Over a year ago, my husband and I embarked on a journey to remodel our 20-year old kitchen. With at least one cabinet falling off of the wall and our stovetop on its last leg, we knew it was time. And having a safe and working kitchen was just part of the reason. We saw this as our opportunity to create a more modern, brighter and more luxurious kitchen to replace our dark and dated one.
During our remodel, I learned quite a few things about kitchen design, functionality as well as the importance of planning and listening to your instincts. Before you embark on your own kitchen remodel journey, let me share with you a few insights that I gathered from my own experience.
5 Things to Consider Before a Kitchen Remodel
Have a Vision – When remodeling, or even redecorating, it’s important to have vision for what you are trying to achieve. Even if you can’t pinpoint exactly what you want, at least know what you don’t want.
Although you can remodel a kitchen on a shoestring budget, a shoestring kitchen was not the look we were going for. Given that our kitchen was so old, we knew merely painting the cabinets and getting new appliances would not be enough. We wanted our kitchen to be the beautiful focal point of our large great room (a combined kitchen, dining and living space). We wanted the wow factor. Therefore, we knew we had to go all in on our dream kitchen. To do this, we opted to start with a clean slate, having the entire kitchen gutted down to the drywall/studs. This approach allowed us to start fresh and reimagine what our entire space could look like.
For months, I searched Pinterest, blogs, magazine websites and more, to cohesively piece together potential designs. Not gonna lie, this was exciting and overwhelming at the same time. But by focusing on key decisions first – like cabinet style, color and layout, it became a little easier to build out our vision. From there, we invested in high-quality custom cabinetry, high-end appliances, and several luxurious extras that reflected our lifestyle and gave it the sleek and chic personality we were hoping for.
Know Your Budget – With a clearer vision in mind, we worked with our contractor to gather the necessary quotes for cabinets, appliances, tile, flooring, labor, etc. He created our first estimate down to nearly every detail. This helped us identify what was driving up our costs, see where we could save a little money, and track our spending over time. Having been through multiple house construction projects in the previous 5 years, my husband and I were pretty familiar with construction estimates as well as how to build our own budget based on the estimate. We determined our starting budget – the base amount we wanted to invest in bringing our vision to life. We also determined a threshold budget, which gave us about a 20% buffer if needed. A buffer is key because as you begin to rip out cabinets, walls, and more, you never know what you will need to replace, repair or bring up to code that you were not expecting. And let me just say, we’ve always needed our buffer.
Plan for Chaos – Anytime that you are living in a house that’s under construction, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to put up with the noise, dust, constant strangers in your home, misplaced items and many other inconveniences for an unspecified amount of time. If you aren’t willing to do this, consider living somewhere else temporarily or postpone your project until you’re ready.
We chose to remain in the house while the kitchen was under construction, which was both good and bad. Staying at home allowed us to be readily available to answer the many questions from our (sub)constructors and to keep an eye on the progress. For example, were able to spot at least two mistakes that could have led to costly delays. Yet, living at home also meant living/working in the middle of true chaos. Looking back, nearly every room in our house was impacted by the construction mess in some way. From furniture being stored in my daughter’s room to everyday items being “out of place” – the chaos was very real for us.
But the biggest adjustment was that for 13 weeks we lived without our main kitchen. Sounds scary, right? Indeed it was. But a little planning goes a long way. In advance of demolition day, we moved all of our kitchen and dining items into a temporary storage space in our finished basement. We throughly cleaned our much smaller, galley-like kitchen, also in the basement, that for 20 years was used for storage. The galley kitchen became our backup kitchen where we would cook, eat, manually wash dishes, and most importantly, gain a little respite from the craziness above us. We also created a little dining nook in our main floor mudroom breezeway that housed our old fridge, nespresso maker, and a few snacks and breakfast items. As someone who works from home, this helped immensely, as I didn’t have to keep walking downstairs (and through the construction) to access simple items like lattes and fruit. We also froze several weeks worth of homemade meals that we could easily heat up in the microwave or our second oven. I admit, we did rely on take out way more than normal during this time, but having homemade meals was a huge plus when we were in the thick of construction.
Take Your Time – During this very long 12-month process, we spent hours and hours picking out the right cabinets, appliances, backsplash and countertops. In our case, time was both our friend and our nemesis. Due to COVID-related delays, cabinets and appliances were taking extra long to obtain (5-6 months just for the cabinets); yet, the extra time that came with these delays allowed us more time to pause and really think about every detail we wanted in our new kitchen. Having time to compare our kitchen options – from paint and tile, to the light fixtures and countertop materials – saved us from settling or making impulse decisions that often come with having a strict deadline.
Hire People You Can Trust – Finally, before embarking on your own remodel journey, make sure that you are hiring/working with people you trust. Whether it’s your main contractor or the subcontractors doing the actual work, these individuals will essentially be in your personal space for months and they will handling your money. Before we added our 2 bedroom/family room addition 5 years ago, we interviewed several contractors. When we found one we were comfortable with, we immediately began building our relationship with him. Although he was far from perfect, he helped us understand the whole construction process, was extremely patient with us asking a million questions, and shared detailed, itemized budget lists with us on a regular basis. And when there was a mistake or miscommunication, he was quick to calm our nerves and remedy the situation. After our first experience with him, we chose to leverage his expertise for two more projects, including our kitchen.
And there you have it! Although these thoughts do not cover everything that needs to be considered prior to a kitchen remodel, these were definitely fresh in our minds and had a huge impact on the successful completion of our new kitchen.
Stay tuned for a more detailed look at our upgraded kitchen features, key selections and, of course, the final product!