Real kitchen renos!
January 7, 2006 7:13 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about renovating a kitchen?

We're planning a complete renovation of our kitchen and not having had any experience in this area, what do I need to know? I've flipped through various kitchen design magazines and have an idea of what I'd like the new kitchen to look like but I don't know where to go from here. Do I go visit kitchen showrooms to pick out the cabinets and tiles, etc and then contact a contractor to make my dream kitchen a reality? Or do I talk to a contractor first who will have access to various supplier samples?

Also, any advice on what to look out for or to avoid would be greatly appreciated.
posted by phoenixc to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
this is a HUGE HUGE question ... in some ways too big for AskMe. Are you working with a contractor? A really good residential remodeling contractor will have enough experience and a knowledge of what works and what doesn't to really help you plan our what you need, not just what you want. They'll know the difference between "design" (as in decoration) and design (as in the organization of the kitchen) and will help you see how these things are interrelated but sometimes not. Where are you located? What style is your home? How large is the kitchen? Do you cook a lot, or just sometimes? WHen you entertain, do you do it in the kitchen?

We pretty much live in our kitchen, in a turn of the century Mission Revival bungalow. And entertain a lot. I'm in the beginning stages of a major remodel with a contractor here in Sacramento CA who I trust very, very much - email me and I can tell you about the planning stages and other remodeling projects that I've done, and maybe some of it will be helpful. I'm at
posted by luriete at 7:37 PM on January 7, 2006

The only thing I know about renovating your kitchen is that it will always cost you at least ten thousand dollars more than you thought it would.
posted by Jairus at 7:48 PM on January 7, 2006

I don't know if any of this will help but anyway: kitchen renovations on a budget thread.
posted by jikel_morten at 8:10 PM on January 7, 2006

Yes, a huge question! Too many possible answers w/o more info.
Plan, plan, plan. Decide your budget and your timeline, and then add 25% to each. Get a software package (usually under $50) to help visualize your options. Talk to friends who have already been through it, so you get a sense of the scope you are undertaking. Order cabinets and appliances WAY early. When you start spending real money, get everthing in writing.

I also made it through a succesful kitchen remodel, and would be glad to share my experience.
posted by pgoes at 8:43 PM on January 7, 2006

Depending on your budget, you might want to talk to a professional kitchen designer. They could help you avoid problems you never considered, and most know good general contractors.

Expensive, but unless you want to do a ton of learning and legwork, worth it.
posted by Marky at 9:06 PM on January 7, 2006

I did a total tear-down of my kitchen when I moved into my house. I had a lot of help from family members (YMMV) but most of the following steps can be done by several different professionals:

1. Remove old flooring appliances and cabinets. We ripped up a lot of linoleum and it only took two people and an afternoon. If you have been left with tile that is in good repair my advice is to leave it.

2. Make a blueprint of the room including exact locations of all doors, windows and outlets. Draw up where you want to put new appliances and cabinets. If you are not against using Ikea, their kitchen planner software is really handy for figuring out what you need and where it will go. Select appliances, but hold off on ordering them.

3. Hire an electrician and/or a plumber to put new outlets where you want them and move water/gas lines around. You can never have too many outlets.

4. Select and apply paint color. Hold off on molding until the cabinets are installed.

5. Install flooring. We were lucky and had nice hardwood floors that we sanded and re-varnished. You may not need a professional if you have a friend with some experience to show you what you need to do with the flooring of your choice.

6. Assemble and install base and wall cabinets. Add countertops and sink(s).

7. Order appliances and have them installed.

8. Add finishing touches. Curtains, kick-boards, mouldings.

If you go to a kitchen showroom they will help you create a kitchen every step of the way, but expect to pay dearly for the convenience. Go with an independent contractor if you can get a good recommendation, but you will be at the mercy of the contractor's schedule. You will be best equipped to get an accurate estimate with a blueprint of what you want and the exact dimensions of your kitchen.
posted by Alison at 10:02 PM on January 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

There's plenty of info on HGTV, DYI both do-it-yourself and how to use contractors.

Be prepared for the disruption to last anywhere from a month (quick) to three or four months (average). Plan on setting up an auxilary kitchen or eating out a lot.
posted by Corky at 4:35 AM on January 8, 2006

We did a renovation two summers ago. Based on our experience, I'd recommend:

(1) Talking to a contractor first -- you can get an estimate, recommendations for places to get materials, and maybe some ideas you hadn't thought of, even if you don't end up hiring the contractor. In fact, call several contractors and ask them to come over. It's important to find one you feel like you can work with.

