A kitchen remodel is a significant and expensive project, so most people need to do some research before jumping into this project. Especially if you’ve never renovated a kitchen, it’s a good idea to understand the step-by-step process involved in remodeling a kitchen.
There are quite a few details you need to know, from creating a plan & scope to preparing a layout & design to ordering materials and hiring the right contractor. It’s worth understanding the order of steps involved in this project and creating a checklist to ensure you’re fully prepared. We can break down the kitchen remodeling process into ten steps you can do in order.
Here at GreatBuildz, we speak with clients every day who are considering a kitchen remodel for their home. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, pre-screened contractors, then provides ongoing project support to ensure a stress-free experience. In this blog, we’ll share the step-by-step process of planning for a kitchen remodel so you can have a successful renovation experience.
1. Project Plan
The first part of starting a kitchen remodel is probably the most fun. You can start by imagining and dreaming what the ideal kitchen might look like and how it will function. You should go online to sites like Pinterest and start collecting images and ideas for your future kitchen. You should also start thinking about the most important factors of a new kitchen. Are you trying to create an entertaining kitchen where you can host lots of friends or family around an island? Or do you want a gourmet kitchen for cooking and therefore need professional appliances and lots of prep space? Maybe you need a family-friendly kitchen that’s easy to clean up after kid messes.
Also, start thinking about the must-haves in your new kitchen, whether that be a large island, lots of storage cabinets, or a double oven. Follow up with a list of ‘nice to haves’ that may or may not fit into your current space or budget. By having a priority list, you’ll be reminded of the things that are most important. Also, having some images of the style & look you’re trying to achieve will be helpful when you start meeting with contractors and/or designers.
2. Scope and Checklist
Now that you have a general plan and some idea of the kitchen you’d like to achieve, the next step is to start working on a kitchen checklist or general scope of work. Essentially, you want to start a list of everything that will be included in your kitchen remodel. Every single kitchen renovation is a custom project and therefore comes with a unique layout, scope, design, and budget. You can start with the pdf/printable kitchen renovation checklist template to determine which items you want to be included in your project.
Having a clear list will keep you focused on your exact needs and will be extremely helpful when you start meeting with contractors. You can hand each contractor a copy of your kitchen renovation checklist so they can customize your bid to your exact needs. Your kitchen remodel checklist will also come in very handy as a guide of the list of materials you need to select and/or purchase. If something you want to do is missing from the sample template or the contractor recommends something that’s not in there, simply add this item so you have everything on one complete scope of work.
The next step in your process should be working on creating a rough budget for yourself by understanding the costs of a kitchen remodel. Because every kitchen is different, it will be challenging to get an exact sense of what your new kitchen may cost until you bring in general contractors to provide you estimates and bids. However, you can certainly do some research on the range of costs for a kitchen renovation in your area. If you know anyone who has renovated their kitchen recently, asking them what they paid will be extremely helpful. If you decide to do this research online, be very careful to only trust the resources that can provide you cost numbers for your local area. Costs vary widely across the country and Kansas City prices will not be accurate if you live in Los Angeles.
If you live in Southern California, you can review this kitchen remodel cost blog to get detailed pricing on each component of your project. But you’ll notice there is a wide range of costs to remodel a kitchen, say $40,000-$80,000. You can make some assumptions that if your kitchen is small and you plan to keep materials at the cheaper end of pricing, you can shoot for the lower total budget of $40,000. If you’re planning a large kitchen that requires opening up walls, reconfiguration, and high-end materials, you will be looking at a larger price in that range. Keep in mind that your budget will go up as you add items to your scope that isn’t ‘kitchen specific’ like doors, windows, flooring, etc.
Having a budget in mind and sharing this information with potential kitchen contractors will actually help guide their estimates so they don’t waste your time. You will want to meet a few contractors and provide them both your project scope/checklist and your budget. Most contractors have done so many kitchens, they can tell you right off the bat if their company will be able to meet your budget based on your scope. There is no point in spending a bunch of time with a ton of contractors and finding each time that their estimate is way beyond your budget.
Don’t forget that appliances can be a large portion of your kitchen budget (assuming you are replacing appliances). And although you should expect your contractor to include the cost of installing appliances in their bid, the actual costs of the appliances themselves won’t be included. Finally, you should also anticipate that there will be extra costs during your project, so you need to set aside 10-20% on top of your contracted price for unplanned expenses.
4. Kitchen Design and Layout
The next step in our order is to work on the design and layout of your future kitchen. The design part might be easier to research, especially if you’ve already found some images you like on Pinterest, etc. in step one. You could also dive deeper into the design by visiting cabinet or countertop material stores & suppliers to find the exact material you like. The same goes for lighting, backsplash tile, flooring, etc. You’ll also want to start considering details such as appliance selection & door/drawer hardware.
Creating the right layout for your kitchen renovation can be a bit more complicated. The simplest and most affordable option is to keep the kitchen footprint and appliances in the exact same location, and just change out the cabinets/counters. However, if you’re trying to expand your kitchen or correct for some of its existing flaws, you’ll need to prepare at least a sample or draft plan of the layout you want. If you can envision exactly how you want your new kitchen to layout, you can probably prepare this yourself. If not, this would be a good time to bring out a designer or kitchen contractor that can prepare this layout for you. Keep in mind that your budget will increase as you 1) expand the size, 2) relocate appliances, and 3) open up walls.
5. Meet at Least Three Contractors
A full kitchen remodel is not a DIY project. It’s time to call out the pros. In this case, the right company for the job is either a general contractor or a kitchen contractor. These contractors should be able to complete the entire kitchen project for you even if it includes additional items like windows or flooring. You don’t want to hire multiple contractors which can each do a portion of the project; that will turn into a major hassle for you.
