Kitchen Remodel Guidelines – The First 5 Crucial Steps
Let’s be very clear from the beginning, a kitchen remodel is a big deal! There are a lot of moving parts, a ton of decisions that need to be made, and as you know, there are some significant financial implications. Over the last 5 years we have come to the realization that most homeowners reach out to companies like Home Advisor a little prematurely.
Most times homeowners were just curious and were looking for information – not quotes. When you go to homeadvisor.com and enter your information it is being released to several contractors who are paying for their service and they are very anxious to earn your business. This is great news, if you have reached that point where you are ready to see a kitchen design and get competitive quotes.
If you are not ready to meet with someone then the calls can be overwhelming and deter you from your kitchen remodel dreams (if you ended up on a call list: we encourage you to let the contractors know you aren’t ready – it will stop the constant phone calls!)
Getting started on a kitchen remodel is the hardest part, but here are some guidelines for the first 5 crucial steps. These are the steps you need to take BEFORE you meet with a kitchen remodel expert.
Step 1: Decide Why You Want A Kitchen Remodel
First thing is first, why do you want a kitchen remodel? We start here because you really need to know the answer to this question. Dig down, get beyond the color of the cabinets, what else is there? Below is a list of statements we often hear from clients who reach out to us for a new design and kitchen remodel estimate. Write down any of these statements that you agree with (and any that are not listed). Click on the links and write down any of the ideas that are presented which you would like to consider for your remodel. Your kitchen remodel specialist will want to see this list if they know you have it. Doing this process will ensure your new kitchen design has the features you are hoping for.
- The kitchen cabinets are out of style
- The kitchen cabinets are poor quality
- The kitchen cabinets are not functional
- The countertops are ugly or I am tired of cleaning grout
- The flooring needs to be updated
- The lighting in the kitchen is very poor
- The appliances are broken or outdated
- The kitchen space was designed poorly
- The kitchen is lacking storage space
- The kitchen does not have a pantry that I would like to have
- The kitchen cabinet height is too high (or too low)
- There is a lack of seating space in my kitchen area
- There is a lack of countertop space in my kitchen area
- There are design flaws in my home (ie: I don’t want guests to walk in straight to my kitchen area)
- The kitchen is too small
- The kitchen island is too large/too small/designed poorly
- The home is lacking in energy efficiency
- I have a elderly parent moving in and would like to accommodate them
- This is my forever home and I want to create a space that I can age into
- I had flood damage
Every year homeowners evaluate what needs to be remodeled in their home and in 2017, just as many years before it, 53% of remodeling firms reported an increase in kitchen and bathroom renovations. Why are homeowners deciding to remodel their kitchens? You can see from the above list that the reason varies! Have you figured out what your reasons are? They are important because it leads you to the next section!
Step 1A: Research Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are the largest (or second largest) cost of a kitchen remodel so it is important to know what your options are. A lot of homeowners call in with unrealistic expectations because they have not done their research. For example: you can not take your existing cabinets and simply reconfigure them to make the space flow differently. It isn’t an option. It is also very unlikely you will be able to add cabinet boxes that will match your existing cabinets. Here are your kitchen cabinet options:
- Replace your cabinets
- Reface/Refurnish your cabinets
- Refinish/Repaint your cabinets
There are also different types of cabinets and you will want to know the pros and cons of each of them as well as which one your professional (architect, designer, and/or contractor) recommends and offers.
- Custom kitchen cabinets
- Semi-custom kitchen cabinets
- Stock kitchen cabinets
Once you get to the part where you are designing your kitchen remodel (getting into the nitty gritty of modern versus traditional cabinets – colors – and styles) there are quite literally thousands of options so we will hold off on that portion of your education until we get to the design phase of your kitchen remodel.
This seems like a good time to offer some small advise: It takes years – some would even say decades to be an expert in any specific field (such as kitchen cabinets and kitchen remodeling). Quite honestly – if you are hiring an expert then you do not need to spend thousands of hours knowing every little detail of every option there is out there – you will drive yourself (and your professional) absolutely insane. Trust me when I say you will not have a pleasant experience at the end of the day if you try to be the professional when dealing with a professional. Either hire a professional – or be the professional – but you can not do both and have a successful relationship. (Imagine going to the doctor and telling him how to perform surgery or going to the mechanic and explaining step by step how to fix your engine. Do it yourself – or hire a professional).
