Kitchen Remodeling Top 10 Tips

1. Determine a Kitchen Layout that Suits your Needs

Ever find yourself in the kitchen at a house party or during the holidays? It’s safe to say the kitchen is the heart of the home and over the last 50 years the kitchen has moved from the back of the house, to the center of attention. Once a dead end in the house, the kitchen’s contemporary application is often found in a “great room” setting promoting a home’s open floor plan. Although the kitchen’s modern appeal has doubled it into a social gathering space, one thing has remained the same:

Most of us are probably familiar with the work-triangle. This refers to the optimal relationship between the sink, stove, and refrigerator, being spaced no more than 6 feet apart. A proper “work-triangle” is designed to reduce needless steps while cooking in the kitchen.

2. Use Quality Materials

Cabinets provide the heart and soul of the kitchen as well as help set the tone and style of your entire home. Whether you prefer a traditional look or a contemporary kitchen, the drawer fronts and cabinet doors you pick accentuate the beauty of the kitchen, while also determining much of its durability. It is essential to consider both the aesthetics, including color and style, along with the function and strength of the material. As a major portion of the kitchen budget, balancing beauty, durability and cost are vital to a successful cabinet choice.

Although there is a multitude of different cabinet materials available, solid hardwoods, wood veneers and synthetics are currently the most popular.

Common Solid hardwoods:

Alder: This solid hardwood has remained popular due to lower cost, broad range of available stain colors, and subtle grain appearance. Alder’s natural nut brown undertones allow it to take stain similar to a light colored maple, a dark walnut, or even a red cherry. It is a softer wood within the hard wood category, so not that tough. Great economical choice for raised panel stained wood with a high end look in the rustic and traditional kitchen styles.

This solid hardwood maintains its popularity due to its great versatility of use coupled with a reasonable cost. The subtle grain and natural nut brown undertones opens the alder to a variety of stain options. Well stained alder can have the appearance of many other wood types including light colored maple, dark walnut, or even a red cherry. Alder is a bit softer than other hardwoods so it may not be quite as resistant to wear and tear. Overall, it makes a great economical choice for decorative raised panel, stained wood giving a high end finished look best suited to rustic and traditional kitchen styles.

Poplar: Good economical choice for painted kitchen. Difficult to stain due to natural green undertones. Softer end of the hardwood spectrum, less durable than a maple, oak, and a little softer than alder. For the white French country style kitchen, painted poplar will give you the same look as maple at a lower cost, but it will not resist nicks. Typical used for high end decorative painted trim such as white wainscoting and crown moldings in tradition and French country kitchens.

Cherry: Higher end material choice that carries good durability and a rich red undertone. Often found in formal and refined traditional kitchens. Alder is an economical substitute that will achieve the same refined look at the sacrifice of durability.

Maple A very hard wood with a mild grain pattern. This material can take a natural stain, dark stain, or hold paint with a high level of durability. Cost is higher than poplar as a paint grade alternative and alder as a stain grade alternative but the maple will hold up better over the long run.

Wood veneers – Most any wood commonly used for hardwood doors is available is in thin sheets called veneer which are applied over resin particle board or MDF (medium density fiberboard). This type of door construction accomplishes a clean look with a natural wood finish often found in contemporary kitchens. A kitchen cabinet door cannot resist warping when fabricated in a flat wide style, so a wood veneer is used to create the appearance of a solid wood door without losing stability. When selecting specific veneer wood, the hardness plays a large factor in long term durability. Maple and cherry are the toughest, while alder and poplar are the softest or least durable. Cost is often pretty comparable to a solid raised panel door of similar wood species.

Synthetics – Process is similar to the above mentioned wood veneer, with the exception that the veneer material is a PVC substance that typically possesses more durability and lower cost. Often used in commercial applications and utilitarian residential. applications such as garages and laundry rooms.

3. Decide Whether to Paint or Stain

The debate continues, to paint or to stain! I’ll leave my biases out of this one (even though stain is easier to maintain, paint is often still preferred) and list the major pro’s and con’s:

  • Stain
  • Colors come in variety of shades
  • Repair and touch-ups are easier. Easier to keep your cabinets looking good for a long time.
  • Less expensive and fewer steps.
  • Distressing or glazing make the maintenance easier.
  • Great choice for the Do It Yourselfer’s
  • Paint
  • Probably the most popular look amongst home owners.
  • More process steps than stain and more expensive to finish.
  • Touch-ups can be difficult.
  • Refinished often requires professionals to match your existing colors.
  • On average 10-12% more expensive than stain ($2,000 more on a $20,000 kitchen packet).

