Doing a kitchen remodel in phases takes planning

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 12:13 p.m. MDT

Cabinets can make a drastic difference to the look, feel and functionality of your kitchen. (Brent Murray) Cabinets can make a drastic difference to the look, feel and functionality of your kitchen. (Brent Murray)

Last week, we began a discussion of how to tackle a major kitchen overhaul in several stages to try to defray some of the cost of such a major undertaking.

As we noted, according to Remodeling magazine's 2011 Cost vs. Value Report, a major, 200-square-foot kitchen remodel costs about $58,000, with a 65 percent return on investment come selling time.

Stage one was to develop a careful, complete plan for your new kitchen. As we have said (a few hundred times before), planning should always be the first step to any remodeling project!

Let's now review stages two through five:

Stage two: Order the cabinets, appliances and lighting fixtures.

Cabinets and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you're remodeling in stages, you can order appliances any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you're ready to pull the trigger on the installation.

Remember, however, that most equipment comes with a one-year warranty. You do want to at least get the equipment installed and up and running during that time so if problems arise with anything they can be dealt with by the manufacturer.

Custom cabinets are not usually ordered ahead of time, as they are built to very specific measurements.

Reliable cabinetmakers will want to measure the exact space into which their casework will be placed before they begin the manufacturing process. Remember that it may take 4-12 weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

However, there are many options these days for cabinets that are more or less "off the shelf." Large home improvement stores and warehouse stores (such as IKEA) have cabinet lines that can be purchased and taken home by the consumer the same day. Some of these are preassembled, and others come in a flat box and require assembly.

These are generally manageable by most homeowners and do not require special skills or tools. These stores will help you design a layout if you take in your measurements so you will know what to purchase.

If you can't afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but plan to buy either the same standard sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you'll save money by reusing them.

You'll have to decide about flooring, too. Flooring is one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets. You'll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you'll have some leeway for installing new cabinet configurations.

In this case, you can choose to keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height. Adding new flooring after the cabinets go in can also be a problem when it comes time to repair or replace your dishwasher; you don't want it trapped in by tile so that the only way to get it out is to remove the countertop so you can lift it over the flooring.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible and manageable. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets and appliances on shims.

Stage three: Gut the kitchen and do the electrical and plumbing work.

Here's where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take six to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.

During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you've got the means to cook meals. It is also a good idea to time this stage in the summer when you can easily grill and eat outside. That will reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

Stage four: Install cabinets, countertop, appliances, flooring and fixtures.

If you've done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You now have a (mostly) finished kitchen.

A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can't quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensive laminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface or marble. If you know you are going to change the countertop later, consider holding off on installing a tile backsplash. The thickness of the counter is critical in placing the backsplash as they should abut carefully at the joint between the horizontal and vertical planes. A huge clump of caulk will not add to the appeal of your new kitchen!

Final phases: Upgrade if necessary.

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn't afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)

While it may be challenging to stretch a kitchen remodeling project out over a year or so, it can be done. What is the key to a successful result? You know that answer: Plan ahead!

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.

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