How to Renovate Your Kitchen in the Right Sequence of Phases

Female designers discussing kitchen renovations

If you’ve got a new kitchen on the mind, you likely want to dive head first into the job and get it done as quickly as possible. After all, you’ve got the budget, the vision, and the desire, so all that’s really holding you back is the swing of the hammer, right?

Wrong. Like any other major home remodeling job, there’s no such thing as preparing too much. Along with proper preparations comes plenty of time to methodically plan out exactly what needs to be done, and in what order. You can’t install your sink and faucet without having your plumbing pipes installed, nor can you plant that big kitchen island in place without having your flooring laid.

Your best bet is to carry out the job out in phases. This will help ensure that no stone is left unturned, and prevent you from having to rip drywall open because of something you forgot about in early phases of the job.

The following are the stages of a typical kitchen renovation in the proper order to maximum remodeling success.

Make a Wish List

First things first. Before you even call a contractor or draft up a plan, you need to know exactly what you want. Whether it’s cabinets that reach the ceiling, a big kitchen island, or a sink facing the outside window, having your wants and needs written down is the first step in a kitchen remodel.

Figure Out Your Budget

Another no-brainer but also worth a mention is the budget. How much are you able to comfortably set aside to cover all the costs of your renovation? Be sure to come up with a figure that won’t make you house poor. Find out what the average kitchen remodeling job costs in your area, and tack on another 10% on top of that for good measure. You just never know what you’ll come across when you’re ripping out flooring and drywall, which can add more work – and money – to the job.

Hire a Contractor

This stage will take some time. After all, you want to make sure you hire the best person for the job who is experienced, honest, and understands your vision. Get estimates from at least three different kitchen specialists, and ask them a few other questions, including whether they are insured and bonded, what their experience is like, and how they expect to get paid.

Once you’ve nailed down one contractor, be sure to get a detailed estimate in writing that lists all the work to be done, how much the job is going to cost, a scheduled timeline of phases, and how change orders are dealt with. The more written details are incorporated into the estimate, the better.

Contractors will also require a deposit for good faith. Under no circumstances should the entire fee be paid upfront before any work has even started. Usually, anywhere between 10% to 50% is fair, depending on the scale of the project.

Demolition Starts

If everything in your kitchen needs to be removed in order to make room for your new kitchen, be prepared for some demolition.

Translation: a lot of elbow grease, dust, and noise. This is the point where appliances are removed, old cabinetry is demolished, and even flooring or drywall is ripped out.

Once this is done, the contractor will walk through the space and evaluate what should take place next. Detailed decisions about whether or not any corrections must be made prior to carrying on with the job will be made. However, if any issues are discovered – such as faulty wiring or termite damage – these things need to be addressed first before carrying on with the new kitchen project.

Determine Location of Light Fixtures, Electrical Outlets, and Appliances

You’re likely going to be replacing all the light fixtures in the kitchen. While you’re at it, you might have to go so far as to replace the lighting system altogether. In the meantime, you might consider adding all new appliances to give yourself a completely new kitchen from top to bottom.

As such, you may need to update your electrical wiring and panel to make sure it can support the new lighting and appliances. At this point, all the electrical outlets and appliance/light power feeds will need to be mapped out, marked, and placed.

Set-Up and Install Mechanical Systems

Installing all the technicals is typically the next step in the process, and shouldn’t take any more than a week to complete. This is the phase of the kitchen remodeling job in which all the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical are installed. If you’re including any cable and speaker wiring, this will also be installed during this phase. 

Install Insulation, Drywall, and Flooring

After the set-up and installations of the mechanical systems are done and passed inspection, insulation is added between the studs on the walls, drywall is laid overtop and primed, and the flooring is installed. This needs to be done before the new cabinets are put up.

Install Cabinets and Counters

This is the part when you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The cabinets you’ve chosen are finally installed and fitted properly. During this phase, you’ll come to really appreciate all the time and effort that was taken to ensure that all the previous steps were done with great care and precision. The last thing you want is to notice that the floor is sloping or the outlets are in the wrong places.

Once the cabinets are in, the countertops will need to be templated, which means carefully taking measurements that are then given to the countertop fabricator. You’ll probably have to wait about a week or two before the counter is ready to be fitted. That’s because a sufficient amount of time is necessary to laser-measure the material precisely, have the shop drawings approved, and send it to the crew to prepare the slab preparation. The countertops will then be delivered and installed on your cabinets when they’re finally ready.

Final Finishing

Once your cabinets and counters are in, your new kitchen is ready to be painted in the color of choice, and all trim, backsplashes, knobs/handles, and light fixtures can be installed.

The Bottom Line

While you likely won’t be doing this major kitchen remodeling job on your own, it’s very helpful to know what steps need to be taken, and in what order. Make sure you work with a reputable contractor, get your budget in order, and take your time with the job. The average kitchen remodeling job can take anywhere between four to eight weeks to complete – don’t rush the process.