4. Choose Appropriate Colors

This might seem like the simplest of things to do in a kitchen remodel, but choosing the right colors can either bring harmony to a room, or a create a wrong impression. In basic color theory, colors have different meanings and are generally either stimulating or relaxing. Here is a list of the colors of the rainbow and their meanings:

  • Red: Stimulating/Increases Appetite
  • Orange: Stimulating/ Increases Appetite
  • Yellow: Stimulating/ Increases Appetite
  • Green: Relaxing/Balance
  • Blue: Relaxing/Decreases Appetite
  • Indigo: Relaxing/Decreases Appetite
  • Violet: Balance/Relaxing/Decreases Appetite

The kitchen should be a combination of both relaxing and stimulating colors. It is difficult to work in a kitchen that is too relaxing but at the same time shouldn’t be too stimulating that it makes you hungry.

5. Break the Horizontal Line

Stagger the height, length, and depth of wall cabinets. Horizontal lines at the top and bottom row of cabinets can make a kitchen look rigid and static. A break from the horizontal line can give your kitchen remodel an updated look.

6. Build Bridges, Not Walls. Islands and Peninsulas are the New Kitchen Walls

Over the last 30 or so years, the open floor plan has become increasingly popular and the function of a great room (containing kitchen, dining, and living space) is becoming the norm. Many remodels we’ve done in the past have been transforming compartmentalized floor plans into a contemporary, open floor plan by knocking down any barrier walls between kitchen and living room. Instead of walls defining the kitchen’s borders, peninsulas and islands provide a better alternative. They prevent the kitchen from spilling over visually into other spaces, and also allow the cook to maintain visual and conversation contact with family members and guests.

7. Find a Creative Contractor with Expertise and Realistic Ideas

There’s no one size fits all approach to kitchen remodeling (or home remodeling in general). That’s why it’s important to find a contractor that has access to designers capable of creating unique solutions specific to your kitchen’s needs. A popular model contractors are beginning to use is the design/build model.

Traditional remodels typically involve an architect or designer, an engineer, and a general contractor. The design/build model combines all three into one convenient package. Allowing one company to oversee your kitchen remodeling project saves you money and headaches. In addition, a creative contractor will offer practical design solutions that may otherwise have been overlooked.

An example is creatively using the existing kitchen footprint which saves money on flooring, plumbing, and other minor expenses allowing money to be dispersed on larger features of the kitchen remodel.

8. Selecting the Right Kitchen Countertop

Countertops are important to your kitchen because they can help give your kitchen a particular tone that represents your lifestyle. If you have been looking around, then you are probably aware by now that there are numerous alternatives to granite or laminate.

9. Selecting the Right Kitchen Sink

Kitchen remodels are everything AND the kitchen sink. When it comes to the kitchen sink, the function will usually outweigh the looks. Sinks come in an array of styles, but it is important to consider how you plan to use your kitchen sink. It is also important to choose a sink appropriate to the size of your kitchen.

It is recommended for kitchens less than 150 sqft to use a standard 22×24-in. single bowl. For larger kitchens there are multiple bowl options and it is often recommended to consider a secondary bar sink if multiple cooks will be in the kitchen.

10. Light your Kitchen Appropriately

What good is the your perfect kitchen remodel if you can’t SEE its features? If you are fortunate enough to be situated near windows, use them! Nothing beats natural lighting. But what about at night or in cases where you don’t have any windows? That’s when using a combination of ambient, task, and natural lighting comes in hand.

Pendant lightings are typically used as task lighting above a kitchen island or peninsula. They serve as a perfect design element that accentuates the tone of your kitchen.

Under mount lighting is a nice way to add luminosity to areas otherwise void in your kitchen. They’re a great way to accent your kitchen’s features such as a special tile backsplash or glassware.

Recessed lighting is by far the most popular way to light a kitchen. It has become a standard choice of lighting in contemporary homes.

Avoid These Costly Kitchen Remodeling Mistakes

The kitchen is the heart of every home. It’s where all meals are cooked and prepared – where guests and families congregate to swap recipes and stories over dinner or Sunday lunch. It is important to design your kitchen to be as spacious and welcoming as possible, and make sure it is conducive not just for cooking, but will also allow space for all the activity that’s going on.

