A kitchen renovation can be one of the more complex home renovations to take on. Not only do you have to consider how the finished project will look, but you also have to think about space, budget, and contractors. To help you better understand how to prepare for a kitchen renovation without breaking the bank or burning out, this blog will explore how to create a budget, determine the right layout for your home, and partner with a contractor during the process.
We’ve also compiled a fun quiz at the bottom of this blog to help you figure out what type of kitchen may make the most sense for you!
Figure Out What You Want
While you’re envisioning your dream kitchen, spend some time researching specific elements that might be important to you. For example, if you love cooking with cast iron but don’t have enough storage space for all your pots and pans, try choosing tall cabinets (also called pantry or utility cabinets).
You may also want to think about how you like to use your kitchen. For instance, do you like to make pancakes every Sunday morning? Do you enjoy entertaining and hosting get-togethers where everyone brings their dish of choice? If so, ample counter space and easy access to outlets (so you can plug in all the necessary appliances for cooking) is an important design element to prioritize.
Weighing What You Want vs. What You Need
Many homeowners start remodeling projects with visions of marble countertops, cherry wood cabinets, and stainless steel appliances dancing in their heads. These items are luxuries that may be a nice choice but should be considered upgrades instead of necessities. As you sit down to draw up your budget, be sure to differentiate between what is truly necessary (must-haves) and what is simply desirable (want-to-haves).
For example, granite countertops are a luxury (rather than a necessity) because most people will be just as happy with new options available in laminate surfaces. As best you can, try to avoid keeping up with the Joneses and focus on what makes sense for you, your budget, and the personal functionality of the space.
Getting the Budget Right
The kitchen is often one of the most expensive rooms in your home. But this doesn’t mean your remodel has to drive you into debt. Before you dive into the depths of how to prepare for a kitchen renovation, start price-shopping cabinets and countertops. It’s also helpful to sit down with a pen and paper and figure out what kind of budget you’re working with before you wonder how to finance a kitchen remodel.
Figure out how much disposable income (money after taxes) you have every month, then separate that into segments, including your mortgage or rent payment, utilities, and groceries.
Once you have a total number available each month — minus any outstanding debts — it’s time to talk numbers with your building materials supplier and contractor to put together an accurate estimate based on the scope of your project.
Choosing the Right Layout
Deciding on the right kitchen layout idea is an important part of preparing for a kitchen renovation. You need to determine where your appliances will go, how you’ll store food, and if you’ll have enough room for friends and family when they visit. Partnering with high-quality designers and contractors can help make this part of the planning process much simpler.
As far as appliances go, think about what works best for you and what makes the most sense. Custom-built cabinets may cost more upfront, but they may offer more flexibility and storage options down the road.
Kitchens are one of the first things a buyer looks at in a home, so choosing a layout that makes sense and won’t become outdated in a few years can pay dividends in the future. Also, as more ornate, large kitchens grow in popularity, real estate becomes more expensive, so think about the future if you’re not yet in your forever home.
While you may be tempted to create a kitchen just for you, doing so could affect resale popularity in the future. Be sure that the layout of your kitchen makes sense and isn’t simply artistic for the sake of it.
Kitchen Space Planning
Before you actually take the steps to remodel your kitchen, take stock of your space. A floor plan will tell you how much room you have in existing cabinets and let you know if any walls need to be knocked down or built up before you can get started.
If your current kitchen doesn’t have much space, a new kitchen remodel layout that features flexible appliances you can tuck under countertops or fold against walls as needed may help. Your appliances are also just as important in determining how big your remodeled kitchen will be. You want pieces that won’t take up too much space, but also don’t limit what else can fit into your kitchen.
- Counters: Plan to have at least 36 inches of counter space for food preparation, with at least 24 inches on one side of the sink and 18 inches on the other. If you can fit more, do so.
- Appliances: Leave adequate floor space in front of appliances so you can open the doors and still walk in front of them. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least 30 to 48 inches. Also, take note of the direction and depth of swinging appliance doors, especially when it comes to the refrigerator. If you plan to have your fridge next to a wall, make sure the door swings in the opposite direction, otherwise the wall may prohibit the door from opening all the way.
- Walkways: Leave enough room for traffic flow. There should be at least 42 inches between the counters and the island so that people can easily walk through without disrupting anyone working at the counters.
How to Find a Contractor
When working through the list of how to prepare for a kitchen renovation, finding a kitchen remodeling contractor near you can feel overwhelming. But a quality contractor can be the difference between getting the kitchen of your dreams vs. a remodel that’s more of a nightmare than anything else. To help you in this process, here are a few tips to keep in mind when thinking about how to find a contractor:
- Look for references. Word travels fast in the world of remodels and renovations, so be sure to vet the contractors you want to work with and ask them for references. A homeowner will seldom lie about their renovation experience, so ask them if the process went according to plan and how the finished product came out.
- Visit them on site. Sometimes, you may be able to visit a contractor while they’re working another job (always be sure you or your prospective contractor have cleared it with the homeowners first) to see how they operate. You can learn a lot about a contractor’s style of work by seeing for yourself how clean the site is and how carefully the work is performed.
- Ensure they’re qualified. While a handyman can get a lot of work done, it’s not the best choice for a complete kitchen renovation. Be sure the contractor you partner with is licensed and certified. This will help ensure you’re partnering with a professional with a proven track record, and keep you covered if any legal issues arise over incomplete work. In the busyness of planning for a kitchen remodel, finding the right contractor can feel difficult. At J&L, we partner with qualified and credentialed contractors to take one more thing off your renovation to-do list.
