Your Kitchen Renovation Survival Guide

A kitchen renovation can be one of the most fulfilling yet stressful home improvement projects. With proper planning and preparation, you can make the process as smooth as possible. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to survive a kitchen remodel with your sanity intact.

Decide on Your Goals and Create a Budget

Before hammering away at your old kitchen, take time to think about what you want to achieve with the remodel. Consider elements like:

  • Functionality – How your new layout and features will improve workability and flow
  • Aesthetics – The overall look, from cabinetry to finishes to decor
  • Lifestyle – Accommodating how your family uses the kitchen
  • Future plans – Updating for potential resale value or aging in place

With clear goals set, turn to determining your budget. Kitchen overhauls range dramatically in price. Realistically assess how much you can devote to the project before getting carried away with Pinterest-worthy dreams.

Some factors impacting your budget:

  • Scope – The extent of changes made (cabinets, appliances, layout, surfaces, etc.)
  • Quality – Pricing increases with higher-end materials and brands
  • Labor – Whether you DIY or hire out all/part of the work
  • Unknowns – Surprises that pop up mid-project (wiring, plumbing, structural issues)

Leave a 10-15% buffer for contingencies. You don’t want to run out of money with half-finished demolition staring back at you.

Assemble Your Renovation Team

Unless you plan on going completely solo from start to finish, you’ll need to hire professionals along the way. Line up your team early; reputable contractors book up quickly.

General Contractor

A general contractor oversees the entire project, from permitting to subcontractors to inspections. They manage deadlines, budgets, materials, and communication. Choose someone experienced with kitchen overhauls specifically.

Design/Build Firm

Some companies offer both design and contracting services together. This route provides continuity from conception to completion. Make sure the designer understands your style and functional needs.


For major layout changes or additions, an architect can draw up the necessary plans for permits. They also help specify structural, electrical and plumbing modifications.

Interior Designer

If you want a kitchen tailored to your aesthetic, consider hiring a designer. They help select finishes, cabinets, appliances, colors, lighting and decor.

Individual Trades

Alternatively, you can hire specialty subs yourself – electricians, plumbers, drywall hangers, painters, etc. This gives flexibility but requires more oversight.

Check references thoroughly for any contractor or professional you bring onboard.

Create a Floorplan

Maximize both functionality and visual appeal through careful space planning.


Diagram your existing layout with precise measurements. This helps you see what’s working and what’s not.

Analyze Traffic Flow

Note high traffic areas and collisions. How could you open up the space and improve workflow?

Triangular Workstations

Position the sink, stove and fridge in a triangle formation for easy movement between tasks.

Landing Zones

Allow room for dish landing areas, cooking prep surfaces and appliance garages.

Storage Solutions

Incorporate places to tuck away small appliances, cookware and pantry items. Edit ruthlessly to avoid clutter.

Smart Electrics

Think through optimal placement for outlets, switches and lighting fixtures.


Ensure proper hood ventilation over the cooktop.

Eating Nook

If space allows, add a small table or island. This defines the kitchen-dining transition.


Pay attention to any door swings that may impact cabinet or appliance layout.


Make the most of natural light and views, but avoid placing key workstations in front of sinks or stoves where you’ll be standing frequently.

Select Cabinets and Countertops

Two major elements form the foundation of your kitchen: cabinets and countertops. Choose them intentionally as they define much of the aesthetic.


Consider factors like:

  • Style: From ultra-modern to traditional to contemporary. Mix and match pieces for a layered look.
  • Materials: Wood, laminate, thermofoil, metal and glass each give off distinct vibes.
  • Door/drawer fronts: Opt for integrated handles or hardware. Go for multiple sizes for visual interest.
  • Organization: Incorporate roll-outs, pull-outs, spice racks and other specialized storage.
  • Accents: Use open shelving, glass doors, under-lighting and other flourishes judiciously.


