How long does it take to remodel a kitchen, and what are the steps?
A kitchen remodel can span from a month to a year, depending on the size and scope of the project. For a major kitchen remodel involving plumbing, electrical, and structural changes, a realistic timeline is 6 to 12 months, including the time it takes to design your space, hire a contractor, order products, demolish the existing kitchen, and then build-out the new kitchen.
In a remodeling project, important steps occur in succession and can be upset by any unexpected factor. A contractor or subcontractor could get sick, your product could arrive late due to weather issue, or your project scope could change due to budget overruns. Anticipate hiccups in your time frame by building in buffer times between each step.
So, what are the steps to remodeling a kitchen? This is an outline of remodeling an entire kitchen from beginning to end. Though these major steps are common to all kitchen remodels, sub-tasks will vary from project to project.
Step 1: Planning Your Kitchen Remodel
1.1 Define your project’s scope. Begin with the end in mind. Start by gathering together the ideas, images, and photos you have about your kitchen. Refine your chosen look until you reach a point where you know what you want. Do you want to replace cabinets, countertops, flooring and appliances? Adding a sink or range hood? Moving a wall? Separate your must-haves from your nice-to-haves. The larger your remodel, the more important it is to develop and stick to a detailed plan.
1.2 Know your resources. Experts recommend a full kitchen remodel be budgeted at 10-25 percent of your home’s total value. But whatever dollar amount you’ve determined, it’s important to know your resources and stick to your budget. It’s also wise to include into your budget 10-15% to resolve unexpected problems that arise during the project. Read our guide on kitchen remodeling costs to find tips on how to save money on your renovation project.
1.3 Start doing homework on potential subcontractors. Who will you need for your renovation? A major kitchen remodel could include a half dozen or more individuals: an electrician, plumber, HVAC installer, drywaller, painter, cabinet installer, finish carpenter, tile installer, demolition crew, and so on. Who you need will be dependent on the scope of your project.
- Hire a contractor. The person you select must be experienced, personable, and responsible. The best way to find reliable people in your area is via word-of-mouth referrals. Consider each contractor’s experience and price range, and their willingness to listen to your ideas. Good contractors may be booked many weeks in advance, so early scheduling is key.
- Learn the Lingo of what contractors mean by words like “certified,” “licensed,” “insured,” and “bonded.” It’s helpful to learn some of the ins and outs of what contractors do, how they work, and how they speak—especially so if you are acting as your own contractor.
1.4 Measure your space. At this stage, your measurements don’t have to be perfect, but they should be close. Use your initial measurements to get a kitchen design. Then, before you order your cabinets, be sure to collect precise measurements.
1.5 Select your cabinet door style, material and color. Painted cabinets or stained? All white or two-toned? Shaker or raised detailing? Making this big decision early will be helpful when selecting other items, such as countertops, flooring and lighting. Once you know your cabinet style and color, your designer will be able to offer tips to create a unified look throughout your space.
1.6 Consult a kitchen designer. As soon as you have rough measurements, you’ll want to connect with a designer. Your designer’s job is to translate your ideas and sources of inspiration into a cohesive and functional kitchen. Communicate your clearly defined wants, needs, and budget early in the process. An initial design will take 1-3 days; a final design will depend on you, but can typically be completed in 1-4 weeks. Read: Why You Need (and Should Want) A Kitchen Designer.
1.7 Compare your initial quotes to your budget. Refine your spending plan. Your designer will provide a floor plan, renderings, and a detailed cabinet estimate. Using the floor plan, you can begin to get price quotes on cabinet installation as well as electrical, plumbing and other work. Communicate your budget boundaries with both your designer and any contractors so the whole team is on the same page.
1.8 Check local requirements for building permits. A permit is required for alterations including structural, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical changes to your house. If you have a contractor, he or she should take care of permitting. Check with your local building department and their websites to determine requirements and necessary paperwork. It could take up to 2 weeks for your application to be reviewed.
1.9 Finalize your plans like a pro. As the proverb goes, “measure twice, cut once.” Remeasure your kitchen to finalize your design. Then, formalize your plans and hire the necessary contract labor.
