A kitchen remodel is more than a home improvement project, it’s a life event. Most of us only redo a kitchen once or twice. If you’ve been through a renovation before, you probably know it can rank right up there with wedding planning and childbirth on the stress scale. As you wade through all the options for your range, countertops, and cabinets, it’s easy to lose sight of your timeline—and lose track of what you need to do next. It doesn’t help that reality shows make it look like a breeze.
Feeling overwhelmed and unsure where even to begin? Follow these simple steps. They’ll guide you through how to budget, plan, and execute your dream kitchen, sans stress.
Scout out product showrooms, talk to subject matter experts, and scan social media to discover possibilities for your space. Our renovation inspiration gallery and customer stories are a great place to begin, whether your style leans rustic and modern, light and bright, or simple and sophisticated.
Q: How do I set a realistic budget?
A: It’s a chicken-or-egg situation: You want to pin this down before you pick anything out, but you can only guess at numbers till you get estimates. Our advice: Start with cabinets and appliances. Together they account for more than half of the overall cost of most kitchens.
Dream up a preliminary design. Will you be knocking down any walls? Moving the sink (or stove)? Adding a kitchen island? Picture and loosely plot your ideal space.
Make a list of must-have appliances — refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, wine cooler —and, most importantly, their sizes. You don’t need to know the exact models yet, but your cabinet designer needs to know the dimensions.
Your designer measures your space, then factors in your ideal layout and appliance sizes to project what your cabinets will cost. Based on that, you get a solid estimate for your project.
Q: When do I choose the finishes?
A: Once you have the main parts of your kitchen squared away, you get to delve into all the other details: countertop choices, paint colors, light fixtures, and more.
5. Complementary Elements
Head to local showrooms for tile, stone, plumbing fixtures, paint, kitchen flooring, and lighting to pick out the finer points, from the sink and faucet to the backsplash and cabinet color. These are things you really need to check out in person. The internet doesn’t do colors—or sizes—justice.
6. Other Contractors
Confirm who is going to be responsible for what and when, including permits, rough construction, plumbing, electrical, and cabinet and appliance installation. It takes a team to finish a project, so it pays to get multiple quotes and referrals, and assemble a reliable one.
Q: Who do I call when I have a question?
A: If you’re working with a general contractor, he or she will usually be your go-to contact. Interior designers and cabinet shops can also help coordinate other trades. Before you sign any contracts, fully review them, check the insurance coverage and warranties, and set a payment schedule. Last but not least: Ask if and how you can make changes to the estimate.
7. Cabinet and Appliance Orders
Share detailed specs with your whole project team, and ensure they review them. Since long lead times may be involved, you don’t want to make any late-breaking changes. Ask your team when you need to commit to all the complementary elements to ensure they arrive on time, too.
8. Rough Construction
Let the demolition begin! Afterward, any new framing for structural changes and plumbing and electrical work starts. When it’s all done and the inspections are complete, new drywall goes up, and new floors go in.
Q: Where are my kitchen walls?
A: Walls can’t be closed up until the electrical and plumbing inspections are done—and those regularly get backed up. Check with your contractor or designer for updates on timing.
9. Cabinet Installation
No walls, floors, or ceilings—even freshly built ones—are perfectly smooth and square. An experienced crew works around imperfections to install your cabinets and any built-in appliances. They'll make sure the latter sit level, and that there are no gaps between them and your cabinets. They'll also check the connections to confirm there are no gas or water leaks, so your new floors don't get ruined. After this step, your countertops get fabricated and installed.
10. Final Appliances
Ones that aren’t built-in always arrive last, after your countertops. These slide into place and get hooked up. All that’s left for you to do is enjoy.