step by step kitchen renovation guide

After 25 years of continuous involvement in thousands of residential kitchen renovation projects we have learned, from both achievements and mistakes, which are the steps of this process and which is their right sequence.
This is what we recommend in order to keep the kitchen renovation as a unique, wonderful and exciting experience, rather than a stressful and frustrating one:

Step 1: HARMONY. Let’s get first a fair agreement among all “voting” members of the family about the kitchen renovation as necessity, timing, extent, budget, financing, etc.

Step 2: RESALE VALUE. Define from start how much the “resale value” should influence our renovation project.

Step 3: THE ROOM. The room can stay exactly as is or undergo minor or major changes in all its components: walls, windows, doors, floor, ceiling, and bulkheads, plumbing, electrical, heating, mechanical, etc. In any case, we should produce accurate scaled drawings with detailed final measurements. At this stage, if structural changes are involved, we need to know if a BUILDING PERMIT is mandatory in our city. Also, local bylaws may require some changes at the time of the renovation as external walls insulation, upgrade of electrical, plumbing or mechanical systems. An application for a building permit has to be submitted if necessary and our drawings are final only after the permit was issued.

Step 4: WHAT ELSE IN THE ROOM? Let’s decide what objects other than the kitchen cabinets, counters, and appliances, we must have in the kitchen room: an antique piece of furniture that we love, a free-standing drinking water tank or waste container, some accommodation for a pet, etc. All have to be listed along with their shape size and preferred location in the room.

Step 5: EATING IN THE KITCHEN. Our requirements for seated eating have to be clearly defined now: free standing or fixed table, bar top surface and exactly how many chairs and/or stools will be permanently kept in the kitchen. The table and/or bar top has to be specified as shape, size and preferred location in the room. Only now we know the space left for the appliances and the new kitchen cabinets.

Step 6: APPLIANCES. A complete list of appliances with accurate dimensions, installation requirements and preferred location has to be drawn now: fridge, stove, cooktop, oven(s), microwave oven, sink, dishwasher, hood, warming drawer, built-in or freestanding coffee maker, etc., even small countertop devices like a toaster. 

Step 7: MAIN COUNTER TOP. This is the part of the counter top where most of the food preparation will happen. We have to realistically ask for a minimum length (2 to 6 feet let’s say) and specify its location (ideally between the sink and the cooking surface, but not necessarily).

Step 8: CABINETS CONFIGURATION. The kitchen designer will guide us through the decisions to be made. For the base cabinets, we will be asked how many cutlery drawers and how many pots and pans drawers we need, how do we want to access the corner cabinet(s) and what accessories and organizers are required. For the upper cabinets we will have to decide how tall we want them, how far from the countertop, how far from the ceiling and what decoration (if any) will be between the top of the wall cabinets and the ceiling. Also what solution we prefer for the corner(s).

Step 9: ACCESSORIES AND DECORATION. *Now that we know the sizes of all our new cabinets, we can choose from a large collection of accessories that will make it easier to reach in deep cabinets and corners, help with the waste management and recycling, organise cutlery, pots and pans, lids, trays, utensils, and spices, etc. It is also the right time to choose the decorative components as under wall cabinets lighting, the crown or ceiling molding, glass doors, corbels, pilasters, island legs, etc. This is best done with the assistance of a professional kitchen designer. A good start to get educated on what is available is on this website: We distribute all Richelieu products and more.

Step10: CABINET DOORS STYLE AND FINISH. This is the soul searching and challenging stage when we have to find the right mood that best matches our taste and personality and to answer questions as: modern, transitional or classic style?, plain or heavily decorated? do we want to see wood grain or a solid colour?, light, medium or dark general look?

Step 11: FLOOR, COUNTER TOP, WALL PAINT, BACKSPLASH. This is the most common sequence of decision making (after we chose the finish of the cabinet doors, of course). Ceramic tiles and hardwood are the most popular choices of floors, granite, and quartz for kitchen countertops. Besides the paint, we can add different accent treatments for the walls as exposed brick or stone, glass blocks, etc. Ceramic or glass tiles are the most popular finish for backsplash, but others are available.

