Kitchen Renovation Considerations

MY NEW KITCHEN:  costs, insights and construction

If you are going to design your own kitchen, or you are thinking of removing the existing kitchen and replacing it with a new and modern kitchen installation.

What must you consider?

The kitchen area is the most important aspect of a new or renovated home. If you notice the advertisements in real estate magazines or internet websites, they usually feature the kitchen and all it’s accoutrements. A creative, modern, well designed kitchen will have the most influence over the homes overall impression on both the occupants as well as visitors. In addition, the kitchen is a key element in supporting a high resale value.

The design and development of your kitchen requires several decisions and selections. The following summary of how to most economically and efficiently design and construct your new kitchen attempts to eliminate the errors and the second thoughts of kitchen design and construction.

The first element of the decision making process is the budget.

KITCHEN BUDGET DEVELOPMENT ( see excel spreadsheet here:kithen-budget-renovation or here: )

How much should we spend on the renovation or new construction of the kitchen area of our home?

The cost of a kitchen must obviously be based upon the line item budget that has been developed for your home. If the kitchen is to be a renovation of an old kitchen or a brand new kitchen, the following line items signifying cost, need to be considered.

1.) Demolition / the demolition can be performed by the homeowner if they are capable. If the kitchen is a new kitchen, obviously there will be no cost associated with this item.

2.) Cabinets / the new cabinets can cost anywhere from $200.00 per lineal foot to over $2,000.00 a lineal foot. When estimating the cost of cabinets, a lineal footage unit value is used to accommodate this cost. The final cost for the cabinets will be associated with whether the cabinets are custom or stock, if they are purchased from a wholesaler or a premium kitchen supply store, etc. The best method of determining the cost of the kitchen cabinets is to visit the big box commercial stores and price the lineal footage of cabinet. The layout does not have to be identical, the lineal footage required should be close. It is a very simple task to identify the going rate for the type of cabinet you are considering by visiting various commercial supply stores. Normally with typical installations the cost of the cabinets, per lineal foot, will be somewhere between $200.00 and $500.00 per lineal foot. Of course as noted previously, ridiculous money can be spent if the cabinets are truly custom, supplied and installed by a niche kitchen contractor and are made of expensive material.

3.) Countertops / the new countertops can cost anywhere from $20.00 per square foot, to over $100.00 per square foot, depending on the material selected. Again, as with the cabinets, a visit to the local big box stores will identify the normal cost of whatever type of countertop you are considering. There are several different varieties of counters that can be purchased, from plastic laminate, granite, marble, poured concrete, tile, etc. Each material will be a different value. The selection of countertops is many times coordinated between the countertops around the kitchen, the office area as well as the bathrooms. The selection of the countertop should coincide with the selection of the cabinets to ensure that the two are coordinated.

4.) Plumbing fixtures / the plumbing fixtures and accessories, include the kitchen sinks, the faucets, the instant hot water heaters and anything else that might be required to complete all the plumbing issues within the kitchen. There are several different varieties of plumbing fixtures and faucets, and like the cabinets, research and investigation, should be done to finalize this selection. Plumbing fixtures can range from a $200.00 for a simple stainless steel sink to over $2,000.00 for a specialized sink. The sky is the limit for plumbing fixtures, faucets and accessories. Normally, to anticipate a budget cost, I use $750.00 per sink when estimating the rough costs.

5.) Appliances / this one is totally in the hands of the homeowner. Appliances can range from $750.00 per stove to well over $10,000.00 for the stove. The same goes for the refrigerator as well as the remainder of the appliances. What we usually suggest, is that an allowance for the cost of the appliances be added to the contract for the kitchen. In this manner, there is a quantity of money set aside for the appliances, however final selection does not have to be made until the budget is finalized. This will allow you time to determine if there is money left over in the budget, or money must be saved.  Appliances are standard sizes, so the layout of the kitchen, the cabinet and countertop selections can be made without the final determination of the actual appliances. What does have to be determined is the roughing requirements for the appliances. The roughing requirements refers to the electrical, plumbing and gas requirements that will have to be installed within the kitchen, prior to the placement of the appliances. Will the oven be a gas oven or electric, same with the cook-top, will the refrigerator need a water connection for the ice maker, those types of decisions. The roughing requirements must be provided to the mechanical and electrical subcontractors for installation during the construction period.

