Kitchen Remodel

How to Remodel a Kitchen in 7 Stages

As the center of the home, a beautiful, functional kitchen can enhance the enjoyment you get out of your living spaces and the value your home has on the market. Whatever your reason for updating or revamping your kitchen, you’re likely to feel pressure during this infamously stressful process, so it’s important to approach it with planning and preparation.

Here’s how to remodel your kitchen in 7 stages:

  1. Demolition
  2. Framing, Plumbing, and Electrical
  3. Drywall and Paint
  4. Floorplan
  5. Flooring
  6. Appliances
  7. Finishes

Of course, this outline is a simplified look at the steps you’ll need to take to remodel your kitchen, and changes may need to be made based on your budget, the materials you’re using, or your new kitchen design and layout. Keep reading to find out how you can adapt these stages to work for your specific kitchen remodel.

In What Order do You Remodel a Kitchen?

Doing your kitchen remodel in this order will help you keep the project orderly and cost-effective, especially in the long run. After doing extensive research, getting quotes from contractors, and browsing infinite design ideas online and in-person, you might be tempted to go for the fastest timeline a contractor offers you.

Progressing through these seven stages is important because the order that you install elements like cabinets, heavy appliances, plumbing fixtures, and flooring is important. Choosing the right way to do so can save your money on materials and can make future changes or repairs to your kitchen easier.

For some stages, particularly for flooring, there’s debate within the home improvement industry about which is the “right” order. Overall, the order of the stages recommended here is a logical way to approach your kitchen remodel, but the upcoming sections will discuss tweaks you can make and why they might better suit your project.

Stage 1: Demolition

The first stage of your remodel is going to be the messiest, and it might also be the one that has you questioning your choices. Seeing your kitchen stripped bare can be a bit of the shock, but it’s a necessary part of the process.

Depending on what parts of your kitchen you choose to have renovated, the demolition process can vary, but the first step is always the same: shutting off the water and the electricity. Then, the demolition crew you use (which might just be you and some friends if you want to save money) can get to work.

For a standard kitchen overhaul, you’ll need to first clean out all items stored in the kitchen so that the following pieces can be removed:

  • Cabinets
  • Old appliances
  • Flooring
  • Countertops
  • Sinks
  • Framing/drywall (for floorplan changes)

Although it might be counter-intuitive, your kitchen demolition can still cost quite a bit of money, even if you save on labor costs by doing it yourself. You’ll need to rent a dumpster to be dropped off and picked up in front of your home, for which you may need governmental or HOA approval, depending on where you live.

Most dumpster rental prices are “all-inclusive,” which fortunately means you’ll know the total cost of “delivery, pick-up, disposal (landfill fees), fuel charges, and taxes” up-front, but you can reduce some of the expense of demolition by donating some of your old kitchen to charity.

While you might be tired of looking at those old cabinets, ones that are in decent condition and are carefully removed can be donated to Habitats for Humanity. Your local Habitat Restore may also accept functioning appliances, doors, windows, lumber, flooring, light fixtures, handles, knobs, and even old furniture.

Not only will you be diverting waste from your local landfill and donating to a valuable charity, but the donation will benefit you as well. According to the organization’s website, “Many Habitat ReStores provide donation pickup services, and your donations may qualify for a tax deduction. Donating is a win-win situation!”

Stage 2: Internal Work

The second stage of the kitchen remodel can be the most frustrating and the most expensive, but you should get all the internal work done properly by experienced, reliable professionals with the appropriate training and certifications.

The kitchen is often the most-used room in your home, and that level of traffic combined with the convergence of plumbing and electrical fixtures means solid workmanship is a must. This stage of your remodel will cover installing the framing, plumbing, and electrical work as well as the necessary inspections.

Professional or DIY? Which to Choose for Stage 2

While the allure of pride and penny-pinching through DIY upgrades can be tempting, this isn’t an ideal area to try it if you’re not an expert and/or you don’t have tons of time and money to expend learning your way through the process.

Even then, you’ll need to be extremely careful not to mention willing to accept the risk that you’re setting yourself up for a future headache. According to Renovation Planners, a certified construction company, an estimated 30% of contractors’ jobs are just to address repairs to homeowners’ DIY mistakes.

