7 Things To Do When Remodeling Your Kitchen
Remodeling your kitchen is just about the biggest project you can undertake in your home!
So where do you start?
Having done kitchen remodels in Dallas/Fort Worth for over 17 years, I’m hoping this guide will help you as you navigate your project. Afterwards, I’ll share with you things to look for when selecting a kitchen remodeling contractor so you don’t lose your sanity.
Okay, here we go….
Before anything, please ensure you have the right permit/s pulled with your city. More specifically – your contractor needs to handle that. Any introduction of new plumbing, gas lines or electrical needs a permit. Any moving of circuits, plumbing/gas lines needs a permit. Be very wary of those who tell you “no you don’t need one”. It’s really not worth the risk considering most cities require them and impose penalties on those trying to evade them.
Of course, if you’re just replacing the countertops, cabinets, flooring, etc. this doesn’t require permits in most cities I’ve worked with but again; verify with your contractor.
Assuming that is out of the way, I always advise clients to pick out their materials before giving the green light for workers to start tearing things out. So things like your flooring, backsplash, sinks/faucets, appliances, lighting fixtures, etc. should be selected and preferably at your home beforehand.
This makes the process for you and your contractor much smoother as workers won’t be left waiting for materials to arrive. It’s also a whole lot easier to get your materials from one place if possible so you’re given only one set of tracking/shipping numbers instead of many from different stores.
The two stores that contain everything you need for your kitchen remodel and the ones my clients and I most frequently purchase from are below. They are both one-stop-shops and they ship promptly anywhere in the US:
Be sure to go over all plans with your contractor well beforehand.
Your contract should specify everything that’s going to be done on the job. Double check to make sure you are happy with everything.
Some things are minor details that are often not discussed such as who supplies and installs handles on the kitchen cabinets, baseboard replacement and trim or how they will handle the refrigerator in case it needs to be temporarily moved out of the kitchen.
I’ve even seen instances of paint color not being specified.
Once everything has been agreed on, just be sure to make dinner arrangements for as long as the project takes!
Once the work begins, the very first step is demolition.
Please be aware a complete kitchen makeover is going to involve tearing out just about everything including cabinets and countertops.
Add to that the floor tile that usually comes out and you are going to experience a significant amount of dust.
Don’t let anyone downplay this and tell you “it’s not that bad”. No, it actually is, so be prepared!
It’s your responsibility to make arrangements for anyone in the house that’s allergic to dust. Other things to consider: Any pets that may struggle like fish, birds, etc?
Of course, the extent of the demolition is going to depend on what you’re getting done. Here is a list of items that we demo/remove when doing a complete kitchen remodel:
- Wallpaper if required
- Texture or other unwanted wall coatings
- Light fixtures
- Cabinets and drawers
- Switches (relocate if required)
We usually try to complete as many items as possible that have an electrical element first.
For example, if you’re getting new lighting or fan/s, the electrician comes in during this early stage to run his wires and cut into sheetrock if required. You don’t want this happening after all the painting is done!
They can also relocate switches or install dimmers if need be at this point. The electrician will need to return at the final phases to trim out the lights and install any under cabinet lighting, electric cooktop, etc. The time to rough in your wires is now right after demo.
Same thing with plumbing – if you’re needing any plumbing or gas lines, moved, relocated or introduced, now is the time to do them when everything is torn out. Just be sure your contractor has pulled the required permits!
I would then turn my attention to your cabinets if you are doing them. Generally speaking, if you’re going to do a light colored countertop, then darker color cabinets contrast really well:
I’ve also seen many kitchens with darker countertops that pick up the colors from the cabinets, flooring and walls and they look just as impressive.
The idea is to coordinate everything together in a natural manner.
If you’re getting new cabinets, your options are to either get some prefabricated ones or have them custom made.
Obviously each has their pros and cons, but the main advantages with getting new custom cabinets is you can specify precisely the number of drawers, doors, shelves and any other detail you like. You can also pick the type of wood, color and finish.
If your cabinets can be refinished, that’s also a great option particularly because it saves you quite a bit of money. Should you paint or stain your cabinets? This is going to depend on the type of material your cabinet is made from. If you’re getting new cabinets made from paint grade, oak, maple or any other hardwood, I always recommend staining them because they just look a lot better.
Painting coats the top of the surface while staining penetrates underneath and brings out the natural grain better.
It’s a good idea to start with your floors for a couple of reasons:
- If you’re removing tile, it’s going to get the majority of dust out of the way earlier in the project
- Porcelain tile is very resilient and will hold up well throughout the project as other items are being worked on
There are a lot of choices for your kitchen flooring but the most popular one still is ceramic/porcelain tile.
The general trend these days is moving away from small sizes and going for much larger sizes like 20 x 20, 24 x 24, 12 x 24 and even 24 x 48 rectangular sizes.
The bigger the tile, the less grout lines which means easier to clean and maintain. It also makes your space appear bigger but they also run more to install. The other really popular segment is putting in tile that looks like wood; which we have done a lot of.
Get with your contractor and/or designer to see which options are best for you since some homes are even suitable for hardwood floors in kitchens while others are not.
Something else to keep in mind is if you are replacing your dishwasher, make sure it will fit in its designated place before the flooring goes in.
Sometimes even a quarter of an inch in floor height won’t allow it to fit. Double check the precise dimensions so you know if it’s best to put the dishwasher in before or after.
Once all plans, demolition, preliminary electrical work and granite slab selection have been done, now is the time to focus on the countertops.
Now, you really get a chance to examine your existing space and go over your preliminary plans again with the contractor.