Popular options each have pros and cons:

  • Granite: Elegant and durable but needs yearly sealing. Scuffs and stains.
  • Quartz: Low-maintenance. Resistant to scratching, heat and moisture. Many colors and patterns available.
  • Marble: Beautiful veining but easily etched and stained. Best used sparingly.
  • Soapstone: Develops patina over time. Requires periodic sealing and oiling. Stains can be sanded out.
  • Concrete: Industrial, bespoke look. Can be customized with aggregate mix. Requires careful cleaning.
  • Butcher block: Warm, traditional look. Requires regular oiling and eventual sanding. Easily scratched and stained.
  • Laminate: Budget-friendly. Wide range of options. Wears over time. Avoid cutting foods directly on surface.

Select Appliances and Plumbing Fixtures

Appliances and plumbing make up a significant portion of the expense and work involved. Choose quality pieces that align with your cooking habits and style preferences.

Cooking Appliances

  • Range: Slide-in or freestanding. Fuel options: electric, gas, induction. Add extras like convection or air frying.
  • Cooktop: Opt for gas burners, electric coils or induction. Combine with wall oven.
  • Wall Oven + Microwave: Double oven allows baking two dishes at once. Add a microwave with exhaust fan.
  • Vent Hood: Necessary for ventilation and safety. Integrate design with cabinetry.
  • Mini Fridge: Keep drinks and snack items accessible without traversing the whole kitchen.

Sinks and Fixtures

  • Kitchen Sink: Farmhouse, undermount, or vessel sink. One large basin or divide into two.
  • Faucet: Look for modern conveniences like pull-down sprayers, touchless operation, and soap dispensers.
  • Garbage Disposal: Grinds up food waste. Reduce possibility of clogs with careful use.
  • Water Filtration: Filter out impurities and contaminants at the tap or with an under-sink system.

Select Flooring, Lighting and Decor

Finish off your kitchen with final layers of practicality and polish.


  • Hardwood: Classic look. Stand up to impact. Require regular cleaning.
  • Tile: Durable, water-resistant, easy-cleaning. Can be cold underfoot. Lays uneven if substrate isn’t properly prepped.
  • Vinyl: Affordable, waterproof. Range of looks from stone to hardwood mimics. Soft underfoot.
  • Laminate: Simulates wood or tile. Floats over substrate so easy to install. Prone to water damage if compromised.
  • Linoleum: Natural material made from linseed oil. Has antibacterial properties. Prone to staining and scratching.


Combine options for both task lighting and ambience:

  • Pendants: Hang over islands and eating nooks. Position at proper height for room function.
  • Undercabinet: Illuminates countertops and backsplashes nicely. Go for LED.
  • Recessed Downlights: Bright, unobtrusive lighting. Coordinate beam angle and trim style with room aesthetics.
  • Track Lighting: Flexible for aiming spotlights. Go for dimmable or color-changing.
  • Accent Lighting: Use strategically to highlight architectural details. Try sconces flanking a backsplash.

Decor and Accessories

Infuse personality through considered accents that enhance the space:

  • Backsplash: Protects walls from splatters while making a design statement. Tile, metal, glass, stone, and accent prints all unique options.
  • Hardware: Swap out standard knobs and pulls for ones reflecting your preferred finish and style.
  • Textiles: Introduce warmth and texture with dish towels, curtain valances, and chair cushions.
  • Art: Make blank walls engaging with original art, prints, tapestries, or photo collages.
  • Houseplants: Bring life to shelves and windowsills. Opt for low-maintenance varieties.
  • Specialty Pieces: Display treasured ceramics, serveware sets, or a curated mini bar setup.

Prepare for Disruption During the Remodel

A kitchen overhaul inevitably turns life upside down for a while. Mentally brace yourself and make contingencies.

Establish a Temporary Kitchen

Set up a minimal cooking area nearby. Options:

  • Camping cooktop, microwave and minifridge
  • George Foreman grill and slow cooker
  • Plug-in induction burner

Stock up on paper plates, cups and utensils.

Build an Access Plan

If the kitchen serves as the central entry point, arrange alternate access through garage, patio doors or a side entrance.

Move Out Non-Essentials

Find temporary storage for small appliances, specialty cookware, and extraneous items.

Adjust Meal Routines

Plan easy crockpot dishes, salads, and takeout. Freeze bulk casseroles ahead. Grill outdoors.

