How long does it take to remodel a kitchen? What are the steps?
Depending on its size and scope, a kitchen remodel can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year or more.
For a major renovation involving changes to the structure and layout of the space, a realistic remodel timeline is 6 to 12 months. That includes the time it takes to plan and design your space, hire a contractor, order products, demolish the existing kitchen, and then build-out the new kitchen.
Home renovation projects like a kitchen remodel are complicated because important steps must happen in a very particular order. Disruptions to that order, such as a contractor or subcontractor falling ill, or the weather delaying a product shipment, lengthen the entire process. Anticipate these hiccups by building buffer times between each step.
So, what are the steps to remodeling a kitchen? This is an outline of a kitchen remodel 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
Define your project’s scope.
Begin by envisioning your end-goal, your dream. Gather photos and design inspiration. Refine the style until you feel like you know exactly what you want. Will you replace cabinets, countertops, flooring and appliances? Add a sink or range hood? Move a wall? Dream big, and then ask yourself what is a must-have and what is nice-to-have. The larger the scope of your remodel, the more important it will be to develop and stick to a detailed plan.
Create a budget.
The industry rule-of-thumb for a major kitchen remodel is to budget 10-25 percent of your home’s total value. But regardless of the dollar amount you’ve determined for yourself is appropriate, knowing and sticking to your budget is critical. To be safe, include an extra 10-15% safety cushion into your budget, in the case that unexpected problems or issues arise. Learn More: What Does it Cost to Remodel a Kitchen? Understanding Your Renovation Budget
Do your homework on potential contractors or subcontractors.
What professionals do you need for your renovation? A major kitchen remodel may require an electrician, plumber, HVAC installer, cabinet installer, sheet rocker, tile installer, demolition crew, and so on.
- Hire a contractor. A contractor manages the materials and the people going in and out of the house. This person must be experienced, communicative, and trustworthy. The best way to find a reliable contractor in your area is typically going to be through word-of-mouth referrals. Interview the contractors to find out about their business practices, as well as their willingness to listen to your ideas. As good contractors may be booked many weeks in advance, 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. This is especially true if you want to act as your own contractor and manage subs on your own.
Measure your space.
At this stage, your measurements don’t have to be perfect, but they should be close. Contractors may make an appointment just to collect precise measurements. Measure the outside walls, windows and doorways of your space. These initial measurements are all that’s technically required in order to start creating a kitchen design.
Consult a kitchen designer.
When your measurements are complete, you’ll want to contact a designer. Your designer’s job is to translate your ideas and inspiration into a cohesive and functional kitchen. Communicate your 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. Learn More: Why You Need (and Should Want) A Kitchen Designer.
Select your cabinet door style and color.
Painted or stained? Monochrome or two-toned? Shaker or raised-panel? Your cabinetry style is a big decision, and making it early will help you choose the design of your countertops, flooring and lighting fixtures.
Compare your initial quotes to your budget.
Now that you have a kitchen floor plan, you can use it to get precise quotes from contractors or subcontractors, especially concerning plumbing, electrical, and other structural work. Communicate your budget boundaries with both your designer and contractor so the whole team is on the same page.
Check local requirements for building permits.
A building permit may be required for structural, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical alterations 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 can take up to 2 weeks for your application to be reviewed.
Finalize your plans like a pro.
“Measure twice, cut once.” Remeasure your kitchen to finalize your design. Then, formalize your plans and sign your contracts.
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)
Before you start demolishing your space, wait for all your materials to arrive first. Take the time to inspect everything and ensure that nothing is faulty. Discovering that problem a month into construction may be costly.
Order your cabinets.
After your floor plan is finalized, place your order for cabinets. The lead-time for cabinetry will vary depending on the cabinet manufacturer as well as the cabinet type (stock, semi-custom or custom). Semi-custom cabinetry will take 4-6 weeks to be built to your requirements and shipped to your door. Prepare a large, dry space to place the cartons, and give yourself 4-8 hours to inspect the boxes to ensure their good condition.
Order flooring, tile, and finishes.
With your cabinet selection complete, it’s time to look at other complimentary products such as flooring and backsplash tile. 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 the cabinets are installed.
Order lighting, sinks and faucets.
The sparkle and shine of new lighting, sinks and faucets 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.
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 the primary concern for appliances, but they’re also part of the aesthetic of your design. White appliances may be paired with white kitchen cabinets, while black and stainless-steel appliances can look good with a range of darker finishes.
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.
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.
Pack up your kitchen.
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 declutter and decide what you want to keep, throw away, or donate.
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 may take several weeks. But if the old kitchen footprint is preserved, then this step could be completed in a week or less.
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.
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.
Install drywall (2-3 days).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Install appliances, (1-2 days).
It’s the final leg! 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.
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.
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.
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. Contact our design team with your questions — we’re here to help.