Guide to Renovating Your Kitchen: 11 Tips, Tricks, and Advice

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Guide to Renovating Your Kitchen: 11 Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Our completed kitchen - part DIY, fully funded by sweat and hard work.

Nothing makes a home more desirable these days then a new kitchen with all the bells and whistles (well maybe good schools and neighborhoods are more important!).   And most new homeowners either look for a home with a great kitchen or desire to renovate their kitchen at some point during the home ownership experience - hence our Guide to Renovating Your Kitchen: 11 Tips, Tricks, and Advice article.

The kitchen home renovation process is grueling, and if done correctly, very rewarding in terms of ROI and pleasure-factor (that is to say, how it feels to spend time in a new space).  You can, indeed, avoid some of the grueling aspects of the kitchen renovation process, but there is no way to avoid feeling frustrated, defeated, and upset during some stage of the renovation project – this is just a fact.

Here, then, are my 11 major kitchen renovation tips and advice:

1. Avoid adding square feet to your kitchen by expanding. Adding a room or even a small bump out to increase the size of your kitchen will be costly and complicated (permits, foundation work, framing, etc.)  Instead, see if you can find additional space in an adjacent closet, hallway, sun room, etc.  Large, open, kitchens are the current fad, but that may not always be the case (especially when you go and sell in twenty years).  Plus, you don’t need a huge kitchen to cook great food and you’ll avoid being a slave to your general contractor for 6-12 months.  Kiplinger Magazine even offers the same advice!

2. Splurge on cabinets and flooring.  If there are two elements of your kitchen that will take the most abuse it’s your floor and cabinets.  Opt for solid wood cabinet faces and full plywood box construction.  Also, look for drawers that have dovetail joinery and bulky mechanical slides (I like the Blum line of mechanisms and hinges, some Ikea cabinets even use Blum hings!).  I’ve found that it doesn’t really matter who the cabinet company is, but very important if they incorporate the above construction and design items into their product.  On the flooring side, avoid hardwood floors (it just doesn’t make sense in a room that will see tons of foot traffic, spills of all sorts, water, etc.)  Instead opt for a Porcelain tile or possibly a natural stone surface (though the latter will require sealing).  Hardwood floors are nice to stand on because they give a little and help with back pain, but it’s no substitute for the resilience of a solid, and indestructible, tile surface.

3. High end appliances don’t always perform better.  It’s a fact that a $10,000 Viking stove will not boil water faster than a $500 Amana stove, however an industrial will often give you additional burners, beefier construction, and the looks most folks desire in a high end kitchen renovation.  We opted for a duel fuel Wolf stove (6 burner) (click here for my Wolf 36 inch six burner review) and it has worked very well thus far, however the stove is very difficult to clean and the large oven takes a long time to reach temperature.

4. Gut it!  Just like I advocate in my five tips on bathroom renovations, it’s best if you gut your existing kitchen so that you can re-wire, re-plumb, level the floor, look for potential problems, etc.

5. DIY within reason.  Professionals cost money and general contractors cost even more.  I would stay away from hiring a general contractor and opt for a 50/50 job where you outsource to professionals for technical tasks (new gas line, installing cabinets, etc.) and insource (i.e. DIY) for not so hard jobs like demolition, painting, etc.

6. Do your research and compare prices when it comes to cabinet makers, appliances, faucet, cabinet hardware, etc.  That is to say, make sure you visit 3-4 appliance shops and cabinet designers and get plenty of estimates on your stove, fridge, dish washer, etc. You can often receive a discount if you purchase all of your appliances from one shop.  On the research side make sure to read plenty of user reviews, read reliability ratings, and check out the manufacturer warranty specs.  Our appliances have had good reliability thus far and the only issue we’re really had is with a counter depth Maytag refrigerator (Model MFC2061HE) whose water line (for interior water dispensing) stops working at random times.  On the faucet and cabinet hardware side we purchased all of our material online and saved a ton (I would opt for a high quality faucet and cabinet hardware, we purchased a Rohl Perrin and Rowe bridge faucet and bought cabinet hardware from Horton Brass <Horton has excellent customer service!>).  We also have a Rohl farmhouse sink which has worked well, but beware the surface isn’t as tough as they claim and farmhouse sinks, in general, cause lots of water to splash out into your lap and kitchen floor given lower height.  The GardenWeb Kitchen forum is an excellent source for kitchen renovations in terms of asking questions and contacting folks who are going through the renovation process.  

7. Stone surfaces are nice, but require upkeep.  Shh, and don’t tell anyone, but Formica countertops are great!  Formica is easy to clean and cheap, but unfortunately it gives a new kitchen a cheap kind of feel.  In turn, most high end kitchen renovations include a stone countertop surface.  Generally, granite is the best choice in terms of durability, price, and upkeep time.  Marble and soap stone require constant maintenance and can chip very easily (marble also yellows over time and it’s not pretty after a few years).  We have a standard granite in our kitchen and it has been fairly easy to maintain thus far (I seal it every 6 months and wipe it down every night).

