Kitchen Remodeling Guide

The purpose of this paper is to give you a plan or guideline to follow in pursuit of your dream kitchen. If you are considering remodeling your kitchen, or if you are building a new home or cottage, this article will provide you with some important information and some great ideas to make sure your dream kitchen doesn’t turn into a nightmare! We have been in the Kitchen and Bath business for many years and have sold literally thousands of kitchens. From this experience, we have learned a great deal about what goes into a great kitchen remodel; and the design and beauty of the products are only a part of the whole project. This paper is going to lay the groundwork of what you need to do to ensure that your project goes smoothly from the design all the way to your completed kitchen, one that you will be proud to show off to your friends and relatives. It will also give you some insight as to how a kitchen-remodeling project works and hopefully answer some of the questions you might have about the process.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time covering the details of the products, as that information is readily available from the manufacturers (for in-depth product information check out our e-showroom.) We also aren’t going to get into detail on kitchen designing, that’s why we have designers on staff but we will get you thinking about some design considerations that will help customize your kitchen to the way you want to use it.

Let’s start out with a few broad questions (with equally broad answers) that we hear over an over again.

I’ve heard horror stories about kitchen remodeling projects…are they true?
Unfortunately, some of them are, but in our experience the vast majority of horror stories are the result of a few avoidable situations. 1) A failure to communicate; A kitchen remodeling project is an extremely complex project and one in which a number of people are involved all at different times. There is the designer, the installer, countless subcontractors (plumber, electrician, flooring, etc) a miscommunication between any of the parties can mean troubles. 2) Inexperienced or incompetent designer or remodeling contractor. Unfortunately, there are some of them around and that’s why it is important to do business with only those with a proven track record. 3) Unanticipated problem with the structure. This is the case more often with older homes but unanticipated problems can come up with some newer homes as well. The remodeler doesn’t have x-ray vision so he or she can’t tell what might lurk behind your walls floors or ceilings. Most often the problems can be resolved but it can be disruptive to the project.

To avoid the horror stories, make sure you are doing business with a company or individual that you can trust, make sure all details are in writing, and check references that the remodeler supplies. Be aware that if you have an older home, some issues may arise when the old kitchen is torn out. Standard Kitchens uses a detailed selection form that actually forces the exact detail of all product selection to be written down and thoroughly explained so everyone fully understands the project specifications.

Only contractors with a proven record of remodeling success are allowed to become part of the Preferred Contractor program at Standard Kitchens.

How much does a kitchen remodel cost?
With every kitchen remodel being unique, that is a tough question to answer. So our best answer is “that depends” or to be more precise; probably somewhere between $5,000 and $50,000. I know that’s not the answer you were looking for but it’s really the best we can do. Here are just a few of the things that come into play when determining the cost of a remodel project; size of the room, type of cabinets (custom, stock, semi-custom), type of wood or other material the cabinet is made from, door style of the cabinet, number of cabinets, height of cabinets, number and types of cabinet accessories used in the design, type of countertops, size of countertops, cost of appliances, flooring type, lighting, cost to tear out the old, site work to prepare for the new cabinet install, plumbing and electrical work required, plus a few dozen other variables. So throwing out a meaningful number is pretty much impossible.

How long does it take?
Once again…that depends. If it is an average size kitchen and it is a simple tear out the old cabinets and put new ones in along with new counter tops, it might take two to three days. But if it is a large kitchen where there are structural changes that need to be made to the home (i.e. new wiring, bulkhead work, windows, etc.) it might be more like two to three weeks.

Can I do it myself?
It could be done, but unless you have previous experience as a finish carpenter, or you can work side by side with one, we would not recommend a kitchen remodel as a do-ityourself project. With the cost and complexity of the product and the visibility of the finished project, we feel it is best to put your project in the hands of a qualified licensed remodeling contractor.

