How to Start a Kitchen Remodeling Project

Your current space is old, cramped and out-of-date. For a while you’ve wanted to update the cabinets, replace the countertops and maybe add an island. You know that it’s past time to refresh the space, but how do you begin a kitchen remodeling project?

Where Do I Start?

Some homeowners start by shopping for appliances. Others start collecting inspirational photos and color swatches. And still others begin by envisioning alternative floor plans and layouts.

“Homeowners may find themselves in this exploration stage for a year or longer before they start interviewing kitchen designers or general contractors,” writes Houzz Contributor Rebekah Zaveloff.

Why do kitchen projects get held up and deferred for so long?

  • Remodeling feels overwhelming. Managing all the choices, details, and dependencies in a kitchen remodeling project can be mentally draining. Decision fatigue can set in, causing delays or even avoidance.
  • Homeowners can’t picture the end result. How will everything come together? Will the finished kitchen look good? With other major purchases, such as a car or a house, what you see is what you get. But with a remodeling project, “what you get” is un-seeable until everything has been installed in your house.

In fact, both of these reasons support talking to designers and contractors sooner in the process. Their experience and guidance will only help you make better, more well-informed decisions, and can help keep you from getting stalled out.

Follow these steps to start off your remodel on the right foot.

Being curious and open to all possibilities can make remodeling a joyful experience.

Step 1 – Prepare Yourself

From online shopping to boutique dealers to home center superstores, the marketplace today offers a near-endless stream of enticing products and choices. But how do you navigate through the sprawling world of home-improvement products?

A little preparation will help you break the process down into logical and manageable steps. Think about the all reasons why you want to remodel your kitchen – what’s your motivation? What are your aims? Write them down and communicate them with your partner and your household.

Next, make a commitment. You will remodel your kitchen.

If you can take this first step with firmness and confidence, then congratulations. No matter the obstacles ahead, your decision will bring you to the finish line.

In the steps that follow, we will help you to figure out your own goals for your remodeling plan. Whether you know it or not, your kitchen has inherent requirements that give you aims to achieve:

  • The kitchen must suit the lifestyle needs of the household.
  • The kitchen must suit the dimensions and features of the particular space.
  • The kitchen must be completed within a limited time frame.
  • The kitchen must be completed within a finite budget.

In remodeling as in life, the clearer you can formulate and focus on your aims, the more successful you will be.

Step 2 – Assess Your Wants and Needs

There are many kitchens. Gourmet kitchens. Entertaining kitchens. Family kitchens. At the end of the day, you’re looking for your kitchen.

Assess your needs by observing how your existing kitchen works:

  • Who cooks? How often? What type of cooking happens (microwave, baking, gourmet, etc.)?
  • What kitchen equipment do you use?
  • What other activities take place in the kitchen besides cooking (paperwork, computer work, entertainment, laundry, sewing, etc.)?
  • How easy is it to reach and access storage space? Do you need more storage? Where?
  • How easy is it to access the trash? Do you store recyclables in the kitchen?
  • Do you need more counter space? Where?
  • What do you like about your kitchen?

Now, what would you change about your existing kitchen?

  • What don’t you like about your current space?
  • What features are missing in your kitchen?
  • What ideas do you have about the arrangement of your kitchen?
  • What ideas do you have about areas that should be spacious or compact?
  • What preferences for style or color do you want to include in your kitchen?

It pays to be thorough. The more clearly you can talk about your wants and needs, the easier it will be to get kitchen designers and contractors to follow your specific vision.

Your needs assessment will help you to start conversing with a kitchen designer.

Step 3 – Set a Time Frame

“How long does it take to remodel a kitchen?”

“Well, that depends on the kitchen’s scope…”

“Well, that depends on your installers…”

“Well, that depends on your product lead times…”

When it comes to remodeling, everything depends on the size, scope of the details of your particular project. That includes your time frame.

But what if you don’t have much experience remodeling and don’t really understand how long construction work takes? What’s a good benchmark for setting a remodeling time frame?

Nine months is generally sufficient time to get what you want and stay on budget for the average kitchen remodel. That’s six months to plan your project (searching, shopping, designing, preparing, ordering, hiring and scheduling), and three months of contract work to build it out.

