Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

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With the average kitchen remodel costing around $55,000, it’s easy to see why homeowners look for ways to save money on a renovation. And considering how many decisions are made with this highly functional room, the process of remodeling can be very overwhelming for a homeowner. Avoid a disastrous renovation by keeping these tips in mind. This post was provided by editor-in-chief Anne Reagan.

Modern home with Kitchen, Wood Cabinet, Refrigerator, Range Hood, Range, Wall Oven, Recessed Lighting, Concrete Floor, Marble Backsplashe, Marble Counter, and Undermount Sink. Their creative confections may ruin our diets, but we’re happy to be their taste testers anytime.  Photo  of Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

Where Your Money Should Go

The biggest budgetary factor of your kitchen renovation is the actual scope of the project—how many upgrades you need to make and how many square feet you plan on remodeling. A kitchen remodel includes a lot of decision making, and it’s important to know where (and when) to spend money in the kitchen. Experts advise spending about 5% - 15% of your home’s valuation on a kitchen remodel. Regardless of your budget, expect to spend about 48% of your overall budget on cabinetry, 15% on countertops, 19% on appliances, and 5% on flooring. Other money might be spent on electrical, walls and trim, windows, or plumbing upgrades. When it comes time to sell your home, the money spent on your kitchen remodel should be comparable to homes in your neighborhood in order to stay competitive.

Modern home with Kitchen, Colorful Cabinet, and Concrete Counter. A tight construction budget informed the choices Sean Guess made as he designed a house for a couple in Austin, Texas. Budget-minded materials, like the James Hardie fiber-cement siding, helped hold construction costs to $130 per square foot. Sherwin-Williams’s Cyberspace hue colors the exterior and Parakeet coats the custom kitchen cabinets by Austin Wood Works. The planter is made from Cor-Ten steel. Photo  of Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

Understand Additional Costs

It’s important to remember that the materials, appliances and fixtures you choose may have additional costs like fabrication, shipping, installation or permitting. In other words, the decisions you make regarding what goes into your kitchen may cost more than what you see on the price tag. For example, having a beautiful marble countertop might be part of your dream kitchen, but the sticker price for the slab may not include overage costs, delivery, fabrication and a more experienced (read: more expensive) installation team. When choosing materials, ask about all related cost factors associated with that material. A good rule of thumb is that if you can barely afford the material, it’s likely you won’t be able to afford the other ancillary costs. You might think that by doing installation yourself, you’ll save money, and this might be the case if you have experience or have the time to learn new skills. But don’t use your own expensive materials as a learning curve—you may find yourself needing to hire a pro to fix your DIY mistakes.

Modern home with Kitchen, Range Hood, and White Cabinet. The Mandayam–Vohra family gathers under one of Workstead’s signature three-arm chandeliers, shown here in its horizontal configuration. Photo by: Matthew Williams Photo  of Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

Follow the Golden Rules of Kitchen Design

The fun part about remodeling a kitchen is choosing colors, selecting backsplash tile and picking out high tech appliances. But the most important part is the spatial design and planning. Good kitchen design focuses on maximizing efficiency and making the space functional. A few of these “golden rules” of kitchen design are obvious—don’t put the dishwasher too far from the sink, or the sink too far from the stove. To make your kitchen remodel less painful, do a bit of research about the best places to situate appliances, outlets, the sink, the island, or storage. If you are working with a kitchen expert, lean on them to get the best possible outcome for your space. If you aren’t using a pro, there are many published guidelines to learn from. Need help with your kitchen layout? Read this primer.

Modern home with Kitchen, White Cabinet, Marble Counter, Stone Tile Backsplashe, Marble Backsplashe, Ceiling Lighting, Dishwasher, Recessed Lighting, Vessel Sink, Pendant Lighting, and Undermount Sink. Pendant lights are lights that hang from a cable, cord, or pipe from an attachment at a ceiling. They primarily provide light in a downward direction, known as a downlight.  Photo  of Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

You Need More Light Than You Think You Do

First and foremost, a kitchen must be functional. Without enough light, you run the risk of chopping dangers, floor slips, or food mishaps. Your kitchen lighting design should be well thought out and if need be, you should consider getting a consultation from a professional lighting designer. Ideally you’ll have light from multiple sources: overhead lighting, ambient lighting, and under-counter lighting. If you live in a northern climate with longer hours of darkness, consider table lamps or sconces for a greater variety of lighting. Placing your lights on separate dimmer switches will allow you to change the lighting design quickly for the task at hand.

Modern home with Kitchen, Ceramic Tile Backsplashe, Undermount Sink, Engineered Quartz Counter, White Cabinet, Dishwasher, Open Cabinet, and Cooktops. Earth tone tiles back a Kohler sink at this energy efficient home in Davis, California. The backsplash is from Heath Ceramics, the sink is Kohler, and the custom millwork is by Schmidt's Cabinetry. Photo  of Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

Invest in Energy Efficiencies

No matter your kitchen style, prioritize for energy efficiency. Buy appliances that are Energy Star rated and ask about low-flow faucets. If your remodel calls for new windows, make sure they are the right type of glass for your region and climate. Occasionally, a kitchen remodel calls for new plumbing, gas lines, or hot water heaters. Ask your contractor or remodeling professional about how to increase your energy savings for all of these areas—you may end up improving other areas of your home in the process. Sometimes the most energy-efficient appliances and fixtures are more expensive; however, you may be entitled to a tax rebate and should see additional savings in your monthly bills.

Modern home with Kitchen and Colorful Cabinet. Kids’ Lit

To display the children’s artwork in a fun and flexible way, John designed a four-foot-high lightbox, custom-built by Geron, and installed it above the staircase. The front panel is non-glare acrylic held in place with magnetic strips; low-voltage LED strips provide the backlighting. “We’ll change out the art at least at every holiday and birthday,” says John. Photo  of Tips for a Pain-Free Kitchen Renovation

Focus on the 3 R’s

Reduce, reuse, and recycle can be a part of your kitchen remodel if you take the time to make thoughtful decisions. If your renovation calls for a total gut, save as much material as you can and donate it to a local salvage shop. Or see if any of your existing cabinetry or flooring can be refinished instead of replaced. Older homes may need to be tested for asbestos or lead paint, so make sure you’re working with a contractor who can advise on which pieces are worth saving and which ones should be recycled or disposed. Home improvement often leads to a lot of waste and energy usage, so think carefully before purchasing or throwing things away.