How to Get Started on a Kitchen Remodel

Want to start a kitchen remodel successfully? Start by gathering details and staying flexible

kitchen(Above) Laura + Randy’s Sweeten apartment renovation

Statistically speaking, kitchens are the most remodeled room in a home. This is due to many factors, not the least of which is that few things date a home faster than a kitchen design. Kitchens tend to last a long time. Whether this is your forever home or you plan to move in a few years, you can choose to personalize your kitchen or give it a classic design. Below, Sweeten outlines how to start a kitchen remodel and how the pros put everything back together.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

How to start a kitchen remodel: Gather information

To answer that question, you’ll need to answer a few others first. Here are a few:

Are you DIY-ing your kitchen?

To answer the first question, consider not just the money you’ll need, but the time as well. For example, you may have the skills to do some or all of the work yourself. Many homeowners will perform fairly low-skill projects, such as painting and caulking to save money. More experienced do-it-yourselfers can also install trim, insulation, and even floor coverings. However, these projects will take a while, so make sure you have the time to complete them. (We recommend reading about the cons of DIY in home renovation.)

A very common mistake of first-time remodelers is underestimating the time needed to finish a renovation. If you plan to do some of the work yourself, make sure you can complete the project in a timely manner. For example, if you hire contractors, you don’t want to delay them because you didn’t finish your project in a weekend.

How will you communicate with contractors?

If you plan to use contractors, will you be available to answer questions during the day? A good solution is to set up a window of time for communication. For example, make yourself available for a couple of hours each morning to discuss the events of the following day. That way your contractor can meet with you once, instead of playing phone tag throughout the day.

What part of your kitchen remodel is the most important?

This question is probably the most important because it really doesn’t matter how much your project costs, or how long it takes if you don’t like the end result. For instance, in a kitchen remodel, you’ll likely spend most of your budget on the cabinets and the countertops. (Note: this excludes appliances if you plan to replace those as well). Cabinets and counters are typically the first things you see when you enter a kitchen, so most owners want to make a good impression. Know what you care about the most and make sure it’s covered in your budget.

“Must-haves” & “Nice-to-haves”

A great way to stay on track and keep your costs under control is to make two lists. The first should list all of the renovation “must-haves” that are the most important to you. These items are non-negotiable and must be included. The second list will include any “nice-to-have” features. These are things you would like to include if you have the resources available, but not at the expense of your “must-have” list.

Why are you remodeling your kitchen?

Lastly, ask yourself why you want to remodel the space. It may seem like a silly question, but one thing many homeowners fear is over-remodeling. To illustrate, if you plan to live in a home forever, buying exotic wood cabinets or installing customized materials can be very satisfying. However, if you plan to sell the home for a profit in the near future, installing those features could actually lower your home’s value by comparison if few other comparable homes have them as well. A potential buyer may be able to afford your neighborhood, but not share your same taste. They may place very little value on your personalized choice, which affects your return on investment.

Avoid this scenario by deciding upfront what your end goal is and act accordingly. There is nothing wrong with personalizing your home, but it may be useful to know in advance which features will have a good return on the investment and which will not. Asking this one question will often save renovating homeowners thousands of dollars.

What happens if you’re gutting a kitchen?

Generally speaking, in a gut remodel, everything will be removed down to the wall studs. This allows for inspection of the wall cavities and the installation of any fixtures, like a pot filler, while all of the pipes are still accessible. Any new features, such as a window, are also framed at this stage.

Renovations can also be done in phases. For example, it is often convenient to replace light fixtures or add ceiling-mounted speakers before removing cabinets and flooring. As we tend to need our kitchens during a renovation, performing the project in phases can be a welcome option.

Remodel Your Kitchen In the Correct Order and Save Money

Staying code compliant

So now that you have an empty room, what do you do? After gaining access to the wall studs, any insulation, framing, electrical, or plumbing work can be done. If your project will be built in a jurisdiction with code requirements, there will usually be an inspection made by a local codes official to ensure compliance. Any required inspections will need to be made and passed before installing new drywall. An experienced and licensed general contractor will know the code requirements for your municipality and will be responsible for adhering to them. After any new features are installed, inspected, and approved the drywall is then replaced and finished.

Paint and lighting

In many situations, the next step is to paint. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the pros will usually spray on paint, because it is super fast when the room is empty. This prevents the need to stand on a step ladder for hours on end painting around light fixtures and wall switches, saving you money.

Professionals will often install the light fixtures next. Again, this may seem odd, but wall sconces and overhead fixtures need to be in an open space to distribute the light, keeping them out of the way of other projects. Contractors often work in low lighting, because during the beginning phase the space is essentially bare. By installing the lighting first, the need for pole lights and other portable lighting is reduced or eliminated.

Now that the kitchen is painted and well lit, the cabinets are usually installed, followed by the countertops, and finally, the sink. As mentioned earlier, you may also be adding new plumbing fixtures such as a bar sink, or pot filler. These would be installed at this stage, as well as new features such as GFCI outlets or a hot water recirculation pump.

Lay flooring down last

Floor covering such as vinyl or cork can be damaged easily during a remodel. Even durable materials such as porcelain tiles can be broken by a falling tool. Hardwood floors are especially vulnerable, as repairs often involve removing large sections. For this reason, professionals will usually install floor coverings last. This also prevents wasting materials in areas that will never be walked on, such as under cabinetry. At this stage, any trim required, such as the baseboard or casing can be replaced.

Ready to get started?

Remodeling a kitchen can be the most rewarding project a homeowner can take on. It’ll likely pay off with prospective buyers, too, since the kitchen is often considered the most important room in a home. Knowing how to start a kitchen remodel can be simple if you’re prepared with the right details. Remember to do your homework, ask your contractor lots of questions, and stay involved in the process.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

Have questions or comments about this post?

Join the conversation

You may also like

Start renovating

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering guidance and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Start your renovation
Start your renovation
no-cost-blue

Subscribe to our
renovation newsletter