During the budgeting and planning phase, learning the average cost of a professional kitchen remodel ($20,0000 according to HomeAdvisor) can make DIY-ing your remodel seem almost reasonable. But keep in mind you may have to spend just as much, if not more, correcting your mistakes in the future.

If you’re set on trying to do (some or all of) this stage of the remodel yourself, consider hiring a renovation consultant to assess your wish list of changes and help you plan the remodel. Then, if there are smaller projects within the remodel you choose to tackle, even during Stage 2, you may also want to hire a general contractor to consult on your project and providing helpful advice, guidance, and occasional oversight.

Sequence of the Framing, Plumbing, and Electrical Work

One of the biggest advantages of working with a reliable general contractor is that they will handle when to schedule the skilled workers that needed in your kitchen remodel. During Stage 2 of your remodel, framing will need to happen first. Until that’s done, the plumber and electricians won’t have any wall structure within which their work needs to sit.

Many people remodeling older homes like the idea of “opening up” traditionally segmented living spaces, often so that the kitchen and family room have clear sightlines. To do this, any unwanted walls (which would be torn down during demolition) will need to be replaced with the framing of wall studs that establish where new walls will go.

Once that’s complete, the plumbing and electrical work can be done, which you’ll need if you plan to move any kitchen appliances. It may also be necessary if your home is a certain age, as building codes change over time, and the original plumbing and electrical work may have been grandfathered in before but will need to be updated to comply with current rules.

After the work is complete, you or your general contractor needs to make sure work requiring inspection is signed off on by a county inspector before work continues. If the inspector decides they want to look over something that has been walled off, the cost to undo and then redo the work will be coming out of your pocket, which will just be time and money wasted.

Stage 3: Drywall and Paint

After your kitchen’s new walls are framed and the internal work has cleared all the necessary inspections, it’s time to start to make the work zone your kitchen has become resemble an actual home. Stage 3 will start with closing off the new framing with drywall.

If you’re particularly handy and want to learn some of the less picturesque sides of home improvement, drywalling is a fairly reasonable place to start, as there are plenty of in-depth tutorials online that can get you started. Of course, this won’t be a one-person job and there are several tools you’ll need that you might not already own, but you can often rent them from home improvement stores.

For professionals, the process of drywalling can be finished quickly. After the drywall panels are installed and sealed, the crew will normally have to allow everything to dry for at least 24 hours before sanding the drywall until its smooth.

Once that’s finished, you’ll have brand new walls ready for painting. Today’s wall paints often state that you don’t need primer, the general advice is that you’ll still want to do so, and most contractors will have their teams do so regardless of what it says on the paint can. If you’re handling the painting yourself, you’ll want to do the same.

Also, before you commit to a color, make sure to do patch tests from the smallest available volume of paint you can buy of the color you’re considering. While the big home improvement stores do offer generous return policies, that’s not always the case on custom color purchases, and it’d be better to save yourself the hassle of hauling gallons of paint back and forth from the store.

Stage 4: The New Floorplan

The extensiveness of work done during Stage 4 is will depend entirely on how different your old and new kitchen designs are from one another. If you’re completely changing the floorplan of your kitchen, that can mean a new layout for the cabinetry and moving, expanding, or adding an island, as well as other changes.

If you follow the order of steps explained here, the elements installed during Stage 4 will be sitting on a level subfloor that is underneath the entire kitchen. Then, the flooring material you choose would be installed so that it sits flush with the cabinetry, island, and appliances installed during this stage. But not everyone agrees this is the way to go.

Should the Floors Be Done First?

During this stage, you’ll start to have all the big elements of your kitchen space installed that determine where countertops, appliances, and entryways will go. But, as mentioned previously, there is some debate among renovation professionals about whether this is the right order.

Professionals who think flooring should be installed first argue that doing otherwise will leave unattractive gaps in the flooring tiles or planks that will hamper future repairs or floorplan changes. Instead, some argue that flooring should be installed when the kitchen is empty so that the material extends uninterrupted across the entire footprint of the kitchen.

