The Step-By-Step Guide To Remodeling Your Kitchen
Miranda Crace16-Minute Read
October 29, 2021
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There’s an old saying in the real estate industry, “Kitchens sell homes.”
The kitchen is central to the home and it’s one of the first spaces many house hunters look at. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen to help your home sell or to create the kitchen of your culinary dreams, there’s some planning and budgeting you’ll want to do first.
Let’s take a step-by-step look at how to remodel your kitchen.
Step 1: Determine Your Must-Haves
The first step in kitchen renovation is deciding what you really want. Similar to house hunting, this helps you narrow down the options and formulate a budget.
It can feel like the options for your kitchen are limitless, but unless you have a limitless budget, you’re going to have to pick and choose what’s actually important to you. Do you need more storage? Do you want more space for entertaining? Do you want a flow that works better for your family?
Asking yourself these questions can help you narrow down your must-haves with a new kitchen.
Step 2: Set A Budget
How do you know what a realistic budget is for your kitchen remodel? A good rule of thumb is to spend 5% – 15% of your home's total value on the renovation. For example, if your house is valued at $200,000, a decent kitchen renovation budget would be 10% of that value, so about $20,000.
The important thing to keep in mind is making sure you’re not going over the budget you set for yourself. So, if you want to spend more in one area, make sure to balance it out by cutting back on another renovation project.
Decide What You Can DIY
If you’re looking to stay on the low end of your budget for the kitchen remodel, consider the projects you can take on yourself. Elements like painting, upgrading cabinet hardware and tiling the backsplash can definitely be manageable DIY renovations.
You may want to leave the more strenuous projects to the professionals. You can quickly get in over your head updating electrical work or solving plumbing issues.
Leave Room For A Professional
Kitchen renovations, especially in-depth ones, require work you might not want to take on yourself. There are countless horror stories of homeowners rushing into demolition day (demo day) without being mindful of wires or plumbing in the walls.
Don’t create more work for yourself. Leave room in your budget to bring in the professionals. Here’s a quick breakdown of how much you can expect to pay for common kitchen renovation professionals:
- Contractors: This cost will vary based on your location. Most contractors charge 10 – 20% of total project cost.
- Designers: Costs will vary based on location. Estimate 8 – 10% of your remodeling costs.
Step 3: Bring In The Pros
You know what you want, how much it’ll cost and how much you’re willing to spend. Now it’s time to hire the team that’s going to help make it happen for you!
Than Merrill of FortuneBuilders, a real estate education company, says that one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make in their renovation projects is ignoring the benefits of hiring a kitchen designer, as well as a contractor.
They can help you stay on track, on budget and on top of the job properly.
Hiring A Contractor
A contractor is the point person for the actual renovation. They source and provide all the materials, plan out the timeline for the project and hire the subcontractors who will be working throughout your renovation. Essentially, they’re what makes the project run smoothly and finish on time.
Hiring a contractor is an additional cost, but they’ll have the best deals on materials and could end up saving you money in the long run.
You can look for contractors in your area and read their reviews on websites such as Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor. Friends and family can also be a great resource. Ask around and see who has worked with a contractor they’d recommend.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few professionals you think might be a good fit, it’s smart to reach out with questions such as:
- Are you licensed?
- Are you and your subcontractors insured?
- Will you obtain any necessary permits?
- Do you offer free quotes?
- What would the next steps be?
- Do you have different payment options?
- Will you handle the cleanup from the project?
- Will we have communication throughout the renovation project?
Asking questions like these can help ensure you and your contractor are on the same page and could work well together throughout the renovation.
Hiring A Kitchen Designer
Kitchen designers won’t be working on the actual renovation like your contractor does. They are interior designers who plan out the design, style, layout and materials you need for kitchen renovations.
While independent kitchen designers will be an additional expense, if you’re using a national home improvement chain, kitchen designers often come free as an additional resource. While it won’t cost extra, designers affiliated with chains are limited to supplies and materials offered by that chain. Independent kitchen designers can source from different places, finding you the right price point and more variety.
Be sure to vet your designer options like you would with a contractor. Search for local designers and read their reviews online. Ask family and friends if they worked with someone they’d recommend. You can always reach out to potential designers with additional questions like:
- Can I see samples of your past work?
- What is the communication flow like?
- What are your payment terms?
- Will we have final approval before elements are incorporated into the design?
Step 4: Demo The Kitchen
After all the research, preparation, budgeting and planning, you’re finally ready to start the renovation. First things first – demo day!
If you’ve hired a contractor, you won’t need to worry about this part, other than clearing out your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. If you’ve decided to handle demolition yourself, there are a few things to take care of before you go sledgehammer-happy.
Make sure your kitchen is prepped for the demo by performing the following tasks:
- Turning off the water, gas and electrical
- Removing appliances and emptying cabinets
- Having a dumpster ready for trash
- Placing drop cloths on the floors that aren’t being renovated
Once the space is prepped, it’s time to start the demo by removing items from your kitchen, starting with the cabinetry and drawers and ending with the drywall and flooring.
Step 5: Update Plumbing
Now that your kitchen is essentially gutted, you can get to work on some of the internal elements of your kitchen, like the plumbing.
