Remodeling a kitchen is a big undertaking and one that requires careful planning. And while gathering information, sourcing ideas online, and pawing through samples at your local decor store seems fun, it's necessary to look at the bigger picture before embarking on the journey. Consider the space you're working with (and whether or not you intend to expand it), the workability of your existing layout, and the cost of the overall renovation to devise a plan that you can meticulously stick to. Remember, any remodel can get out of hand, in terms of size and cost, if the ground rules are not set firmly in place. But with simple forethought, your remodel can roll smoothly and you may even complete it under budget.
Consider Your Budget
Weighing out the costs of a remodel is, undoubtedly, the most daunting task in the project. Therefore, it's the one you should tackle first. A new kitchen can be a major expense, so first consider your budget when deciding how big you want to go. Enlist the help of a neighborhood realtor for advice on the added value your undertaking will add to your home. Study your favorite kitchen and remodeling magazines and websites for budgeting hints. And look into a home equity loan for a major endeavor, or financing options for updating cabinetry and appliances (many offer zero interest for six months to a year). Then, explore ways to save money by doing some of the work yourself or giving your cabinets a facelift, rather than buying new ones.
Examine the Existing Layout
Kitchen experts advise on sticking to the kitchen’s current layout to save money and to keep the project simple. However, that doesn’t mean that new cabinets must adhere to the same location as the ones you remove. However, you’ll save money by leaving major systems in place, like plumbing, gas, and electricity. So, while your refrigerator and sink may need to stay put, you can integrate things like open cabinetry where there once was closed.
Though you may need to add additional water lines for sinks, dishwashers, and ice makers and update the wiring to current code, avoid moving gas piping for a cooktop or oven or re-routing heating and air-conditioning ductwork.
Contemplate an Addition
Gaining more space is often a common motivation for remodeling a kitchen. Still, before you knock out the walls, weigh the cost of the extra space. You may be able to use the money spent on an expansion for quality cabinets or high-end appliances instead.
If it's truly more space you're after, look to adjoining rooms and places where you can steal square footage. For example, it might make sense to take from a hodgepodge of smaller rooms (laundry room, pantry, bathroom, and mudroom) and merge them into one super-functional kitchen space. After that, discuss your project with a certified kitchen planner or architect. A good space planner will be able to reconfigure the walls, the ceiling, or the windows to make a kitchen space feel larger without the expense of a room addition.
Consider your kitchen appliances in the overall remodel design. For instance, if you long for a large commercial range, be aware that the weight of the appliance may require additional construction to brace the floor underneath it. Hoods come with installation specifications for a certain size vent duct. In an older home, you may be required to tear out part of the walls or ceiling to reroute or upgrade the ducts. Dishwasher placement may require additional wiring and plumbing and cabinet height needs to pair seamlessly with this appliance. Various models of cooktops require different depths in the cabinet underneath. In this instance, you may not be able to have a utensil drawer directly below the countertop in this location. And, unless you prefer setting a microwave oven on the counter, a custom cabinet or shelf may be needed to fit the size and style of oven you buy and an electrical outlet will need to be installed at that location.
Select Your Lighting
A great lighting plan can make the difference between an ordinary or a spectacular kitchen remodel. If yours has only one or two ceiling lights and a tiny window over the sink (like in most older homes), perhaps it’s time to upgrade. Replace old windows and doors with larger, modern ones that let in more light.
Use layers of light—recessed lighting, LED under-cabinet lights, pendant fixtures, or a chandelier—to create a dramatic effect. For glass-front cabinets, install mini-spotlights at the top to display beautiful glassware. Put dimmer switches on all kitchen lighting so you can control the amount of light throughout the day. Place switches in convenient locations, too, and outlets according to code.