Kitchen renovation logistics...help me understand!
November 5, 2015 10:50 AM   Subscribe

We're getting ready to do our first renovation ever, and while we're excited, there's a lot that's overwhelming in the planning and process due to our lack of knowledge on how these projects typically work. I'm sort of needing some clarity regarding the "order of operations" for moving a project like this along, in addition to a whole bunch of questions and concerns we've been finding ourselves discussing.

We went to Home Depot last weekend and came up with a layout of the cabinets, appliances, peninsula, etc. that we like. We know we need to have exact measurements taken as a next step. We also have several contractors coming out to talk to us and then give us proposals.

Putting aside colors and material-types (we already know, generally, what we want), our list:

Demolition (contractor does this)
Moving plumbing (contractor does this)
Gas line (contractor does this)
Water line (contractor does this)
Electric (contractor does this)
Ventilation hood/exhaust (contractor does this)

The list of things we know we need to decide on:
Cabinet "types" and depths
Countertops (we know what material we want for these already)
Backsplash (subway tile. simple.)
Sink/faucet (what depth makes most sense...gah)
Flooring (I believe we know what type we want)
Appliances (deciding on cabinet-depth or not, and on which pieces, is tough...)
Lighting (haven't even thought about this yet)

- In what order do we choose and then order things?
- Do we have them hold for delivery until they begin the demolition? Is that typical? How else would this even work?
- What should the contractor be on top of managing and deciding vs. us needing to make sure we tell him?
- Compatibility: Things like ensuring that the sink we like is the right size for the countertop space we've designated for it...microwave fits the cabinet cutout for it...where will electric outlets be located/what happens to ones that will now look odd and out of place with the new layout...
- What happens when the city comes to check on things being up to the code, and they find something entirely unrelated to the renovation? Un-insulated unfinished basement, for example?

What else I may be missing? So overwhelmed.
posted by rbf1138 to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ugh. In theory I should know all this as my kitchen is just being finished as we speak... in practice we did a lot of things not quite right.

Your list is right on, it would help to make a really, really complete list of everything to ensure you have stuff picked out ahead of time. We delayed on picking tile for no specific reason (we were busy) and then had to wait to get it and that held everything up. So make all choices as early as possible.

You'll also need an electrical inspection or two in there, as your general contractor about when that should happen. Sometimes there can be delays with that.

- In what order do we choose and then order things?

Ideally choose it all once you have your contract signed and order it all right away. In practice, you'll have to finesse the delivery of everything unless you have a lot of storage space. The GC can help with this.

- Do we have them hold for delivery until they begin the demolition? Is that typical? How else would this even work?

Yeah, totally normal. I put a deposit on new appliances like 2 months before they got delivered. When the floors & cabinets were in I called to arrange delivery and paid the final amount. Just ask when you buy them how much lead time they need for delivery - if you buy some exotic stove it may take a while to get shipped in.

- What should the contractor be on top of managing and deciding vs. us needing to make sure we tell him?

Ordering of trades, all hiring & coordination of trades, basically everything except design stuff. Ask about design stuff though as sometimes design decisions have costs, so it's a good idea to check to see if some design element is easy or if it will be expensive. Which is not to say that you shouldn't do complex stuff, just that the GC can give you insight into costs a designer or you might not have.

- Compatibility: Things like ensuring that the sink we like is the right size for the countertop space we've designated for it...microwave fits the cabinet cutout for it...where will electric outlets be located/what happens to ones that will now look odd and out of place with the new layout...

No one answer here - they'll tell you this stuff, but you can also tell them if you want. Funny enough I had to return the first sink I bought because it was the wrong size. Buy stuff on Amazon - they have a great return policy and really good prices on sinks & fixtures & all that stuff. If you're having cabinets made, buy the microwave first, if the cabinet is a fixed size, but the microwave second... and either way make sure you can return or exchange it. Depending on how they do your kitchen they may rewire everything and you can put outlets anywhere you want.

One tip - check where light switches go! Mine all ended up oddly far from the edges of walls and I wish I had flagged it sooner. It's hard to tell when the walls are open.