Verify how much you wish to either extend, or shorten your new area by.
As you can see below, we extended the area by cutting the stone into a large semi circle, thereby gaining significantly more counter space.
This gives occupants a new eating area where bar stools can be placed. Working closely with the client and fabricator, the precise dimensions were specified before any granite was cut.
Granite countertops are the showcase of your kitchen so take your time when selecting your stone.
I strongly advise against selecting marble or travertine or any soft stone as you will not be happy with it long term.
Sure they look great initially, but since they are porous and soft they are going to be difficult to maintain particularly if you have an active household.
Think of dropped utensils which chips them easily and all the potentially difficult to get out stains like mustard. Even when sealed, they can be problematic.
Stick with granite, quartz or similar hard materials that are very resilient and go for a 3cm thickness vs 2cm which is often used in bathrooms.
IMPORTANT: Select Your Own Slab!
It’s time for you to actually see the slab/s that’s going into your kitchen.
Do not and I repeat, do not just give the contractor free reign to select whatever they like because natural stone has a huge variation between sample and slab.
You run the risk of thinking you’re getting one thing by going off a swatch or small sample, then when they install it, it looks completely different and you’re left disappointed.
So I urge you to insist on going to the slab yard with the contractor to select the actual slab/s. You will see for yourself even slabs of the same color can even vary considerably.
Some stones for example have veins or natural birthmarks right in the middle of the slab. Now if you do not like that look you can simply select another slab, but without seeing it, you will never know.
I make sure to bring the client to the slab yard on every kitchen remodel so they get exactly what they select.
Do not skip this step!
It’s also a great opportunity to see what else is out there in terms of tile for your floors and backsplash material.
Finally, granite is a natural stone and must be sealed to protect it from ordinary household stains. Be sure to have the countertops sealed either at the factory, or on site after the installation.
Once your countertops are in, you can now install your backsplash.
Work with your contractor to do a backsplash that blends with your counters and depending on your taste – you may want it to stand out; or to compliment the countertops. Browse your backsplash options here.
The previous pictures show a very plain yet elegant design that ties everything together without being overwhelming.
It all gets down to personal taste!
When your old countertops are removed the first couple of rows of your backsplash will also be damaged so best to remove everything together.
Make sure the countertops go in first! There was one client years ago that installed a new backsplash then called me for a countertop estimate, LOL! 😀
One thing to keep in mind if you are replacing your stove or cooktop…
The fabricator for the granite needs to take exact measurements of those units so they can cut the stone correctly. It’s best to have those at the house prior to them coming out so they don’t need to make a second trip.
You will notice once the counters go in, selecting colors for your walls, floors and cabinets becomes so much easier.
Your final step should be your wall and trim to finish everything out.
Paint color is easier selected once you put a decent size sample on your wall and have time to look at it at different times of day, angles, lighting etc.
So if you aren’t sure which color to go with, take your time and proceed at your own pace.
If you’re having particular difficulty in color selection, Sherwin Williams offers an excellent service where consultants come to your home and help you with the whole process.
I’ve used them several times before with great results for the client. Whether you’re doing just your kitchen or entire home, they can assist with anything.
Your baseboards, door casings, crown molding, etc can be any color you like but in 90% of cases, they are white. It’s a good, safe choice that works with anything.
So those are the 7 major items you need to focus on during the remodel but be careful – not all contractors are the same!
Here’s a quick contractor checklist:
- Turnkey service – Do they provide a turnkey service? In other words, will you be dealing with five different people or is there one central point of accountability?
- Scope – what scope do they cover? Some claim to redo kitchens when all they do for example, are countertops and backsplashes. Ask!
- Money up front: DO NOT pay everything up front! That’s begging to be scammed. We structure our agreements so there’s an initial deposit then the COD on each item as it completes. That way, it’s transparent for all.
- Expertise: Do they sound like they know what they’re on about? If your gut says no, then find someone else.
- Keeping appointments: Do they show up on time? Call if running late? Do they send you the quote when they say they will; or vanish and you ever hear back from them?
Q: Shall I get new cabinets or refinish my existing?
A: This is going to depend on your existing cabinets as well as what you like and don’t like. Check with your contractor if your cabinets can be refinished or not because you will be very surprised at the difference a high-quality stain or paint can make to the overall look of your kitchen.
Q: How many slabs will I need for my countertops?
A: As a guide, smaller kitchens need 1, medium to large around 2 and very large 3 or more.
Q: Total square footage of my slab was 55 but the contractor said they can only get 50 sq/ft from it – why?
A: Just like with flooring, overage/waste is factored in when cutting a slab. It’s going to depend on the way it is cut particularly if you specify which pieces should go where. So a little loss is normal and shouldn’t be cause for concern.
Q: How long will it take?
A: Assuming everything is in stock and you’re doing an entire kitchen makeover, between 14-16 days after the cabinets go in. Custom cabinets are usually 2-6 weeks out depending on project.
Although there are a lot of items to check off the list in a complete kitchen remodel, these can be all taken care of with careful planning with an experienced contractor.
Be sure to buy your appliances ahead of time; as well as your lighting so any required plumbing and electrical can be sorted out early.
The national average for a kitchen remodel is $22,119.00 with a typical range of $12,561.00 – $33,417.00, depending on what’s involved.
It’s always a smart idea to see if you can refinish your cabinets as this can not only rejuvenate your kitchen’s appearance but save you quite a bit of money in the process.
If you’re in the Dallas or Fort Worth area and would like some assistance on your project, drop me a line here.
I hope this overview has been helpful to you.
Best of luck on your project!