Step 12: PLUMBING, ELECTRICAL, MECHANICAL, LIGHTING. Licensed and specialised trades will advise us about the options and the best solutions for our project. They will make sure that the electrical panel can safely handle all the new required circuits, that we have enough plugs above the counter or on the island to power all our devices, that all the necessary switches for different lighting scenarios are in the right places. The kitchen or lighting designer can suggest solutions for the general, local and accent lighting, and help us chose the fixtures.

Step 13: DRAWINGS AND SPECIFICATIONS. This is an essential step that we cannot afford to miss. Now we need a complete set of construction drawings to fully describe the final shape of the room, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and lighting drawings with all necessary specifications. The kitchen designer will produce the final kitchen layout showing all the cabinets, countertops and various other components in the floor plan, elevations, details with precise dimensions and eventually 3Ds. Caution: 3Ds may help to visualise, but they do not protect us as much as the floor plan and elevations with final dimensions.

Step 14: BUDGET. In most cases the kitchen renovation accurate budget is the sum 3 major components:
1) CONSTRUCTION: includes the demolition and disposal, construction (walls, windows, doors, floor, ceiling, baseboards and trims, painting, backsplash, etc), plumbing, electrical, mechanical, lighting, etc. A general contractor will give us a quotation based on our drawings and specifications. We can add materials and fixtures that the contractor did not include in his price.
2) INSTALLED KITCHEN CABINETS AND COUNTER TOPS: The kitchen cabinets company will provide a quotation based on the final and approved project.
3) APPLIANCES: Any appliance distributor will give us a firm quote for all the new appliances we need. We can add the cost for a new sink and faucet, eventually for a new kitchen table and chairs and/or stools.
In some cases, when a structural solution and building permit are necessary, the fees for a licensed structural engineer and building permit application may have to be added to the sum of the above items .

Step 15: EXECUTING THE KITCHEN RENOVATION PROJECT. We basically use 3 companies for the completion of our project: a general contractor (alternatively, we can be our own general contractor and hire different trades), a kitchen company, and an appliance distributor, all based on written and detailed contracts, with work and payments schedule, and warranty provisions.
As we have seen, the renovation is a very complex process. This is why is highly recommended that no piece of work be performed without detailed and written agreement. 

Step 16: HOW LONG IT TAKES. After we signed up (and eventually paid the required deposits) with all the hired trades? It widely varies depending on many factors: the complexity of the project, the availability of the general contractor and of his sub-trades, of the building inspectors, on how busy is the kitchen company and how time-consuming the kitchen is, if some special order appliances, materials or other components are out of stock or back orders, etc.
Let’s consider one of the most common example of kitchen remodelling projects: some non structural changes to the walls (no building permit required), replace one window, relocate the plumbing for the sink, relocate the power supply for the stove and the exit of the hood, demolish the existing bulkhead and repair walls and the ceiling, new ceramic tile floor and backsplash, install new cabinets (stained and lacquered maple shaker doors) and quartz counter top, plumbing, electrical, mechanical and lighting (LED under wall cabinets, ceiling pot lights, accent lamp(s) over the island, hook all appliances and electrical fixtures, new baseboards and trims, painting, final cleaning and disposal of the debris. How long it takes if everything goes reasonably smooth? 4-5 week to produce and install the new cabinets (simultaneously, in the last 3 week of this waiting time, the contractor would have prepared the room including all the rough in, new floor and window, most of the lighting fixtures, sand prime the walls, etc). It follows 1.5 – 2 week of waiting for the quartz counter to be templated, fabricated and installed, when the contractor can only do few things, but is the best time to have all the new appliances delivered. Now the contractor comes for another 1 – 1.5 week to finish: backsplash, under cabinets lighting, hook the sink and faucet, dishwasher, fridge water supply, oven(s), microwave, paint, touch ups, cleaning, claim his balance and go for good.
TOTAL: 5 + 1.5 + 1.5 = 8 week (in our house only 6 week because the contractor did not start but 2 week after the cabinets production). If we give it another week for unforseen obstcles, we can not go wrong.
A larger and more radical project, involving structural changes can take 4 – 6 week longer.
A re-facing only project, including new granite top, new sink and faucet, may take 3 -5 week depending on the sophistication of the new doors. (in our home only few days).

We hope that all the above was worth reading and useful.
If you have further questions or want more details on one ore more of the steps of the kitchen, please do not hesitate to e-mail us:

You can also call us: (416) 565-9855

or use our “on-site free consultation” page