How much time a kitchen remodel really takes

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | October 22, 2015

You've been tossing around kitchen remodel ideas, and you have an idea of what you can afford to spend. You're pretty confident you know how to hire a kitchen remodeling contractor, and you're impatient to get started.

Not so fast. A major kitchen remodel not only costs a sizable sum, it typically disrupts your household. Proper planning may not completely alter either of those realities. It can, however, help minimize unexpected expenses, delays and inconvenience to your household during construction that stem from a lack of attention to detail and poor decision-making up front.

Undertaking a kitchen remodel, especially if you're adding square footage to your present kitchen, requires more than just pointing to a few inspirational photos and telling a contractor, "Make it so."

Moving or removing walls and/or plumbing and electrical fixtures and outlets may require consulting with other professionals first, like an architect, interior designer, or structural engineer. Ordering and installing new cabinetry, certain counter top materials, some types of tile, flooring, and fixtures, as well as specialized appliances, may require weeks or even months of lead time.

Everything must arrive by the time contractors need to install it because certain tasks must be finished before others can begin. If the materials for the next phase of work don't show up when they're needed, things can come to a halt, sometimes adding weeks or months to your renovation. Combine that strict order of operations with the challenge of scheduling a busy contractor at the only time your family can accommodate taking the kitchen offline for days or weeks. Then, try coordinating plumbers, electricians, cabinet makers, and stone fabricators to do their installations in order and on time when you've made last minute changes to orders.

Are you beginning to see the necessity of precise planning before you involve contractors?

What to do before you hire kitchen contractors

Before you start contacting kitchen contractors and getting estimates, you're going to need some time to do the research, planning, and design work for your remodeling project. You can do the initial phase all yourself or in conjunction with an individual designer or team of professionals. Experienced kitchen design professionals are trained, however, to anticipate important details that you could easily overlook. They can draw up plans that accurately communicate your kitchen remodel ideas to your contractor.

The more time you have to plan the details of your remodel, the better, but you may have certain constraints -- finishing in time to entertain for the holidays, for example, or as soon as possible after closing on a new home. What constitutes the planning phase?

A timeline for planning your kitchen remodel

You may take as little as a few weeks or many months to formulate a plan that a contractor can work with. When you get ready to approach kitchen contractors, be prepared to give each of them clear input about budget, scope of work, building materials, and finishes. Here are the steps to take when planning your remodel:

  1. Assemble a file or online gallery of inspirational examples. Cull inspiring photos of your favorite kitchens and kitchen components from print or digital media. Magazines and home improvement websites offer a wealth of ideas. Photograph examples from showrooms or friends' kitchen remodels. Sketch on napkins. Your inspiration collection can include full kitchens as well as cabinet styles, paint colors, counter tops, sinks and lighting fixtures. Allow yourself plenty of freedom to gather examples of styles, colors, materials and finishes that appeal to you aesthetically, always keeping in mind improved functionality. Time-wise, this phase is limited only by when you want to finish your remodel.
  2. Calculate your budget. As a rule of thumb, you can expect a full kitchen remodel to cost between 10 and 25 percent of the value of your home, according to cliqstudios.com, an online, semi-custom cabinet seller. They estimate new cabinets can typically cost 26 percent of your budget, but custom cabinets can cost considerably more. Appliances comprise the second largest expense, and saving money on the ones you want can mean waiting until they are on sale. You can find serious price reductions on appliances during holiday sales but especially in November when stores make room for next year's models. Experts recommend building an extra 10 to 20 percent into your budget for unexpected expenses. If you're patient and have weeks or months to hunt for bargains, you may get a lot more bang for your buck.
  3. Design and determine the scope of work. Your budget and the size of your space affect the scope of work you decide to undertake. Design plans that include changing the layout of your kitchen may require new cabinets, electrical wiring, plumbing, and moving or removing walls. To save money you may need to retain and rejuvenate your old cabinets rather than moving plumbing fixtures or adding additional appliances -- changes that cost more and can extend the time needed to complete your remodel. From this point in your planning, a professional can help you design around not only your wish list but the reality of your budget and current building codes.
  4. Choose products, materials, and finishes. Kitchen design specialists may speed up this portion of the planning phase because of their familiarity with resources and lead times, advising you of potential construction bottlenecks involving product availability once construction begins.
  5. Hire a kitchen contractor. Armed with a clear design plan, now you can approach three kitchen contractors for estimates. Be sure to check their references and credentials -- licensed, bonded, and insured -- and see examples of work they've completed. Are they kitchen remodel specialists? Extensive kitchen remodels involve more than cosmetic changes. Make sure they're agreeable to and experienced with pulling permits in your locale and can advise you of how long that takes. Discuss with them in advance what they handle from this point such as whether they orchestrate scheduling subcontractors.

If you decide to make unexpected changes or you request products and materials with lengthy lead times, you may inadvertently extend the timeline prior to demolition and remodeling, as well as after. Careful planning may take a few weeks or several months, depending on how extensive your remodel, but poor planning could mean years of dissatisfaction.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.