Are you thinking about starting a kitchen remodel and unsure how to begin? Here are 10 questions to put you on the right path to a beautiful and functional new kitchen.
Remodeling your kitchen is probably the single biggest project of your whole house, with a lot of moving parts. Wrapping your mind around how to get started on such a daunting task can be a bit overwhelming.
So while I’m in the weeds in my kitchen, I thought I’d share with you the questions we asked ourselves before getting started on our kitchen remodel that have helped inform our decisions along the way.
They say the trick to getting the right answer is asking the right question. These questions will help you think about the right things to get the kitchen you want.
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What’s not working about my kitchen right now?
You probably have several answers to this question if you’re thinking about a full kitchen remodel. It’s a good idea to write down all the complaints you have about your current kitchen and turn each complaint into an action item.
Hate your layout? That means you should think about moving the floor plan around.
Fell out of love with the style? You might be able to simply change the colors and decor without redoing the whole kitchen.
Not enough storage? New cabinets have all kinds of solutions to that problem.
When planning our kitchen remodel, I made a list of problem areas and kept it on my phone. That way I could update it at any time if I found good solutions while shopping for design ideas. You can see that list in this post introducing our kitchen remodel.
How big are the appliances?
If you are working with existing appliances (or pre-existing ideas of the appliances you want) that will be important to keep in mind as you’re laying out new cabinet plans.
Here some standard appliance measurements (widths) common in the US:
- Fridge 36″
- Oven/Range 30″ (although 36″ is growing in popularity and even 48″ are available)
- Dishwasher 24″
In general, you’ll want to plan for an extra inch of clearance around the appliances, unless they call for more in their installation guide. So if your dishwasher is 24″ wide, you should probably leave 25″ between the surrounding cabinets.
It’s also a good idea to keep in mind where all the appliances will go, so you don’t have people bumping into each other when opening the fridge and working at the stove.
When ordering cabinets, your cabinet designer can help you with common measurements and how they usually fit together with your cabinets, as well as considering other spacing and flow issues.
Where will the trash go?
This may seem like an overrated question, but I promise it’s important. Not having a place for one of the most-used pieces of your kitchen will drive you crazy!
You might consider putting the trash under your kitchen sink (like I do), or close by in a pull-out bin as part of your cabinetry plan, or in a covered bin at the end of your workspace.
This comes down to personal preference, but I like to have mine close by when I’m washing veggies and cleaning up. We live in a dry climate, so we don’t have issues with dampness under the sink. Otherwise, I’d probably recommend a stand alone covered waste bin to keep smells and dampness isolated.
Where will the microwave go?
Here’s another seemingly afterthought question that turns out to be a major part of a kitchen design.
Personally, when it comes to function, I want my microwave away from my cooktop. There are three reasons for this.
1. When your cooktop is full of boiling or splattering pans, you don’t want to have to reach over it for the microwave door.
2. If you’re cooking and someone else wants to heat up their mug of coffee, you don’t want them reaching into your cooking space.
3. If your microwave is above your stove, you have to be really careful when removing hot liquids so they don’t spill over onto your arms. (I speak from painful experience.)
Smaller kitchens may not have the option of moving the microwave somewhere else, so it makes sense for it to play the dual role of microwave and oven vent. But if you can put your microwave under a cabinet, over a wall oven, or in a butler’s pantry, I say do it!
Drawers or doors?
One of the big decisions I made with my current kitchen remodel is to replace as many base cabinets with drawer stacks as possible.
Drawers are much easier to access and organize than cavernous base cabinets. They are pricier than open cabinets because they contain more hardware, but they are so worth it!
A good middle ground would be to install pullouts in your base cabinets instead of shelves, but to me that’s not ideal because you still have to open the doors, pull out the drawer, replace the drawer and then close the door. Seems like a lot of work for a casserole dish.
How’s my lighting?
Good lighting is a HUGE part of designing a new kitchen, both for function and for ambience. Check out my post on affordable kitchen lighting options for more information on the lighting zones in the kitchen.
In my new kitchen I’ll have plenty of dimmable recessed lighting for overall lighting, plus under-cabinet lighting for task light and ambience, and a pretty pendant light over the sink for a little bit of fun.
Don’t skimp on the lighting when you’re designing a new kitchen! Even if you don’t need all the lights on at once to see what you’re doing, it’s nice to have options when you’re trying to set a mood. (Y’all set a mood in the kitchen right? That’s not just me?)
Do I want people in the space?
Here’s an important function question which is really about your preferences. Are you a social cook? Do you love having company and help in the kitchen? Personally, I love having company, but I’m not great at delegating, so I’d rather do the work myself while someone entertains me with stories, and maybe a glass of wine.
For me, the ideal layout would be a wide open kitchen with a big island for guests or family to sit at, opposite my work area. (Sadly, I have more of a galley kitchen with no room for seating, so I’m making the best of it.)
No matter your layout, you can be strategic in how you set up “stations” throughout the kitchen. Coffee bars and drink areas are great when you have guests over, so they’re not in your traffic pattern while they refresh their drinks.