Is it worth it?
If you look at it from a strictly monetary standpoint, according to Remodel Magazine’s “Cost vs. Value” comparison, remodeling your kitchen ranks toward the top of the list when it comes to the percentage of cost recovered when the home is sold. There are many variables that come into play in figuring this and the numbers they cite are national averages but the study shows a return of between 90 and 100% for a kitchen remodel. If you look at whether it is worth it from what I call the “utility” view, you need to consider the increased enjoyment and convenience you will get from your new kitchen as opposed to the one you slave in now. That’s a judgment that each individual has to make on his or her own. And finally, sometimes updating the kitchen is what it takes to make the home saleable when it’s put on the market. In those cases, it makes sense to remodel now and enjoy rather than wait until you are going to sell the place and then do it.

What’s up with these discounts?
This is one we hear a lot. And you’ll be wondering too once you start shopping around for cabinets. So here’s the story. All of the cabinet manufacturers use a list or reference price this makes it easy for them to maintain pricing throughout the whole supply chain (manufacturer, distributor, retailer) It makes it easy for everyone in the chain since all costs and prices are calculated from this reference price. When there is a price change or a new product line introduced, the list price is changed and automatically all of the sell prices and costs are adjusted. The list price should never be used as a comparison point between cabinets from two different manufacturers as it is likely they are using two totally different discount structures to compute the final selling price of the cabinets. We always advise people to disregard list prices and discounts and look at the bottom line price the dealer provides if they want to make an accurate comparison between two cabinet quotes. Claims of savings of 70% and more should be taken with a grain of salt and approached with close scrutiny of the bottom line rather than the discount off “list.”

What is the difference between “stock”, “semi-custom”, and “custom” cabinets?
This is kind of the good, better, best line up in the cabinet world. Stock cabinets would be more aptly called “standard” cabinets as they mostly aren’t kept in stock (inventory) any longer. These days, most manufacturers build cabinets to order a kitchen at a time as opposed to having warehouses full of finished goods. Stock cabinets are the basic cabinets of their line they are typically built in specific sizes (widths in 3” increments starting at 9” wide, and a variety of heights (12,15,18,24,30,36,and 42 inches) and usually only 12 or 24 inches deep. Stock cabinets have fewer options available than the custom and semi custom lines but manufacturers keep adding options blurring the line between Stock and Semi-custom to where the distinction is some cases is minor.

When you move from Stock to Semi-Custom, one of the big advantages you will notice is the broader range of colors, wood species, and door styles that are available to you. Also, many Semi-custom lines offer the option of extended widths or reduced depths. Often the Semi custom cabinets will also feature upgraded hardware such as sturdier drawer glides.

Beyond semi-custom cabinets are what are known as Full Custom Cabinets. Here you will see even more options and accessories and the ability to have specialty cabinets made to your exact specifications. You can have your cabinets finished to match existing furniture or trim; you can have pretty much any size cabinet built to fit a specific area. Of course you pay a premium for all of this flexibility.

Building your team:
It takes a great team to successfully complete a kitchen-remodeling project. You need to involve a skilled professional remodeling contractor, a designer who is skilled in kitchen design and has your best interests in mind, and you need a supplier who can provide the products that go into the project on time, complete, and without defects.

Let’s look at each team member individually:

The Professional Remodeling Contractor:
The remodeling contractor is the “conductor” of the project. This is the person who is going to transform the dream kitchen from drawings on paper to the real thing…your new kitchen! Here are a few things to look for… Licensed, the remodeling contractor must hold a current valid builder’s license in the State he/she is doing business. Insured, it is real important that the remodeling contractor that you contract with has adequate liability insurance. Experienced, it is best to work with someone who has remodeled kitchens before. Just because someone has a builder’s license doesn’t mean they are qualified to remodel your kitchen. Professional, you want to deal with someone who runs their business professionally, someone who uses contracts and presents themselves in a professional manner, Personable, you are going to be working with this person throughout the project so it’s important that he/she is someone you can get along with, who is friendly and who can communicate. Organized, with all of the little details that go into a kitchen remodeling project it is really important to get someone who is organized and can keep all of those little details in order. If not, there is a good chance the kitchen you end up with won’t quite be the one you wanted. References, Most remodeling contractors will have references from projects they have done. Take the time to check the references out.

