A kitchen remodel is a huge undertaking. Before you decide it's simply too much work or too much money, consider this: the kitchen is the most-used room in the house. Not only do we visit every time we're hungry or thirsty, we also gather there for meals and family time and to entertain guests.
The kitchen is also what sells a home. The first thing a prospective buyer wants to know is how much they'll have to spend to update the kitchen. Everything about a kitchen remodel is expensive, from cabinets to countertops to appliances and more. Targeting the focal points and transforming your space, however, can be done over time, with the homeowner providing much of the labor, for much less money.
Who Is Qualified to Do a Kitchen Remodel?
That depends on the project. The kitchen isn't like other rooms in the house, transformed with a fresh coat of paint and an area rug. Kitchens come with all kinds of built-in hazards by design. Contractors have stringent licensing requirements because they have to consider electrical work, plumbing, appliance installation and -- in many cases -- natural gas or propane. That is a litany of possible problems.
Those looking to take on a project that includes any of those things have to consider local laws and building codes before beginning. It is against the law to do any rough plumbing, electrical, or gas line work without a permit. The things you aren't allowed to disturb without a license live behind your walls, performing vital functions that keep your house alive and kicking. Messing with them without proper training is more than just illegal, it is extremely dangerous.
Just because a project requires a specialist, however, doesn't mean you can't do the bulk of the work yourself. Small projects to enhance the look of a kitchen can often be done with little to no expert help at all. Things like painting or a tile backsplash are easy do-it-yourself fixes that add a touch of you to the room.
What Kind of Skills Do I Need for a Kitchen Remodel?
While the guts are off-limits, everything else is fair game. For example, the valves under your kitchen sink can't be messed with -- other than turning them on and off -- but you can change the supply lines, the sink, and the garbage disposal. The drain pipes can also be re-worked. Therefore, basic homeowner plumbing knowledge is especially helpful.
To make the most of doing your project yourself, it is also helpful to have basic electrical knowledge. Again, you don't want to be installing new circuit breakers without knowing your stuff, but if you've ever installed a lighting fixture or ceiling fan you're way ahead of the game.
Other useful do-it-yourself kitchen remodel skills include painting and staining, tile work, and carpentry. If you can do even one or two of those things yourself, you'll save money. You'll also have a bunch of fun knowing you're a part of the project. Be forewarned, however -- contractors aren't always fond of working side-by-side with homeowners.
Three Kitchen Remodel Projects You Can Copy at Home
These kitchen remodel projects are perfect for homeowners. They don't require the loss of your entire kitchen for a full remodel. Some will require professional help. There's just no getting around that in some situations.
Thinking of a kitchen remodel conjures images of pipes sticking out of floors and cabinet layouts drawn on walls. Blueprints taped to windows and contractors waking you up at the break of dawn for another glorious day of foul language and smoke breaks. It doesn't have to be that way. Put yourself in control and transform your kitchen on your terms.
1972 called -- they want their cabinets back
When you look at your kitchen, you see cabinets. Those who have never seen them installed have probably never considered what a monumental task it is to perform. Those upper cabinets of yours have to be able to hold Grammy's heirloom soup crocks that you would swear are solid lead. If the cabinets aren't plumb and level, glasses slide off of shelves and apples always roll to the left. A lot of time and planning goes into the placement of those magical boxes.
The good news is, you don't have to replace them. Depending on the type of cabinetry you have, you have options to upgrade that allow you to keep your kitchen otherwise untouched. You want to make sure, of course, that the existing cabinetry is solid and sound. If it looks like it's going to fall apart, has missing pieces, or moves around easily when touched -- it's time to call it and move on to replacement options.
1. Doors and hardware
Most modern cabinetry design uses standard heights. Upper cabinets, for example, come standard in heights of 30, 33, 36 and 42 inches. The widths vary, but you will find standard sizes there as well. That's good news for the do-it-yourselfers because standard size cabinets mean standard sized doors. Home centers, lumber companies, and online distributors are great places to find doors that will fit.