Contractor Mistakes to Avoid During a Kitchen Remodel
There are plenty of ways to save when thinking through how to prepare for a kitchen renovation. However, cutting corners on a contractor shouldn’t be one of them. Below we’ll explore a few common mistakes people often make when choosing a contractor for a kitchen remodel.
- Hiring the cheapest contractor around. Just because they’re offering the best deal, doesn’t mean they’re going to complete the best work. Building off of the importance of looking for licensed contractors, you want to be sure you’re choosing someone who fits in your budget while also offering quality, long-lasting work.
- Not understanding the unexpected can happen. Another mistake to avoid is being too rigid with deadlines. While a professional contractor can usually complete the job within the projected timeline, the unexpected can occur. From supply chain issues to bad parts, things can go wrong. And while your contractor is working for you, you must work with them to understand when issues arise that are outside of their control.
- Not being flexible. Building off of the previous point, it’s important to have a plan B in case deadlines get pushed back. Can you afford to go without a fully remodeled kitchen for a week or two longer than the original projected completion date? If not, perhaps you want to consider holding off on the remodel until you enter a season of life that allows for some more flexibility on your part.
Keep the Crew Happy
You never know when you might start looking to renovate another room of your home. Partnering with people you’ve worked with before can remove a lot of stress and increase job efficiency. To help establish a positive first impression, below are a few ways you can help keep the crew happy and create an atmosphere conducive to excellent work.
- Refreshments. There’s certainly no need to provide three square meals a day, but offering your contractor(s) a glass of water or a thermos of coffee can go a long way.
- Responsibility. While they may enjoy seeing your pets from time to time, remember that the more space you allow your contractor(s) to work, the more efficiently the job will be completed. In short, teach pets (and even your kids) the meaning of “keep out.”
- Respect. Something as simple as saying good morning, good night, or good job can make a big difference. Again, building a sense of mutual respect between you and your contractor(s) is a great way to foster potentially profitable relationships for all parties involved.
Tips for Saving Money During Your Kitchen Remodel
With kitchen remodels costing on average between $25,000-$40,000, any way you can cut back can be beneficial. But this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything you want just to stay within budget. There are plenty of tricks for saving money during your kitchen remodel that don’t involve cutting out appliances or knocking down walls.
If you plan, you might be able to secure some matching furniture or countertops that won’t need replacing when the rest of your kitchen does. While a full kitchen renovation often happens all at once, it may be in your best interest to slowly complete one project at a time to look for deals and spread out the cost.
A good contractor is often willing to talk about discounts on labor and materials when they know your project is part of a larger renovation plan. Additionally, contractors may charge less during their slower times of the year. This may mean waiting until summer for contractors in most parts of the country, but winter isn’t necessarily off-limits.
What’s Your Kitchen Personality? Take the Quiz!
Even with all your planning, it can still feel difficult to figure out where to start and how to determine what style of kitchen will suit you. To help you in this process, we’ve compiled a list of questions that will help you figure out some of the things you’ll need in your new kitchen.
- How often do you cook?
- Rarely. Our family loves take-out.
- We’re great cooks. We love entertaining guests and cooking for family members.
- We usually prepare quick and easy meals. On holidays, however, we prepare large meals.
- How busy is your kitchen?
- It’s basically deserted.
- It’s the heart of the house. It’s where everyone congregates.
- It can be a little busy when we have guests over.
- How many cooks are there in your household?
- Cooking is only done when necessary.
- Our household cooks together. Meals are prepared and cooked by everyone (even the kids).
- Usually just one person cooks at our house.
- Which of these statements about your ideal kitchen best fits you?
- We would benefit from an expanded recycling center for plastics, paper, glass and other items.
- A kitchen with extra storage and increased cooking space is a must, such as a six-burner range, dual ovens, and extra prep space.
- A kitchen that can serve as a place to congregate and entertain is important. We want it to be the hub of the home.
- What are your thoughts about easy clean-up?
- A minimal kitchen that requires minimal cleaning is best for us.
- We don’t mind cleaning as long as the kitchen has high-grade appliances and enough space.
- We’re always busy. The less there is to clean, the better.
Results: What is Your Kitchen Personality?
If you answered mostly A’s: Minimal Use Kitchen
We get it. We’re all busy and take-out makes everything so much easier. Basically, you use the kitchen for reheating leftover take-out and sorting your recycling afterward. Even though you rarely use your kitchen, if you plan to sell your home someday, the kitchen might matter a lot more to a buyer than it does to you.
To keep your kitchen modern and attractive to potential buyers, we recommend investing in decent quality appliances, surfaces, and occasional upgrades. Feel free to invest in features that make it more usable for you, such as a multi-function recycling center.
If you answered mostly B’s: Chef-inspired Kitchen
You are a gourmet home cook and you need a kitchen that keeps up with your high standards. Kitchens with commercial-grade appliances, extra prep surfaces, multiple ovens, and versatile cooking options will allow you to create any culinary masterpiece you can imagine.
If you do plan to sell your house in the future, consider that extensive kitchen upgrades might not provide you with the same return on your investment as you paid for in renovations. If you don’t mind that, go ahead and create your culinary paradise!
If you answered mostly C’s: Easy to Use and Easy to Clean Kitchen
Your kitchen personality favors durable, easy-to-clean surfaces and appliances. You prefer little hassle and as little fuss as possible in the kitchen. A kitchen that is convenient, easy to use, and easy to clean will suit you.
There’s no need to spend money on appliances you won’t use. Instead, make the most of your time in the kitchen by adding functionality and simplicity. Quartz or composite counter surfaces may be ideal for you since they don’t need resealing and can withstand heat and stains.