The Kitchen Renovation Process
A newly renovated kitchen will not only make meal preparation and clean up more enjoyable, it can greatly improve the appearance and value of a home.
Over the course of the last couple of decades we have, as remodeling contractors, remodeled hundreds of kitchens. Ironically, no two kitchens are the same. Although fundamental layout and design may be similar in many cases, specific design elements and features vary from project to project according to an owner’s particular needs and wishes. The style and finish of cabinets, counters, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, painting and other elements are typically a combination of the style of the home, available space and budget limitations.
The kitchen renovation process (like any remodeling project) isn’t for the faint of heart. The key to a successful project is a three step process. The first is planning; the second is planning; and the third is – you guessed it – planning! Although this may sound a bit vague and ambiguous, as the homeowner, your job is to do as much as you can before the counters and cabinets are torn out to minimize confusion and make the job go as smoothly as possible. Lord knows that, considering the complexity of most kitchen renovation projects, there will be enough details to be concerned with during the project – no matter how thorough the advance planning.
The good news is the planning process can be a lot of fun and will make the renovation project go more smoothly and you will likely be more satisfied with the end result. So, where does one begin? Start by making a list of what it is you least like about your existing kitchen. Common complaints to which we are privy are the kitchen is too small, too dark, appliances are out-of-style or don’t work properly, the floor is shot, there’s not enough storage, cabinets are the wrong color or species and artificial lighting is poor.
The next step is to make a list of the features that you would most like to incorporate into your new kitchen such as new cabinets filled with convenient storage accessories, maintenance friendly flooring and counters, a shiny new sink and faucet, new state-of-the-art appliances, task lighting, etc. When it comes to dreaming the sky is the limit. However, you will eventually need to come back down to earth when it comes time to recon your dream with your budget. Fortunately, dollar-for-dollar a kitchen renovation is one of the best investments that you can make to your home that will pay big dividends when it comes time to sell. Thus, you may be shooting yourself in the foot by cutting corners and being penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Looking for ideas? Model homes, home shows, home centers, contractor showrooms and design studios are excellent resources for gathering information and product samples. Home and garden magazines are also an excellent resource for ideas. Find something you like and tear out the page and put it in a “kitchen renovation” file.
The next step in the planning process is to incorporate your “dreams” into a design. This step usually involves assistance from a kitchen design professional. This can be an independent professional or an individual associated with a design-build remodeling firm, an appliance retailer or home center. Beyond sensitivity to style and finish, the design professional will have an understanding of fundamental design elements such as the “work triangle” – an imaginary path that connects the kitchen’s three primary work areas – the sink, the refrigerator, and the range or cooktop. Keeping the triangle suited for the way you use your kitchen will yield the most efficient use of space. The designer will work hard using solid design principles to incorporate your wish list into your budget. And speaking of budget, it’s the next step in the planning process.
If you’re like most folks your have champagne taste and a beer budget! Fortunately, with the universal rise in property values, many homeowners have ample equity against which to borrow. That coupled with historically low interest rates, people are discovering that they can have their dream kitchen (and more) and end up with a monthly mortgage payment that is equal to or lower than their existing payment.
The final step in the kitchen renovation planning process is to choose an installation professional to pull all of the details together to make your dream kitchen a reality. Often, the installation team and the design professional are one in the same. This is usually the case with a design-build remodeling contractor or a home center that offers optional installation when supplying product. In any case, enough can’t be said for choosing a contractor or installation team with which you will feel comfortable working and that has a proven track record. Friends and neighbors that have had similar work are a good resource for recommendations. Never let price be your guide. Choosing the low bidder may be the biggest mistake you will ever make. Typically, all else being equal, the average of several thorough bids is your best choice.
So, what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to kitchen design? In attempt to answer this question, Lowes commissioned a quarterly Trendex survey of 500 homeowners to provide a current gauge of homeowners’ kitchen remodeling and renovating design preferences. According to the survey, ‘creating a spacious, inviting atmosphere while incorporating natural, sleek design elements into décor’ is the general theme of what American homeowners are seeking from their new kitchens. What features does the ideal American kitchen include, according to the survey? Wide, open spaces; an island (76 percent); a walk-in pantry (72 percent); natural or laminate wood cabinets (88 percent); natural stone countertops, such as granite (47 percent); stainless steel appliances (46 percent); chrome fixtures (29 percent); tile (43 percent) or hardwood flooring (37 percent); plenty of natural lighting, such as skylights (55 percent); and a professional quality audio/visual system (58 percent).
Of particular note, when asked whether their dream kitchen would feature a personal chef to cook for them or if they would rather do the honors themselves, most (68 percent) homeowners would happily don the chef’s hat hands down. Makes sense, why let someone else have all the fun at your expense.