Those with white cabinets in standard sizes are in luck. You will be able to shop a bountiful harvest of door styles in virtually every price range. Your upper choices will include gorgeous features like cathedral arches, raised panels, and custom glass display doors. New doors also mean new knobs and hinges. Those with last century's leftover exterior hinges can finally go with hidden hardware like it's 2018.
Those with cabinets made of wood are just as fortunate. Your choices will be more expensive. However, they'll be far more diverse. Wooden doors come in a variety of woods and finishes. You'll look at raised panels, arches, glazes, custom trim and a plethora of other features for hours.
Once you've chosen your door style, it's time to make a list of sizes and contact someone for ordering. They will need to know the exact size of the existing doors for each cabinet, as well as the exact size of the opening of the cabinet itself. That step is essential to ensure you get the right hinges.
Some doors will be stock at your local home center and some will require a special order. Either way, before you install, it's time to look at your cabinets again and prepare them for their makeover.
2. Cabinet refinishing
Now that you've chosen your doors, it's time to make changes to your cabinets. Those who went with the same color doors -- opting for a quick and easy fix -- will only need to repair screw holes and blemishes. A color putty kit allows you to create every imaginable hue. Once your cabinets are clean and looking good, you're ready to follow the instructions that come with your new hinges and put it all back together.
Those who opted to change the color of their cabinets have a much larger task at hand. While Rust-Oleum makes a great product that will transform any cabinet with little prep work, the steps you do have to take are still a major project. Every exposed piece of cabinetry has to be stripped and re-finished. Even though the Rust-Oleum system comes with a chemical stripper, you're much better off doing it with a medium grit sandpaper.
That means a mess. You'll want to spend some time masking off areas you don't want to see covered in dust -- such as doorways to other rooms -- and wear protective gear. A respirator, not a painter's mask, is recommended when working with fine dust from lacquers and polyurethanes. Once the clear-coat is gone, you're ready to move on. Follow the instructions on the package. You can even use the system to keep and re-finish your existing doors if you have that kind of time.
Don't be afraid. This kitchen remodel project isn't the disastrous tear-out and demolition nightmare it appears to be -- if you approach it correctly. The most common countertop, by far, is laminate. Replacing it with either a natural stone product, solid surface like Corian, or a cultured quartz will bring your kitchen to life.
You absolutely do not want to try installing any of those products yourself. You can, however, save yourself some money and be a part of the process by removing the old tops. Before you do, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Professional installers will have those tops out and in the back of their truck in minutes. It's what they do. You, on the other hand, have to consider every step carefully and -- in many cases of things like removing a sink or cooktop -- learn something new.
Those ready to take the plunge can remove that sink, pull the appliances out and away from the action and go to town unscrewing the old tops. You'll find the screws in the corners of the cabinets along the front and back. If there is a backsplash, it will either be attached to the counters or clued and caulked to the wall. Either way, score the top with a utility knife where it meets the wall to avoid tearing existing wallpaper or damaging woodwork or paint.
Those with stone products should let the pros remove it. Stone counters run over 20 pounds per square foot in some cases. You don't want to be dropping any of that on your toe -- or your plumbing. Countertops are definitely the most intrusive of these three kitchen remodel projects. They are also the most impressive.
Doing It in Steps Makes the Job Go Smooth
Those three kitchen remodel projects are all big jobs on their own. Imagine the disruption to your home and your life to have it all; done at the same. You can surrender your house for however long your contractor needs or you can split it up, save some money and do some of the most impressive work yourself.
When you visit your building department to inquire about permits, they will also be able to answer any other technical or code-related questions. Some may even be able to recommend a qualified contractor ion the area. Once you've gone through all the steps and your kitchen is back together again, the time has come to show it off. You'll look at your face-lifted kitchen with pride, knowing how much of your hard work went into it.