In my kitchen, I’m relocating my fridge and pantry to the front edges of the room so my kids can easily come and grab what they need for snacks without getting in my way while I’m working on dinner.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to assess how you use your kitchen, and planning for the people who may be using it with you. Just as good fences make good neighbors, a good kitchen layout makes for a happy cook and cozy guests.
How will I pay for it, and how much am I willing to pay?
Ouch. This is the hard part. Setting a budget is one of the most intimidating parts of a big remodel project. And sticking to that budget is even worse! But planning ahead for the money question will help you keep costs under control, as well as help you make rational decisions about what you can realistically afford.
I mean, if money were no object, I’d probably have a hideous mess of all the newest shiny objects I can find on Pinterest. A budget keeps me in line, and solving the design problem of how to get what I want on a budget forces me to think more creatively.
In the end, I’m always happier with the design when I have a few boundaries along the way.
Soon I’ll be releasing a detailed look at the budget for this project, along with a budgeting worksheet you can use for your own kitchen remodel, but in the meantime you can learn more about remodel budgeting in this post from my latest bathroom remodel project.
Who is going to do the work?
Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty or are you more of a “sit back and watch the pros work” kind of remodeler? I confess I’m a little bit of both.
The good news is there are several options for how to get a major kitchen remodel project done. I’ll divide them into three main categories:
Hire a Full Service General Contractor.
This is hands-down the route I’d recommend for most people. Even if you like a DIY project every now and then, the kitchen is notoriously full of difficult problems to solve. Hiring a pro who can guide you through the whole project and keep your budget in line along the way will save you HOURS of headache.
Reach out to friends who have remodeled their kitchens and been happy with their contractors to find a reputable GC, and don’t be afraid to interview several before deciding who to use. This person will be a big part of your life for a few weeks!
Outsources Only the Pieces You Don’t Want to Do.
If you have experience with planning major remodels, ordering supplies, and communicating with sub-contractors, you may be able to run this project yourself, picking and choosing with projects you want to have your hands on, and which ones can be left to the pros.
HINT: electrical, plumbing, structural, and code issues should always be left to the pros!
Most DIYers like myself enjoy tiling a backsplash, or painting the walls, or even laying new flooring. I also like running the project, and not relying on a contractor to tell me what my options are.
This is a hybrid style of getting a remodel done. It’s not for the beginner DIYer, and requires a lot more time and organization than the first option. But it also gives you more freedom, and saves money on the bottom line.
DIY the Whole Thing.
Honestly, when we started this kitchen remodel, we thought we were going all the way with the DIY projects. I even picked cabinets based on being able to assemble them ourselves and save money. Now, 4 weeks in, we’ve decided to hire out the whole cabinet install because let’s face it… we’re tired.
I never want to see another bucket of drywall mud, and if I never make another decision about which type of dimmer switch to use, it’ll be too soon.
So if you want to DIY your whole kitchen, I lift my hat to you. And my margarita. You deserve it!
If you decide to get some help on your project you can find more information about working with contractors and saving money in this post on how to save money on your next remodel.
How will I “kitchen” while my kitchen is nonexistent?
Don’t underestimate the importance of this question! Before starting a kitchen remodel, you should put a little planning into how you’ll do some of the basic kitchen functions without a sink, oven, or cooktop.
When I was a kid, my parents had our kitchen and living room completely redone. It took months, and I remember eating out almost every night during that process. (I’ll be the first to admit my memory might not quite line up with reality, but it sure seemed like a lot of restaurants.)
Eating out for all your meals might be the dream, but I’m guessing that’s not very realistic for most people, myself included. So I set up a mini kitchen in my living room for all the small cooking appliances, and a mini dishwashing station and coffee bar in the closest bathroom, our guest bathroom.
I’m not going to say it’s easy, but we’re making it work! Here are a few of the small appliances that have been helping me put *mostly* homemade dinners on the table without a kitchen.
Instant Pot – I remember helping a friend pack up her house to move and she wanted to make sure we didn’t pack the instant pot because if she could only have one appliance, that was the one she wanted. It does just about everything!
Air Fryer – this has almost completely replaced my oven. It does a great job of cooking crispy things. (We all know sometimes the kids just need some chicken nuggets!) The only drawback is space. It’s hard to cook for a whole family in an air fryer this size.
Crock Pot – a classic. I’m still using the one we got for our wedding and it’s my go-to for set-it-and-forget-it meals that cook themselves while I’m working all day.
Electric Griddle – giving up our pancake Sundays for weeks on end was simply not an option. So I finally did what every good midwestern wife in our family has done for years and got myself an electric griddle. I may never go back to cooking pancakes on the stove again!
Planning a Kitchen Remodel
A little planning before starting a kitchen remodel can help you go from “I don’t like my kitchen” to “I LOVE my kitchen” with minimal bumps in the road. Take some time to answer these questions, and as many more as you can think of, before jumping in.
And if you think of any more questions that have been helpful in planning your remodel, I’d love to hear them! Drop me a comment below.