Only a small minority of homeowners undertake a kitchen remodel by gutting the room and starting from scratch. Since the kitchen is the most expensive and inconvenient room to renovate, it’s commonly tackled bit-by-bit. There are several problems that can arise with a piecemeal approach, but with careful planning and organization it’s possible to transform your space and budget costs over time – achieving that dream kitchen you envisioned.
1. Plan the layout: The first step is looking at the big picture – floor layout. You may want to keep the same footprint for appliances and cabinets for now, but will current space meet future needs? If not, is there a way to steal space from an adjacent room or closet to expand? Before you purchase new cabinets and appliances, layout changes should be complete, including the addition or removal of interior walls.
2. Replace windows and doors: Older homes often have awkward window placement (e.g., in corners) or may be found on exterior walls receiving minimal sunlight. If there is a way to enhance placement of cabinets and maximize natural lighting by moving windows, this may be a major expense but overall appeal and long-term comfort and should be given priority. Don’t forget to evaluate doors! French doors or sliders in older homes differ in size compared to current models and should be replaced. If you can’t afford to do this right away, take measurements of several styles and reserve enough space to expand door frames later, especially if you plan to have cabinets near doorways.
3. New cabinetry: After major layout changes are finished, new cabinetry can be installed. Factor in the size of new appliances you may purchase. For example, if you currently have a small refrigerator and intend to buy a super-sized one to replace it as the family expands, calculate extra space required. For cabinetry on both sides of a refrigerator, contractors can order and install "fillers." Fillers are hardwood panels that take up the space between cabinets and can be removed when the extra space to fit larger appliances is needed.
4. Replace the countertops and sink: Countertops can be a strain on the budget, especially when a homeowner prefers pricier, high-end cabinetry. To get around that, consider purchasing an inexpensive laminate countertop to live with while you save for that beautiful piece of granite you have your eye on. It’s a conservative investment that won’t be wasted – you can recycle a laminate countertop by utilizing it in another part of the home - as a workbench, craft table, or indestructible kids’ desktop flanked by storage cubbies or mini- bookcases. Here's a tip that was posted on the social network Hometalk.com: If you can't afford granite slab, consider granite tiles for your countertop instead. Sinks can also be replaced at a later time; have your contractor reinstall the existing sink and faucet if they’re in good shape and buy the designer brands down the line.
5. Flooring should be the last step: The most common mistake homeowners make in the planning process is prematurely replacing flooring. Because of its tremendous visual appeal, it’s the first thing people want to change. Unfortunately, modifications in layout and cabinet style can result in flooring gaps that are expensive, if not impossible, to fix! Resist the urge to replace flooring until major renovations are complete. If flooring is tired and/or damaged, try covering the worst spots using all-weather or sisal rugs that are easy to clean. Another temporary alternative is to apply inexpensive self-stick vinyl tiles, which come in a variety of styles and are thin enough not to interfere with the installation of wood or ceramic flooring later.
Hiring a contractor or designer to help you work on a long term floor plan is often an excellent investment. They can help you redesign your kitchen and organize the renovation process in stages. Most important, they will be able to offer a fresh pair of eyes to make assessments and provide advice based upon your personal style and budget.