All of the Standard Kitchens Preferred Contractors meet all of the requirements listed above. We screen each contractor to make sure they fit our demanding criteria before we sign them up as a Preferred Contractor. We know the work that they do is a direct reflection on us so we take great pains to make sure we only select the cream of the crop to be a part of our Preferred Contractor program.

The Designer:
The designer is the person who actually designs the layout for your kitchen. This is the person who ultimately determines if you end up with a great kitchen, a mediocre one, or even a bad one. Make sure you are comfortable with your kitchen designer… is he/she experienced? Have your best interests in mind? Friendly. Does he/she listen to what you say?

In the not so distant past, designing a kitchen was a piece of cake; measure up the walls, put the sink under the window, put the appliances in to fit the “work triangle” and then fill the empty space with cabinets. Today, however the vast number of available options and the new role as “nerve center” the kitchen has taken on require a lot more thought and creativity in order to design a kitchen that works the way you do and looks the way you want it to.

You may hear some people talk about “computer design” or “computer aided design” when it comes to designing kitchens. In many cases it’s more “computer filled in” than designed as many of these design programs simply fill the wall space with cabinetry in the most efficient way possible (not necessarily with the best design principles). At Standard Kitchens, we use the computer to generate computer renderings and perspectives of our designers’ kitchen designs.

Standard Kitchens hires quality designers and trains them in proper kitchen design with an emphasis on being able to design a kitchen that fits the life style of the client rather than simply designing a kitchen to fit the space available.

The Supplier:
The supplier is the place where the products that go into the kitchen come from. The way to select a supplier is much like the way you choose where you shop for other things…you want to consider the combination of quality, selection, service, and price and choose the supplier that combines them to give you the most value. Of these considerations, service is the one of most importance in selecting a supplier for a successful kitchen-remodeling project. Service here is not just about a smiling friendly face at the desk when you walk in the showroom, it is the ability to deliver your kitchen on time, complete, and as ordered. It is being responsive to your questions and concerns during the remodeling process. It is about being treated courteously throughout the entire transaction and it is about after the sale service. Standard Kitchens is a part of Standard Companies a family owned company that has been in business in West Michigan for over 100 years serving homeowners and professional builders. (You can read about our history on our website

You are a big part of this team. And it is your responsibility to become an astute shopper for this important purchase. Your final product (your dream kitchen) and the total kitchen remodeling experience will be enhanced if you invest a little time in educating yourself and planning your project. Standard Kitchens can assist you with this. Through our interviewing process when you first visit one of our showrooms, the designer will be able to incorporate your wants and needs into your kitchen design.

So, don’t be a passive consumer, take the time to do some thinking about what you want your kitchen to look like and how you are going to use your kitchen. The more we know about your wants and needs, the better we can tailor the design for you.

You also need to spend a little time figuring out your budget for the project, which is the next topic.

Budgeting for your new kitchen
It’s a good idea to get a handle on your budget for the project prior to getting too far into the process. The reason is that the designer can do a much better job of designing your kitchen and tailoring it to your wants and needs if the designer has an idea of how much money has been budgeted for the project. It’s not that the designer is going to make sure to use up the entire budget or to try to get you to spend more than you want to. The fact is that there are so many options and ways to design a kitchen that knowing the budget will help guide the selection process and make sure any trade-offs that need to be made to fit the budget are the best ones to make.

How do you determine what you want to spend for a kitchen project? There are a number of things to consider; how long you plan on staying in the home, the value of the home and homes in the neighborhood, how much time you and your family spend in the kitchen (preparing, dining, socializing), the availability of funds to complete the project, the importance of amenities (fancy trims, deluxe appliances, custom finishes, etc.)