Step 2: Decide Who Is Going To Do The Kitchen Remodel
This does not mean go out an hire a kitchen contractor! You are NO where near that step yet! This means you need to take the reasons WHY you want to remodel (see above) so you can determine WHO the best person is to complete the kitchen remodel. Not sure what I mean or wondering if you need to hire a contractor? Here are your options:
- Do it yourself (DIY)….should you really do that??
- Act as a GC and hire a variety of trades to do the remodel for you
- Hire an architect
- Hire a designer
- Hire a design-build contractor
- Hire a general contractor
Step 3: Understand Your Kitchen Remodel Options
There is a lot of research required when planning a kitchen remodel, if you haven’t noticed already! Begin understanding what costs are involved depending on what your scope of work is (what the contractor will be building). Kitchen remodel costs vary by a lot of factors including:
- Size of the kitchen remodel
- Type of kitchen remodel
- Scope of work
- Material selected
- Labor involved
- Type of contractor you select
- Design of the kitchen remodel
- Process of the kitchen remodel (ie: whether the kitchen remodel needs to be permitted or not will affect cost and timeframe)
This brings up another thought to consider. Have you determined yet how much you are willing to spend on your remodel? Start thinking about it! Contractors will ask and it is advisable that you share your kitchen remodel budget with them if you have it. The NKBA provides a great online calculator for determining a kitchen remodel budget – and it is broken down by where that money actually goes. That is a good place to start if you don’t already have an idea! Another great place for looking at kitchen remodel price ranges (and the value you get if you sell the house later down the line) is the cost versus value report by Remodeler Magazine that comes out every year.
Step 3A: Evaluating Kitchen Remodel Alternatives
Uh oh! Were you surprised by the estimates? If you live in a high cost of living area (such as San Diego) then the costs may have shocked you. Sometimes they shock us! So what now? Do you give up on your dream kitchen? NO! There are alternatives!
- Consider a partial remodel
- Move (because that won’t be more expensive!) (it’s only kind of a joke)
- Delay – put the project off for a year and start saving your pennies
- DIY. Maybe you can get a friend or family member to help you. Just make sure you go in eyes wide open
- Get a loan
Step 3B: Kitchen Remodel Loan You Say??
Yes, think about it! There are tons of options out there for a home remodeling loan. Here are a few to consider:
- HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit)
- Credit Cards
- HERO Program
- Zero Interest Loans
- Reduced Interest Loans
- Same as Cash loans
- Home Renovation Loans
Don’t be shy – ask what options your professional offers. That brings us to the next step!
Step 4: Find A Professional To Talk To!
Okay! You are ready to speak with the first person in line! Who is that person – as a reminder, here are your options!
- Find a designer
- Find an architect
- Find a general contractor
- Find a kitchen contractor
A lot of people are not sure how to find the right professional for their kitchen remodel. We suggest reaching out to family and friends for a referral but of course we have a list for you to consider, as well. Each has their pros and cons so consider those when deciding what route to take. It can be difficult to find the right contractor but you can save a lot of time by checking out their contractor’s license and reputation before inviting them into your home.
- Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List (great location for finding a contractor and checking out reputation)
- Guild Quality (another great location for finding a contractor and verifying reputation)
- Houzz (a decent way to verify reputation – although not as stringent as Angie’s List and Guild Quality)
- Nextdoor.com (a great way to find a referral but not necessarily the best way to verify reputation)
- Home Magazines
- Yelp (a decent way to find companies but not necessarily the best way to verify reputation – read through the reviews – don’t just look at the stars)
- Internet Searches (Google, Bing, Yahoo)
- Home Shows
- Street Fairs/Street Festivals
- Social Media
Step 5: Prepare For Your Meeting
Know what to expect for your first meeting. Ask the professional if there is anything that you should have prepared. Even if they do not give you any guidelines, you should have these items ready to discuss:
- Your budget. It is a waste of everyone’s time if your budget is $5,000 but you want a $50,000 remodel and the professional has a minimum of $80,000 (yes, that happens!)
- Your goals: Refer back to Item #1 – did you write down what you wanted to accomplish with your remodel?
- Your desired start or completion date. If the professional knows what your kitchen remodel timelines are, he or she can guide you on whether or not they are realistic expectations.
- Your expectations: If you want the remodel completed only during hours when you are home, the professional needs to be aware of that because it will affect the schedule and the cost of the remodel. If you don’t want work to begin before 9am during the week that will also affect cost and schedule.
- Have a list of questions you would like to ask the professional.
- Take note of how the individual makes you feel. If you feel pressured, annoyed, agitated, anxious then proceed cautiously.
- Be aware of your rights. If you live in California and sign an agreement in your home, you have 3 days right to cancel.