The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Kitchen Remodel!

by Matt Morton| Tips for Planning your Kitchen Remodel| 1/9/2019

Considering a kitchen remodel? Think you have all your pieces in place? Think Again!


A kitchen remodel can wreak havoc on your home, family, daily routine, and much more if not carefully planned and executed. Many people spend countless hours picking out cabinets, counters, flooring, back splash, and even the right contractor, without ever considering the logistics of the actual renovation itself and how they will manage their lives, and the lives of their family members, around the remodel!


Believe it or not, having the funding and identifying the right contractor (a topic for a later date) is barely half of the battle! Have you thought about your morning, afternoon, and evening schedules? Packing the entire kitchen and storing it elsewhere? Setting up a temporary kitchen? Obtaining a detailed work schedule from the contractor? Placement of the trash container outside? Obtaining permits? Pre-cooking meals? Contingency budgets?


As you can see, it is important to have a solid handle on much more than just your design and the contractor who is going to complete the project.  


The normal routine of breakfast in the morning, lunches to be made, and coffee will not be so easy. Imagine what that looks like for your household and plan on buying groceries that are accommodating and “on the go”. Many times, the existing refrigerator will be moved to an accessible area of the first floor and you can still have access to your cold items. Products like lunch-ables, yogurts, disposable cereal bowls, and fruits and veggies can all be stored and prepped for the day with minimal to no kitchen. Make sure to purchase paper plates, plastic ware, and plastic cups as well. Use disposable coffee cups for soups and hot beverages, and plan to use the bathtub (or laundry tub) to wash the occasional hard dish.




Dinner can be managed as well, with a detailed takeout menu, or cooking meals ahead of time that can be re-heated in the microwave. Things like pastas, meatloaf, chicken dinners and many more re-heat just fine in the microwave, and we must remember that while it’s not the best, it’s fine under temporary situations. Pre-cooking even just a handful of meals, maybe 5 or so, can have a serious impact on the takeout food routine. This can easily be done the weekend before the renovation.  Most kitchen renovations typically last for 3 to 5 weeks, so 5 dinners that don’t have to be ordered out equates to that many nights of not relying on takeout food!




This brings us to a great point – the temporary kitchen! Depending on the size of the kitchen renovation and how long it is scheduled to last, the need for a temporary kitchen is a must! This can be set up using your kitchen table and maybe a foldable table added to it, if needed. Other items to consider include a trash can with extra bags, a microwave oven, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, a space for your refrigerator, disposable wares including plates and utensils, and a 5 gallon bucket to store your occasional dirty dish until washing. And don’t forget a stash of paper towels, condiments, snacks and cereals, and hand sanitizer. This type of basic, temporary kitchen will be a life saver for you and your family during the renovation!        




Is your kitchen renovation scheduled to take more than a month or two? If so, then you may want to ask your contractor about the possibility of setting up a temporary kitchen that is a bit more complex. Often times, it is feasible to setup a functional sink and even your electric oven/stove with minimal cost and complications compared to the renovation itself. For example, if you live in a house where the basement is wide open and plumbing access is easy, there really should be no problems with this type of arrangement. Even if a sink a laundry sink is set up with a pump under it to take the water away, the expense may be worth it for peace of mind and overall comfort during the remodel. Installing a temporary junction for the range and extending the plug to its temporary location is a breeze as well. I would expect to spend roughly an additional $500 to $1000 depending on the complexity of the installation. Whatever you do, don’t let your contractor talk you out of this, or tell you its to complicated to do, if that’s what you decide that you want. I have never seen a kitchen remodel where a full, temporary kitchen wasn’t a reasonable possibility, and without much trouble.


The detailed schedule from the contractor is a must! Even though project schedules have the tendency to fall behind, or veer off track (yes it happens to the best of us!), it is important to understand the different phases of the project up front so that you can plan accordingly. For instance, drywall is a messy time for anyone to be home, even with the best containment measures, so plan to be away, or at a friend’s house during these activities. Finishing the floors can also be messy, smell horrible and be unwalkable for more than 24 hours on some projects. It would be best to plan for not being there.


Will your electrical service be upgraded during the project, or will a new panel be installed? Many times, these activities will leave you with no power for more than a half day when the work is in progress. Major plumbing taking place? It would be nice to understand when that will take place so you can make other arrangements, if needed. Lastly, having a schedule as a visual aid, will help you keep an eye on the progress that your contractor is making and allow you to foresee overages in the timing before they are brought to your attention.


Make sure to talk with your contractor about the disposal of all trash. Most often, this is done by using a dumpster service that will drop a large container in your driveway, or along the street if necessary, in some cases. Just verify that a separate permit is not required for the street placement option, as it sometimes is! The container can be as large as 7 feet by 30 feet, in some cases, occupying a large portion of your driveway for an extended period of time. So plan to have limited garage access and make arrangements for the day-to-day logistics of living around it. Also make sure that the dumpster is not set directly on the asphalt as it can easily damage it. Most dumpster delivery companies know this and come prepared with blocks of wood to set it on! Sometimes a more tow-able dump trailer is used for trash disposal by the contractor, which is usually a better situation all together for the homeowner – no risk of driveway damage and it can be moved by the contractors themselves at the drop of a hat rather than relying on the dumpster service company!


What about permits for the kitchen remodel? This is a rather obvious one, but make sure the contractor is pulling the necessary permits for the project. In many municipalities, three separate permits may be required for even a basic renovation – a building permit, a plumbing permit, and an electrical permit. As a homeowner, this is your protection and assurance that the work being completed in your home is safe and up to code! Don’t ever consider working with a company that is asking you to apply and pull your own permits. When this happens, it usually manes the contractor does not have the licensing, insurance and/or other credentials to get them for you. Obtaining permits should always be done by the contractor and the cost of the permit passed through to the homeowner.  If you are unsure, Google your township, find the township website, get the contact number, and talk to the building and codes department. Ask the person if a permit will be needed for your project by explaining the basics of the remodel project to them.


Last, but certainly not least, consider the contingency budget.


This is a separate amount of money that you set aside from primary budget for the project, for use in the event that unanticipated work and costs arise. Many times in older homes (excess of 50 years) these type of situations are almost a given, and in newer homes it just depends on various factors. Regardless of the age of your home, setting aside a minimum 10 percent contingency is always a good idea for this type of expense. At the end of the day, even the best of us in the remodeling and trades industry cannot see through walls and floors!


Just to recap:


  1. Plan what your routines look like and buy user friendly groceries!
  2. Plan a takeout menu and pre-cook as many meals as possible
  3. Plan the best temporary kitchen you can according to your budget and logistics
  4. Obtain a detailed schedule from your contractor from start to finish!
  5. Consider the trash container and placement of a dumpster
  6. Make sure permits are fully addressed by the contractor
  7. Make sure to hold on to that 10 percent contingency as tight as possible!


Planning a kitchen remodel is not easy as you can see. No one out there can do it perfectly. However, if you follow these 7 pointers, you will be well ahead of the game!