- What happens when the city comes to check on things being up to the code, and they find something entirely unrelated to the renovation? Un-insulated unfinished basement, for example?

usually they won't look for random stuff, but ask your GC - a competent GC knows what the local inspectors are like. But inspectors generally aren't looking for trouble for you. And I don't think an unfinished basement is generally against building code, so you should be safe there.

Like I said, we just finished a kitchen reno which was our second one... feel free to memail.
posted by GuyZero at 11:05 AM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Have a plan for what you are going to do for a kitchen (temp) while yours is being demoed and rebuilt.
posted by AugustWest at 11:45 AM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Have a plan for what you are going to do for a kitchen (temp) while yours is being demoed and rebuilt.

OMG YES. I forgot all about that! We put ours in the backyard, but that was during August... there are lots of ways to make a temporary kitchen, but don't cut too many corners or you'll go crazy. But do make a plan.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Think a little harder about flooring, since demolition will be VERY quick and the next step after that is installing the new floor. (Don't be that home that installs the floor AFTER the cabinets. That never produces a good result).

Do you know what's underneath your current floor? Are you laying tile or wood? The subfloor will depend on your choice here. And the subfloor determines the thickness of the final floor. And the thickness determines how your thresholds, plumbing, countertops, cabinets, and electrical outlets will locate. Etc etc etc. When you see a kitchen that has a notch in the backsplash to make the outlet visible, this is why.

And seconding the eating arrangements thing. We did our kitchen in the summer specifically so we could barbeque almost everything.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't be that home that installs the floor AFTER the cabinets. That never produces a good result

I have done it both ways and they were both fine, but you have to choose which way to do based on a bunch of factors, most specifically what kind of cabinets you're installing. In my current house we did cabinets then floors and when I asked our GC about it he said it would make future flooring changes easier because you'd be able to redo the floor without ripping out the cabinets. And our cabinets were also built to be installed this way.

In the previous kitchen, we had Ikea cabinets which are built to be installed on top of a finished floor.

Again, a competent GC will have insight here.
posted by GuyZero at 12:02 PM on November 5, 2015


Don't forget the permits that you'll need before the inspector shows up at the end. Ideally, the contractor should also arrange for those.

Re: the inspector--this will depend on local inspector culture (really). When I've had permitted work done, the inspector has only looked at the renovations in question, not at anything else.

In general, expect for things to take longer than expected and/or to go wrong. For example, it's perfectly common for walls to be slightly out of true, depending on how old the house is, and so the contractor may have to do some extra work to compensate.

Electrical outlets: have a lot of them! This was sooo frustrating in my first house, where there was exactly one accessible outlet in the kitchen, over the counter space with the tiniest area.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:30 PM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know how to do this, but I am not where you are. Most kitchen cabinet sellers including IKEA will do a lot of the planning for you, for free. You can also ask your general contractor to do it for you, often for a small fee. Or you can hire an interior architect or designer. Where I live, some designers specialize in kitchens and can do a great job, listening to your needs, for a fair fee.
If your kitchen company or the contractor offers to do the planning, you should ask for references, and follow up on them. Some will advertise using a job where the planning was actually done by the client or a designer. Don't compromise.
If you have never tried this before, I am 100% certain the extra expenses of having a professional person plan this for you will pay off easily. A well-planned and beautiful kitchen will add considerably to the value of your house, and it will give you pleasure every day.

Some answers:

Cabinets with drawers instead of cupboards are more practical, because you make better use of all the depth. But of course for some things, cupboards are better. I have drawers for everything (including pots and pans) except for the brooms and buckets stuff. Also the high up cabinets are cupboards, of course. But I tried to avoid those.
Right now, a kitchen that resembles a living room seems to be very fashionable, and I like the style, with oak, or dark wood fronts and discreet or fancy handles. For this style, one would go for built-in appliances. There is this cool style where a huge part of the kitchen is hidden behind something which looks like panelling, and then it opens up to have drawers, countertops, built in appliances etc. Not the best example, but an idea of it
I have chosen to have a more classic and functional kitchen with white cabinets and a massive oak countertop, similar to this, because I really love cooking and I want good hygiene. White is good for spotting dirt, and oak (and other natural wood counters) have anti-bacterial properties. I bought everything in IKEA, and everything is OK, except the faucet, which will be replaced ASAP with better quality. My sink is the biggest from IKEA. A sink can never be too big. I like two sinks or a dual sink, but there wasn't room for both the biggest sink and another. Instead, I am going to get me some big steel bowls for soaking vegs and other stuff - IKEA has them too.
My fridge/freezer and dishwasher are built-in, and my range is a huge monster which was on sale because it was being discontinued.
I have custom handles bought at a designer store, which makes my kitchen seem fancier than it is for a very small sum.
But I live in a rental apartment. If this was my own property, I would have upscaled the appliances and maybe the fronts of the kitchen. If I had a lot of money, I'd have gone for a custom made kitchen. Recently I saw a 40-year-old custom made kitchen. It was flawless and still looked really cool.
Lighting is extremely important, as are well-placed outlets (as GuyZero said). I have prioritized finding a really good electrician, and a good advisor could help you with that. Think of both daylight and artificial light. get enough of it. If there is a dining table in your kitchen, get a really big lampshade over it, with dimmers; this will create a space around your dining which can be cosy or fresh, according to moods. For the countertops, use a lightsource which will give real colors - halogen, or high-end LED. Try to make sure your daylight is on the most important countertops.

Flooring is something that needs to fit your lifestyle. As someone who cooks and spills and has a hairy dog, I need an easy to clean surface. But I also need to walk around barefoot in the morning. So I have chosen linoleum, in a pale blue color. I used it for the backsplash, too. Linoleum, natural wood, brick and stone are lovely surfaces for bare feet, but they need careful maintenance. If this is not realistic, tiles might be better. Vinyl sticks to your feet and lacquered wood will need re-laquering every 5-10 years depending on the quality of the treatment.

I am thinking I might get an ethanol fireplace for my kitchen, because it is my favorite room and it would really perfect it. Along the same line, in my former kitchen, I had an antique Swedish daybed similar to this IKEA product, where friends and family could hang out. Everyone misses it. But just having a small sofa or a big armchair could add to the atmosphere of any kitchen. In that kitchen, I also had artworks on the walls, contributing to the homey feeling.
posted by mumimor at 12:41 PM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Appreciate the responses so far! Here's a question for those of you who've researched appliances (specifically fridges). I've heard "Stay away from Samsung fridges!" and told LG is better. I've been told the complete opposite, as well. Assuming I'm likely purchasing from Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. any real importance with which brand we ultimately choose?
posted by rbf1138 at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2015


We chose by Lowes + Home Depot website ratings. Things that had been around long enough to have hundreds or thousands of reviews, with 4* or above, and checking out the 1&2 star comments to make sure there wasn't a recent manufacturing run of terrible. It really helped narrow down the field of appliances to look at, which was a nice bonus.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:01 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


You mentioned that you're considering a counter-depth refrigerator. Be aware that they include significantly less storage than a regular-depth refrigerator. Don't listen to your contractor when they tell you it's not a big deal, as they rarely do all the cooking for their family!
posted by summerstorm at 10:09 AM on November 6, 2015


For appliances many libraries have electronic subscriptions to Consumer Reports these days so you can check those for appliance reviews. I ended up buying an LG for features and their reputation seems fine.

As for counter-depth fridges we bought this one (we paid less than MSRP) which is 24 cubic feet which should be plenty for a family of four. Although yes, many counter-depth fridges are smaller. The trouble with bigger fridges is that stuff gets really lost at the back of deep fridges and they stick waaaay out depending on your kitchen layout. The extra 3+ cubic feet of space at the very back of the fridge isn't really that useful. But do look at where the ice maker is, how the freezer is laid out, etc. The real complaint about cabinet-depth fridges is that it's hard to put big things in them. You can't buy a big frozen pizza because it won't fit in the freezer (which is a similar complaint to side-by-side fridges).

I would be a little cautious about buying anything that's exceptionally cheap at a big box retailer because it's probably a special model that's manufactured specifically to be cheap.

And skip all those door-in-door fridges - consumers reports indicates they're bad at keeping cold as there are too many seals and not enough insulation.

Definitely try to buy appliance around one of the high holy days of appliance sales - black friday, memorial day, columbus day, presidents day, etc. Again, you can often lock in the price and defer delivery but always check your particular store.
posted by GuyZero at 10:20 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


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