6.) Anticipated labor cost / the anticipated labor cost is a value that can be budgeted by simply applying a standard, common sense approach. Think of yourself performing the work, if that is possible. If a cabinet is handled for 2 hours, doesn’t that appear to be enough time to install one kitchen cabinet? Count the cabinets and simply multiply the number of cabinets by the 2 hours. Add 4 hours for the installation of the countertop to the total amount of hours to install the cabinets. If demolition is required then the thought process must be repeated. However, this should be evaluated by simply anticipating the number of days to demolish the kitchen. Most kitchens can be demolished in a matter of 2 full days by 2 men. This would be a total of 16 man-hours of work to demolish the kitchen. The remaining costs for utility connections would be performed by subcontractor. Finishes such as the floor, walls, and ceilings will have to be added to the cost. I have generated an excel spreadsheet to simplify the development of a kitchen budget for your use. The cost of labor is a very relative cost. Some very high end carpenters and specialty kitchen installers, charge exorbitant man-hour rates for their carpenters. There is an impression within the home building industry that the installation of a kitchen requires super human level of skill. This is not the case although contractors like to support this impression. What makes the anticipated cost for labor difficult to estimate is the different pay scales of various carpenter subcontractors. However, if the common sense approach is used by determining how long it would take you and a helper to handle the cabinets and the countertops, an close approximate cost can be determined.

7.) Final budget determination: The addition of all of the cost items on the spreadsheet ( see the separate spreadsheet provided as another attachment to this website ) will provide an estimated budget for the kitchen. In addition to the actual hard costs of constructing the kitchen will be the soft costs, such as supervision, general conditions, insurance, overhead and profit. Normally the cost of a kitchen should be somewhere between $175.00 and $450.00 per square foot of floor area. If a kitchen is a standard 12 X 14 foot kitchen then the total cost will be between $29,400.00 and $75,600.00 for the completed kitchen. Of course as with everything in construction, there are several ways to save money and several ways to spend money. These prices are only meant to provide an estimated guide to how much the normal kitchen will cost.


a.) It is essential that the homeowner has a general idea of the type of kitchen and the anticipated layout of the new kitchen. It is strongly suggested that research and investigation be done regarding kitchen layout and modern designs, by reviewing internet information, magazines, television, etc. It is also strongly recommended that a professional kitchen designer be employed to offer suggestions. The value of a professional kitchen designer is priceless in the development of your kitchen. A professional designer has probably done hundreds of kitchens, and this experience will be a valuable aid in final selections and determinations.

b.) The area for the new kitchen, in relationship to size, must be established. If the new area is not the exact dimensions of the old space, then the demolition of walls should be considered. Obviously if this is a new kitchen located in a new home, the size of the kitchen must be established at the time of designing the new home. The size of the kitchen is influenced by the use of the kitchen. Will you be eating in the kitchen or will there be stools set up at a bar type countertop? If the kitchen requires room for an area for the family to eat or if an area is to be designated for an office type workspace are important considerations, that will influence the total area required for the kitchen.

c.) The size of the kitchen should be sketched on 1/4 inch graph paper to allow the easy identification of the floor plan. Once the size of the new kitchen is established on the graph paper, it becomes an easy task to review and discuss various layouts and finishes. The sizes of typical appliances can be found on the equipment literature or simply on the internet. Once the sizes of the selected appliances are decided upon, they should be added to the floor plan. The cabinets and counters should then be sketched in for discussion. If the cabinets and countertops are to be custom made, then the dimensions of the kitchen and the layout can be totally customized to the area of the kitchen. If the cabinets and countertops are standard off the shelf cabinets, then the proper standard sizes must be maintained.

d.) It is recommended that the final design of the kitchen be finalized, prior to the demolition of the existing kitchen, or the creation of the new set of plans for your new home. The kitchen is an important aspect of any new home and the final design and layout is important, prior to committing to the demolition of the existing, or the start of a new home.

Design of the kitchen must relate to both the lifestyle of the family as well as the individual requirements who will be cooking in the kitchen. Will the kitchen be a gathering place for the family or simply a galley type of functional kitchen, designed to fit into a small space and be as functional as possible?