Keep in mind, many good contractors can be very busy and get booked out months in advance, so start meeting with contractors well before you intend to start the project. You’ll want to meet with and get bids from at least three contractors, so you may need to contact more than three. If a contractor doesn’t return your call or email in more than 2-3 days, you can assume they are either too busy to take your job or poor communicators. There are some specific ways to find good, local contractors. You can also contact a service that will match you with reputable contractors that are both qualified and interested in your kitchen remodel project.
As discussed previously, be very upfront with each contractor about your budget and share with them your scope of work or kitchen checklist. This will save you lots of time and you shouldn’t get any estimates that are twice your budget. When you meet each contractor in person and walk them through your space, you’ll certainly get a feel for their style of communication, and this will be your first step in vetting them to determine which one is best for you. You can expect to receive bids within no longer than a week unless the contractor tells you otherwise. Finally, because contractor bids have no standard format, you’ll have to spend the time to review all three bids carefully to get to an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.
6. Vet & Select Contractor, Sign Agreement
Once you’ve met and interviewed a few home kitchen contractors, you should narrow them down to ones that are 1) within your budget and 2) you get along with. These criteria are a good place to start, but not quite enough to do a thorough job of vetting your potential contractors. Also, remember to keep in mind that the cheapest option is not always the best option.
I suggest every homeowner perform as many vetting steps as possible to protect themselves, but at least the following five:
- Check their reviews online.
- Do a contractor license lookup online. In California, you should navigate to CSLB License Database
- Get a copy/sample of their insurance certificate.
- Call at least 3 references.
- Interview the owner of the company.
Once you’ve selected the best kitchen contractor for your remodel, they will send you a written agreement to sign which includes the scope of work, cost & contractual terms. Every contractor uses a different written agreement, so read it carefully and make 100% certain you understand it and are comfortable with the terms. If you don’t understand something, ask the contractor for an explanation. You should not be required to provide more than a $1000 deposit before holding the job. Also, make sure the contract includes a project payment schedule that allows you to make reasonable payments that match the progress of the job. For more specifics about contractor agreement terms, you can review this blog about construction contracts.
7. Kitchen Plans & Blueprints
If you’re planning to do a simple kitchen remodel that doesn’t include any structural changes to your home, it’s likely you won’t need a full set of building plans and can proceed by having the contractor simply pull a permit from the city. However, if you are removing walls or making any other structural alterations, you’ll need an architect/designer to prepare a set of plans for this layout. These plans will also need calculations/drawings from a structural engineer to ensure the appropriate measures are included to maintain the safety of your structure. Developing plans and submitting them to the city for approval can take some time, so ask your contractor if that’s necessary for your project.
8. Select & Purchase Materials
When you start thinking about selecting materials, the first and most important selections you should start with are the kitchen cabinets and appliances. The appliances are crucial to select early because their size & location will dictate the layout of the kitchen cabinets. With regard to the cabinets, you’ll need to select a style, material & color as soon as possible so that the contractor can order them. In many cases, manufacturing the cabinets (especially custom cabinets) can be the longest lead time in a kitchen renovation.
The next materials in order of importance or lead time to delivery are the following: Flooring, tile, sink, and countertops. Because it’s always hard to know whether any specific style of material is in stock, back-ordered, or has supply issues, it’s always best to select and purchase items well before they need to be installed. Remember that items like windows & countertops need to be custom made or fabricated, so they need a decent amount to lead time. The last items in order that you’ll need to select or shop for are things like faucets, lights, paint color, & cabinet hardware.
9. Schedule the Project in Advance and Prepare for Construction
Most contractors are very busy, so you’ll want to schedule your project start date well in advance. This will also give them plenty of lead time to order the cabinets that need to be manufactured. Inquire with your contractor about the approximate length of time for the project to be completed, and assume that it will take 10-20% longer. A simple kitchen remodel may take 3-4 weeks, but a larger, custom project can take 2-3 months.
Before your construction start date, there are a few things you need to prepare. The first obvious item to consider is that you’ll be without a kitchen for quite some time. So, start thinking about where you might create a temporary kitchen area in your home. You’ll need a place to eat, a place to keep your food, and a location to prepare food, assuming you don’t completely rely on take-out during this process.
You’ll want a place to keep your fridge in a temporary location so that you can keep perishable food items. Also, having a portable microwave in your ‘temporary’ kitchen is a great idea so you can heat up quick meals. And don’t forget about the coffee maker that will need a new home for a while. In addition, you’ll have to live without a kitchen sink for a while, so you might consider using paper plates and plastic silverware/cups unless you intend to wash your dishes in another sink.
Now it’s finally time to get started on your new kitchen remodel. Make sure your contractor seals off the kitchen from the rest of the house before starting the demolition, the dirtiest & dustiest time of the project. Remember to keep an eye on the progress and the details of construction. If you notice something that doesn’t look right, mention it right away. Its easier to fix during the early stages of the project. It’s also a good idea to have a quick weekly meeting with the general contractor or project manager to look over the progress together and point out any concerns. Regular and positive communication is supremely important to keeping a good working relationship with your contractor.
Once the project is getting close to completion, you can start looking carefully at the quality of the final product and make a punch list of any items that need to be repaired. Remember, you can’t expect perfection in any remodel, but any sloppy work or obvious issues need to be repaired.
Finally, once the kitchen is done and the punch list repairs are completed, you can start moving all your food and houseware back into the kitchen. Don’t forget to do a thorough cleaning of the new kitchen before you do in order to remove any construction dirt or dust. And double-check that all appliances are working properly before making the final payment to the kitchen contractor.
When it comes to planning and coordinating a kitchen remodel, you shouldn’t have to go it alone – GreatBuildz can help simplify your renovation experience.
GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish. Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com.