Despite your good intentions, however, not all kitchen improvement projects end up well. Layout planning may be an issue, or the choice of paint colour, type of cabinetry, and furniture do not match. Here are some kitchen renovation tips and things you should avoid:

1. A bigger kitchen is not always better

A carefully planned kitchen is often better than a haphazardly designed bigger one.

Almost every kitchen remodeller’s dream is to get a bigger kitchen. But bigger does necessarily mean better. If a kitchen renovation experts advises you to improve your home’s entire floor to free up space for a bigger kitchen, take their advice with a grain of salt and try getting a second opinion from a different firm. Sometimes, a small but well-designed kitchen with high-quality materials and carefully planned details is enough. Remember to keep in mind the kitchen work triangle to manage the workflow and maximise the efficiency in the kitchen.

2. Skimping on storage and cabinets

Cheaper is definitely never better. Your kitchen storage should be durable enough to last your kitchen’s lifetime. Investing in a strong and durable cabinet is a must for any kitchen. You’ll be opening and closing those drawers every day so they’ll be subjected to a lot of wear and tear. Make sure you get hardwoods with a good finish and strong hinges to get the best value out of your remodelling efforts.

3. Relying too much on the design fad

Green can veer towards trendy and seasonal. Balance it out with neutral colours to make it more timeless. Fads always come and go. Because of this, trendy homes can easily become dated in just a few years. Be careful when allowing current trends to influence the design of your new kitchen. It is still more important for the kitchen to match the rest of the rooms in the house and reflect the personality and activity of the family or individuals living there. Opt instead for good space planning and timeless kitchen designs.

4. Getting distracted and going against the original design plan

Stick to the plan. This will not only makes sure that the process of remodeling is smooth, it also ensures you stay within budget. The key to a successful remodelling project is following a well-organised design plan. If you have already declared a budget, selected a colour theme, purchased materials and furnishings according to the said plan, follow it. Avoid getting distracted by “newer and shinier” kitchen gadgets and furnishings as well as kitchen layouts that seem to look more exciting that the one you planned. Stop second-guessing your initial choice and stick to it.

5. Trying to be your own designer despite lack of experience

Designing your kitchen isn’t as easy as painting one colour and mixing it with the other. Remodelling the kitchen, even if it’s one room, requires a good eye, creative design skills, and ability to produce layouts that consider the function of the kitchen and the flow of people around the house. This project is definitely time-consuming and complicated, and when done incorrectly, it could even be more costly than what is necessary. According to Denise Dick, a CMKBD and NKBA member in Carrollton, Texas. “Just like you go to a doctor specializing in a part of the body the specialist for that part of the home is the kitchen designer. We understand how it all fits together and why the parts are necessary. You’re going to do it right the first time with a designer.”

Basic Kitchen Layout Shapes

What’s determines your kitchen layout? You’ve heard of the phrase “form follows function”. This is true when it comes to the layout of a kitchen. There are, however, some basic kitchen layout shapes i.e. Straight, Galley, L, U, and G that are based on the work triangle.

The work triangle is formed by tracing an invisible line between the sink, range, and refrigerator. No leg of the triangle is shorter than 4 feet nor longer than 9 feet. With the total of all legs not being greater than 26 feet.

No obstructions in the triangle.

STRAIGHT | ONE WALL

The one wall kitchen layout is the smallest of all kitchen design layouts. There really is not work triangle as such for obvious reasons. This kitchen layout is ideal for smaller homes or as a secondary kitchen in a larger homes. This type of kitchen plan is best suited for an efficiency style of apartment and is often incorporated into loft style or open floor plans.

Because its small stature the one-wall kitchen design often lends itself to the use of combination appliances. Hood/microwave works well here as does a range for cooking rather than a cooktop and separate oven. Try not to crowd appliances too closely together. Leaving ample space for cabinetry between appliances will make the kitchen much more functional.

Pros:

  • The single wall design totally eliminates outside traffic flow in this kitchen.
  • This is the perfect choice for an open floor plan or basic kitchen layout.
  • Likely to be the lease expensive kitchen to remodel.