The demolition of the existing kitchen is an activity that could fall into the DIY aspect of the project. Yes, the demolition can be done by the homeowner. Demolition of the kitchen should follow this procedure.

a.) Removal of all cabinet hinges and pulls off the cabinet doors. This will remove all the doors from the cabinets. Neatly stack these doors or bring them directly to the dumpster.

b.) Prior to the actual removal of the cabinets and the countertops, the electrical and plumbing must be shut off. In most cases, if the stove and oven are electric, then there will be separate circuit breakers to shut off these circuits. The plumbing, hot and cold water can be turned off with the individual valves under the kitchen sink. The dishwasher should be attached to the water lines feeding the sink, and the valves for the sink, should turn off water to the dishwasher. This water connection should be checked in the field to ensure that the dishwasher has been turned off.

c.) Remove all appliances. Each appliance should be checked for electrical, plumbing and gas line connections and each utility must be turned off to properly remove the appliances. If the appliances are being re-used, a safe area for storage must be designated. If they are to be given away or junked, the appropriate action to get the appliances out of the kitchen should be done at this time.

  1. d) Investigate how the cabinets are attached to the walls. In most cases, the cabinets are screwed into blocking behind the sheetrock of the original kitchen. If this is the case, the simple removal of the screws will allow the easy removal of the cabinets from the walls themselves. The very sensational demonstration of power and excitement, shown on the DIY shows, as the handsome star of the show, delivers a powerful blow from his sledge hammer to the countertops and cabinets, is NOT necessary. A simple removal of the screws holding the cabinets, will result in the ability to simply remove them from the walls and deposit them in the dumpster.

e.) Investigate how the counters are attached to the lower cabinets. Normally if the counters are a plastic laminate type they are merely attached by a screw inserted from the top rail of the base cabinet, directly into the bottom of the countertop. In some cases there maybe clips that secure the countertops. Simply removing the screws and or the clips will loosen the countertops for a very easy removal. If the counters are too long and not easily move out into the dumpsters, just cut them up with a skill saw or a demo saw into manageable sizes. During demolition, you must realize that the material is being thrown away, so whenever you need to minimize the effort, simply cut things into smaller pieces.

f.) Once the cabinets, counters and appliances have been removed from the existing kitchen, the floors, walls and ceilings, need to be evaluated. Depending upon your final kitchen layout and placement of new appliances, the walls, ceiling and floors might need to be removed.

g.) It is my recommendation that prior to the removal of any of the walls, ceilings or floors, the open area that used to be the kitchen, be clearly measured. Once the measurements are established for the new kitchen, the new kitchen design should be finalized to ensure that all walls and ceilings have been properly demolished per the approved, designed kitchen plan. If walls or ceilings need to be removed it is recommended that a structural engineer or a professional builder review the wall supports to determine the bearing capacity of the wall being removed. A header or column may need to be installed to ensure structural stability is maintained.


  1. ) Prior to the commencement of any new work, the designed kitchen should be laid out on the floor of the new space, designated for the kitchen, or the old demolished area. The layout should be accurate to ensure that the length of cabinets, the fillers required and the appliances fit properly in the actual space provided for the kitchen. I have witnessed situations where the layout works perfectly on paper, however field measurements were inaccurate and the actual appliances and cabinet layout does not work in the field. Prior to construction it is highly recommended that the layout be accurately and precisely checked to ensure compliance with all measurements. If there are interior doors to a pantry or other spaces within the kitchen, the proper clearance for these doors must be analyzed and ensured to be correct.

b.) If there are any discrepancies noted by the layout of the kitchen in the space provided, now is the time for correction. Kitchen cabinets can be modified or ordered in different widths and heights. Countertops can be modified as needed. Fillers can be inserted as required to fill the gaps in the cabinets. What cannot be modified are the doors, windows and especially the appliances intended for the space. The appliances must fit, where they are laid out, this is the most important aspect of a proper kitchen design. Please, check the dimensions of the space against the designed dimensions and ensure that everything fits. This coordination is essential and includes all the plumbing fixtures as well.