If you’re acting as your own general contractor:
- Create a scope of work and specifications document. This is your complete plan, detailing what is to be done, how it should be done, who is responsible for doing it, when it will be completed, and exactly what materials will be used. Give a complete copy to all of your subcontractors: this will help you avoid delays and miscommunication by getting everyone on the same page.
- Ensure your subcontractors are properly licensed, bonded and insured. The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) has licensing information by state.
Step 2: Ordering (1-2 months)
Wait for everything to arrive before starting your project. It’s much better to take time and inspect all materials before you start demolishing your space, rather than find out one month into construction that you have a faulty product. Rescheduling labor around replacement pieces is costly.
2.1 Order your cabinets. You and your designer have refined your initial floor plan and created room renderings to visualize the space in the door style and color you’ve selected. Now is the time to place your order for cabinets. For semi-custom and custom cabinets, allow 4-6 weeks for the cabinets to be built and shipped to your requirements. When your cabinets arrive, clear out a large space and give yourself 4-8 hours to inspect all cartons and ensure their good condition.
2.2 Order flooring, tile, and finishes. With your cabinet selection complete, it’s time to look at the flooring type, brand and color. Allow 3 to 4 weeks for special order flooring or tile to arrive. This is also a good time to select your hardware finishes and countertops, but note that the countertops will not be able to be fabricated until after your cabinets are installed.
2.3 Order lighting, sinks and faucets. The sparkle and shine of new lighting, sinks and faucets will add beauty and functionality to your new kitchen. Select the items you want and place orders to ensure they arrive in time for installation.
- Lighting. When selecting lights, your designer will be able to help you identify the work zones in your new floor plan where you’ll appreciate extra task lighting.
- Sink and Faucet. Your sink and faucet are one of the hardest working areas in your kitchen. Consider the size, depth and material as well as any special features before you make your final choice.
2.4 Order appliances. Are you planning on a stainless-steel cooktop or a more standard black or white appliance? A range hood made of wood, or glass? Cost and functionality is number one, but you also can consider how the look and finish of your appliances will work with your kitchen cabinetry. White appliances should be used with white kitchen cabinets, while black and stainless-steel appliances can pair well with a range of darker finishes.
2.5 Store your products. Prepare a large, safe storage area like a garage, porch, or dining room. Most products, especially wooden cabinets and flooring, will need to be stored in a climate controlled area. Excessive cold, heat, humidity, or dryness will cause damage to wood products.
2.6 Establish a temporary kitchen. Before your new cabinets are delivered and your old kitchen is turned into a construction zone, you’ll want to be ready with a temporary kitchen arrangement. Set up refrigeration and cooking in a different room. For some, this may be a simple work table plus a dorm-sized refrigerator and microwave. For others, the outdoor grill is the perfect solution.
2.7 Pack up your kitchen. After you’ve set up your temporary kitchen and before the sledgehammers start swinging, you’ll need to pack up everything else in your kitchen—plates, bowls, silverware, toasters, and coffee makers—and move it to a safe place. Now is also a good time to decide what you want to keep, give away, or throw out.
Step 3: Rough Construction (1-6 weeks)
Rough construction involves demolishing and building out the structural features and framing of the room: plumbing and electrical connections, walls, floors, and ceilings. This is a major step for remodels that involves alterations to the existing kitchen layout or ‘footprint’ and can take several weeks. But if the old kitchen footprint is preserved, then this step could be completed in a week or less.
3.1 Demolish your existing kitchen (2-3 days to 2-3 weeks). Out with the old, in with the new. Once your cabinets arrive and have been inspected, it is time to begin demolition of the existing kitchen.
- Confirm that water, gas, and electrical services to the kitchen are turned off.
- Leave the removal of walls and major structures to a knowledgeable contractor.
- Stay safe and be cautious of nails, boards and debris that can cause injury.
- Consider making alternative arrangement for your pets to minimize stress on the animals.
- Check local regulations to see how to dispose of or recycle your construction waste.