Inform Household Members

Get everyone on the same page about the game plan and schedule. Post signs/notes to identify relocated items.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Seal off doorways and vents to keep dust contained. Lay drop cloths. Remove or carefully wrap any pieces not being redone.

Establish Cleaning Protocols

Assign who will tackle construction mess and how often. Set up portable vacuum, mop, and containers.

Create a Realistic Timeline

Careful planning and preparation leads to less stress during the renovation process.

Design Phase

  • Initial consultation with contractor: 1 week
  • Create floorplan layout: 2 weeks
  • Select finishes/fixtures: 2 weeks
  • Finalize working drawings: 2 weeks
  • Order cabinets/appliances: 4-8 week lead time
  • Obtain permits: 4 weeks

Demolition Phase

  • Empty kitchen and prep area: 1 week
  • Demolition and removal of old kitchen: 1-2 days

Construction Phase

  • Install rough electrical, plumbing, HVAC: 1 week
  • Drywall/paint: 1 week
  • New flooring: 3-4 days
  • Cabinets: 1 week
  • Countertops: 1-2 weeks for fabrication and install
  • Fixtures (sink, toilet, lights): 1-2 days
  • Appliances: 1-2 days for install/hookup
  • Final trim, caulking, cleaning: 3-5 days

Total Timeline

From start to finish, expect a major kitchen remodel to take 2-3 months. Build contingencies into the schedule, as delays mid-project are common. Clear your schedule as much as possible for construction. The end result will be worth a short season of inconvenience!

FAQs About Kitchen Renovations

How much does a kitchen remodel cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, expect to pay $16,000-22,000 on average for a major kitchen overhaul with mid-range finishes. Costs can balloon up to $50,000+ for high-end luxury kitchens involving expansions or custom work. Minor remodels limited to cabinet facelifts, new countertops and fresh paint fall in the $5,000-15,000 range. Always build in at least 10% contingency for unexpected issues.

What order should I remodel my kitchen?

Follow this typical sequence:

  1. Disconnect/cap off electric, gas and plumbing lines.
  2. Demolition – remove existing kitchen items.
  3. Install rough electric, plumbing and HVAC if needed.
  4. Insulation, drywall, paint.
  5. New flooring.
  6. Cabinets and countertops.
  7. Sink, fixtures, appliances.
  8. Finish details like trim, caulking and cleaning.

Should I go with an open concept kitchen?

Open concept kitchens integrate the cooking space with adjacent dining and living areas. Benefits include better flow for entertaining and family interaction. Downsides are more messy sightlines and clashing decor. Closed kitchens allow defining the cooking area more distinctly. Evaluate your lifestyle needs. Using a large pass-through or breakfast bar can achieve some openness while still delineating spaces.

How long will a kitchen remodel take?

Kitchen overhauls typically take 8-12 weeks from start to finish. Exact timelines depend on the project scope and intricacy. Simple upgrades like new cabinets, countertops and fresh paint can be done in 2-4 weeks. Allow more time for expansions, layout changes or utility work. Build in cushion since delays mid-project are common.

Should I remodel the kitchen or buy a new house?

If your main issue is an outdated, poorly functioning kitchen, then a remodel is likely the better financial move over buying a whole new home. Upgrading your kitchen not only improves livability but adds value for resale as well. Unless you need more space or your home has other unfixable drawbacks, investing in targeted renovations rather than moving altogether keeps more money in your pocket long-term.

What design trends will make my kitchen feel dated quickly?

Some fads to avoid if aiming for a timeless kitchen:

  • Elaborate glass tile backsplashes
  • Ornate carved details on cabinetry
  • Kitschy novelty tile flooring
  • Super trendy colors like millennial pink
  • Gaudy hardware and light fixtures

Focus instead on high-quality materials, simple lines, and subtle flair with colors, textures and patterns.


While surviving a kitchen overhaul requires some temporary adjustments to daily life, the payoff is well worth it. With proper planning and support, you can minimize headaches during the remodel process. Approach the project with clear goals, realistic expectations about time and cost commitments, and contingency plans to handle disruption. Before you know it, you’ll be hosting dinner parties and cookouts from the kitchen of your dreams! Does a kitchen remodel seem manageable now or still totally overwhelming? Let us know if this guide helped prepare you to take the plunge!