Issues to Consider When Planning a Kitchen Remodel

Couple standing in kitchen

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The reasons we choose to remodel a kitchen are often rooted in functional problems or questions regarding the current kitchen. Many of us begin with questions like "What the heck is that?" or "Why did the previous owners do that?" Kitchen remodeling very often originates from frustration and sometimes anger at the way the kitchen was originally designed and constructed.

Here are some basics to consider as you plan a new kitchen. If these issues are considered carefully, you stand a good chance of pleasing some future owner faced who inherits the kitchen you designed and constructed.

Function First

Few other rooms in the house have such functional value as the kitchen. If a house is a machine for living, then a kitchen's function is to feed serve the operators of that machine. As you begin planning your new kitchen, concentrate first on the main functional areas of the kitchen—prep areas, cooking, refrigeration, dishwashing. The aesthetics of a kitchen should always work around function, not the other way around.

Some Service Zones Should Be Left Alone

The ideal kitchen remodel is one where nothing at all moves—simple replacement of the features without moving their locations. However, in the real world, kitchen remodeling usually involves moving some of the puzzle pieces around a bit. But you can save yourself a good deal of money and difficulty if you leave some of the major appliances and services right where they are. These include a vented range hood, the sink, and the dishwasher—the appliances and work centers than involve ductwork or wiring and plumbing lines. Electrical outlets can pose a problem, though moving them is of course possible. Electric stoves require a special outlet, too, so if possible, avoid moving it.

Some Zones Are Easy to Move

Refrigerators, even water-equipped models, can be moved fairly easily, and doing so can make quite a bit change in how a kitchen looks and functions. Cabinetry, too, is an easy move, and new a cabinet layout can radically change the look of a kitchen. Range hoods that do not vent to the outdoors are simple to move, too.

Not All Kitchen Cabinetry Is Equal

Kitchen designers may claim that you have "X" number of cubic feet of cabinetry, but you really don't—at least not functional cabinetry space. Designers tell you this to convince you they're giving you more than is really there. Cabinets located above eye-level, such as over refrigerators and stoves, are almost worthless, good only for storing that twice-a-year ice cream maker. Kitchen cabinets at eye-level over counters are the ones that offer meaningful storage. Kitchen pantry units are also considered valuable storage space. When evaluating what a kitchen designer or remodeler is promising you, focus on the truly practical cabinetry.

A Kitchen Island May Not Be Essential

Kitchen islands are a top priority of most homeowners remodeling kitchens. And islands are usually considered valuable when selling a house. But ask yourself if you really need that kitchen island or if you are just giving in to a trend. Homeowners have lived without kitchen islands for generations. Do you really need one? It takes a rather large kitchen in order for a cabinet/countertop island to function the way it is intended. Shoe-horning an island into a modest-sized kitchen offers no particular benefit, and it may make your kitchen harder to navigate.

Quality Kitchen Countertops Are Worth the Cost

Your kitchen countertops are with you day in and day out, and they will be there for many years to come. It is worth the extra cost to get the kitchen countertop you really want, whether it's granite, quartz, laminate, or solid-surface material. Get this decision right at the planning stage. The countertop is one of the largest visual elements in a kitchen, and the right countertop will be an eye-catcher someday when it is time to sell your home.

Don't Discount the Value of a Kitchen Designer

Kitchen designers perform many great functions. But the thing of shining value when it comes to kitchen designers is their space-planning expertise. Kitchen spaces cannot be taken lightly. Outlets need to be spaced properly. Unless custom-ordered, arranging cabinets that come in stock sizes can be bewildering. Arranging appliances and countertops must be done efficiently to create a practical workflow. Kitchen designers can iron out these spacing wrinkles in a way that kitchen design software cannot duplicate. Some homeowners avoid kitchen designers out of a desire to save money, but a few hours with a kitchen designer can spell the difference between a purely cosmetic makeover and making actual improvements to the most important space in your home.