3.2 Build out utilities (1-2 weeks). As soon as the room is cleared, you’ll start by ‘roughing-in‘ electrical and plumbing jobs, which apply if you are moving a sink, stove, refrigerator, or other appliance that involves moving or adding gas or electrical fixtures, including lights and outlets. Before moving on, a local building inspector may need to visit and approve the work.
3.4 Install flooring (3-5 days). Flooring can be installed before or after the cabinets. It will depend on the type of floor you selected. Hardwood floors are usually installed before cabinets, while tile, vinyl, and ‘floating’ floors are often installed after cabinets are in place. Consult your contractor or flooring installer for their expertise.
Step 4: Finish Construction (1-2 months)
Whereas rough construction deals with the structure and framing of the kitchen space, finish construction services the interior elements of the space, including functional and aesthetic purposes. Kitchen fixtures such as cabinets, countertops, and appliances are finally installed and put into place. This is the final, and perhaps most satisfying, phase of the kitchen remodeling process—seeing your space take its functional, flashy, and final form.
4.1 Install cabinets (3-5 days). With the new kitchen roughed into place, it is time to begin cabinet installation. It’s essential that cabinets be mounted level, plumb, and square in relation to floor and walls. Any unevenness in cabinets must be shimmed and adjusted to function properly.
4.2 Measure, fabricate, and install countertops (1-4 weeks). Countertops cannot be measured, fabricated, and installed until base and pantry cabinets have been put into place. Pre-schedule the measure to avoid losing time. The measurement and installation will only take a day for each, but you may have to wait up to a month for the surfaces to be fabricated and shipped.
4.3 Install lighting (1-2 days). As soon as countertops are installed, you can begin installing your lighting and backsplashes. Wiring new switch boxes and lights can take a little time, but if you have already prepared your ceiling, work area, and under-cabinet spaces for lighting, they can be installed relatively easily.
4.4 Install backsplash (1-2 days). The backsplash won’t normally take more than one day, but could take longer, say if you’re using very small tiles to create a complicated design.
4.5 Install appliances, (1-2 days). Make sure your utility connections (gas, electricity, and HVAC ducts) are hooked up and ready to go before the day the appliances are scheduled for installation. Be careful moving and unpacking the heavy appliances – they could cause dings and scratches to your flooring and walls.
4.6 Install finish carpentry (2-4 days). To fine tune your kitchen, it’ll take a couple days to install crown molding, decorative accents, toe kick molding, and apply paint touch-ups. Adjust any unaligned cabinet doors or drawers. Level your appliances and make sure everything works.
4.7 Clean up the construction zone. Clear the work area and the ventilation system (ductwork) of dust and debris. Inspect your cabinets, wiping down all interiors and exteriors with a damp cloth and drying each area immediately with a second cloth. If you brought in a roll-off dumpster to gather materials, then it should be hauled away this week.
4.8 Unpack, set up, and accessorize. With the kitchen fully functional and shining clean, it’s time to unpack your pots, pans, dishes, and foodstuffs. Store them in their new belonging places. Add a few simple accessories, and congratulations! You’re ready to showcase your new kitchen!
- Prepare for the unexpected. Set aside 10 or 20 percent of your estimated project for surprise expenses. Once you begin demolishing your existing kitchen, it’s possible that you could discover crooked floors, a mold problem, insects or animals in the walls, or something else entirely. If the home was constructed before 1978, you want to determine whether the demolition area includes any lead paint or asbestos tile—both can cause airborne health hazards.
- See what parts you can do yourself. You’ll want to leave the most complicated projects to professionals. That includes anything involving main electrical lines, natural gas pipes, and load-bearing walls. It’s likely though that you can handle some of the smaller parts of your remodel. To save yourself money, look into the parts of a kitchen remodel you can DIY. This might include removing wallpaper, painting walls, and/or installing a tile backsplash.
- “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There’s a ton of information about home and kitchen remodeling out there, but you don’t need to know it all. As long as you surround yourself with knowledgeable subcontractors, a designer, etc., then they will be able to guide you through the thickets of your project. You can contact us with your questions — we’re here to help.
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