Thinking of Remodeling Your Kitchen? Start Here First!

A kitchen remodel can be an exciting venture, but it can also be overwhelming without the proper planning and understanding of the process. And even then you should expect the unexpected! We spent several years planning and researching and we still ended up having to fire our general contractor weeks into the project and we lived in a construction zone for months! These are just a few things that we learned when we took on a kitchen remodel. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and take away a few things that will help you along the way too!

thinking of remodeling your kitchen, start here

Thinking About Remodeling Your Kitchen? Start Here First!

everything to know before you take on a kitchen remodel

From the time we bought our home in 2010, I had felt like the kitchen in our home wasn't really my style. We purchased a custom home, it just wasn't our custom home. I had a hard time coming to terms with ripping out really nice materials just because it wasn't my style, but we finally pulled the trigger on a kitchen remodel and we learned A LOT! Would I do it again? Absolutely! I just wish I had this post to help guide me before I started ours!

If you want a little flashback, I shared a tour of our kitchen not long after we moved in back in 2010.

What is a Realistic Budget for a Kitchen Remodel?

Before diving into the specifics, it's essential to understand that kitchen remodel costs can vary widely depending on the scale of your project, location, materials, and SO many other factors! You can likely figure out an average costs by talking to professionals in your area, but even then, the numbers can be all over the place! You could be looking at a moderate kitchen remodel that costs anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 or more, while a  high-end remodel can reach $100,000 and beyond! It's crucial to set a budget that aligns with your financial capacity and objectives.

How Do I Figure Out a Kitchen Remodel Budget?

1. Assess Your Finances

Start by examining your current financial situation and determining how much you can comfortably afford to invest in a remodel. Stay within your means and save up as much as you can to use towards it.

We paid off our home and had money saved for our remodel. You can read more here.

2. Prioritize Your Needs

Make a list of the essential changes you want to see in your new kitchen. Have those non-negotiables that you really want, and know that there will be things that you will need to negotiate on. I had to sacrifice lights above my sink since the space wasn't quite big enough, but I knew I wanted cabinets to the ceiling. I also knew that there were certain finishes I wouldn't sacrifice on. I had waited years to do this, I'd continue to wait years until I could make it happen. Maybe for you it's updating appliances, changing countertops, or reconfiguring the layout. If you have a clear vision of your priorities, you can allocate funds accordingly. 

3. Research Costs

I found that this number varies regionally. Your friend on the east coast put in new custom cabinets made on site by an Amish community, but over on the west coast you're looking at cabinets that cost more than a few new cars and come in a box! Once you have a design plan, you can reach out to professionals to start getting a better idea of cost. 

This is when having an interior designer on hand is incredibly helpful. They remodel far more than you do and not only do they have connections and can negotiate better deals, they can also help give you a much better rough estimate for cost for your project.

Read this post:Do You Really Need to Hire an Interior Designer for a Kitchen Remodel

4. Always Have a Contingency Fund!

Always set aside a contingency fund of around 10-20% of your total budget to account for unexpected expenses or changes during the renovation process. Those home improvement shows you are watching don't just have those "uh oh, we ran into a problem moments" for drama. They really do happen and you'll want to plan for it. Otherwise, you'll have to start allocating money you had for a priority and you'll start sacrificing what you really wanted.


What Are the Three Most Expensive Items in a Kitchen Remodel?

1. Cabinetry

Kitchen cabinets are often the most significant expense in a remodel. Custom cabinets will be the priciest expense, but they offer the advantage of being tailored to exactly what you want. If you are looking to save on costs, consider ready-to-assemble (RTA) or semi-custom cabinets. This is when you can start looking into your options and decide what is a priority to you.

When we moved into our home, the cabinets in the whole house, including those in the kitchen were from Huntwood. It is a custom cabinet manufacturer that just happens to be located locally. When we moved in, one of the kitchen cabinet doors was scratched and another was hanging off the hinges. I tested their lifetime home warranty and was impressed when I called with the information that they pulled up an image file of our kitchen and immediately sent out a new drawer front and cabinet door and a scratch kit for free. I was very happy with their customer service, so when we started looking at new cabinets, we kept an open mind, but kept going back to Huntwood because of their quality and warranty. 

We actually sold our old cabinets since they were in such great shape and the family who purchased them for their daughter and son-in-laws first home, were grateful to have them. 

Check out this post: You Can Sell Your Used Kitchen Cabinets and Granite!

2. Appliances 

High-quality kitchen appliances can also contribute significantly to your budget. Energy-efficient, high-end brands tend to be more expensive, but they can save you money on utility bills in the long run. 

