Feb 16, 2012

A Primer on Kitchen Remodels

Need to remodel your kitchen?   Whether yours has outdated surfaces, old appliances, or simply doesn't work for you, consider the following 10 steps to make it perfect, the first time.  Updated kitchens are an investment in your home and should be more effective and budget savvy. It's wise to invest in a professional kitchen designer to create a solid plan.

1) Create a plan and develop a time line. This is a critical first step and helps you define your needs. Is your existing space too small, badly arranged, and the cabinets don't hold what you have?  How will you and your family will use the space over time?  Do you need craft areas, study centers, better storage, electronic updates?  The larger your project, the more important this planning stage will be. A time line from start to finish should be developed. When should you apply for a permit? When do you need to select appliances, finishes and fixtures? How long will your kitchen be out of commission? Have you considered an alternate kitchen to use during an extensive remodel? 

2) Start demolition.  Following your plan, remove what will be replaced. Be aware that kitchen materials may contain hazardous materials including lead-based paint and asbestos and they require special handling. Consider recycling your cabinets, metal, windows and doors, porcelain and ceramic tile and drywall.  Many communities have places to donate usable items (windows, sinks, faucets and cabinets), and centers to take and recycle construction waste.

4) Construct and repair.  Depending on the new kitchen's configuration you may be moving or adding walls and windows. When the 'guts' of the old kitchen are removed, inspect studs, joists, wiring, drywall and everything that you can. With the space open, you can perform necessary repairs or updates. Shoring up a floor for a new island, raising a ceiling, and re-framing walls are done at this stage.

 5) Rough-in the plumbing.  If you are changing the position of your sink, refrigerator or adding appliances including ice-makers, you will have plumbing needs. At this "rough-in" stage, new supply and drainage pipes are added for sinks and appliances. 

6) Install electrical infrastructure.  Are you considering a smart home? A lighting control system? These systems and wires should be installed at this stage. Adding an appliance where none existed may require a new receptacle; be sure you know the power requirements. This is the time to update old wires, run new circuits, install ground-fault-interrupt receptacles, and change the location of lights. Consider long-term changes even if your budget does not include them now...wiring for an audio system, a new bank of lights, etc..will eliminate the need to open the drywall again.
7) Close the walls. When you've finished the wiring, prepare to close walls by first insulating all walls considered exterior walls. Be sure to have the electrical system inspected and approved by the local permitting agency. Then hang drywall, tape and fill the seams. Before you add your texture, sand the seams until smooth.  Popular textures include, orange peel, knock-down, and varying thicknesses of skip trowel.  Finally, prime and paint.

8) Install a floor. Typically the kitchen floor is laid last to save it from damage. If you are installing a wood floor, wait until after the cabinets are installed to protect them. The age-old argument of installing tile under the cabinets can be answered now. Since you do need flooring under your dishwasher, refrigerator and range, the cost of additional materials and labor to go under all cabinets can be determined and the decision made based on your budget.  There are many flooring options, among them vinyl, tile, wood, and cork. Finished cement floors are a good option for modern style.

    9) Install cabinets and counters.  Once the base cabinets are installed and level, the countertops can be installed. Contractors typically hang upper cabinets before installing the toe kicks and base cabinets. Whether you opt for ceramic tile, granite, marble or surfaces like Vetrazzo, Corian and Caesarstone, base your choice on using and maintaining it. Natural stone counters - slab or tile - are porous and require proper sealing and care, while quartz counters are sustainable, non-porous, have antibacterial properties and the same heat resistance as granite.  

    10) It's time for fixtures, trims and appliances. With the new counters in place, your sink and faucet, cook top and other appliances are ready to be installed. Since the electrical work is done, the trims for recessed fixtures, the housings for your LED and under cabinet lights, and all of the wall and ceiling mounted lighting can be installed.

    Don't forget to add the final items - trims, receptacle covers - and create a punch list before you sign off on the finished project.