How To Remodel A Kitchen – Step-By-Step

Wood Coffered Ceiling

A kitchen remodeling project can be a pretty extreme experience. It can be wonderful (it happens) or it can be a complete and total nightmare (it happens often). Sometimes a key to making it more of the former and less of the latter, is a matter of knowing the steps to getting the job done.

So here, in ultra-simplified form, is the “order-of-operations” for a kitchen remodeling project.

Step One: Know What You Want!

The first and most important part of a kitchen remodel, or any remodel for that matter, is knowing what the end goal is. You need a perfect picture in mind of what you’re working toward. Not only will this keep you sane when your house is seemingly destroyed, but it will also give you the advantage of having most of your decisions made before you ever start. That is a big advantage.

See this post on one of the best first steps in building a remodeling vision.

Step Two: Decide on a Realistic Budget!

Budget: The amount of time, talent, and treasure you’re willing to invest in making the vision you established in step one a reality.

This is so key to making the experience enjoyable, and none of the three components can be left out.

How much time can you personally invest in this? That will determine how much professional help you need. Be careful to keep in mind that it takes a lot of time to find a professional and to deal with one.

How much talent do you have to offer this project, and what will you give? Are you a designer, if so do you want to design your own work? (you don’t have to be a professional designer to be a designer… I bet you’ve been a painter before, but you might not be a professional painter) Do you have skills such as carpentry, drywall, or the aforementioned painting? Will you use those, if so how much can you budget?

How much treasure will you invest in this? Money. How much can you afford? How much will it take? How much is a good and sound investment?

The more solid your understanding of this step, the better off you’ll be. Trust me.

3. Create your Core Team!

The previous two steps will tell you who you need and can afford to bring in. It might be a designer, a general contractor, a cabinet man, a plumber, or all of the above. It might just as easily be your spouse, your brother-in-law, and your dog. The point is that you need to create the team and share the appropriate parts of the vision and budget with them.

From there, you can figure out exactly who is responsible for what.

4. Make an exact drawing (preferably on a computer) of what exists now!

Here is the key to being a great remodeling designer: Know what can be moved and what can’t.

It’s almost as simple as that. Now we all know that everything can be moved:

Can we move this toilet?

So the thing you need to know is maybe not what can be moved as much as what can we afford to move.

Armed with the following:

  1. A clear vision for what you want.
  2. A clear budget for time, talent, and treasure.
  3. A core team to help you.
  4. An exact drawing of what exists.

You simply start creating a new design. I use computer software, but you can use graph paper, or you can hire a professional designer.

The most important part of creating an excellent set of remodeling plans (drawings) is creating an exact “as-built” drawing. And I mean exact.

5. Finalize your plans before you start.

building plansTake the time it takes to be certain that the new design is both accurate in measurements (it will fit as shown), and within your budget. Get it totally right before allowing anyone to start.

(contractor confession: In order to keep workers working and cash flowing, contractors sometimes suggest starting before it is really time. They might say “no worries, we’ll have plenty of time to work that out, let’s just get moving on the permit, or the demo”. I would advise against that most of the time.)

6. Get your permit before doing anything else.

Don’t order cabinets or appliances until you have a building permit. This may not be as important everywhere as it is here in Florida, but here, the building departments are all insane and the chances that they’ll make you change something on your plan is too high.

7. Order all of your special order items, including cabinets.

Cabinets, appliances, floor covering, fixtures, windows, etc. can all take awhile to get in stock. If you want a nice and happy experience after you rip out your old kitchen, order this stuff ahead of time. I learned this the hard way, more than once.

It’s tough on the wallet sometimes because you have to pay for so much in advance, but the situation that occurs when you tear out your kitchen and then sit for four weeks while you wait for the cabinets is really kind of a waste and is hell on your lifestyle. You’re going to pay for all of that stuff eventually anyway, so you might as well get it out of the way.

8. Assemble your stuff, your plans, and your team.

ImageLast minute checks before you rip out the old kitchen are simple and straightforward. Just go over it all one more time. You’re past the turning back point, but you still have the chance to catch and avoid minor issues.

A pre-construction meeting with all of the key players involved is a great idea. Do this on-site, rather than in an office.

9. Finally, just do it.

All of the previous steps are part of planning and preparing. Some of it involves actual work, such as building the cabinets, but it’s all in preparation for the time when your house becomes a construction zone, with your kitchen right in the middle of your home.

Now is the time to start swinging hammers and hauling old stuff away. If you’ve planned well, even a big kitchen project can be done in a few weeks time.

10. Relax and enjoy!

Fotolia 876470 Subscription L

You won’t be eating out for awhile because all your money is gone. Stay home and enjoy the new kitchen!

A few other posts here on RG that might interest you:

How to Find a Great Contractor

The Top Five Money Question For Remodeling

Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors

If you have any comments or questions, I welcome them below in the comments!



  1. Franki Parde says

    LOVE that oval beadboard ceiling! “Almost” makes me want to get started on our kitchen remodeling…. franki

    • says

      @Franki Parde, ME TOO! That’s what originally drew me to the picture. I was going to write a post just about that, but then I got all over-excited and tried to reduce the process of remodeling a kitchen to a blog post! :-)

      Thanks for always being a voice of encouragement!


  2. says

    Kitchens are the most exciting rooms in a house….in my opinion :) They make or break a house. Thanks for a thought provoking and informative post! Earlier this fall I enrolled in our Applied Technology College. I’m in their Interior Design Drafting program. I’m not sure what direction I want to go with this…… you have any advice on how to figure out what exact area of design/decorating you want be in?
    Have a great weekend!

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