8. Lighting is important.  We live in an older type home and have original, and some replica, lighting throughout our house.  Our kitchen has replica school house fixtures from Rejuvenation Hardware and they look great, however I wish we would have gone with some additional recessed lighting.  We do have pendants over the main work surface and sink, but some general task lighting over the entire kitchen would have provided more light.

9. Don’t overlook ventilating your kitchen.  Whether you opt for an industrial-like stove or go with a traditional 4 burner model, you should overcompensate when it comes to an exhaust system (especially if you do any sort of consistent or serious cooking).  Moreover, try and get your st
ove installed on an outside wall so that you don’t have a long run to the outside (with your vent tubing).  We have a Vent-a-Hood vent and it is quiet, easy to maintain, and very efficient and powerful.

10. It helps if your basement is not finished when it comes to renovating a kitchen – let me explain.  When you re-wire, re-plumb, add a new gas line, etc. you’ll need to access to your electrical panel, water system, main gas line, etc. and, you guessed it, all this stuff is locate in basement (specifically the basement ceiling area).  So, if you’re basement is finished you or your pro is going to have a hell of a time running electrical wire, new copper pipes, etc. (this is a small example of why a plumber, for example, will charge you a ton for new kitchen work.).

11. Set up a make shift kitchen in your basement with a cooking element, sink, table, and your old fridge.  Avoid the urge to go out and eat every night and spend even more money by cooking some of your meals at home.   It’s not fun eating in your basement, but your waistline and pocketbook will thank you when you’re done with the project.

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  • Claudia

    Here are my comments (having gone through this once as a daughter of a homeowner and once as a homeowner firsthand):
    1. Avoid adding square feet to your kitchen by expanding – couldn’t agree more.
    2. Splurge on cabinets and flooring – yes, yes, yes. Your cabinets will take a beating! We splurged for our dream floors – natural slate (it’s a very rustic look!) and we love them. They’ve been sealed once (could use another layer, but we didn’t want them to get too shiny).
    3. High end appliances don’t always perform better – totally agree – ours were all “package deals” from Lowes or home depot or local appliance stores that wanted to beat the bigger store’s prices!
    4. Gut it! – DEFINITELY – do it ALL at once. No sense in remodeling your whole kitchen and the having to go back and re-open walls for some kind of wiring or plumbing. (Plus, you’ll never match the paint again!)
    5. DIY within reason – we were lucky to have a great family friend as a contractor and he left us with a “project” to complete each week (or every few days) and we learned so much and always knew what questions to ask when experts did come onto the scene.
    6. Do your research and compare prices when it comes to cabinetmakers, appliances, faucet, cabinet hardware, etc. – Completely agree. The only problem we have had so far is a slightly drippy water/ice dispenser that fills up that drip tray too quickly on our fridge. And I am a big fan of always, always getting the additional one-year warranty. It’s so little to pay for the piece of mind (and Murphy’s law states that it will always break the day after the warranty expires.)
    7. Stone surfaces are nice, but require upkeep – Here I have to slightly disagree. I am a HUGE fan of a material called SILESTONE. We splurged on this (but still shopped around and got a good deal) – it never needs to be sealed, looks like granite, you can CUT on it, you can put a boiling hot pot on it and nothing ever happens to it – trust me, I do it every day. Sometimes you (I’m sorry, not you, ME! :) just don’t want to pull out a cutting board to cut a slice of lemon for a cosmopolitan…and I don’t need to! They now have it in two finishes: regular (shiny like granite) and a “leather” look which has a matte finish. We love ours. I don’t know how I could live without it.
    8. Lighting is important – We did the nice, decorative droplights over the island but did go with the recessed lighting all around the perimeter of the kitchen and I would not go back and do it any differently.
    9. Don’t overlook ventilating your kitchen – agree – we bought a hood off eBay for a steal (with extensive review research and my smoke alarm has never gone off whilst cooking!).
    10. It helps if your basement is not finished – well, our house wasn’t finished, so we stored our cabinets in the “dining room” during renovations.
    11. Set up a make shift kitchen – when my parents redid their kitchen and I was still at home during high school, the microwave, local Chinese and Italian restaurants and the bathroom sink became our best friends… when we redid our kitchen we redid our whole house, so we didn’t live there – that’s another solution! ;)

    • graham (MHI-UK kitchen supply)

      this absolutely true. people are put off about the word cheap because it
      has the persona of being poor quality especially when people are scared
      into thinking 15mm carcases are rubbish and they should go with 18mm.
      this is not true because in realtiy the extra 3mm doesn’t make much
      difference espeicially when the true rigidness and strength is when the
      kitchen units are joined together to give it, its real strength. I know
      this as i supply both “cheap” and designer kitchens http://mhi-uk.co.uk the 15mm carcases last just as long as the 18mm if their installed correctly and look after.

      • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

        good points!

        thanks for the comments…

  • Vincent Scordo

    Dear Claudia,
    Thanks for the 11 great comments and glad we share the same kitchen design / renovation philosophy.
    If you can afford not to live in the same space you are renovating then that is the best way to do a kitchen renovation!
    Silestone is a nice material. Like granite, you can put something hot directly on the surface and not worry about it. However, no sealer seems to be needed with granite and it is not porous. I may have opted for Silestone if I were doing our kitchen over again…
    Best,
    Vince

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  • http://greenteadesign.com/kitchen-cabinets.html Minerva Rogers

    You’re right. It is not easy to do kitchen renovation without prior knowledge about the things you will be encountering. I myself had grown tired of looking for the right kitchen cabinets to match up my space. Thak God, I have some guys to help me choose what I want. Your guide is very detailed and it could sure give readers a good lowdown of what to expect.

  • Vincent Scordo

    Great, glad you found the article helpful!
    Vince

  • http://www.handydirectory.ca/ home improvement

    There is no question that most homeowners simply love to spend time with their family members in their kitchen and they enjoy doing kitchen renovation projects that boost their home value, while at the same time making the kitchen into a more pleasant and productive place to be. Over the years, installing new kitchen countertops has proven to be one of the best and most useful upgrades that they can make to enhance the kitchen.

  • http://paradise-kitchens.com.au Kitchen Designs

    Great Post…..Kitchen remodeling or renovating is quite a tough work, but proper planning and zeal to get your dream kitchen, compel you to renovate your kitchen.

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    Dude.. I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to read lots of articles on your blog. Its amazing how interesting it is for me to visit you very often.

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    With kitchen remodeling is one of the most popular methods of reconstruction, if the owner decides to do their own rebuilding themselves, without professional help. If you decide to connect to, whether or not you should make your own kitchen remodeling…

  • http://www.kitchenrenovationstoronto.com Kitchen Renovations Toronto

    These are some really great tips! I love how you say to just “gut it” that is so true. If you’re going to do a kitchen renovation you might as well just tear it all out and start from scratch, and that way you are able to check everything and not come across a problem later one. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  • http://www.scordo.com/2010/02/buying-a-fancy-and-expensive-stove-36inch-wolf-duel-fuel-df366-review.html Scordo.com

    Wolf Duel Fuel Range: My Personal Experience

    (photo: the DF366, or 36 inch, 6 burner, Duel Fuel Wolf range with custom burner lids from Uncle Frank)  I live by the rule that you don’t need fancy kitchen equipment to produce great food.  I’m also a fierce believer…

  • Kenny Smith

    I’m going to renovate the kitchen soon so I thought I would do a search for information about kitchen remodeling, costs and remodeling companies to compare between. This article gives me access to some great information about remodeling. Thanks, I hope you continue to publish articles like this, I will continue to visit here from time to time

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    These are some really great tips!

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  • http://tefore-kitchens.co.uk Kitchen Handles

    High end appliances don’t always perform better – totally agree. Your guide is detailed and it could sure give readers a good help what they expect.
    Thanks for useful updates ….

  • http://www.scordo.com/2009/02/how-to-clean-kitchen-tiles-porcelin-granite-clean-stainless-steel-cleaner-stovetop-ceramic.html Italian Food and Recipes – Scordo.com

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  • vladislavmsemenov

    Nice tips! Thank you. I have translated it on Russian: http://fotoremonta.livejournal.com/672.html

  • Toronto Contractor

    Renovating your kitchen will add easiness to your lifestyle and value to your home. More than any other room of the house, the kitchen is the most adaptable.
    Toronto Contractor

  • http://theamazingrenovations.com/ Amazing Renovations

    Nice tips and guides Vincent! I’m agree with you that researching is very important especially if you’ve limited budget for kitchen remodelling. Having a great kitchen design will also increase your house value if you’re planning to sell it in the future.=

  • Margaretspicer

    Good tips, thanks!

  • jathome

    love those custom burner lids — where could the rest of us find something like that?

  • Kenneth Lawrence

    Great tips! Your article really helped me make my kitchens more functional and stylish. Other than that, with the help of http://www.kitchenperfectionauckland.co.nz , I also created some amazing designs in my kitchen.

  • catherine flores

    Get bored with same kitchen for years! Then go for renovation of your kitchen as your desire. Try to do yourself, if you are not able to complete the whole thing alone take assistance of local kitchen duct cleaning professionals.

    Regards,
    Catherine.

  • Kenneth Lawrence

    Renovating a kitchen is indeed an investment that you must be very careful about in order for you to get the best ROI. Homeowners indeed have lots of considerations when undertaking such which include the size, the materials to be used, and of course, the budget. – http://www.smarterkitchens.com.au