Tips I Wish I'd Known Before Remodeling My Kitchen

One renovator shares her story and the before and after photos of her kitchen so that you may benefit from her accomplishments and mistakes.

I finally rebuilt my kitchen this spring after years of fantasizing about it. Because this was my first restoration job, I donned my reporter's hat and conducted considerable research, interviewing everyone I could think of about their kitchen renovation experiences. While I had to learn some things the hard way, I eventually obtained the kitchen I wanted, complete with a dishwasher-garbage-sink work triangle (which is life-changing!), a large island, and a heated tile floor (I cry with joy every morning when I walk on it).

Although a minor home renovation seems doable even without experience, it could actually take a lot of work. If you want a complete makeover of your kitchen, you may need to prepare various aspects, like your budget and schedule, before starting your project. You can either do it on your own or hire an expert. If you need professional help, you can go here.

Any restoration budget approach should include mixing and matching expensive products with less expensive ones like I did. For instance, I settled with a basic refrigerator and dishwasher so that I could upgrade to a six-burner, restaurant-quality range, and I chose manufactured quartz over real marble so that I could go with modern matte black cabinetry. By choosing these features, I was able to maximize my savings without compromising the design I had in mind.

When it comes to the makeover itself, keep in mind that doing dishes in the bathtub gets old fast, renovations are stressful, and everything will end up costing more and taking longer than you anticipated. So, it will help to know some things about a kitchen renovation first. Familiarizing yourself will allow you to carry out your renovation project efficiently and smoothly. Based on my experience, here are some things I learned:

Get design assistance from an expert.

A kitchen designer will know tactics that you won't, so inquire about their fees: Is there a charge for the design, plus a markup on everything you buy, and can you place your orders to save money? (Ask your contractor the same questions.) Hiring a designer may help you save money and ensure all the renovations done in your home won’t become a problem in the future. Besides, you wouldn't want to pay more for maintenance later on because your kitchen hadn’t been constructed well.

Moreover, look for design assistance in unexpected places: After three design blunders, I learned that Riverhead Building Supply in East Hampton, New York, has a kitchen design center, and their design was free and fantastic (thank you, Cori Schramm!). I ordered mid-priced, semi-custom cabinets—as well as my countertops—from them, and I was able to buy everything else (often on sale) at other stores on my own. The expert will most likely make suggestions that would never cross your mind. For example, I was advised to use a copper range hood, and I absolutely loved the idea.

Accept the fact that living without a kitchen will be extremely inconvenient.

I bemoaned not having a kitchen every morning as I sat at the bottom of my living room steps to boil and pour coffee. However, demolition of the old kitchen should be done ahead of time to ensure the most precise measurements for the new one. "You're making cabinets to fit the space you have," explains Tim Clarke, a designer based in California. "You want to make the most of every inch, figure out where hidden pipes are, so you can eliminate them, and uncover unanticipated issues early, so they can be fixed."

Hence, if the current kitchen design isn’t making your life comfortable anymore, it may be best to start repairs and renovations as soon as possible. With early preparations and changes, your kitchen will be ready in no time, and you can make your cup of coffee every morning with ease.

Early on, decide on your appliances and sink.

Appliances have a significant impact on design. Don't merely measure their breadth while planning: Check the depth and allow for circulation around door openings, especially the side of the refrigerator, which may require up to three inches of space to completely open inside drawers. You should also consider how your kitchen equipment will look with the rest of the furniture. Some designs may suit certain kitchen models, so it helps to visualize the space before purchasing specific appliances.

Additionally, don't scrimp on ventilation: Many people overlook the requirement for a vent or underestimate the strength required (a heavy-duty range needs a heavy-duty hood!). It's also a good idea to start looking for a sink as soon as possible, as it's just as crucial as your appliances.

I had to relocate the dishwasher from its original placement because of my large undermount Franke 60-40 split stainless steel—a crucial early-stage choice. Find an appliance retailer that will let you buy ahead of time but keep them until you're ready to install them because appliances are the last to be installed.

Make only one show-stopping design decision.

Give your kitchen character, but don't make it into a circus with several spotlight things. My major draw was a French Mediterranean-style cement tile floor, so I went with simple cabinet and countertop options, as well as a white tile backsplash. This is particularly significant in compact places.

You can pick an essential aspect of your kitchen and highlight it. For instance, if you want an island that will make the space stand out, choose the right material for the countertop, such as engineered stone. Consult with your kitchen remodeling contractor for more recommendations

Make a dry run using the tiles.

My expensive tile floor was causing me a lot of problems. I received a sample, which I liked, but when we unloaded the large container containing my whole purchase, just a couple of the items were identical to the chalky sample. (I discovered after the event that tiles, like textiles, have dye lots and color variations.) "Place all of the tiles out first before they are stuck in place," Clarke said if you have the same issue. "You can conceal the bad ones beneath the cabinets or mix them up, so there isn't a line of a different hue if there are differences from tile to tile."

Take into account the cleaning.

The amount of time you spend cleaning afterward will be influenced by your design decisions. Keep an eye out for things that will become dirty. For example, open shelves surrounding the range look great, but grease splatters will require frequent cleaning of the objects sitting on them. To prevent water from coloring your grout, run a line of silicone over the seam between the counter and backsplash behind the sink (they make it to match grout colors). Remember to plan where you'll put the garbage and recyclables, which must be accessible to your prep area and sink.