Kitchen remodeling: 13 mistakes

How to avoid the biggest kitchen blunders.
In the home's most popular room to remodel, the potential for errors is high. So be aware of the trouble spots going in and turn this unlucky list of 13 into a true baker's dozen, with a special treat for yourself--a beautifully remodeled kitchen.
  1. Poor Planning. Planning is a critical step in any remodeling project, and it is never more important than in the kitchen. If you are going to achieve your "dream" kitchen, you will need to do some extensive planning. Start by critiquing your current kitchen. What works? What doesn't? Then ask yourself questions about how you are going to use the kitchen space? Will you have more than one cook preparing meals at one time? Do you prefer cooking a special type of cuisine that requires more counter or storage space? For the most effective design, you need to match your plan to your lifestyle--to the way you actually work and live in the kitchen.


  2. Efficiency. Another important component of kitchen design is the floor plan. You need to consider what would be the most efficient layout of elements in your kitchen for the way you cook and use the room. Most designers recommend grouping common elements in a work triangle or station. For example, you could have a preparation/cooking station with a separate clean-up area. The clean-up work triangle could include a dishwasher, sink, counter space and recycling center. These elements would be in close proximity to each other for maximum efficiency. The goal is to minimize the number of steps between the various elements and to avoid unnecessarily crossing the kitchen. Also keep in mind how traffic flows through the room. You won't want kids and family members traipsing through your work triangle--it reduces the efficiency of the space.


  3. Visualization Problems. It is common to have difficulty visualizing what a room will actually look like from a flat line drawing. Some remodelers can help by showing you three dimensional CAD (computer aided design) plans. Others will recommend you visit a showroom that has life-size models of various rooms and products. If these methods aren't working or are not available, sketch out full-scale in chalk on your garage or basement floor. It is imperative that you understand what your plans will look like when constructed. Don't be one of the many homeowners who end up saying, "I didn't know it would look like that." For colored items, ask to see a large section of the colored item before ordering. Bold colors can look great on a small scale; but they can quickly overwhelm you when covering a large surface. Don't rely on your imagination for these important decisions.


  4. Investigating Options. Another mistake is not knowing what is available on the market or what design layouts are possible. Investigate products. Find out the pros and cons of various options. Clip photos of layouts that inspire or excite you. There is nothing worse than finishing a remodeling project only to visit a friend and find the perfect detail you wished you had added. It is a little like taking a dream vacation, then finding out about all the places you should have visited while you were there. The only exception is that a vacation lasts a relatively short period of time, and your kitchen will last for years. Take the time to research all of your options.


  5. Storage. Do you have your good china stored in a bedroom closet? What about your extra plastic containers? This is the time to inventory the types of items you want to store in the kitchen, including those items currently stored elsewhere in the home. There are a number of cabinet accessories available that can organize items in a variety of sizes, such as large pasta pots or dainty tea cups. Decide what you want to store and where you want to store it. For maximum efficiency, link your storage with your work stations. You wouldn't want to store your spices across the room from the cooktop, for example. Also consider what new storage needs you will have as a result of your remodel. If you are adding a commercial-style range, you may want to purchase new cookware or professional size baking sheets.


  6. Safety. Safety should be a primary concern in the kitchen. You must carefully consider the potential safety hazards in your kitchen design. For instance, you should not place an oven next to a hallway where someone could easily stumble over a hot, open oven door. You may want to investigate some of the new "smart home" technology, such as ovens with lock-out features, which prevents anyone from using the oven when an adult is not present. As households have become more diverse and multi-generational, safety has become a major concern. There are now a number of new products available specifically designed for increased safety.


  7. Lighting. Lighting is one of the most under-designed components in the home--and one of the most important. Lighting creates the mood of a room and provides illumination for increased safety. Use three forms of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Ambient lighting is what illuminates the entire room. Task lighting illuminates only one area for a specific task--such as undercabinet lighting focused on the countertop. Accent lighting is used to highlight an interesting feature or item, such as your prized china collection. You should decide what moods you want to create in your kitchen -- romantic, functional, fun, etc. -- and create a lighting design that matches those moods.

    Do this before walls and cabinets are installed. Don't wait until the project is over to determine that your kitchen is too dark. The wiring needs to be installed in the walls, behind the cabinets.


  8. Prioritizing. You need to decide what you absolutely need in your kitchen, which items you would like to have, and which ones you merely wish you could have. In most cases, not everything you wish for will fit. You must prioritize your needs. For example, if you have a small kitchen, you may not be able to install an island and maintain proper clearances, unless you are willing to add more square footage. Create a list of your wishes, wants and needs, then prioritize each item. You may find that a bump out is necessary to meet your needs, or you may find that you can live without the island or second cooktop. Don't forget to prioritize with your budget in mind.


  9. Budget. Always refer to your budget when making product and design decisions. It is easy to overstep your prepared budget with phrases like: "A little more on this faucet won't make any difference," "It's only $20 more," "While you are here, could you add . . . ." Remember that you created your budget's bottom line before being tempted to higher and products and choices. It is also important to stay in touch with fiscal reality when creating your budget. Decide what you can afford before you start designing. This will help your remodeler create a design that works withyour budget, not against it.


  10. Timing. The number one question any remodeler is asked is: "How long will it take?" Your remodeler should be able to give you a specific date for the start and substantial completion of the project. The timing may be affected by changes, unexpected occurrences, or material delays. Most remodelers recommend that you do not start a project before a major event in the home, say a wedding or holiday gathering. Don't add the extra stress of working against a clock--that is just when a delay will occur.


  11. Changes and the Unexpected. Every time you ask for something to be changed, there will be a delay and a cost. The same holds true for unexpected events, such as newly discovered termites. You should control the number of changes that you initiate during a project. If you want to make a change, ensure that the change is made in writing and that it is signed by both parties before work begins. Ask for a revised timetable and budget in the event of any changes or unexpected occurrences.


  12. Preparation. You need to prepare for two events during a kitchen remodel: the construction phase and the inconvenience of being without a kitchen for a period of time. To prepare for construction, pack your kitchen items in clearly labeled boxes that can be moved to another part of the home during the project. Be certain to withhold those items you will need on a daily basis, such as your coffee maker, filters and mugs. In addition to packing the kitchen, remove any fragile items from the walls in neighboring rooms. The vibrations from construction can cause pictures and such to fall, even on other floors.


  13. Hiring the Right Person. The most important step in any successful remodeling project is hiring the right person for the job. Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues for referrals. Check references.
Source: National Association for the Remodeling Industry (NARI)

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