A kitchen renovation can be an exciting project, but also a daunting one if you’re not prepared. This survival guide covers everything you need to know to get through your kitchen remodel with your sanity intact.

Making the Decision to Renovate

Renovating your kitchen is a major undertaking, so don’t go into it lightly. Before diving in:

  • Consider your goals. Do you need more storage or prep space? Want to upgrade appliances? Create an open concept? Understanding your motivations will help guide the project.
  • Set a realistic budget. Kitchen renos run from $10,000 to $50,000+ depending on the scope. Be honest about what you can afford.
  • Check resale value. A remodel can be a smart investment if it will up your home’s value. But some changes may not pay off.
  • Weigh pros and cons. A reno can modernize a dated kitchen and make it more livable. But it also means weeks of disruption.

If your goals outweigh the cons, then it may be time to call a contractor.

Choosing Your Kitchen Design

Your kitchen’s layout and style will impact the entire project. Important decisions include:


Consider how you use your current kitchen and focus on improving poor workflows. Popular options include:

  • Galley – A straight, efficient work area great for small spaces.
  • L-Shaped – Allows for a continuous counter and extra prep space.
  • U-Shaped – Maximizes countertops and storage with three work areas.
  • Island – Adds extra counter space and opens the floor plan.


Cabinets make up 40% of your budget. Assess:

  • Layout – Optimize with blind corners and lazy susans.
  • Door styles – Consider shaker, inset, overlay, and slab cabinet doors.
  • Colors/finishes – White remains popular for a light and airy look. Stains add warmth.
  • Hardware – Pick functional handles and knobs that match your style.


Choose a durable, easy-to-clean countertop material:

  • Granite – Beautiful natural stone that resists stains but can chip.
  • Quartz – Manufactured stone that is low-maintenance and scratch resistant.
  • Laminate – Budget-friendly option good for a basic kitchen reno.
  • Solid surfaces – Seamless material like Corian that can be repaired.


Kitchens require floors that are highly functional:

  • Tile – Classic, affordable, and easy to clean but can crack or stain.
  • Vinyl – Waterproof and extremely durable but can dent.
  • Wood – Warm and elegant but prone to water damage.
  • Laminate – Scratch and moisture resistant and budget-friendly.

Selecting Appliances

Choosing new appliances is exciting but consider:

  • Performance – Focus on how they cook and clean, not just features.
  • Reliability – Read reviews and opt for reputable brands known for longevity.
  • Budget – Set realistic budgets for each appliance based on your needs.
  • Style – Pick finishes and colors that fit your overall kitchen design.


Gas or induction? Freestanding or slide-in? We break it down:

  • Gas – Provides instant, precise heat control but requires ventilation.
  • Electric – Typically costs less upfront but slower to heat up.
  • Induction – Heats up immediately and provides a safe cooking surface.
  • Dual fuel – Combines a gas cooktop with an electric oven. A great hybrid option.


Key features to consider:

  • Size/configuration – Measure your space and opt for standard or counter depth.
  • Style – Choose from top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side, or French door.
  • Special features – Look for temperature controlled drawers and compartments if needed.


A quality dishwasher should:

  • Have at least 2-3 racks with adjustable tines
  • Offer multiple cycles including pots & pans and sanitizing
  • Be quiet with a noise rating under 50 dB
  • Feature a stainless steel tub for durability

Sinks & Faucets

For your sink choose stainless steel or a durable composite material. When selecting a faucet consider:

  • Number of handles – Single is more popular today
  • Special features – Look for pull-down or touch-activated
  • Finish – Brushed nickel and stainless are modern options

Preparing for Your Remodel

Once you’ve designed your new kitchen, it’s time to get project ready:

  • Interview contractors – Get at least 3 bids and check references thoroughly.
  • Sign a contract – Ensure timelines, payment schedules, change order terms are detailed.
  • Secure permits – Your contractor will usually handle this but check requirements.
  • Plan temporary kitchen – Set up a cooking space nearby and stock up on paper plates.
  • Remove valuables – Store special kitchenware somewhere safe to avoid damage.
  • Clear kitchen completely – Empty all cabinets and drawers so the space is ready for the pros.

Accept that despite your best efforts, delays or unexpected issues can occur. Build in contingencies to avoid stressing too much over surprises.

What to Expect During the Remodel Process

Here’s an overview of the typical renovation process from demolition to enjoyment of your finished kitchen:


The contractor strips the kitchen down to the studs removing cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, etc. This phase creates significant dust and debris.

Timeframe: 1-3 days


The contractor may make structural changes like moving plumbing or gas lines, or knocking down walls. Be prepared for loud noises.

Timeframe: 1-2 weeks


The contractor builds back up putting in new cabinets, countertops, appliances, lighting, flooring, painting walls, and more.

Timeframe: 2+ weeks

Trim Out

Finishing touches are added like installing sinks & faucets, cabinet hardware, drawer/door fronts, and accessories.

Timeframe: 3-5 days

Inspection & Punch List

The building inspector checks that all work meets code. You do a walkthrough and create a punch list of areas needing tweaking.

Timeframe: 1-2 days

Enjoy Your Renovated Kitchen!

With all punch list items addressed, cleaned up, and tools removed, your contractor will hand over the completed kitchen to enjoy for years to come!

Top Tips for Surviving Your Remodel

Follow these tips to stay sane and make the renovation process smooth:

  • Communicate clearly – Discuss roles, responsibilities and timelines upfront with contractor.
  • Document thoroughly – Keep a folder of invoices, product info, contracts, and communications.
  • Pay with a schedule – Tie payments to defined milestones to incentivize progress.
  • Inspect regularly – Check in on progress often to catch issues early.
  • Stay flexible – Be prepared for changes to the timeline or budget if needed.
  • Use temporary kitchen – Cook, eat and wash dishes in your makeshift kitchen area.
  • Clean constantly – Dust, vacuums and sweeps will keep messes manageable.
  • Go out frequently – Escape the chaos by eating out or visiting friends.
  • Keep perspective – Remind yourself it will all be worth it in the end!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will my kitchen renovation take?

Most take 4-8 weeks from demolition to completion but could run 8-12 weeks for more complex renovations.

Can I stay in my home during the remodel?

Yes, but you’ll need to setup a temporary kitchen and be prepared for noise, dust, and workers in your space.

How do I choose a contractor?

Get several bids, check reviews, verify licensing, and make sure you communicate well before signing a contract.

What are signs of a bad contractor?

Red flags include not providing a detailed contract, refusing to get permits, requesting large upfront deposits, and lacking proper insurance.

How much disruption will the renovation cause?

There will be significant noise, dust, deliveries, and workers coming and going during work hours. It’s disruptive.

What design changes will provide the best return on investment?

A full kitchen gut with new layout, cabinets, counters and appliances will maximize your home’s value.

How do I stay on budget during my renovation?

Track spending closely, create contingencies for unexpected issues, and resist making impulse purchase decisions.

What are the most common issues or delays in kitchen remodels?

Problems with plumbing/electrical, backordered parts, poor contractor time management, and product defects.

How can I avoid disputes with my contractor?

Maintain open communication, document everything thoroughly, inspect work frequently, and handle issues professionally.


Preparing for everything involved in a kitchen renovation will help your project go as smoothly as possible. This survival guide covers key steps like setting your budget and goals, choosing your design elements, picking contractors and appliances, getting project ready, understanding timelines, and handling issues.

With good planning and communication, you’ll soon be enjoying your brand new dream kitchen! Just remember, it will all be worth it when you are cooking, dining and entertaining in a beautiful and functional space designed just for you.