It all started with the dishwasher breaking. It was going to cost more to repair it than to replace it. Here is the before picture.
1. To Gut or Not to Gut - In deciding whether you are going to gut your kitchen or just do a facelift, the first thing you should consider is whether the layout is working for you. If your layout is working, a mini-makeover may be all you need. Are your floors in good shape? Do you like the material that is on your floor (tile, hardwood, laminate etc.). Are your cabinets in good shape? In my case, our cabinets were not made of real wood. We looked into having them painted, but were told at the time that since they had a white washed/pickled finish, they would not accept the paint well. I do believe there are now products on the market that will work on laminate cabinets, but a few years ago, they did not. If you decide to gut, it is important to not go too trendy. Otherwise you will find yourself in the same position sooner than later. Classic design never goes out of style.
2. Budget - This is probably the most important factor. A mini-facelift costs significantly less than an entire gut job. However, if a mini-facelift will not make you happy, then it will be a waste of money. I knew in my case that just painting and adding granite was not going to achieve what I wanted, and therefore would not be a good use of our money. You are better off saving up for your dream kitchen rather than throwing money away on a cosmetic change. Appliances will eat up a large portion of your budget. There are many different price points for appliances...you can spend $500 or $5,000 on a range. In general, you want to buy the highest quality you can afford...going cheap will cost you more in the end. Making a larger initial investment in quality will pay off in the long term. When making up your budget, I would suggest adding 20% on to account for all of the things you hadn't thought of previously in a project of this caliber. It's a good rule of thumb so that you don't find yourself out of money by the time you get to the final touches.
3. What other functions to you want from your kitchen? We also had this desk area which always seemed to look a mess. It became a dumping ground for everything...and again seemed to have no connection to the rest of the kitchen. Do you want a desk area in your kitchen? For us, we didn't really need this desk area. The only thing being used in the kitchen was a laptop. We didn't need an actual desk area in order to use the laptop. We also used the desk more as a bar when we entertained. So, I started looking through magazines and saw a picture of something that would work. I tweaked what I saw in the magazine and this is how we changed that area in the renovation:
4. Research - Look through as many magazines, photos, websites (e.g. houzz.com), home improvement channels (HGTV)...whatever you can to find out what your style is and what you want. It's very difficult to go to a kitchen design store and have them design something for you if you don't know what you want. I designed this kitchen the way I do all the spaces in my home...I started with a floor plan and knew exactly what I wanted. I cut out pictures of all the kitchens I was attracted to. It became pretty clear that I was drawn to the English Country look for a kitchen. It was a classic design, not likely to go out of style anytime soon. Now the next step was to find the right person to execute my plan.
5. Finding the right contractor - Some of you are talented enough to do the kitchen remodel on your own. But for those of you who don't believe you are up for the challenge (like us), I will share our story. Well, this is where our dream kitchen became our living nightmare. We used a contractor who my neighbor recommended (she was having her kitchen done at the exact same time as ours). It turned out this contractor was the same person that had designed and built my childhood bedroom set as well as a few custom pieces in my parent's home. So, we trusted him, and I didn't check his current references. He was very convincing. We paid him 50% up front. Looking back, I cringe that we blindly trusted him like that. Make sure you get a list of references from your contractor and call at least five of those references. We did not. Major mistake on our part.
6. Deposit and Final Payment - This leads me to my next tip - Do not give any contractor more than 20% before the project begins. 20% is more than enough for a contractor to start to order supplies. Also, don't be bullied into making the final payment until all punchlist items are addressed and you are 100% satisfied with the results. If you make the final payment, the contractor has no incentive to finish the work.
7. Do not let anyone gut your kitchen until your kitchen cabinets have been delivered and you have inspected them. I was adamant about this with our contractor. He was making custom boxes (the inside of the cabinet) and was getting the door fronts from Conastoga (a cabinet door company). He called me and told me my cabinets were in and that he was ready to gut the kitchen. I said I wanted to see the cabinets. I asked again the next day and the day after that. The day he came to gut the kitchen I insisted on seeing the cabinets. He told me that he only had the crew for that day and he couldn't take me right now but he promised he would by the next day. Now my kitchen was gutted and a whole week passed with more excuses and still no visual on the cabinets. After doing some investigative work, I found the factory where our cabinet boxes were being made (remember my parents had used him several times so I was able to track where the factory was from the old address). When I walked into the factory and asked to see my cabinets the person told me he had heard of me, but they hadn't even started our cabinets. The factory had not been paid...as you can imagine I was in shock. I literally started crying in the middle of this factory. Long story short - it turns out this contractor had a ponzi scheme going on. He used our money to finish someone else's kitchen and had to wait to sell more business before he could do ours. He gutted the kitchen because then he had us. We ultimately got our kitchen and once our contractor had supplied us with enough merchandise to cover the 50% we had given him he walked off the job and we had to get the person from the factory (the one I cried in front of) to finish the project. We were without a kitchen for 8 months.
8. Electrical Outlets - Consider having your outlets put under your upper cabinets. This way you will not have unsightly outlets all over your backsplash. It makes for a happy tile installer as well. Our installer was thrilled when he realized he would not have to make any cuts in the backsplash.
10. Lighting - It is so important to choose lighting that not only illuminates your space well, but that fits the look you are going for. When I saw this chandelier from ABC Crystal I knew I had found the perfect island light.
In addition to the recessed lighting around the kitchen, we also did under-cabinet lighting as well as above cabinet lighting. It's one of those things you might not think of...but the impact is great...especially at night.
I hope this post has been informative and helpful to anyone considering renovating their kitchen.
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Hope you have a great weekend.