How to Remodel a Kitchen

  • 01 of 10

    Steps to Take When Remodeling a Kitchen

    Mother lifting daughter in kitchen
    MoMo Productions/Taxi/Getty Images

    You might very well be crazy.  Unlike any other home remodeling project, kitchen renovation encompasses so many things--from the raw to the sublime, from the picayune to the important--that it can easily overwhelm even the most determined homeowner.

    On the other hand, a fine kitchen remodels instantly raises the value of your home, provides you with a more effective cooking space, and makes you the envy of all of your friends. So, before beginning this tough-but-rewarding project, ask yourself:

    1. Wh...MOREat Are My Needs and Desires?: Is your kitchen a disaster zone where you can't even manage to boil an egg? Or do you just want to freshen the place up with new appliances, countertops, floors, and cabinets? A need might be: I need kitchen cabinets because my current ones are falling apart. A desire might be: I desire a new dishwasher because my current one is ugly and noisy, though it works perfectly well.
    2. Is It Worth Putting Myself Through This?: Do you want work crews in your house for extended periods? Do you want to spend money and put yourself through this turmoil? While one of the more expensive home renovation projects, kitchen remodels retain their value well should you decide to sell your house.
    3. Deep-Down Renovation or Surface-Level?: Be honest. Is this a $85,000 full-scale kitchen remodel or a less ambitious surface-level kitchen renovation? No shame in either choice.
    4. Bonus Question: Can I Reduce the Cost of Remodeling?
      Think about this now before you get too involved in the project. If you cannot authoritatively answer "Yes" or "I really don't care how low my bank account gets," then you have no business remodeling your kitchen. From doing it yourself to limiting your need for contractors, there are tons of ways to save money.
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  • 02 of 10

    Start With A Solid Kitchen Design

    Luxury Galley Kitchen
    Luxury Galley Kitchen.

    This is the fun part. When you design your kitchen, you get to exercise your creative muscle while your house is still clean and in one piece.

    5 Basic Kitchen Plans:  Start With Proven Success

    Why reinvent the wheel?  While you have a wide range of possibilities, utilize one of the five basic kitchen design plans, such as these below.  For ease of movement, all plans represent some form of that classic workflow model, the kitchen triangle.

    1. The One-Wall Design
    2. The Corridor Design
    3. The L-Shape Design
    4. The...MORE Double-L Design
    5. The U-Shape Design

    How to Design Your Kitchen

    • Kitchen Design Software
      Inexpensive computer design software helps you with the difficult task of space-planning.
    • Book-Based Design Packages
      Available at bookstores, these kits have cardboard punch-outs representing cabinets and appliances. Placing punch-outs on a kitchen grid helps you realistically view your available space.
    • Kitchen Designers
      Kitchen designers at home improvement companies or at kitchen design stores typically design your kitchen free of charge. However, they will steer you to their own vendors and to their own work crews. Independent designers will have the most freedom and may give you the best product because they have fewer restrictions. However, they will charge you either by the hour or on a percentage basis.
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  • 03 of 10

    Hire a Contractor or Do It Yourself?

    Building Contractors
    Contractors Smooth Your Remodeling, But At a High Price. CC-Licensed; Flickr user U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

    You've got great ideas. But how to turn these ideas into reality?

    • Hiring a Contractor.
      Find a licensed contractor who deals extensively with residential kitchen remodeling. Commissions based on the price of the project range from 15%-25%.
    • Doing It Yourself.
      Renovating the kitchen by yourself, you spend no money on labor charges but you may slow down your project as you learn skills necessary to remodeling.
    • Acting as Your Own Contractor.
      A tempting option. You hire carpenters, electricians, plumb...MOREers, and other subcontractors yourself and save the contractor's high commission. But this puts a lot of work on your shoulders.

    You should apply for permits now. Permits must be obtained from different agencies. Your city or county may administer the electrical, plumbing, and building permits. Your water company may also need to permit any work relating to water supply and drainage. If a contractor is handling the renovation, he will obtain your permits. If you are doing it yourself, start by calling your local city or county permitting agency.

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  • 04 of 10

    Demolish, Repair, and Build Structural Elements

    Load Bearing Wall or Not
    Take Out That Wall? Why Not?. © Lee Wallender


    Something has to go. Something as small as those nasty laminated counters or as major as that load-bearing wall blocking the view of the living room.

    Kitchen materials may contain hazardous materials such as lead-based paint and asbestos, both of which require special handling.

    After that, you need to haul away the waste material and dispose of it. Waste stations may not accept hazardous materials, so you should first check up with them about acceptable waste.

    Building and Repairing

    Dependi...MOREng on your new kitchen's configuration, you may be taking on major construction tasks. Are you adding or replacing windows? Or removing windows to increase cabinet space? How about taking down walls to open up the kitchen to the rest of the house?

    Even minor kitchen remodeling may need joists strengthened to support heavier appliances or built-ins such as a kitchen island.