Appliances aren't made like they used to, and by the time we got around to our kitchen remodel, we had replaced just about every appliance in our kitchen already, so we only needed to purchase a beverage refrigerator and a microwave. 

Keep in mind that you can resell old appliances and make a little bit of money too! And the same goes for keeping an eye on resale sites like Craigslist and Marketplace for new-to-you appliances. You might score and be able to take advantage of someone else's construction mistake or maybe someone bought a new home and they had their own appliances from an old home they wanted to use instead. You just never know!

3. Countertops

Upgrading to stone or quartz countertops can be a substantial investment. There are more affordable alternatives like laminate or butcher block if you have a tighter budget, or you can shop at salvage yards for discarded pieces. 

We ended up buying multiple slabs since we had a large space, and we used one of the slabs as the backsplash. While this isn't the most economical option, we were able to creatively cut the slabs and use a piece to remodel a half bathroom. So think ahead and hire a good fabricator who can help maximize your slabs.

What is the Biggest Cost with a Kitchen Remodel?

One of the other biggest costs that you will run into with a kitchen remodel is typically labor. Hiring skilled professionals, such as contractors, plumbers, electricians, and designers can start to add up quickly. Labor costs are another expense that varies depending on your location and the complexity of your project. 

Not every cabinet installer is skilled enough to install custom cabinets {ask me how I know!}, and many will charge extra for projects that involve more complex details and building. 

To reduce labor expenses, you can consider handing some aspects of the remodel yourself. We would often get a price quote for how much something would cost to do ourselves {for example ripping out the flooring or other demo} and would weigh if it was worth it for us to do the work or for them to do it.

What Should I Choose First When Remodeling a Kitchen?

When beginning your kitchen remodel, it's essential to start with the design and layout. We had lived in our home for 10 years and I knew the layout and what worked for us in the space. A designer helped us come up with some other ideas to make the space feel more like our own, and then after we had a solid design plan, we could start picking out the major components of our kitchen like cabinets, appliances and countertops. All of those things started to dictate the overall style and function of the space and gave us a place to start to work from.

How Long Does a Kitchen Remodel Take?

The duration of a kitchen remodel depends on the scope of your project, the availability of materials and the complexity of the design. Again, {and I'll sound like a broken record here!}, this is where hiring an interior designer helped us. They can make sure all the ordering is done and everything is planned to happen so all the dominos fall in place at the right time.

I'm always shocked when I hear about people completely remodeling a kitchen in 4-6 weeks, but it's possible if it's a minor remodel. A more extensive renovation can take from 10-12 weeks and maybe even longer. 

Ours was quoted at taking 12 weeks, it took 32 weeks! Now we did hit some bumps in the road {firing our contractor who never showed up was one of the bumps!}, but if you have a well-defined plan and communicate clearly with your contractors and suppliers, you should be able to stay on task and avoid any delays.


Where Do I Get Quality Remodeling Work for My Kitchen Remodel?

Finding reliable and skilled professionals for your kitchen remodel is crucial to the success of your project. Again, ask me how I know! I did my due diligence, checked references and saw pictures of previous projects and still ran into issues with our contractor. I'll write a WHOLE blog post about it one day, but for now, here are some tips to help you locate quality remodeling work. And even then, just know that you should trust your gut.


Ask friends, family or neighbors for referrals of contractors and designers they have worked with and trust. Most will give you an honest opinion if they'd recommend them or if they'd work with them again.

Online Reviews

Read the online reviews and testimonials from previous clients to gauge the reputation and quality of the remodeling companies you are considering.

Check Credentials

Ensure that the contractors you are considering are licensed, insured, and have a good track record of completing kitchen remodels. 


In a digital age, it's much easier to see a contractors portfolio. However, it's also easy to see an image that they are using on a website and think that it's their project, when it's really a stock image they are using! Check if they have an Instagram, Houzz or Google account and look at their work with images.

Obtain Multiple Quotes

Get detailed quotes from different contractors and compare them carefully. Look beyond price and consider factors like experience, communication and the materials they plan to use.

Clear Contract

Once you've chosen a contractor, make sure to have a detailed contract that outlines the scope of the work, timeline, payment schedule and any other essential terms.

kitchen remodeling tips

Anyone that sees our previous contractors page will now see my negative review and warning, however, even after multiple homeowners filed complaints against him {there were three of us!}, his license and bond was still up to date in the system. Unless we filed an official complaint by way of sueing him, if someone were to only check a license and bond number, no one would be the wiser that he ruined multiple homes. So check all the boxes here!

disclaimer: this post may have affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing through them, I may receive a small commission. These small purchases help me to continue to keep writing content and creating at Rachel Teodoro. Thank you!

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