinet interior or drawers, counter crack. If the damaged area is small and you have replacement part and can DIY then refacing is the cabinet could be an approach.

Refacing avoid the inconveniences of a major renovation while still getting some return on investment. It’s also possible to add minor customization (glass door, crown molding) or add an island to add to aesthetics. 

If the damaged area is large, it would make more sense to replace it with a new product altogether. A replacement project will require a larger budget and may not fit into the goal. Replacing outdated cabinet and counter will generate best return for investment. 

Family Home- “How much will it cost” should not be the first question you asked when remodeling a family home. This is because there are many factors influence the cost of the remodel. A designer will able to help the homeowner to identify the scope and manage the budget at the same time.  A typical project takes around a month of planning time. 

A finished kitchen you see on Pinterest or a neighbor’s house does not nearly reflect the complexity of the project. It involves multiple stages: demolishing, structural change, plumbing/electrical/HVAC, patching, painting, flooring, cabinet, counter, final touch up. Each of the steps requires careful planning. If you decide to complete any of this work yourself, make sure to notify your designer ahead of time, this will impact pricing and scope.


Step 2: Measurement

Most designers will help you with the measurement to ensure accuracy. If you seek to get a quote quickly, then you can also do the measurement yourself to get rough estimates. The first step is to identify the existing space and the end goal.

In the Standard kitchen layout post, we have outlined several standard kitchen layouts that you can reference. It’s important to note that everything will need to get the measurements for the existing space and what you like to achieve. For example, if you plan to relocate the gas stove from one wall to another, you will need to measure the distance from your current furnace (assuming gas) room to the location you like to move. Another example is flooring, flooring has a different thickness, if you are replacing flooring to a different thickness, then the height from floor to ceiling will vary. 

Onto the actual measurement process

Measure anything and everything you see in the space. Buy a grid book to help you guide the lines. Here is a list of items you need to look for

-Height of ceiling

-Length of every wall/bulkhead

-Placement and size of the window and doors

-Placement and size of appliances and plumbing fixtures

-Placement of plumbing, electrical, ventilation 

-Depth of current cabinet

If you are enlarging a kitchen with wall removal or extension, you will need to mark the change in the drawing. 


Step 3: Kitchen Design

Designing a kitchen remodel is like a pot of stew, it’s mixed with art, science, preference, and compromise. You as the homeowner know what you like to achieve from the very initial stage but this may change as you work with a designer.  A professional designer will notice things you may not realize it matters. 

Here are four pillars our designer takes into consideration.

Distance and circulation-We already have a post dedicated to discuss this.

Cohesiveness- The kitchen should look as cohesive as possible in terms of appearance. A good rule of thumb is not to have more than 3 colors with strong contrast in a kitchen. Let’s say you have charcoal cabinets throughout the kitchen, and white counter to go with it.  It would not be a good idea to have a red subway tile as backsplash. Instead, the backsplash can be a different tone of white or fog grey. This rule also applies to patterns, when using a patterned granite, it would be better to stay consistent.

Functional space- functional space is a combination of storage and accessibility. Utility hardware in every cabinet does not make the space more functional, it makes the space more complex. A cabinet without drawer with a 40″ depth would not make sense in any home. The basic principle is that every appliance should be accessed and opened easily. All cabinet interior should be easily accessible. Plumbing fixtures should have the appropriate height and depth. A good amount of lighting (not excessive) should cover the entire space.

Lighting- kitchen lighting makes a huge difference to all the product choices. A fog grey cabinet under neutral white can look blue while charcoal grey under warm white light may look orange at a certain angle. The kitchen and bathroom are the two places in the house that require more lighting than the living room and bedroom. If the living room is directly connected with the kitchen with no divider, it’s better to keep lighting consistent across space. In a modern kitchen, pot light will set the primary tone of the space. Island pendant light act as complimentary dinner/prep light and under cabinet light can be used as prep light or night light. We recommend using 3000k-4000k for the pot lights and even distribute them across space with a few feets apart. Pendant light temperature needs to tailor to what space needs, and it should not be higher than what is been used in pot light. The under-cabinet light temperature depends on usage.

Step 4: Budgeting

This step is to work with your designer to identify your needs and wants.  A kitchen remodel project comes down to a few categories.

A)Demolishing and construction: all kitchen projects will involve demolishing and construction. With proper skills and tools, tasks like demolishing and taping can be done by the homeowner, however, this may void the warranty of other items, check in with your designer to see what can be done before proceeding. Structural change can be costly if a loadbearing wall is involved, and it’s important to plan ahead. Your designer can work with you to come up with alternative plans to achieve the result you like for this portion of the project.

B)Electrical and plumbing: electrical and plumbing for most kitchen projects are straightforward. This is the most cost-efficient time to add pot lights or fix a plumbing problem. Light and plumbing fixtures will add to the cost, reserve a few thousand dollars aside for this. We would not recommend reusing old fixtures as it would be an additional cost when adding later on and could damage surrounding areas.

C)Flooring, cabinet, counter – Depending on the material picked out, the prices could vary largely. For example, “Hand-crafted” custom cabinets cost twice the amount of pre-fab cabinets. Cambria counter can cost many times more than a less known brand. The higher-priced item will have a more custom look and feel compared to standard. If you wish your kitchen to be one of the kind, it’s the route you will have to go down. 

D)Appliances: Four major appliances (stove, dishwasher,  fridge, and rangehood) can easily cost $10,000. Modern fridge usually comes with waterline and rangehood may require a larger opening. These will add to your existing cost.

E)Other charges: permit, architectural drawing, and homeowner renovation insurance expenses will be additional depending on the situation. By-law every sizable project requires a building permit. To apply for a permit, you will need a drawing done by an architect to apply. The drawing outlines the area affected by building department of the city to approve. You should expect to pay a few hundred for the permit and thousand for architectural drawing depend on the scope of the work. Homeowner renovation insurance expense is optional 

F)Unexpected: Beside items listed above, you will also need to reserve funds for unexpected events. We have seen subfloor done wrong, load-bearing beam not leveled, plumbing not vented properly, etc during our project. Many of these will incur additional investment in the project. A homeowner should set aside 15-20% reserved budget to handle the unexpected situation.

Step 5: Execution and timeline

Typical kitchen remodel takes around one month to complete. Your designer will be responsible for coordinate all the trades and provide you with an estimated timeline on when everything will be completed. 

We do recommend checking the progress and keeping open communication during the process. You may have a preference for the placement during the process, your designer will be responsible for navigating through the preference and provide you with suggestions on the selection. 

In closing, a kitchen remodel project is teamwork between your family, your designer, and the trades. The triangle makes it perfect and there will be compromises that each party will take. Understanding and determination is going to get the best result.