In a remodeling project, it is impossible to get a quote for the project prior to the design being done, the remodeling contractor visiting the home, and selections made. This makes it hard to determine a starting budget figure. Books and magazine articles throw out cost figures for kitchen remodeling that are all over the board. But the fact remains you need some sort of starting figure so you can get an idea for budgeting. We recommend you use the following ranges for initial budgeting to give you a very rough idea of how much of an investment is required.

Basic small to medium kitchen (L-shaped) entry-level stock cabinets, laminate countertops, basic appliance package; No structural work required (electrical, plumbing, walls, bulkheads, windows, doors) you should figure $8,000 - $10,000 as a starting point for this type of remodeling project. The cabinets represent approximately 1/3 of this total with appliances and counter tops another 1/3, and labor the other 1/3. That’s a pretty wide range and a real general description of the project and the $8,000-$10,000 figure really only gives you a starting point. Some publications simply break kitchen remodeling projects down to minor and major remodeling and show $15,000-$20,000 as a range for minor and $40,000 and up as major remodeling.

So, to sum it up, these dollar amounts are very rough guidelines to give you a general feel for what is might cost to redo your kitchen. It is not to say you will be able to re-do your kitchen for that amount. Also, don’t be fooled by outrageous discounts and claims of “this kitchen installed in your home for only $2,999.” A kitchen remodel is a complex project and no one can produce an accurate quotation without seeing the actual project site.

Determining what you want
In this section, we are going to talk about some of the decisions you will need to make during the design process. Standard Kitchens designers are trained in what we call “lifestyle design” which simply means designing the kitchen to fit with your lifestyle…young growing family, single, empty nester, etc. Our designers will be asking you some questions about how you will be using your kitchen…do you like to bake, gourmet cook, have a group of people over and hang out in the kitchen? Do you often have two or more people cooking in the kitchen at the same time?

There is really no right or wrong way to go about determining what you want you kitchen to be. But if you invest a little time in the process the payoff will be a kitchen you will enjoy working in and will be proud to show off to you friends and relatives. First thing to do is start a list of the things that ‘bug’ you about your current kitchen. A good way to do this is have a writing pad handy right in the kitchen and jot down the little irritants as they come up…like when you go to put the frying pan away and there is no good place to put the lid and you have to take out five other pans to fit the fry pan in. Or when you bring in the groceries and there is no place near the refrigerator to put the bags so you end up walking back and forth all the way across the kitchen just to put the groceries away. Get the idea? You should also write down things about your current kitchen you wouldn’t want to give up. Like if your current kitchen has a three-bowl sink with a built in hot water dispenser and you’ve gotten to where you would feel lost without it. Write it down, cause you’re going to want one of those in the new kitchen as well. The next thing to do is make a wish list, “I really wish my kitchen had lazy susan” or “It would sure be nice to have a spice drawer where I could keep all my spices in order” Write out all you wishes on another page of you pad.

Another thing you will find helpful is to review the selection guide found at the end of this paper. This is the information the designer will be asking you for in order for the designer to design you kitchen to fit your lifestyle.

You are going to be picking out a lot of products, cabinets, accessories, appliances, countertops, etc. By doing some thinking ahead about the choices you are going to be making, you will be less apt to become overwhelmed when the time comes to choose. If you are working with a design professional like the ones you will find at Standard Kitchens, the designer has the expertise to guide you through these decisions. The goal of a good designer is to help you make the best selection decisions for your kitchen, not to see how much stuff he or she can sell you.

As far as product choices go, the larger the budget, the more you have to choose from. Here again, a good professional designer can give you a lot of help and direction.

Cabinets: Door styles, wood species, finish, options, hardware, accessories
Counter tops: Type of material (laminate, solid surface, granite, etc.), color, edge treatment, backsplash material and style, sink
Appliances: gas or electric, color, features, options

Don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices, but do take some time to check out what’s out there. Check out the Web, visit Parade of Homes, look at lifestyle magazines (and tear out ideas that strike you) and be observant whenever you are in someone else’s kitchen. This will help educate you and make the selection process a bit easier.