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 homeownership 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 (
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.
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.