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How To Remodel a Kitchen

Outdated cabinets. Dingy flooring. Lack of storage. Worn out appliances. If these words describe your kitchen, then a remodel is probably on your wish list. But what exactly is involved in a kitchen remodel? To be honest, it can be an enormous undertaking. The key is to understand the process before you begin. 

Your success is contingent upon taking the right steps in the right order. 

 Safety Considerations

Before you begin, it's important that you commit to prioritizing the safety of anyone and everyone involved in the renovation process. 

Important safety measures include things like turning off the water and power before you start the demo, wearing protective gear (like gloves, heavy-duty shoes and eye and hearing protection) and using the proper tools. Consulting professionals for tasks that are above and beyond your skill set will also help ensure your safety. 

Ready to get started? Here’s my step-by-step guide to remodeling your kitchen.

 Step 1: Create a Plan 

Proper planning prevents…

As eager as you are to get started, don’t remove that grimy old sink or order a new smart refrigerator until you’ve mapped out a detailed kitchen remodel plan. This all-encompassing plan gives you the opportunity to merge your vision with your budget, and it allows you to determine whether you can tackle the project on your own or if you should consult with some remodeling professionals. 

The planning stage is also the time to determine the scope of the project.Scope, also known as extent, can range from a basic cosmetic refresh to a “total gut,” which likely entails tearing down walls and reconfiguring your layout. Somewhere in between the two is pretty typical, but it all depends on the objectives you’ve set for your kitchen. 

Once you've determined your scope, you need a design. Some homeowners feel confident in their design skills and can do a nice job of it. It's always a good idea to at least get a professional cabinet designer to help with the layout. A competent design professional will ask you questions that might not occur to you to help guide the choices of layout and all the options available. 

This is also the time to order all your appliances, order the cabinetry, select your countertops, purchase your tile (if any) for the backsplash, get your flooring selected and ordered, and even purchase your cabinet hardware etc. This is more important now more than ever as the are many delayed lead times and availability of certain items can be limited. 

Once you know the lead times of your selections, you can plan when to begin the remodel. This will prevent you from having a torn up kitchen that's unusable for months because you're waiting on cabinets. 

 During planning you will want to meet with any contractors you might need to help you with this project. 

 Step 2: Demo and/or Prep Your Kitchen

 Now that you have a plan and know your scope and design, it’s time for the demo. 

 But wait! Not so fast! 

 Protect, protect, protect

 If you plan to save your existing floors you will definitely want to protect your floors really well. A little bit of extra work and a few extra dollars spent at protecting your floors now will save you a lot more money and labor later. So, you will want to lay down some ram board and tape all the strips together. That is minimum protection. My professional recommendation is to go beyond that. I prefer to lay down rosin paper on the floor taping all the seams together. Then over that I lay down sheets of Masonite's hardboard and tape those together with duct tape. That creates a floating shell over your existing floor. Hardboard is amazingly resilient to dropping tools, and all the damage that can result from the demolition phase of the project. That shell on your floor can stay down all the way until the end of the project. And those Masonite board pieces can't be reused for other projects where you want to protect your floors. 

Also you will want to create a dust barrier between the work area and the rest of your house. it's astounding how much fine dust will travel all around your house during demolition phase and also during the drywall phase. So, tape up plastic barriers and use Zipwall to create a zippered opening to come in and out of your work area. 

Now, stop and congratulate yourself. You've just done what 90% of homeowners don't think of and even all too many professionals don't do properly. The degree of success you'll have in your remodel is heavily dependent on what you've just done. How you protected surfaces and all the planning you put into your project on the front end will pay off with a much smoother process and great results at the end. 

 Down and dirty 

Now the fun begins! At this point, you get to rip up your dated vinyl flooring, take away that ugly, dilapidated range hood and remove all of those dingy oak cabinets circa 1985. (If your scope is minimal, you might simply prep walls for paints or remove your old backsplash). 

You'll want to plan on disposal of debris. For a total gut, a dumpster is worth the cost. If you're only doing a very light renovation, you might be able to get away with just using a Bagster or two by Wast Management. 

After you complete the demo, you can prep for the rest of the project by starting on any changes to the framing. If you have opened up your walls completely at this point, it's a great idea to add blocking between studs to make it easy to install cabinets later. 

 Step 3: Plumbing and Electrical 

 Don't get hosed (or electrocuted)

 Next up is plumbing and electrical. Why so early when you won’t actually be running the dishwasher or turning on the lights anytime soon? At this point, your cabinets are out and the inner workings of your walls are exposed, making it the perfect time to deal with pipes and wires.If you wait, you’ll probably find yourself drilling into the backs of those brand-new cabinets or cutting holes into the drywall so you can install pipes or connect the wires to your under-cabinet lights. 

This is one place where having a good professional set of cabinet plans will come in handy. You will want to know the exact location of all your appliances down to the fraction of an inch at this point so that your plumbing can be roughed out to the right location without having to change it later when the cabinets are in. 

