A kitchen remodel is a major commitment, but if you’ve been staring at the same countertops for 20 years, it’s probably time. Kitchens are the epicenter of our daily lives, so they see the most wear and tear of probably any room in the house. The benefits aren’t just aesthetic: Remodeling a kitchen can add value to your home by up to 30%, so it is a worthwhile investment even if you eventually plan to downsize. And as we’ve discussed previously in 55+ Life, remodeling a kitchen can also be a key strategy if aging in place is part of your plans.

What follows is a primer on ways to save time, money and, potentially, a ton of aggravation, regardless of your ultimate goal.

Senior couple working on budget
Budgeting is the least fun part of planning a kitchen renovation but probably the most necessary. (AndreyPopov from Getty Images, via Canva.com)

Setting a Budget

This is the least fun part of planning a kitchen renovation but probably the most necessary. Before you reach out to a contractor or start dreaming about paint colors, you need to have a firm grasp on what you want to do, the supplies you’ll need to do it and how much it will all cost. 

First, set a goal for the overall renovation. Do you need more storage? A better flow? Are you installing some of our suggestions for aging-in-place, like pull-out shelving on lower cabinets? Answering these questions will help you prioritize the options for your new kitchen.

Next, do some research on cost. The average cost for a kitchen renovation is about $27,000, or $150 per square foot. The total, of course, will vary with the size of the kitchen, the extent of the remodeling and how fancy your dream kitchen will be. (A good rule of thumb for recouping this cost in resale value is to spend 5%-15% of your home’s total value on renovation.) 

Here are some of the items you need to price out:

  • Countertops, sinks and backsplash options
  • Lighting and electrical work
  • Flooring
  • Appliances
  • Cabinets
  • Plumbing
  • Painting
  • Demolition and removal
  • Contractor fees

If you’ve ever watched any HGTV, you know that just about every home project can hit a costly snag. (Our guilty pleasure is Love It Or List It, which can also be a fun source of ideas for your own remodel.) Once you have a good idea of what you’d like to do, make sure you have some padding in your budget in case one of those “snags” arises. That way, you won’t be dipping into your retirement fund unexpectedly.

Contractors

Now that you have an idea of what you need and how much you’re willing to spend, it’s time to hire the person who can make it happen. The contractor is going to be your point person. They source and provide materials, create and manage the timeline (hopefully!) and hire subcontractors. They’ll also cost about 10%-20% of your total budget, so it is important to find a good one. Websites like Angi or HomeAdvisor are good places to start, but there’s nothing better than a good referral from someone you trust.

The best way to assess a contractor is to see examples of jobs they’ve already completed. Contractors should be able to provide a list of references for past projects; it’s your job to call these references yourself. Ask if you can see pictures (or better yet, get a personal tour if the homeowner is willing). 

Some Good Questions To Ask Contractor References:

  • How responsive was the contractor to communication? Did they respond in a timely manner and answer any questions you had?
  • How quickly were they able to complete the renovation?
  • How did the contractor respond to any complications? 
  • Did you feel like the contractor was able to give you enough options to choose from, in terms of supplies, products and prices?
  • How do you ultimately feel about the quality of their work?
Swatches and plans presented by interior designer
Designers tell you how to renovate your kitchen; contractors carry out the plans. (Naphat_Jorjee from Getty Images Pro, via Canva.com)

Designers

Hiring an experienced interior designer is just as critical as finding a good contractor when you’re renovating a kitchen. They’re the ones who create the plan for your new space, and trust us when we say: It’s harder than it looks. They take layout, style and materials into consideration when they craft the specs, and they’ll be the ones who know the ins and outs of what to do. Think about it this way: Designers tell you how to renovate your kitchen; contractors carry out the plans. Well, some of the time, anyway. Some contractors are wonderful designers as well, thanks to years of experience and insight into what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re going through a national home improvement chain to redo your kitchen, designers are often offered as a free, additional resource. The only issue with using these designers is that they’ll be limited to using the chain’s supplies and materials. If you’re able to hire an independent designer, you might have better access to a wider range of products and prices.

Ways To Soften the Blow

In a perfect world, most kitchen remodels can be completed over the course of about three weeks. But because things don’t always work the way they should, you should be prepared for a few months of people working in your home. Not having access to your kitchen for weeks on end can be a major inconvenience, but there are ways to soften the blow (at least a little). 

Order as Much as You Can in Advance

According to HGTV, cabinets can take between 8-10 weeks to complete (depending on what you choose). Special plumbing elements could take weeks for delivery. Any “snags” discovered during the demolition process will slow things down, as well. Try to order as much as you can as early as possible, to avoid aggravating delays. 

Don’t Start Demo Until All Supplies Are On-site

To ensure the project runs smoothly and takes the least amount of time, don’t let demolition begin until you’ve confirmed that all necessary materials are correct and delivered. Double-check that you have the right product, quantity and sizes first, in order to avoid expensive mishaps. (The only exception to this rule would be custom countertops, because often they can’t be ordered until cabinetry is completed.)

Make a Makeshift Kitchen

Even takeout gets old (and expensive) after a while, so to make things easier for yourself, arrange a temporary kitchen somewhere else in your home. Pick a room that’s removed from the kitchen area as much as possible to avoid the inevitable dust that remodeling creates. Then, try to find a bit of clear “counter space” you can use, like a folding table or sideboard. Find spots for your microwave, coffeemaker and, if you can, a toaster oven or mini-refrigerator. (Even better, if you’re getting a new refrigerator, move the old one to this space and voilà!) Stock up on paper plates, cups and disposable silverware to reduce the need to do dishes. This way you can at least attend to the basics without having to drive somewhere.

Top image by welcomia, via Canva.com


More Articles You Might Enjoy: