Please Read This Before You Start Your First Kitchen Renovation

published Apr 6, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
white kitchen in the middle of being renovated
Credit: Johner Images/Getty Images

Have you been planning your kitchen renovation for a while now? Are you anxious that it might not turn out exactly how you’re hoping? I’ve been there. It can sound simple to many, but a high-quality kitchen includes more than just stunning cabinets and a backsplash. When you think of it as your office, your atelier, your sanctuary, it greatly impacts your motivation to spend time there. Moreover, a kitchen renovation can either increase or decrease the value of your house, so it’s a significant investment that will (hopefully) pay off in the long-run. Cliché or not, the kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home, so you have to make sure it’s beating.

When you start your renovation project, there are a few key dos and don’ts you should keep in mind early on. With some good planning and careful arranging, the following tips can save you time, money, and energy.

Know your space and plan accordingly.

While it may seem obvious, you have to know how much available space you have, and how to play with it. Make sure you know your kitchen’s exact measurements before you start planning, and take your time thinking out the space and what you want from it. It’s important to think beyond what looks good online and consider how it will really feel in your home — Will we have enough natural light? Is there enough room to walk around? Will my cabinet doors open and close freely? Consider how you see yourself and anyone else in your home living in this new space. Think about how it will feel to be in it, and if you’ll all be content there. It’s all of these little details that made my kitchen the perfect place for family gatherings.

When I decided to renovate my kitchen, I wanted it to be a place that fit the needs of my family. In order to make sure that happened, I had to make some changes to my original plan. After discussing with my family, I realized that I needed more storage space and counter space. To create more storage, I added open shelves on either side of the sink so we could have easy access to dishes and cookware without having to dig through drawers or cupboards. Then, instead of adding a large island in the center as originally planned, I opted for two smaller islands — one near the stovetop for prepping meals, and another along one wall as extra counter space. Flexibility and keeping an open mind are key at this stage of the renovation.

Set a budget — and stick to it.

It’s important to know what parts of your kitchen renovation project can be done with and without professional help. Determining this in advance helped me set a reasonable budget for the project. Generally, experts recommend spending between 5 to 15 percent of your total home value on a kitchen renovation. The scope of my project changed based on how much I was able to do on my own, and which upgrades I decided on.

Renovating my kitchen was a lot more expensive than I had originally planned. It seemed like every decision I made added to the cost of the project, and before long, I was over budget by about $5,000. This was the moment I knew that if I wanted to stay on track financially, I had to find creative solutions, which made me analyze again which tasks I could do on my own, and which tasks should be left to the professionals. By making a combination of DIY projects and getting help from professionals when needed, I managed to bring my kitchen renovation back within budget while still achieving the aesthetic look that I wanted.

To set a more realistic budget for your kitchen renovation, check what professionals in kitchen remodeling have said. Kitchen experts from CabinetIQ have gathered and analyzed data on the average kitchen renovation costs based on the level of customization desired. Homeowners on average can expect to spend between $14,450 and $49,450 on a kitchen renovation, although costs can go up to $106,700 for larger or more complex projects.

Additionally, your renovation can vary widely depending on several factors. A basic kitchen renovation might include replacing cabinets, countertops, and appliances, while a more extensive renovation might involve reconfiguring the layout of the kitchen, installing new plumbing or electrical systems, and adding high-end finishes. Keep in mind to define your focus areas and divide the budget accordingly.

To ensure that costs are kept under control, it’s recommended to carefully plan and work with reputable contractors in your area that will walk you through the pricing and the process.

Don’t underestimate the value of professional help.

Now you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and how much you’re planning to spend. You’re almost there — you just need the right partner for this journey. Many people hesitate to hire professionals and work with contractors or architects on their home projects. With so many options when it comes to forms, colors, and materials, seeking professional advice helped me prioritize my work based on my needs while also keeping me updated on the latest kitchen trends. This decision easily became the plot twist of my kitchen remodeling story.

Online recommendations can be fair and accurate, but there is nothing equal to a committed professional who will treat your kitchen as their art. Renovation specialists get to work with dozens of kitchen spaces and layouts, so they can guide you through sourcing materials for unique features such as custom cabinetry or diverse flooring designs. Their expertise ensures that no detail is overlooked in helping you create a space you love.

Oh, but you’re the do-it-yourself type? I get it, but hiring professionals doesn’t mean that they will work on their own. You’ll still be in charge of all the decisions; you’ll simply be more aware of your options before doing so. This way, you’re more aware of all your options on kitchen trends, and you can make better-informed decisions that reflect your individual style and preferences.

Start with the fundamentals.

Have you heard of the kitchen triangle? If not, get ready to learn about a very cool kitchen scheme that is usually referred to as the kitchen standard. It’s an arithmetic formula that is considered to fit every kitchen layout perfectly. The concept — also known as the golden triangle — aims to optimize the functionality and layout of the kitchen by strategically positioning key elements in designated areas. These areas, also known as main work spots, are designed to enhance practicality and aesthetics. The three main kitchen elements are considered: the stove or oven, sink, and refrigerator. Once you have decided on your kitchen’s golden triangle, you can move on to the actual furniture and appliances. Excited yet?

Here is a list of kitchen elements that I feel can help you navigate the final stage of your kitchen renovation.

Layout: If you have a layout change on your list, then get ready for a massive aesthetic change in your kitchen. Even though it might involve knocking down walls or reconfiguring the placement of major appliances, if done well, it will significantly improve your kitchen’s functionality and flow.

Cabinets: Kitchen cabinets are one of the most prominent features of a kitchen, and they take up a significant amount of visual space. Consequently, replacing or refacing outdated cabinets can dramatically improve the look and functionality of your kitchen.

Countertops: Countertops are another essential feature of a kitchen that have a big impact on both aesthetics and functionality. Consider upgrading to durable and stylish materials like quartz or granite.

Lighting: There’s nothing like a well-lit kitchen! Adequate lighting is crucial in the kitchen for both cooking and entertaining. Adding task lighting or replacing outdated fixtures can brighten up the space, or can even make your kitchen look cleaner and more spacious.

Flooring: Kitchen flooring takes beating after beating, and can quickly become worn out, especially in the high-traffic areas of the golden triangle. Replacing old flooring with durable materials like tile or hardwood can improve your kitchen’s safety while giving it a fresh look.

Backsplash: A new backsplash can add a pop of color or texture to the kitchen, and protect walls from damage.

Appliances: Replacing old, inefficient appliances with newer, more energy-efficient models cannot only spice up the look of the kitchen, but can also save you space and money on energy bills.

Kitchen remodeling is a huge project that requires attention and patience to achieve the desired outcome. It’s important to do your research and plan carefully to ensure that everything fits together, and that the finished product meets your expectations. Setting a specific budget, working with reliable professionals, and being aware of the available options are essential steps toward the kitchen of your dreams, and I wish I’d known how important these steps are. 

Don’t forget: No matter how much time and effort you pour into this project, it will definitely be worth it when the final result brings style, functionality, and ease of use to your home. After all, this entire journey can be very rewarding to you and your family, as you can cherish some of the best memories within its walls.

How about you? What are your top kitchen renovation regrets or, even better, what are your tips on avoiding such regrets? Leave a comment below.