a.) The initial start of construction should be a coordination meeting with the subcontractors. The accurate layout of the plumbing inclusive of the hot and cold water and most importantly the sanitary, must be coordinated. The electrical subcontractor must be made aware of all the electrical requirements for the appliances, as well as the layout of the light fixtures in the ceiling. The location of all outlets and ground fault outlets along the countertops must be accurately noted. Special concern for the micro wave placement, the fan hood, the dishwasher and any other appliance that will require a precise outlet location must be identified. Now is the time to accurately lay out the outlets for any countertop appliances such as toasters, convection ovens, etc. that will be located on the top of the counters. Layout for utilities is required to properly layout the remainder of the kitchen.

b.) Once the layout of all the proper plumbing and electrical requirements of the kitchen is complete, the actual rough-in work for both trades must be done. In addition, any HVAC ductwork or venting must be installed prior to the installation of any of the cabinets or countertops.   All three contractors, the plumber, electrician and mechanical contractors must complete all rough in work, prior to the delivery of the cabinets.

c.) Depending upon the choice of the homeowner, the floor can be installed at this time, prior to the installation of the cabinets. If this is the sequence, any change in the cabinets at a later date will result in a finish floor under all the cabinets. If the homeowner is relatively sure that there will be no changes in the future, in the kitchen, the flooring can meet the bottom of the base cabinets at a later date in the schedule. This will eliminate the use of material under the base cabinets and save a few dollars. But it must be remembered that there is no finished floor under the cabinets, therefore any cabinet movement will require an infill which will not perfectly match. For the few additional dollars, I feel it practical to install the flooring beneath the cabinets.

d.) Depending upon the choice of the homeowner, the height of the base cabinets and the countertops must be decided at this time. Normally the toe kick, which is the space below the base cabinets is constructed of a 2X4 laid on its side, which makes the height of the toe kick ,3 1/2 inches for the 2 X 4 and then a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to make the total kick 4 inches in height. If the homeowner has back issues or prefers a higher countertop height, now is the time, and a higher toe kick can be installed. This is the time to make this decision. Of course if the toe kick is higher than the normal 4 inches, then the dimension must be picked up elsewhere. This dimension can be picked up by shortening the distance from the top of the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets, or can be adjusted by raising the upper cabinets. In most cases, if the countertop is to be heightened, then the upper cabinets are raised to maintain the normal spacing between the top of the countertop and the bottom of the is upper cabinets.

e.) Prior to the installation of any of the cabinets there must be a coordinated effort to ensure that all the proper blocking is installed for the upper and lower cabinets. The blocking is used to ensure that all the cabinets and accessories to be mounted on the walls or ceiling can be properly secured to the walls. It is recommended that in some cases, all the walls of the kitchen are sheathed in plywood. In this manner there is proper blocking throughout the kitchen for the proper securing of all cabinets and items to be secured to the walls or ceilings. Blocking for specialized accessories such as chandeliers should be considered and installed at this time.

f.) Once the layout is determined, the rough- ins completed , the toe kick constructed and the blocking installed, the cabinets can now be installed. The lower cabinets are set and leveled on the toe kick assembly first. Then in most cases, the upper cabinets are set on a preformed temporary platform ,that sits on the top of the base cabinets. The upper cabinets rest on this platform and are hung from the blocking that has been installed in the walls. The actual installation of the cabinets is not a labor intensive activity, especially if the blocking and the cabinets are properly coordinated. Normally the cabinets are screwed into the blocking with wood screws and large washers to increase the bearing dimensions at the head of the screw.

g.) One the cabinets are installed, it is time to field measure the actual dimensions for the countertops. If the countertops are made of granite or marble then the actual field dimensions must be taken after the cabinets are installed, for the proper cutting of the stone. If plastic laminate counters are used, this field measurement is usually not required. Obviously if the counters are poured in place concrete or acrylic, then the cabinets must be installed to allow the formwork to be assembled.

h.) Once the cabinets and the counters are installed, the finishes can proceed. In some installations, the need to have the counters in place, is not a necessary activity prior to the final floor and ceiling installation. At this point in time the actual schedule will depend upon the finish contractors schedule. The painter will complete their scope of work, normally at the end of the project to ensure that the finishes are fresh and clean.

i.) Whatever backsplash has been selected, will now be installed. In many situations, the backsplash is behind the actual counter backsplash, in some other installations, this may not be the case. The coordination of the wall backsplash, if there is one designed with the countertop and countertop backsplash, must be coordinated by your kitchen installer, or your carpenters.

