Everything to Know Before Starting a Kitchen Remodel
These considerations can save you money and headaches.
Many of us see examples of our dream kitchens all the time—whether that's on an HGTV show, in the background of an influencer's videos, or even inside the home of a close friend or relative. It's an entirely different thing, however, to own a home and have the ability to make your dream kitchen a reality. If you're at that point now, that's an exciting place to be, but it can quickly become overwhelming as well. Undergoing a kitchen remodel is a big undertaking, with a number of important factors to consider, including timeline, budget, functionality, and design.
With the right amount of prep and planning, remodeling your kitchen can be more than rewarding, both improving your daily routine and increasing the value of your home. However, if you fail to consider all the important details, a kitchen remodel can end up being a major headache and financial burden. So, we talked to the pros to gain some crucial insight about kitchen remodels. Read up on all the considerations and advice below before taking a mallet to your kitchen counter.
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Should You Remodel Your Kitchen or Just Refresh It?
Because kitchen remodels can require so much time, energy, and money, you'll want to make sure it's all worth it before you move forward. "A full remodel is worth it if the kitchen isn’t functional for your needs, whether for your cooking or baking needs or storage needs," Christine Lin, founder and principal of San Francisco-based interior design studio, Form + Field, says. "Fulfilling these functional needs often requires a full overhaul of the kitchen and its layout."
On the other hand, here's when you should maybe rethink the remodel: "If the kitchen is functional for you but the aesthetic choices don’t bring you joy, then it might be worth considering painting the cabinets, or replacing items like the hardware, backsplash, countertops, or lighting fixtures. Simple changes like that can make a big difference," she says.
Small kitchen facelifts, like these, "can be a quick and cost-effective way to get a visual ROI without the stress of a full remodel," adds David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack.
Steckel also explains that a full kitchen remodel typically happens right after taking possession of a home or 10 to 20 years after the previous renovation, because it's such a commitment. "It's not only an extremely high-ticket item, but it is also very disruptive to 'life as you know it' in the home," he says. "A full-gut kitchen reno often spreads to the entire main floor and can be delayed by supply-chain issues from appliances to custom cabinets and more."
Before committing to a full remodel, Steckel says it can be beneficial to work with an interior designer who can give you ideas on how to make the most of your existing space or a general contractor, who can help you figure out what in your space can be repurposed or refreshed. (For example, are your cabinets solid wood and can they be sanded and re-stained or painted?)
How Much Does It Cost to Remodel a Kitchen?
The cost of a kitchen remodel depends on a lot of variables—from the size of your kitchen to the materials and appliances you source, and even the city where you live. According to Forbes, the average cost to remodel is about $25,000. However, that number can be significantly lower if you're working with a small kitchen, choose budget-friendly materials, and DIY most of the renovation. Conversely, it can be significantly higher if you have a larger space, opt for top-of-the-line appliances, and hire everything out. That's why creating a budget and factoring in every possible cost for a kitchen remodel is so important.
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How to Budget for a Kitchen Remodel
You don't want to end up standing in the middle of a half-complete kitchen with the realization that you ran out of money. That's why it's important to make sure your budget is as comprehensive as possible before you get started. "It’s easy to miss things like hardware or the sink in your budget and only include the bigger ticket items," Lin says.
Both Lin and Steckel also emphasize the importance of doing your research. Not only will you need to get and compare quotes for construction labor, but you should also be ready beforehand with clear examples of exactly what you're looking for. "The type of tile, cabinetry, plumbing needs, etc. all factor into the labor costs, and contractors estimate the best when they have a fleshed out design to reference," she says.
"When hiring a pro for a kitchen remodel, it’s important to look for someone who has a portfolio that matches your desired aesthetic and vision," Steckel adds. "This will help to minimize back and forth and help you avoid potential headaches."
Another important consideration: How will the renovation impact your home's layout? If any walls need to come down or new flooring needs added, that can drastically impact your project costs and timeline. "A full kitchen renovation is almost never less than $20,000 and can easily evolve into a $200,000 project based on the level of work required, the finishes you’re looking for, and more," Steckel says.
Design Tips for a Kitchen Remodel
As much as your remodel may be inspired by images of your dream kitchen, Lin says it's important to keep functionality front of mind. "I always advise to really think through what specific storage needs you have, what type of cooking you like to do and how, and what features would create the smoothest flow for your lifestyle," she says. "All of these things are very personal and family specific, and it’s not one-size-fits-all. For example, if you often need to access a step stool or ladder to reach high up cabinets, then incorporate a feature like a toe-kick drawer or a tall, narrow cabinet to fit the ladder."
Here are some of the functional design tips Lin recommends for a kitchen remodel:
Place dishes and glasses storage near the dishwasher.
Place the trash and dishwasher near the sink.
Include enough prep space between the range and the fridge.
Place pantry storage next to the fridge.
Include enough work space on both sides of the range.
Include pullout storage behind base cabinet doors.
Include tall, narrow storage for cookie sheets and cooling racks.
Strategically place lighting so that it lights up your work surfaces.
While the functionality aspect will affect the ease of your daily routine, it's also important that your new kitchen aesthetic matches your vision. If you're not exactly sure what your style is, working with an interior designer can help you sort your ideas into a cohesive, practical design.
And again, doing your research beforehand will only benefit you. "It’s important to collect a few dozen photos of kitchens you like or kitchen features you like and store them in an 'ideabook' or Pinterest board," Steckel says. "Once you have 20 or 30 [inspiration photos], you’ll notice that you’ve organically found your aesthetic and that will in turn allow you to find a designer or kitchen company that fits your aesthetic."
More Considerations Before Undergoing a Kitchen Remodel
"Make sure you hire the right team and make sure you budget everything out before you start to make sure you have enough to get everything that you want," Steckel says. "Also, order your appliances months in advance and once you have a firm delivery date, do a work back schedule based on that."
"If you’re going to be living in your house during the reno, make sure you have an exterior cooking area and also set up a temporary kitchen somewhere else in the house for the basics," Steckel says. "And keep in mind that it can be extremely taxing to complete a full kitchen renovation when you’re still living in the home. It’s important to consider if that type of 'chaos' is something you and your family can live with for a few months."
If you've got you're heart set on a kitchen remodel, don't let this advice scare you away. Instead, use these considerations to empower you to go into your renovations with as much knowledge and control over the outcome as possible.
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