Friday, April 12, 2013

Things to Consider Before Remodeling a Kitchen

A few years ago we completely gutted our is the after picture.

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.
We had  all white appliances at the time, but now that the dishwasher was broken, I wasn't going to buy another white appliance.  I decided I would buy a stainless steel dishwasher - one that could accept a custom panel if we decided to go that route at some point (because I knew if I re-did the kitchen I would either go with stainless or the cabinet look).  Before making the ultimate decision to gut the kitchen we considered all of our options.  We considered just changing out all the appliances and doing a mini-makeover to the kitchen.  We also considered adding granite countertops only -  keeping the basic kitchen.  Ultimately we decided that the original layout wasn't really working for us.  The peninsula was dividing the kitchen in two, making two small spaces with no continuity.  In addition, I really hated the tile.  We were going to have to gut the kitchen.  If you've ever been through a kitchen renovation you know that you learn so much during the process and become a pseudo-expert of sorts in kitchen renovation.  I wanted to share some tips with you that we learned along the way as well as a little advice I wish someone had given to me.

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 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:
This works so much better and it makes the two sides of the kitchen come together.  That leads me to my next tip
4.  Research - Look through as many magazines, photos, websites (e.g., 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 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.
I always unplug my appliances when not in use, but this is what it looks like when they are plugged in.  It makes for a really nice appearance in the backsplash.
9.  It's all in the details.  In any space it's the details that make a kitchen unique and beautiful.  My corbel choice, my knobs, my backsplash's all what helped achieve the English Country kitchen look I was after.
Cabinets to the ceiling topped off with a large dentil crown moulding helps achieve a grand look.  Our ceilings are 9' tall in the kitchen.
To break up the large expanse of wood cabinets, we added a few with glass doors (these and the ones in the bar area).  We also added a few drawers under this cabinet, but on top of the countertop, to add interest to the kitchen.
Rather than stainless appliances, we chose to go with appliances covered in the same cabinetry for a more fluid look.  We also ripped up the ugly tile floor all the way to the front door and replaced it with wide wood floors stained in a dark color.  If you look under the pantry and throughout the kitchen, we added a wood detail to make it look like free standing furniture (it looks like little furniture legs).

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.
I had the same feeling about the lighting fixture over my kitchen table.  I loved the look.  I will say it was significantly less money than the ABC Crystal chandelier...and unfortunately it kind of shows.  It has never hung straight.  The store actually replaced it and we still had the same problem.

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.

Hope you have a great weekend.



Calypso In The Country said...

Thanks for all the great tips Judy. A few years ago we replaced our appliances and changed the Corian to granite. I still don't totally love my kitchen so our next step is probably painting the cabinets. I have a painter coming to give me an estimate next week. She totally transformed two of my neighbors kitchens so I am hoping she can do the same with mine...but I must say, I am still toying with the idea of a total gut job. I have a peninsula instead of an island and it has always annoyed me. I will definitely think more about all you said in your post. Perfect timing! Have a great weekend! - Shelley

Lisa @ Shine Your Light said...

Judy, thank you for sharing these thoughts. The idea to put the outlets under the cabinet is genius! Love that little tidbit.

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

Your kitchen is beautiful, Judy! I love how you've blended the refrigerator in with the cabinetry, too. We haven't done a major kitchen remodel since we moved into our two houses in NY. Then they were old and outdated and needed it! We got lucky here with this condo. Everything is still fairly new and we are looking to update/upgrade the countertop, add a backsplash and new sink. We did get all new appliances after we moved in {and had to get a washer and dryer because they don't come with the houses here. It is considered personal property.}.

NanaDiana said...

Judy- Great, great ideas here. It is a big job, isn't it? I think I might have one more kitchen remodel in me if we move again. You are spot on with your advice- xo Diana

Unknown said...

BEAUTIFUL! I am always looking at updated kitchens for my project , but I have a small kitchen and it is a challenge! Join my site and maybe yu cansee old post of my kitchen challenge in process for some ideas I may can follow! :))

Anonymous said...

Oh, Judy, your kitchen is so gorgeous! It's one of the prettiest in Blogland. I love everything you did to get your dream.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Judy, your kitchen is so gorgeous! It's one of the prettiest in Blogland. I love everything you did to get your dream.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia :)

Anonymous said...

I love your kitchen! I would like to know how you like your pantry now as opposed to the closet style before. I'm thinking of doing something similar to mine and would love any advice!

andi filante said...

Oh my goodness...8 months without a kitchen! And what you had to go through with that contractor! Well, in the end your kitchen turned out beautifully!!


lala said...

Fantastic post - thank you so much for sharing really great information. Your kitchen is lovely, and you truly captured the English Country look. I love how you incorporated light and dark wood on the cabinetry - beautiful!

Unknown said...

Wow!Judy your new kitchen is amazing! I love everything. Xoxo

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing! You make a lot of good points, especially for those home remodeling obsessed individuals like me! I'm always on the lookout for new projects and ideas!Recently, for my birthday, my husband surprised me with a new undermount kitchen sink that's divided in two and installed it! Now only am I already in love with it, but I want to redo the entire kitchen!

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Savannah Attic said...

Gorgeous Just Gorgeous I did the same thing. I bought a new House and it's a nice size almost 3200sqft but the kitchen was not right at all so after a couple of months jack hammering my floor and adding gas instead of electric and a Bar with two refrigerator drawers a warming drawer and a wine chiller, and two ovens. I look at yours not that I;m not grateful but Your Island is Gorgeous mine I had to do what fit in the kitchen at least on the end it's all drawers so I can put my kitchen towels and stuff in. Oh yeah spent a fortune on a hand hammered apron front copper sink and I hate it. I leave mine up as a banner because thats how people know my page Savannah Attics But I so envy Your Island Just an Amazing Kitchen Design. Love it Lisa

Unknown said...

Personally I was looking for some general information about kitchen remodeling and your post was just perfect.thanks for sharing and Hope that you will continue to do posting.
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