Essential Components of a Successful Kitchen Renovation

Despite its physical size, a kitchen renovation is one of the largest and most complex renovations performed in a home.  And in terms of price per square foot, one of the most costly.  So it’s important to understand, in advance, all the elements involved in ensuring your project is a success.  We’ve been designing and installing kitchens for almost 25 years.  So we can’t emphasize these key components enough, plus the importance of hiring a professional, experienced kitchen renovator.  

A thoroughly thought-out design with the help of a professional designer is the critical first step in any renovation.

Planning & Design.  The uninitiated often tend to under-estimate the importance of a properly planned and designed kitchen renovation.  But a thoroughly thought-out design with the help of a professional designer is the critical first step in any renovation.  Not only can an experienced kitchen designer help you get the look, functionality, and ergonomics to suit your needs and desires at the budget you want to invest, but they also help streamline the ordering of products and materials.  It comes as a surprise to many homeowners that many products used in a remodelling project are not “off-the shelf”, meaning many a kitchen reno was delayed because of a backordered sink, faucet, or backsplash tile.  Plan ahead, and get your finishing products ordered BEFORE construction starts - your project will flow more smoothly and in line with your budget.

Appliances.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but the appliances are the first thing you need to select in your custom kitchen project, not the last.  Why, you ask?  Because the cabinetry is designed AROUND the appliances.  Kitchen cabinets are easy to customize before installation, but not so with pre-manufactured appliances.  By selecting the appliances first, the kitchen flow will be designed around the functionality of the appliances you select.  During this stage of the design, you’ll also determine things like gas range or electric range, waterline requirements for ice makers or filtered water, and ventilation needs (range hood vs. over-the-range-microwave vs. downdraft range vent for example), according to your aesthetic preferences and cooking style.  Provide your kitchen designer and renovation contractor with the specifications and installation details before cabinetry is designed so you know they’ll integrate nicely into the overall layout and flow of your kitchen, and into the designated cabinet openings when the appropriate time comes.

Kitchen Renovation Appliances

Cabinetry.  Natural walnut, stained maple, glazed PGH (paint-grade hardwood), lacquered MDF, thermofoil, melamine; the options are endless.  But one thing is constant: the timing of every kitchen renovation - its critical path - is centred around the installation date of your kitchen cabinets.  There are a number of items in your kitchen remodelling project that need to be done before the cabinets are installed, and several that have to wait until after.  Your general contractor experienced with kitchen installations knows the steps, but suffice it to say that after appliances are selected, you’ll want to get your kitchen cabinets laid out, specified, and ordered - with a reasonable expectation as to ETA and installation date.

Countertops.  Natural stone like granite or marble, or man-made stone (sometimes referred to as “quartz”), stainless steel, butcher block, or laminate.  Each option has its strengths and benefits, and in the end it comes down to personal preference and the look you’re wanting to achieve.  Either way, you’ll typically select your countertops immediately after (or concurrent with) your cabinets, as they will dictate certain finishing selection options that follow. 

Plumbing, Gas, and HVAC.  Careful selection of plumbing fixtures can make a huge difference between whether you like, or LOVE your new kitchen. Don’t scrimp here.  There’s a huge functional, quality, and longevity difference between quality designer fixtures and faucets found with your contractor’s wholesaler, and those found at your local big-box stores.  If you need to pinch a few pennies to meet your budget, it is often advisable to do it elsewhere in your renovation project.  During this stage, your designer and contractor will make accomodations for things like a gas-line for your range or fireplace if desired, itemize water lines for your appliances, and determine venting requirements as identified during the appliance selection phase.  Your kitchen renovator will be sure to account for these items in your overall budget as well.  

Electrical and Lighting.  Does your fridge or stove require that the electrical be in just the right spot? Does your microwave or hood vent require an interlock switch to fresh make-up air?  Do you need special electrical connections for a convection oven?  What about an electrical outlet under the sink for a garburator, and a cable outlet so you can watch TV while you’re cooking?  These are all important considerations in a successful kitchen renovation.  Now's the time to make your kitchen fit your lifestyle, rather than the other way around.  Your kitchen renovator, in conjunction with the electrical contractor will also ensure that all your kitchen electrical is up to the current safety code requirements, which are constantly evolving.  At this stage of the design process, you’ll also identify lighting requirements (recessed lighting, decorative lighting, and under-cabinet lighting, or commonly, all of the above).  Again, working with an experienced designer - better yet, your kitchen renovation contractor’s in-house designer - is critical to your project’s success.

Flooring and Backsplashes.  Two more elements that have to work together for a cohesive kitchen design are the type of flooring you select, and the type of backsplash.  And they MUST work in cohesion with the countertops.  We’ve seen kitchens where these 2 components were selected purely based on cost, and it can make the difference between a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen, and one that is just slightly off the mark.  Have you ever been shopping and had to decide between 2 different jackets, then based your decision on which one was on sale, then realized later that you should have bought the one you really liked?  Unfortunately, you can't return your kitchen for the one you really like.

The Rest.  As in “the REST of the work”, not as in “REST and relax”!  Now that you’ve thought out and planned your kitchen reno, now the real work starts.  And there’s a lot more to it than the most people think.  Demolition; framing if you are moving or removing any walls, doors or windows; subfloor installation; electrical, plumbing, and HVAC rough-ins; drywall; cabinetry and countertop installation; flooring and backsplash installation; baseboards, casings and trim; paint; etc.  The job of efficiently coordinating all these different trades can be, as a friend once told me, “Like herding cats”!  And that’s if you have all these expert trades at your disposal.  And take it from a professional: a kitchen renovation is NOT something to leave to a “Jack of All Trades”.  But if you’re working with a knowledgable and experienced renovation company with excellent trades that specialize in their respective fields, the project will flow more smoothly, allowing you to spend your time dreaming about how to USE your new kitchen!