Cons:

  • The lack of a traditional work triangle in the one-wall kitchen design makes it a less efficient kitchen layout.
  • Lack of size can lead to limited storage space.
  • Storage can be very limited in a smaller kitchen such as this.

GALLEY | CORRIDOR

The galley or corridor style kitchen design layout gets its name from the galley of a ship. This kitchen is also referred to as a corridor kitchen layout or plan. With this kitchen plan all cabinets and appliances are in a straight line on opposite walls. This can be one of the most highly efficient kitchens to cook in due to its small size. Everything the cook needs is not far from hand and a lot of the back and forth movement by the cook can be eliminated here.

The main draw back to this kitchen layout is that it is designed as a pass through kitchen. This invites traffic into the kitchen and as a result things can get crowded. Shoot for a minimum of 4 feet between countertops to allow ample room.

Try to keep guests from passing through if possible. If carefully thought out this kitchen can offer ample cabinet storage and adequate counter space. Space saving appliances such as smaller refrigerators and under cabinet appliances are ideal in this kitchen design.

Pros:

  • Due to the smaller work area and basic kitchen layout this is one of the more efficient kitchens to use.
  • Easy to keep clean and clutter free.
  • The limited space means remodeling this kitchen should be less expensive.

Cons:

  • Traffic can be a concern if the galley kitchen is open on both ends.
  • Cooks are typically not engaged with the rest of the guests and can feel a bit isolated in a galley kitchen.
  • Typically not designed for eat in use. If planned properly a snack bar can be added.

L-SHAPED

Perhaps the most common kitchen shape is the L-Shape kitchen plan. In this kitchen layout the problem of pass through traffic is eliminated. The possibility of corner storage also comes into play with the wall and base cabinetry at the inside of the L shape. It is important to take advantage of this space and use it wisely. Blank or dead corners should be avoided here.

Take care not to make each leg of the L too long to avoid unnecessary amounts of travel while working in the kitchen. A maximum leg length of 12 to 15 feet is ideal. If you have a large enough room to work with you can explore the idea of adding an island to this kitchen plan.

Pros:

  • Excellent choice for a typical medium sized kitchen.
  • If laid out properly this is an extremely efficient kitchen to cook in.
  • If space permits an island or peninsula can add additional storage and function.

Cons:

  • Household traffic can interfere with work triangle.
  • Reduce traffic by placing the refrigerator at the end of one leg of the L shape.
  • Microwave/hood combo is most efficient use of space but not great for maximum ventilation.

U-SHAPED

The U shape kitchen is a close cousin to the L shape but offers more storage and counter space. In the U shape, however, you will have two inside corner situations to address. Lazy susan cabinets, blind corner cabinets and magic corner cabinets are all possibilities here.

This kitchen layout is suitable for larger kitchens and can be enhanced by adding a kitchen island. Should you decide to use an island try to have no less than 42″ of clear walking space around the island.

The addition of an island will likely break up the flow of a traditional work triangle so you may wish to consider the idea of incorporating another work zone to add functionality to this plan.

Pros:

  • Good for larger kitchen plans. Lots of counter space and storage.
  • Ideal for adding an island to your kitchen layout.
  • Traffic through the work triangle is eliminated.

Cons:

  • Unless there is a dedicated work station at the island his is usually a single cook kitchen.
  • Try to have a minimum of 12 feet along the back wall of the U to avoid a crowded feeling in the kitchen.
  • Keep appliances a minimum of 3 feet from the corners.

G-SHAPED

The G shape kitchen is really a modified version of the U shape. Many times the G shape is completed by adding a peninsula area to create the G shape. The addition of a peninsula is an excellent way to make your kitchen more inviting especially if it incorporates seating for guests.

The downside to the G shape kitchen plan is that it does limit access to the main kitchen area so care must be taken so the kitchen doesn’t feel cramped. Make certain there is plenty of room between the leg of the G and cabinetry on the opposite wall. Try to keep an entry access distance of no less than 48″ here.

Pros:

  • Can offer more storage and counter space than small kitchens.
  • Can offer seating space for a few guests.
  • Ideal way to limit access to the busy work triangle area of the kitchen.

Cons:

  • Can make the kitchen feel closed in or smaller than it actually is.
  • Care must be taken to leave adequate ingress and egress to main kitchen work center.

This is just a sampling of the many configurations that are available. No two kitchens are exactly alike.

The kitchen layout will be uniquely YOURS.