What You Should Know Before Renovating Your Kitchen

Updated: Aug. 25, 2023

Learn some of the ins and outs of a kitchen renovation before you tackle the project yourself.

Few renovations can make an impact on a home like a full kitchen remodel. After living in his home for a decade and a half, Family Handyman Creative Director Vern Johnson decided to make some major changes to his kitchen space.

“Over the last fifteen years, we’ve lived with a kitchen that was about nine feet by 11 feet— and it just was not functioning,” Johnson says.

Johnson knew gaining more functionality and lots more space would require an extensive renovation. So after spending a few years ironing out project plans and design details, he knocked out a wall and got to work. Ten months and many lessons learned later, the kitchen remodel was complete.

If you’re taking on a similar project, here are some important nuggets of information Johnson picked up throughout the process.

Vern Kitchen RemodelFamily Handyman/Vern Johnson

Take Advantage of the Full Space

Johnson took this on because he had room to expand adjacent to the kitchen. “We decided to take out a wall and use up space in the former dining room that we never used before,” he says. “And now it’s all coming together.”

In many cases, knocking out a wall is all it takes to change the flow of a room. Just be sure any walls you decide to take out aren’t load-bearing.

Be Ready for the Timeline To Change

Even the most carefully planned remodels can (and often will) fall behind schedule. Plans can change, materials can arrive weeks late, and installations you thought would take a day can stretch on for the whole week.

Knowing this, Johnson presumed his kitchen remodel would take at least a month longer than he planned — six months instead of five. Ultimately, though, it took about twice as long.

“My advice is, expect it to take a long time so you’re not frustrated when it does take a long time,” Johnson says.

You’re the Contractor Now

One thing people can often overlook when planning a remodel is the amount of busy work involved. Kitchens are complex rooms with a mix of appliances, cabinets and other potential complications. Ultimately, a project of this scale will require you to become something of a general contractor.

Organization and communication are key to successfully remodeling a kitchen. Unless you’re planning on DIYing every little aspect, you’ll need to communicate and coordinate with sub-contractors.

The best way to keep a remodel operating smoothly is to have a plan fleshed out and ready to go before you even pick up a hammer. To avoid as much stress as possible, make and follow that plan as best you can.

Call Your Inspector’s Office Right Away

Obtaining the proper permits is another essential part of planning a remodel. Thoroughly research specific laws and codes in your area. It can’t hurt to call a house inspector to talk through your renovation plans.

Also, understand that in most cases you can’t get an inspector to come to your home right away.

“What I thought was that you called the inspector’s office first thing in the morning, and then they would come out later on that day and inspect and sign off,” Johnson says. “Well, I learned that they were about ten days out, which then meant that every appointment I had with subcontractors got pushed out even further.”

Johnson’s advice: Get appointments with the inspector’s office on the calendar as soon as possible so scheduling and building permits don’t hold up other parts of the remodel.

Don’t Be Scared to Change Designs

Once you’ve started the remodeling, try to avoid sweeping changes to the initial plans, though it’s OK to adjust your design here and there. One of Johnson’s favorite aspects of his new kitchen is its arched passageways, a design choice not in the initial plans.

“Originally we weren’t going to change the passageways,” Johnson said. “But after we had demoed out all the walls, plaster, drywall, etc., we saw it as on opportunity make the architectural enhancement at that time.”

Aim for Usability and Storage

When designing your new kitchen, how it looks will not impact your everyday life nearly as much as how it works. Johnson spent a lot of time considering cabinet options. How the cabinets and drawers functioned turned out to be the deciding factor, not how they looked.

Think through your personal preferences when designing your kitchen remodel. How much kitchen storage do you need? What kind of storage do you prefer? It’s not often you get to build a space to your exact specifications and desires, so take your time. Your future self will thank you every time you set foot in your revamped kitchen.