However, there are several downsides to this argument, including:

  • Many homeowners aren’t interested in spending money on expensive flooring that won’t even be seen.
  • Wood floors that are installed using the “floating” method shouldn’t be installed underneath heavy appliances, which makes this approach only suitable for nailed or glued wood floors.
  • Many kitchen renovations don’t need to be complete gut jobs to have an appealing result and installing the flooring second is the more cost-effective and logical option in these cases.
Deciding When You’ll Install Flooring

For the above reasons, this outline lists flooring after the countertop installations, but there is one caveat: installing floor appliances. While some permanent appliances, like wall ovens, can be installed alongside the cabinetry, appliances that reach the floor, like dishwashers and stovetop ovens, should always be done after flooring.

While having your dishwasher installed right after your cabinets are doesn’t have any obvious drawbacks, you need to think years down the line of when that appliance will require repairs or replacement. If the flooring isn’t installed underneath your dishwasher, it would sit directly on the subfloor.

Appliances like dishwashers have leveling legs on the front end, which are adjusted at installation so that the appliance sits evenly on the floor. Whether you have tile or wood floors installed, the additional 1/8-inch to ¾-inch thickness of the material can be the difference between your dishwasher being easy to access or requiring you to remove flooring just to get it out.

Before the appliances, however, during Stage 4, you’ll need to have basic elements like new windows, doors, cabinetry, and an island installed, which will bring your new floorplan to life. At this stage, it can be much easier for nervous homeowners to finally “see” how the changes will look, so try to hang onto your patience and trust your contractor (within reason) up to this point.

From here, all of the fun parts of your kitchen remodel will fall into place, as you move onto installing your chosen flooring, appliances, and finishes next.

Stage 5: Flooring

Depending on whether you decide to go with this order of stages or want to do your flooring before setting up the kitchen floorplan, the steps needed for flooring will vary. If your contractor is having flooring installed into an empty kitchen, there will be less cutting that needs to be planned upfront because they won’t have to fit the tiles or planks to sit flush with any installed cabinetry and island.

Whichever order you choose, you’ll need the flooring material and any baseboards to be installed during this stage. Both tile and wood flooring will require you to wait before having appliances installed, and you may not even be able to walk on the flooring within at least 24 hours of installation.

Make sure to research or ask the professionals about the type of floor installation so that you don’t prematurely trod all over the work you’ve just paid for. Two things to make sure of during this stage:

  1. Make sure you or your contractor check that the subfloor is in good condition before installing so that you don’t leave any water-damaged wood under your new floor, a common but disastrous situation in any kitchen.
  2. If you have extra flooring, you may be able to return unused boxes or pallets, but make sure to keep some of the tiles or planks, as flooring designs can be discontinued, and having spare, matching flooring can save you from having to replace your floor or settle for an unsightly mismatch in the future.

Stage 6: Appliances

The final two stages, installing appliances and finishes, will be when most of the stressful parts of your kitchen remodel are over. During Stage 6, you’ll need to have your dishwasher, floor over, and refrigerator installed, but beyond these obvious pieces, you’ll also need to have anything that goes underneath a new countertop installed as well.

If your kitchen will have separated range and wall oven combination, the range must be in place before any solid-piece countertops, like prefabricated stone, can be installed. This goes for your kitchen sink as well if you plan on an under-mount or farmhouse/apron sink, while an overmount sink would be installed last.

Stage 7: Finishes

Finally, during Stage 7, you’ll put the finishing touches on your kitchen by installing countertops, backsplash, cabinetry finishes, and light fixtures. Which options you should choose will depend on your style and your budget, and there are plenty of sources of inspiration online to give your ideas for your new kitchen design.

Beyond the aesthetics, you’ll need to make sure to choose the right countertop material in terms of longevity, return for your money, and durability. For example, while quartz is a popular way to get the look of a stone countertop for a more affordable price, it doesn’t offer the same heat resistance as granite.

Additionally, make sure you look into the long-term feasibility of non-traditional design ideas before committing to them. Backsplash-free countertops, a recent trend in modern kitchen design, may seem like a stylish concept that even saves you money, it can leave your lower cabinets susceptible to water damage over time.

At times, the process of remodeling your kitchen may seem overwhelming. But, if you make sure to research your plan in stages, ask for reliable, professional advice, and make reasonable, in-budget purchases, you’ll be able to navigate your way through these 7 stages to a kitchen you’ll love to use every day.

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