Are you just getting started with a kitchen remodel? The process can be kind of overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.
I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel with a client and I thought it would be the perfect time to share the process. Your kitchen remodel won’t be exactly the same, but the steps you take are the same for everyone. It steps you take will depends on the extent of your remodeling. It’s different if you just replace countertops and backsplash vs. changing the footprint of your kitchen.
This guide is meant for the home owner who is doing a remodel that involves new cabinets, appliances, countertops and floor. It doesn’t have detail for those who are tearing down walls and moving or changing their layout completely. Changing the footprint can be the one thing that really adds to the expense of a kitchen remodel.
These steps will give you a guide for what to expect and when as you go through your kitchen update.
phase 1 – planning for remodeling projects
step 1 – get inspired
It’s important to have a look you really like before you begin. You might not like every aspect of your kitchen inspiration photo, but find an image or two (not 50) that represents the look you want to have in the end. This is ours from IKEA.
This photo helps us to narrow down that we are going for a simple, modern kitchen with white cabinets, a light countertop and brass fixtures and hardware.
Step 2 – Measure your kitchen area
Any remodeling project can’t begin until you know exactly the space that you have to work with. When you measure be sure to be exact and measure everything. Measure width of each appliance. Measure your windows and door openings. As a general rule, measuring more is better.
I like to sketch it out so I can have it to refer back to when I’m out shopping. Here’s an example of my sketch.
Step 3 – Prioritize Your Wants List
Unfortunately most of us have a budget that we are trying to stay within. When we get started planning our new kitchen we tend to have more things than our budget can afford. It’s a good idea to write these down on a piece of paper and then prioritize them so you can make sure the things that you REALLY want are in the budget.
You can download my kitchen planning priority checklist here for a starting point.
Step 4 – Meet with your Contractor
I’m assuming this is not a DIY project, but if it is, the steps are the same. It’s just a lot more work. Read this if you are struggling with finding a good contractor. I recommend meeting with at least two contractors and ideally three.
The bids can be drastically different AND each one can give you nuggets of information that you might not have thought about. These nuggets can alter your plan, which can be a good thing because these contractors have seen hundreds of kitchens.
This process can take a few weeks, but it’s worth the due diligence. Just to give you a reference point, we had one contractor bid $22k (with allowances for things like countertops and tile) and another bid $4.7k for labor only, no materials. Obviously it is not possible to even compare these bids.
I’ve got a checklist of things to cover with your contractor here. You will need to make a lot of decisions before you move on to the next phase. Be sure you’ve thought through each of these items with your contractor before you start buying anything.
phase 2 – order your products
Start by ordering the appliances if you are replacing them. It’s important to know the exact dimensions of your appliances before you begin purchasing cabinets. Dishwashers are fairly standard in size, but ovens/cooktops, sinks and refrigerators can vary greatly. Included in appliances is the vent hood. Do you need a wall or ceiling vent hood?
If you are ordering cabinets, these can take four to six weeks unless you are using IKEA. Be sure that your contractor has carefully measured the space and made all of the proper allowances for your appliances. If you are using IKEA cabinets look for a future post with more details on how that works.
You will also want to order these items so they are ready for the start of construction including: faucet, disposal, microwave and lighting if you are replacing or adding any.
As these items are delivered be sure to open up the boxes to make sure they are not damaged. You don’t want to be surprised when construction starts and something is broken.
Before phase 3 begins you will need to pack up all of your kitchen. This is a good time to purge things that you don’t use and get rid of outdated pantry items. It’s also a good time to decide how you will survive during construction. Can you live with a microwave and use a different sink? Or will you need to eat out. Do you have a small fridge you can use?
phase 3 – construction
It’s best if the contractor tries to contain the dust with taped off plastic sheets (or some even have zippers). Dust will get everywhere, but you can try to minimize the mess as much as possible.
The first part of construction is the de-construction of your old kitchen. Your contractor will bring a dumpster to use as the old pieces of your kitchen are dismantled. If you are trying to retain any flooring, make sure they protect the existing floor as they do the tear out.
If you are making any changes to walls, doors, windows or the location of plumbing or electrical that’s the next step. This allows you to get the layout in place before the installation starts. If you are opening up walls or adding windows, this is the first step.
If there are appliances moving, this is where these get setup. Your plumber and/or electrician will need to get any new rough plumbing and electrical installed. What that means is the electrical and plumbing that goes behind the walls, under the floor and in the ceiling.
This includes a wide variety of changes including (but not limited to) adding outlets, adding light fixtures both in the ceiling and the walls for inside cabinet lights, moving faucet plumbing for sinks, adding gas for a range, moving plumbing for refrigerator or dishwasher.
If things are shifting around the drywall will have to be finished before the cabinet installation starts. If you are changing the texture of existing walls, this will be done at this stage.
Some contractors will also paint the walls at this stage. This depends on whether cabinetry will need to be painted. If the cabinets are pre-finished painting at this stage saves time because the cabinets don’t have to be taped off for wall painting.
The time to work on the flooring depends on what type of flooring you are installing. If you are keeping the floor or just sanding and refinishing it, this is where the floor will have to be patched and repaired.
If you are installing new wood flooring it’s better to do it before the cabinets are installed. You will need to decide if you want plywood under the cabinets and appliances instead of wood flooring. For height consistency (and to make repairs easier) you will want the appliances to sit on something that is the same height as the floor. I can attest to the necessity of this as my plumber couldn’t get the dishwasher out to replace it because the floor was too high.
Wood floors can be stained before the cabinets come in to avoid getting stain on your new cabinets. A final coat of polyurethane can be added to the top of the floors after the cabinets are in place.
If you are installing a floating floor like vinyl planks or tile, the floor can be installed after the cabinets. You will still need to consider the thickness of your floor so that everything can be at the same height.
phase 4 – finish construction
This final step is where your kitchen really starts to look like a kitchen again.
The cabinets are the first thing to be installed. The cabinets control where everything else is placed.
This is where the process can get dragged out because the countertop maker has to create a template that perfectly fits your cabinets. The cabinets can have spacers added during installation which make it impossible to measure countertops before the cabinets are installed.
Finishing the countertops can take 1-2 weeks, depending on your fabricator. You must have the sink on hand before the cabinets are measured to be sure it fits properly. If you are thinking about a farmhouse sink, read this first.
Included in this category of appliances are the sink, faucets, vent hood, disposal and light fixtures. This is in addition to the oven, refrigerator and dishwasher.
Install Finish Trim
Finish trim can range from toe/shoe molding to crown molding. This also includes hardware for cabinets.
The backsplash is the last thing to go into the kitchen. If you have switch plates for lights or outlets, these will get installed too.
How Long Does Remodeling Take?
No one can give you a good answer to how long remodeling will take in general because there are so many moving parts. Even your contractor’s best guess will likely be off. It depends on how much custom work you are having done and whether you have all of the materials before you begin.
Your contractor can give you a range, but some things may be outside their control. If you like this post and you want to follow along on our remodeling journey, subscribe to our newsletter. I’d love to hear your kitchen remodeling stories in the comments.