If you’re handling this on your own, you’ll want to have a few things on hand, such as towels and buckets in case anything starts leaking. Some common plumbing issues you might want to solve during your renovation are:
- Low water pressure or hard water
- Leaks from your faucets, sink or dishwasher
- Clogged plumbing
- A gas line addition
- Updating or replacing shut-off valves
Step 6: Install Electrical And Lighting
Electrical renovation projects are no small feat and are usually best left to professionals. If you’re already working with a contractor, they’ll have an electrician lined up for this portion of the project.
If you’re handling the renovation on your own, consider calling an electrician to handle or guide these tasks. Some common electrical renovations include lighting, dimmer switches, wiring for the dishwasher and garbage disposal and setting up for a new range and oven.
If you want your kitchen to make a statement, a bold pendant light or a chandelier could be the perfect fixture for your new space. Go modern with glass bulbs like this photo or more natural with something like a wooden beaded chandelier.
Under Cabinet Lighting
Hidden lighting under your cabinets is a kitchen lighting trend that has gained steam in the last few years. It’s practical and stylish.
One of the most popular features to add in modern kitchens and renovations is lots of light, “…especially under cabinets,” says Merrill. “It helps illuminate the meal preparation and cleanup process any time of the day.”
Step 7: Hang Drywall
Once you’ve made any necessary upgrades to your plumbing and electrical, it’s time to close the walls back up by hanging new drywall.
Installing new drywall is fairly simple, in comparison to other aspects of the renovation process. If you decide to do this part of the process on your own, make sure the temperature is at or below 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days before you start working. This helps keep humidity low in the room. Make sure you also have the right tools for the job, including a drywall saw, hammer, screws and screw gun, sanding tools, joint compound and tape, and other utility devices.
Step 8: Paint Walls
Once your drywall is up and dried, it’s time to start painting.
The first step is to pick your paint colors. If you’ve been working with a kitchen designer, they’ll help you find the right color for your home. If you’re picking colors on your own, here are a few trends to keep in mind.
Kitchen Paint Trends
Neutrals still reign supreme in the interior design world, according to Derek Hales, the editor-in-chief of Modern Castle.
“Neutrals are in around the entire home, but certainly the kitchen,” says Hales. “Some people are opting for an all-white kitchen, while others are bringing in soft, warm grays or even blacks.”
To add interest while keeping a neutral wall color, Hales suggests accenting with interesting textures or colored dishes. “[It’s] a fun way to add variation without having bright colors on your walls,” adds Hales.
Even deep, moody neutrals are becoming popular in modern kitchens.
“Black is back and so is brass,” says Erica Reiner of E. Leigh Designs. “You can see black in everything from cabinetry paint, faucets, pendant shades to accessories, with pops of brass on the drawer pulls and knobs, faucets, pendants and accessories.”
Step 9: Lay Flooring
After paint comes the flooring.
Depending on the material you choose for your kitchen flooring, the effort required for installation will vary. For example, laminate or hardwood flooring doesn’t require any grout work, but tile flooring will keep you a bit busier laying tile and grouting.
Below are some common flooring options for your kitchen:
Many renovators who are on a budget opt for linoleum flooring because it’s an inexpensive flooring option that comes in countless shapes, styles and colors. You can find linoleum flooring that looks like wood, stone tile or classic colored tiles.
- Stain resistant
- Easily dented and scratched
- Color can change if overexposed to sunlight
- Not recommended in high humidity areas
- Lower resale value
Laminate flooring in kitchens is a highly debated topic in the renovation world. Many complaints center around the fact that laminate is not waterproof; however, many say that since moisture can be controlled in a kitchen, it’s not as much of a concern.
- Very durable
- Similar look to wood or stone
- Easy to install
- Not waterproof
- Requires specific laminate floor cleaner
- Lower resale value
Homeowners and house hunters flock to hardwood because it’s naturally pretty flooring. Hardwood can also last for a very long time, but not without some work.
- Beautiful and versatile
- Long-lasting, if properly maintained
- High resale value
- Requires more maintenance than other options
- Should be sanded and refinished every 10 years
Concrete is definitely a more modern kitchen flooring trend, but one that is durable and functional.
- Does not scratch or dent
- Versatile finishes
- Great for heated floors
- Very hard, which makes it uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time
- Difficult to install
- Stains if not sealed
- Some finishes can be very expensive
Last but not least is ceramic tile. Tile flooring has been popular in kitchens because it’s durable, easy to clean and long-lasting. Plus, you can create some really interesting design elements with tile. It’s also moderately priced, giving homeowners the most bang for their buck in terms of quality and longevity.
- Lots of design options
- Very hard, which makes it uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time
- Can be cold
- Time-consuming and laborious installation
Step 10: Install Cabinetry
Even if you’re handling the renovation yourself, consider hiring a professional to install cabinets for you. The last thing you want is to get your cabinets up and start refilling them only to have them fall down or to realize you didn’t level them properly. A professional will make sure the cabinets are installed properly, and then you can start filling them according to your kitchen organization plan.