j.) The final installation of all finishes, light fixtures, fume hoods, and miscellaneous accessories for the kitchen, such as pot racks, wine and beer glass racks, etc are then installed. Final painting, flooring, etc. are all finalized to complete the kitchen. A final cleanup and the kitchen is ready for the owner once the appliances are installed.

k.) The installation of the appliances is normally the last item on the checklist. The reason that I recommend that the appliances are the last activity, is to ensure that they are not damaged, or used prior to the turnover of the kitchen to the owner. Obviously the appliances are easily removed from the jobsite and their presence is quite a temptation for other individuals on the site.


The punchlist operation regarding a kitchen installation has a few specific items that should always be addressed.

a.) The kitchen punchlist should be done after approximately one month of use of the kitchen, to allow all the elements of the kitchen to experience some usage.

b.) All the appliances should be tested to ensure that all appliance accessories function properly. The stove and all of its accessories and features should be used and experimented with . The self cleaning option should be tested as well as all the interior lights, alarms, etc.

c.) The plumbing fixtures should be tested to ensure that there are no leaks or issues with the piping or the supply water to all fixtures.

d.) The insta hot, if you have one, must be working.

e.) Check the flooring around the sink and the surrounding areas around the base cabinets. Ensure that the flooring has not raised up or has been compromised due to water or wear.

f.) Check all the cabinet door and drawer function to ensure that they are properly aligned as well as properly functioning.

It is important that the final punchlist of incomplete items is made after the kitchen has been used for several weeks. The kitchen is a very important part, as well as an expensive investment in the home. Proper construction, as well as adjustment of all the cabinets, doors and miscellaneous accessories is necessary for the satisfactory completion of the kitchen.


How can I save money in my kitchen? The cost of a kitchen is a major cost when constructing a new home and is a major renovation cost especially if demolition and reconstruction is being considered for an existing home. How can the homeowner save money ?

The design and installation of a new kitchen, in a new home will become absorbed into the mortgage financing of the home and is normally a part of the total package for the new house. The ability for a homeowner to save substantial money on the construction of a new kitchen in a new home is somewhat limited. The following are suggestions.

a.) Shop for your own cabinets and countertops. There are several kitchen suppliers that have sales and special promotions that offer substantial savings on kitchens. These promotions and savings will not be realized, if your builder is assigned to purchase the cabinets and countertops.

b.) Purchase your own appliances. This technique eliminates any markup your builder would add to the purchase of the appliances.

c.) Employ a separate kitchen designer and kitchen installer. Eliminate your general contractor from the responsibility of the kitchen. This could save money, however it places you, the homeowner, in full control of the kitchen, which is one of the most expensive rooms in the home.

If the kitchen construction is a reconstruction of an existing kitchen, then there are other ways of saving money.

a.) Items No. a thru c / noted above under a kitchen in a new home, can certainly be entertained.

b.) Perform the demolition of the existing kitchen yourself.

c.) Place the existing cabinets on the internet for sale. There are several individuals that may want to actually remove the cabinets themselves and pay you for the old cabinets.

d.) Perform the installation of the cabinets yourself. This is a substantial activity and the time and skill required should be considered prior to making this decision.

e.) Shop all the big box stores for deals and steals. There are many instances where substantial savings are available for styles that might be out of synch with the marketplace or simply promotional sales incentives that will allow substantial savings to be achieved, if you purchase the cabinets yourself.

f.) Perform all the easier finishes yourself. Items such as the painting of the walls and the ceiling, the installation of the miscellaneous accessories, such as pot racks, etc.

g.) Simply offer to clean up the site for the general contractor in return for some adjustment on the final value of the kitchen installation.

h.) Offer a quicker payment schedule than normally expected. A quick and guaranteed payment schedule maybe the incentive necessary for the contractor to reduce their price for the kitchen.

Deciding to renovate or replace the kitchen in an existing home is a major financial decision and the installation of a new kitchen in a new home is a substantial portion of the total financial investment for the new home. In either case, the kitchen is important both financially and functionally.

Review the spreadsheet that has been developed to guide you in estimating the cost of your new or renovated kitchen.

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