A lot of homeowners wrap up their projects much faster depending on how they use their time. But don’t take time for granted. Time is a resource that allows you to get more of what you want. And we all forget how much time it takes to shop. You’ll want the time to discover products, vendors, and seasonal sales.

It’s okay and normal to want your kitchen remodeled in time for the holidays. But be sure to give yourself enough time, and start planning in January!

Read More: The Complete Kitchen Remodeling Timeline

Step 4 – Set Project Goals

Having identified your needs, the next step is to list your project goals, the improvements that you want for your space.

Your goals might resemble one or more of the following:

  1. An increase in resale value if sold within the next few years
  2. More accessible storage units (trash bin cabinets, pots and pans drawers)
  3. An open layout to make the space bigger and brighter
  4. Updated, more energy-efficient appliances
  5. More countertop space near cooktops
  6. A sleek, modern-looking kitchen in gray and white
  7. New tile flooring
  8. A station for coffee or wine (or both)
  9. A charging station for electronics

Step 5 – Go Shopping

stainless steel faucet and sink with white backsplash and white stone countertops

“Shopping is a big deal,” says Dan Jones, CliqStudios’ kitchen remodeling expert. “People forget about the hours they stand in the plumbing aisle looking at the same four faucets.”

Unless you have a very hands-on contractor or interior designer, you’re likely making several major purchasing decisions by yourself. They are indeed major decisions. “The kitchen remodel is one of the top five biggest purchases of your life,” says Jones, “all within the single biggest purchase of your life – your house.”

To get started, add these key kitchen products to your shopping list:

  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Appliances
  • Sinks and faucets
  • Flooring
  • Lighting
  • Backsplash

Within each category, there’s much to learn about different brands, materials, installation methods, maintenance and care requirements, costs, warranties and more. Keep track of your options in a detailed list or a spreadsheet.

Shop online and offline, read product catalogs, visit showrooms and trade shows, and check out your local salvage yards and specialty stores. Over time, you’ll come to a better understanding of how much certain items, features, and upgrades cost, and how much you personally value them.

Read More: Read This Before You Buy New Cabinets: A Buyer’s Guide

Read More:Identifying Quality in Kitchen Cabinets

Step 6 – Determine a Budget

“What’s your budget?” It’s the one of the first question a remodeling professional will ask you. But you won’t be able to confidently set a budget until you’ve shopped and compared different product options.

In this way, determining a remodeling budget is similar to determining a budget for your car, or your house. What you can buy depends on what you have, what you’re willing to spend, as well as your financing options.

Kitchen budget benchmarks. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a kitchen remodel is about $22,000, with a typical range of $12,500 to $33,000, but high-end kitchen remodels can cost much more. Generally, cabinets are about 25-30 percent of the remodeling budget. CliqStudios customers spend an average of $8,000 on cabinets.

Pay attention, write down costs, and like any good shopper, you’ll find out along the way how to save money.

Read More: What Does it Cost to Remodel a Kitchen? Understanding Your Renovation Budget

Step 7 – Bring in the Pros

kitchen designer using 2020 design software to create a kitchen layout

Kitchen designers translate your thoughts and ideas into a functional, actionable plan.

There are two main players when it comes to professional kitchen remodeling help:

  • A kitchen designer
  • A general contractor

A kitchen designer ensures that your kitchen space is functional, efficient and the best value for your budget. They listen to your needs and wants, and then translate your thoughts and ideas into a functional, beautiful, and actionable plan.

A general contractor (GC) coordinates the build-out and installation of the kitchen designer’s plans. The GC is in charge of organizing products, materials and people. They schedule work for the trade professionals typically involved in kitchen renovations such as electricians, plumbers, tile professionals, fabricators, and finish carpenters.

Start early and be proactive with bringing in professionals. Their expertise will help you make better remodeling decisions, and making early appointments will ensure that you have a spot on their calendars. The most well-regarded pros have very busy schedules, and it’s common for a contractor to be booked months in advance.

What about interior design or architectural services? If you’re remodeling your entire house, or making major structural changes, you may have an interior designer or architect helping to coordinate the project. But if you’re only remodeling a kitchen, their services are not critical, even though they can add significant costs to the project.

Between you, your kitchen designer and your general contractor, you should able to make sure that your kitchen is decorated, designed and built to your liking.

Happy remodeling!

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