(2) Avoiding Home Depot. We consistently have horrible experiences there, and the kitchen was no exception. The free design services are tempting, but the people are clueless and you will end up with a poorly designed kitchen and misordered parts.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:16 AM on January 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, everyone! I realize this is a huge undertaking and was feeling rather clueless about what the next steps were.

We're not really changing the layout of our kitchen too much, we're actually quite happy with it as is, but the cabinets are 30+ years old and showing it, i hate the boring beige backsplash and counters and some of the tiles in our floor are cracked--they too are in a boring beige, but a darker beige.

Rather than spend the bucks on planning software, I downloaded the ikea kitchen planner from their website and it's been pretty helpful so far--who knew imagining a kitchen in 3-D could be so much fun? I'm not sure if we'll actually go with ikea since I'm still rather skeptical of their quality, but I think we may talk to them at the very least to get a quote for a basis of comparison.
posted by phoenixc at 6:13 AM on January 8, 2006

If you do go with ikea cabinets you can probably do a lot of the installation yourself if you are somewhat mechanically inclined. Standard cabinets are installed as separate "boxes", and and differences in floor height etc need to be accounted for by shimming or cutting down the boxes. If I remember correctly Ikea cabinets are installed with adjustable feet for leveling the floor cabinets and a "hanging rail" for the top cabinets; you attach the rail to the wall and hang the cabinets on there. I haven't done it myself but I've heard it's not much harder than one of their more complex pieces of furniture.
posted by true at 7:48 AM on January 8, 2006

Ikea cabinets vary quite highly in quality, but I am very happy with my set after one year. The assembly of the cabinets takes quite some time unlike other brands of cabinets which are shipped assembled. There is an installation service if you don't want to bother with it yourself.
posted by Alison at 8:10 AM on January 8, 2006

Get used to eating a LOT of take-out and delivery food.
posted by ducktape at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2006

I'm actually in the middle of a whole-house renovation (which I've been blogging about and photographing obsessively). I've got the luxury of living nearby while work goes on, which means the contractor can work faster and not disrupt my life (much).

I'm not impressed by Ikea stuff, but the price is pretty good. We've been working with a contractor, and although our initial plan was to order cabinets through either a kitchen planner or Home Depot, our contractor convinced us to use a local cabinet-maker he knows. This probably increased our final costs by about $500, but the work was done much faster, and we were able to get some oddball dimensions that would increase costs if we had used any of the major cabinetry vendors (American Woodmark, etc).

Start by obsessively measuring everything in and near the kitchen--door and window placements, etc. Draw it out (we drew everything in Illustrator, just because) and figure out how you'd like the kitchen to be laid out in the best possible world. This may actually involve changes to the adjacent parts of the house. Visit several kitchen showrooms. Visit the big-box home-improvement stores. Visit appliance stores (are you going to want new appliances?) Collect lots of catalogs. Get estimates from everyone. Different kitchen planners may have different ideas, and you can put together the best of them.

Then figure out what you can afford and start compromising. Figure out what you can do (or are willing to do) yourself.
posted by adamrice at 11:28 AM on January 8, 2006

I've completely rehabbed two kitchens. The No. 1 problem with living through rehab is where to wash the damn dishes. You can cook (get a cheap micro, or grill if it's warm enough outside) easily enough. But washing dishes in the tub is a pain. And paper plates get old, and eventually you've gotta clean the coffee cups. As you rehab, do whatever you can to retain access to running water in some rudimentary form. In my second kitchen, I dismantled the counter cabinets that housed my sink, and then built a very primitive frame to hold the old sink, still connected to the plumbing. That kept me going for most of the job. But at some point you will lose your sink -- there's always at least a week between new cabinet installation and countertop installation (you can't put the new sink in until the countertop is laid down).

Don't go nuts on a dishwasher. They're all the same.

If you can, vent the air hood over the stove to the outside.

Ikea looks great and won't last 5 years.

Also, get used to the dust.
posted by sixpack at 5:15 PM on January 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I got some good advice in this thread, even though four months later I haven't even started working on it. Also, check out Gardenweb's That Home Site forums: remodeling and kitchens. You can get lots of responses to every little question you have along the way.
posted by kmel at 8:03 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

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