Tackling a kitchen makeover

The success of a kitchen renovation is in the details. It is well worth the effort to make comprehensive notes of every little detail. Not only will you save time in the long run but it will also save money by having fewer recalls of the trades.

The first question to answer is whether to use a general contractor or be your own general contractor. The contractor lines up all the trades and knows how to estimate the time required for each phase and keeps the renovation moving smoothly.

Be realistic about your skills. It is usually best to stick with the professionals. They can access the materials they need much faster and save delays. Getting the job done right the first time saves endless hours of future frustration.

Take cabinets as an example. If they are not properly installed, it impacts the installation of countertops and backsplashes.

One recommendation I have from personal experience is that you should consider doing kitchen and bathroom renovations at the same time. The space is smaller but it requires the same trades.

Assume that the renovation will likely take longer than you expect.

Don’t keep old appliances when doing a major renovation. The kitchen is built around appliances so select them before starting the floor plan.

The trending colour in appliances is a glossy high tech white reminiscent of a smartphone. Handles are stainless steel. Black is also popular and gray tones are available.

Retro colours of the 1950s such as beach blue, pink lemonade, buttercup yellow and cherry red are making a comeback.

Check Consumer Reports for ratings on appliances. A quiet dishwasher that does a good job is an asset. Refrigerators now have a variety of drawers rather than just the bottom or top freezer.

Stoves go beyond gas or electric. Steam heat is available for moist cooking and baking. Cooktops feature induction heat, gas or smooth top electric. For the high tech chef, Bluetooth is available so the oven, microwave and hood fan can be synchronized.

An outside vented hood fan is best for eliminating smoke, steam and heat from the kitchen.

Kitchen sink garburetors are less popular as composting becomes more common. A garburetor takes a lot of space in the cabinet below the sink.

Measure and create a floor plan on graph paper to scale. Start with the four walls, windows and doorways, then add appliances and cabinetry. Now is the time to consider if any of the doorways can be moved to create a better kitchen floor plan.

With one of the kitchens I renovated, I placed masking tape on the floor to show the new plan and lived with it for a while to de-cide if the change would be comfortable.

Consider creating work centres such as a baking station or a beverage station. Don’t plan to store heat sensitive items such as wine or spices and herbs in warm places like beside the stove or over the fridge.

The work triangle is the distance between the refrigerators, stove and sink. Too many steps are tiring, but adequate workspace around each is essential.

Separating the stove and sink is a good idea because both are heavy use areas.

The kitchen in my 1960s bungalow was completely inefficient with space wasted by a peninsula, a hanging upper cabinet over it and a built-in kitchen table with bench. Storage and counter space were lacking.

By removing the kitchen table and benches I was able to relocate the refrigerator and move the hall entryway. This created a large counter space adjacent to the stove.

The sink is the most difficult and expensive to move, especially if the basement is developed.

This is the time to think about sinks. One reader suggested taking your largest pot and biggest baking sheet to the store when you select it.

Consider the practicality of sink materials. The farm style ceramic sinks do chip and stain so dishes dropped in them will most certainly break. Stainless steel is still the number one choice.

If you have an island, consider placing an extra small sink there. It will keep people away from the dish-cleaning centre if they need to get water.

Garbage, composting and recycling are easily overlooked. There are a variety of options, including under-sink garbage cans that swing open when the cabinet door is opened. Trash compactors can be useful. You may decide to have this station outside the kitchen.

Experts suggest devoting about 40 percent of the budget to the cabinetry. The most popular finish is a wood stained in a warm colour, and brushed nickel is the most popular choice for hardware.

If you are using a single knob on a drawer, it should be placed slightly higher than centre. If it is placed in the actual centre, it will appear off-centre when viewed from standing height.

Contrasting cabinet colours are a popular trend. If you have an island or standalone piece, consider making the cabinets a different colour or finish from the majority of the cabinets or make the base cabinets a different colour from the upper cabinets.

A flat panel door or drawer gives a modern look, whereas a framed piece is more traditional.

Decide how you want to finish the space between the upper cabinets and ceiling. You can leave it open, close it with a soffit or take the cabinet right to the ceiling.

Side mounts on drawers can handle 75 pounds (34 kg) or more weight. Centre mounts are intended for small, lightweight storage to a maximum of 35 pounds (15 kg). Look for drawers that have a soft close feature. This stops them from slamming shut.

Pullout shelves in the base cabinets allow for better access to this storage space.

If you do a lot of baking, consider having a lower pullout shelf in the pantry that could accommodate large containers for flour and sugar.

As you plan the cabinetry, consider if you have any special appliances that require more space. My stand mixer is about one inch (2.5 cm) too tall to fit under the standard cabinet so an adjustment had to be made at the time of installation. I use it a lot so I like to have it on the counter top.

The codes are constantly changing so chances are electrical up-grades will be required. For example, ground fault circuit interrupter plugs are required around the kitchen sinks. As well, you may need to add more breakers in the main electrical box.

Don’t forget to add electricity to the island or peninsula.

Plan lighting so the electrician can do all the wiring at the same time. There are three types of lighting: task, mood and general. The overhead light is for general lighting. Pot lights are common for task lighting over the sink or stove.

Under-cabinet lighting serves as task lighting but also mood lighting when all the other lights are turned off.

Have them all on different switches. You may want to choose a special light, over the island for example, to create a focal point and dress up the space but be careful with the budget. It is easy to overspend on lighting.

After all the planning has been completed, you can do the fun stuff in choosing the finishes. If you are doing a major renovation, don’t fall for trendy stuff. You are going to live with this kitchen for a long time, and classic styles don’t look dated in a year or two.

Suitable floorings range from hardwood to ceramic or stone tile to sheet goods. Tile is unforgiving and dropped dishes will break. As well, it is hard on the feet if you work long hours in the kitchen.

Marble is popular in countertops and backsplashes but expensive and not always available. There are good quality laminates in natural stone colours that can serve just as well. Stone, slate and marble also chip, scratch and stain.

Tile is still the most popular backsplash. Tempered glass is another option. Either paint the wall or use wallpaper for colour and install tempered glass over it for the backsplash.

The focal points in the kitchen are above the stove and above the sink. They would be the places to use decorative features in the backsplash.

Window coverings should be simple and easily pulled out of the way. Pleated shades or venetian blinds are still the favourite option.

Choose a single finish for the faucets and drawer pulls. Most popular is brushed nickel. The faucet for the main sink is another opportunity to create a focal point. The gooseneck style is practical for putting large pots and canners in the sink.

About the author


Stories from our other publications