If you haven’t been working with a kitchen designer to figure out what kind of cabinets you want, here are a few styles you should be aware of to help organize your kitchen space:
Shaker cabinets are classic and fit with many styles. The key element of these cabinets are the doors which have a middle panel that is set back from the trim that surrounds the edges of the door.
“Shaker style cabinets are very in right now,” says Hales. “Whether you’re doing a farmhouse flip, classic craftsman or full-modern design, a shaker style is timeless, providing depth-of-field and has a good weight to it.”
Many homeowners like the look of high ceilings with cabinetry reaching all the way to the top, but it’s not the most practical placement in many kitchens. Nancy Valent, president of NMV Strategies says low cabinets are becoming more popular. “Low cabinets allow for easy access and sturdy pull out drawers for pots and pans,” advises Valent.
Floating and open shelving is trending in homes across America. This design concept is loved by many designers as well, because it allows you to use your well-designed kitchenware as décor.
Reiner says, “With floating shelves as uppers, you open up the visible and perceived space in the kitchen by doing away with bulky enclosed cabinets. This look is especially great for modern, contemporary, bohemian and transitional styles.”
So not only will exposed shelving showcase your kitchenware, it can also open up the space visually.
Step 11: Place The Countertops
You’re getting so close! Your kitchen is finally starting to look like a kitchen again and not a construction zone. Next up: your countertops.
One thing to keep in mind about your countertops is the timeline. This is where progress can sometimes slow down because many designers prefer measuring for countertops once the cabinets are installed. This is especially important to note if you’re ordering fabricated countertops like quartz.
To decide which countertop material is right for you, take a look at the options below:
In recent years, no material stood a chance against granite. It was the be all and end all of kitchen counters. It’s still popular, but with the upgrades made to other materials, it’s not the only high-quality option.
- Comes in a variety of colors and styles
- Visually appealing
- More expensive
- Porous, which means it needs to be resealed often
“Quartz countertops are a low-maintenance option, perfect for any busy kitchen,” says Valent.
Quartz is a very strong material, and when mixed with resin, makes countertops nonporous, stain-resistant and easy to clean. Unlike granite, marble or concrete countertops, you don’t have to worry about sealing, conditioning or polishing a quartz countertop.
- Easy to clean
- Versatile, with countless colors, textures, styles and shapes
- Can be damaged by chemicals like bleach
- Not heat-resistant
Image: Wilsonart International
Laminate countertops get a bad rap, but they are cost-effective, especially if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
- Least expensive countertop option
- Easier installation than other materials
- Variety of colors and finishes
- Easily damaged
- Low resale value
Image: Seeking Lavender Lane
Concrete countertops are a new trend in the home renovation world and are becoming increasingly popular.
“Concrete countertops are IN, IN, IN,” says Hales. “It provides a durable surface and a bit of an industrial feel. Don’t be deceived though – Pinterest may be able to sell it, but this is generally no weekend DIYer’s type of project. With professional experience, though, this can be an affordable, unique approach to a solid slab countertop.”
- Versatile, as it can be pigmented and stained to be any color or pattern
- Industrial feel
- Stains easily
If you love the farmhouse style, a butcher block countertop is a perfect choice for you.
- Warms up a space
- Scratches easily
- Not waterproof
According to Hales, there is something special about white subway tile. “By far one of the most popular backsplashes today is the classic white subway tile,” says Hales. “And it’s hard to argue with it. The natural, simple color palette provides the perfect backdrop to beautifully plated meals and is easy to maintain.
If you want to spice up traditional subway tile, opt for something with a different shape. “Hexagons, mosaics, Moroccan lantern-shaped style and 3D textured tiles are popping up in backsplash supplies everywhere,” says Reiner. “And I like it. These tiles offer so much style, interest, texture and wow factor to the kitchen.”
Step 13: Bring In Appliances
The last step of the kitchen remodel process is bringing appliances back in. If you’re stuck with your old appliances, this step will be a breeze. If you’re looking to make upgrades to your kitchen appliances, you have a variety of options to choose.
Interested in equipping your kitchen with smart technology? A selection of kitchen devices and appliances now have integrated systems that make basic kitchen tasks – like brewing coffee and cooking meals – easier and more automatic. Nowadays you shouldn’t have trouble finding smart refrigerators, convection ovens, coffee makers, slow cookers and even garbage cans.
If you’re opting for the more traditional route with appliance upgrades, it’s important to keep a few elements in mind. You’ll want to know the size and dimensions of your new appliances so they can fit seamlessly into the kitchen spaces available.
You may also want to consider purchasing appliances that coordinate or are made from the same material, like stainless steel appliances. If energy efficiency is important to you, you may also be interested in choosing appliances that can help save you money in the long run.
Step 14: Enjoy Your New Kitchen
Renovating your kitchen can be a long process, but it’s worth it in the end. Whether you’re renovating to sell or to build the perfect kitchen for your dream home, you’ve put in the work and now it’s time to relax.
The Bottom Line
If you’re just starting a kitchen renovation and need extra funds to get it where you want it, consider your loan options, such as a personal loan or a cash-out refinance. Not sure what home improvement loan is best for you? Consult with one of our financial experts to help get you on track today.
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