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  • 05 of 10

    New Plumbing and Electrical Systems

    Modern Kitchen Design Ideas
    Modern Kitchen Design Ideas. Steven Miric / Getty

    If you're doing the work yourself and learning as you go, this will be slow-going. Kitchen plumbing and electrical is not exactly a trade you learn overnight. But if you're using a contractor or hiring subcontractors, your head will spin at how fast experienced plumbers and electricians can do this.

    Rough-In the Plumbing

    Your new kitchen may have a kitchen island with a sink or a refrigerator with an automatic icemaker. Or you may decide to move the main sink to a different spot. In any...MORE event, it is almost certain that you will have increased plumbing needs. At this "rough-in" stage, new supply and drainage pipes are added for sinks, dishwashers, and refrigerators.

    Add Electrical System

    You should have at least a 200-ampere service panel to power a modern kitchen. If you have less than this, you will need to heavy-up or increase your service capacity. This is a job best done by an electrician. Electricians most likely will abandon your old wires in favor of running new wires through the walls to power lighting and appliance circuits. If you are doing the work yourself, you may also find it easier to run new circuits than to deal with a spaghetti mess of old wires.

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  • 06 of 10

    Closing Up the Walls

    Closing Up the Walls
    Benjamin Moore

    Now the kitchen takes shape and begins to look like a kitchen.


    Exterior walls will be insulated with fiberglass batt to provide a buffer between the kitchen and inclement weather. With the wall cavities accessible, now is your chance to install high-quality insulation rather than the less-effective blown-in insulation later.

    Close Walls

    Before the walls are closed up, the electrical system must be looked at and approved by an inspector from the local permitting agency. Drywall is hung and...MORE the seams between the drywall sheets are filled in with joint compound. After drying, the joint compound is sanded several times until it is smooth. Finally, the walls are primed and painted.

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  • 07 of 10

    Lay Flooring That Works Best in Kitchens

    Kitchen Floor Tile
    American Olean

    Kitchen floor is laid after the heavy work of building, drywalling, and painting to save wear and tear.

    Vinyl, Tile, Engineered Wood, and Laminate Flooring

    • Vinyl is the least expensive flooring choice and can usually be laid in one day.
    • Tile requires the application of cement backing board and must adhere with mortar and then grouted. Each step requires drying time. Even with inexpensive tile, this flooring option can be costly because of the labor involved.
    • Engineered wood feels like solid...MORE hardwood (its surface finish is real wood), but it is fairly moisture-tolerant.
    • Laminate flooring is a highly popular choice for kitchens because of its tolerance to moisture. Unlike engineered wood, the laminate is scratch and dent resistant.
    • Solid Hardwood:  Hardwood is less popular because water if not quickly mopped up, can warp it. However, with proper care, it is a viable choice for the kitchen. Installers can lay wood in an average-sized kitchen floor in three days.
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  • 08 of 10

    Hang Cabinets and Install Countertops

    Install Countertops
    Ralph Lauren Home


    Cabinet-hanging requires patience. Your local cabinet supplier should have work crews who can hang your cabinets, usually over a period of a day or two. If you are sub-contracting the work, any competent carpenter can do this job. Or you can do it yourself as long as you have an extra set of hands.


    Whether ceramic tile, granite, marble, you must keep in mind basic tile design principles that have been around for 2,000 years. Or, you may choose to use man-made materials such as...MORE Silestone, Formica, or Corian. If so, it's best to have specialized shops fabricate your countertop. Installation looks easier than it is. All counters must be level enough that an egg can rest on them without rolling off. It is impossible to level the countertops if the base cabinets were not installed correctly.

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  • 09 of 10

    Install Sinks, Fixtures, and Final Items

    Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink
    © Kohler

    You're on the last lap. Now for a few last items to install.

    Sinks and Fixtures

    To this point, the plumbing was roughed in. Now it's time to set the sinks into the countertops and make final connections. Sink faucets and handles--the fixtures--are put in place and dishwasher hooked up.

    Last Items

    Just when you think you've got it all, you'll always find more items that need to be installed. Remember that the recessed light covers were left off so that the ceiling paint could dry? And...MORE the cabinet knobs on back-order just now arrived. HVAC filters were left off so they wouldn't get clogged with construction dust. And what about all those outlet covers?

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  • 10 of 10

    "Finalling" the Permits and Last Touches

    © American Olean

    You thought you were done. As always, a few last things to do...

    Final the Permits

    Inspectors will visit your house one last time and "final" the permits. As a reward for your efforts, your permit application is stamped "Approved."

    Touch-Up Painting

    Inevitably, there will be scars and dings on your walls. So accept the fact that there may be spackling and touch-up painting to do even though the walls have already been painted.


    A good contractor employs a housecleaner who...MORE specializes in building-related cleaning. If you're doing it yourself, give yourself a breather and hire a housecleaner to clean your kitchen.

    Your kitchen is finished! Enjoy the new space and convenience, and feel good about having made one of the better home renovating choices!