Your first kitchen renovation doesn’t have to be scary. By following a few basic pointers, you can lay the groundwork for a successful project. Keep focused on these key questions and your project will stay on the right track.

Who’s going to do the Job?

People are the most important choice you’ll make. It’s worthwhile to look around and find a trustworthy contractor. Ask for recommendations from your local Chamber of Commerce, get names from friends and family, and follow up on references. If possible, visit a renovation-in-progress to see how your top candidate works.

It’s normal to wait a few weeks before a contractor can start on a renovation. It’s a good sign that they’re busy with other jobs!

How To Plan For A Kitchen Renovation

What’s it going to Look Like?

If you have a vision in mind, a good contractor will be able to make it a reality. However, most homeowners only do one or two kitchen renovations in their life, so it’s normal to feel a bit unsure about the design process. Put your worries to rest by teaming up with a professional kitchen designer.

A professional designer will ask you questions to learn about your ideas, how you use your kitchen, and how you want the space work in the years ahead. For example, they can design a kitchen that will serve your growing family for decades.

Before you talk to a designer, figure out your priorities. How much storage space do you need? What style do you prefer? Will you be entertaining frequently? The more you know about how you use your kitchen, the easier it will be for your designer to create the perfect renovation.

How much do you Want to Spend?

First, decide on your all-in budget. Next figure out your priorities for individual purchases. Is a professional range your must-have item? A refrigerator, or maybe a sink?

When you get to the low-priority items, see if there’s anything you can re-use from your current kitchen. Re-using items goes a long way toward keeping your costs down. For example, putting new doors on your existing cabinets is much less expensive than ordering brand-new custom cabinetry.

Where can things go Wrong?

Many first-time renovators make easily avoidable mistakes. Here are a few “don’ts” to help you prevent the most common problems.

  • Don’t try to do hazardous work yourself. When it comes to gas and electric, leave it to the pros.
  • Don’t work with a contractor who pressures you or makes you uneasy. If you have a bad feeling, go with your gut. There are plenty of others out there who can do the job.
  • Don’t ask for quotes without giving contractors a written wish list. Putting your requirements in writing is only fair—don’t expect contractors to read your mind.
  • Don’t pay more than 50% up front: Your contractor should be comfortable working in chunks and billing you as milestones are achieved.
  • Don’t stray from your plan. During the bustle of a renovation, it’s easy to veer off-course into side projects. Stay focused on your plan and save the new ideas for round two.
  • Don’t skimp on essentials: You have to live with your kitchen every day for years—be sure that everything meets your standards.
  • Don’t cut corners on items that nobody sees: Pipes, sealant, hinges, mounting hardware—these items won’t make anybody ooh and ah, but they have to be high quality. Otherwise you might be heading for costly repairs.
  • Don’t change your plans in the middle of the renovation—unless you want to make a renovation to your budget, too.

Last and most importantly, don’t live with a bad kitchen! If your kitchen is frustrating, hard to cook in, falling apart, or not big enough for your family, then renovate and take back control of your home. No matter what your budget is, there’s always something you can do to make your kitchen more livable.

Stephanie Bertha is a writer and co-owner of Barstool Comforts. She puts fun in furniture by creating memorable, unexpected and delightful places — indoors, online and outside.

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