Step 4: Hang Your Drywall 

 Time to get board (and bored)… 

 Before you get started on drywall, make sure your measurements are accurate. You’ll need enough drywall to cover all the walls and ceiling.You’ll need:48-inch T-squareTaping knivesDrywall tapeScrewsScrew gunDrywall sawSanding poleMixing paddleDust mask

 Be sure to factor in some time for clean-up at this stage, because drywall dust is unrelenting. You’ll want to be rid of it before moving on (a shop vacuum is your best bet for this job). And for the sake of the rest of your house, hopefully you did your plastic barriers thoroughly at step one to prevent as much dust from migrating into the rest of the house as possible. 

 Step 5: Paint Your New Walls 

 Show your true colors

 Painting is the stage where you finally start to see your vision take shape. Plus, painting is fairly straightforward. (You can select your paint colors and do the painting yourself on the very same day.) 

 TIP: When considering paint color, think about the color and style of the cabinets you intend to install, as well as the overall ambiance you wish to create.

 I recommend Sherwin-Williams paints. They are an excellent all-around brand for all your painting needs and their prices are typically quite a bit better than Benjamin Moore brand. 

The reason I place painting at this phase in the remodel and not later is because it's a lot easier to paint your ceiling and walls when your kitchen is not cluttered up with cabinets yet. It takes a lot less time to cut in and roll out your ceiling and walls when you don't have to cut in all around your cabinets. But plan on a little bit of time at the very end after the cabinets and countertops are in to do touch-ups. Inevitably you will get some scuff marks on your walls and maybe ceilings due to cabinet installation and countertops. But it's a lot easier to touch up already painted walls and ceilings.

 Step 6: Flooring 

Getting floored

 Some experts prefer to install cabinets first while others say flooring first is the way to go. Ultimately, it’s up to you. When it comes to function, flooring first is perfectly acceptable. But my recommendation is to install flooring first always. For one, it is much easier to install a wide open room than it is to install around the footprints of your base cabinets, depending on how complex your cabinet layout is it can be a complete nightmare that only a professional flooring installer could pull off well. But, also if you ever decide in the future to remove your cabinets and your flooring is still usable, you will be stuck with following the exact same footprint of your old cabinets. 

 Step 7: Install cabinets. 

 Getting boxed in 

 Now your kitchen will really start to look like one.

There are two opinions on how to install cabinets. Some professionals like to install the upper cabinets first while the majority prefer to install the base cabinets first. There really is no right answer to this. I prefer to begin with base cabinets however. One reason I do is because as soon as the base cabinets are installed I have my countertop fabricator already scheduled to come and template for the countertops. I don't want to delay this process one more day then is necessary. 

 While plumbing and electrical take a good deal of technical knowledge, this step takes a lot of skill. Be sure to watch some instructional videos on proper cabinet installation and take your time. Damaging a prefinished cabinet can cost a lot of money and time lost due to having to replace it. 

 Step 8: Install Countertops 

Counter offer

Once your base cabinets are installed, you can measure for your new countertops. This step occurs after the base cabinet installation because of the level of precision required in measuring. Your countertop fabricator will need your sink and faucet on site to be sure they cut the right opening for the sink and drill the correct spacing for your faucet.

At this point, there might be a bit of a low as you wait for the countertops to arrive. Some fabricators are only a few days out on lead time. Other fabricators might make you wait 3 to 4 weeks. It all depends on how busy that particular shop is and how well staffed they are. 

 Step 9: Install the Backsplash 

Making a splash

 The kitchen backsplash is a functional piece of your remodel and has the potential to really shine when it comes to design. 

Hopefully, you already have your tile and grout on site so they can be installed right after the counters. 

 Step 10: Install the Sink and Bring in Your Appliances

 Sink or swim

Finally, it’s time to install your new sink and set up the dishwasher, refrigerator, range and any other appliances.At this point, the bulk of the work is done. However, it wouldn’t hurt to call a plumber and/or electrician just to make sure everything is good to go. For example, a plumber will know how to connect your sink to the previously-installed plumbing fixtures, and an electrician can verify that your new gas stove is installed correctly. 

 Getting punchy 

Now look around and find all the flaws. It's easier to spot them now than later when you're used to them. Fix them all now and not later. If you're like me, later doesn't usually come. You've made it until now and your tired. Give it one more small push and get all those annoying little touch ups and repairs done.Once these installations are done, your remodel is complete and it’s time to move on to the most important step—relaxing and enjoying your new kitchen. 

 Now, call your friends and have a party and pretend your not showing off your handy skills. In fact, this might be what you need to motivate you to finish those last pesky details. You're hard work paid off!

 When to Call a ProFor smaller remodels, an experienced DIYer can likely handle most of the projects mentioned above, such as painting and installing a backsplash. But for larger projects like plumbing and electrical, consult a contractor to ensure safety and proper completion of the renovation. The last thing you want to do is affect the integrity of your kitchen’s structure and function.