Kitchen Cabinets – Planning a Makeover?

Considering remodeling your kitchen cabinets or layout in the near future? Depending on what’s needed and what you decide to do, re-designing your kitchen can be one of the biggest home improvement projects most owner-occupiers will do. I’m not just referring to kitchen DIY, where you might make a few additions or replacements to personalize the design with a few decorative kitchen tiles, or add convenience items such as a kitchen towel dispenser or kitchen cabinet organizers. (Although it’s amazing how easy it can be to give your kitchen cabinets and doors a new look with new pulls and knobs!).

Let’s consider what you should include in your kitchen plans…

To make it easier to remember, I’ll group topics under 3 main headings – facilities, space, and design. We’ll wrap up with a few comments about the practicalities of “making it happen”. Thinking through each of these will help make sure you develop a complete specification, and therefore a comprehensive remodel kitchen cost. Here we go…

Facilities

What do you need to include within the kitchen? That’ll depend on what you want from your kitchen.

For example, is you kitchen to be used only for food preparation and serving?
Then the minimum for most family kitchens would be:

  • cooker
  • hob
  • sink
  • refrigerator
  • table or countertops
  • storage for food and cooking ingredients
  • storage for cooking utensils such as pots, pans, casseroles, etc
  • storage for kitchen cutlery
  • garbage container(s)

Other common items to remember:

  • dishwasher
  • freezer
  • microwave oven
  • kettle
  • tea or coffee maker
  • drinks dispenser
  • toaster

What about family dining? Will that usually take place in the kitchen?

  • dining table and chairs
  • storage for dining crockery & cutlery

Does your home have a separate laundry or utility room? If not, you’ll need to plan space for items such as

  • washing machine
  • tumble dryer, or other means of clothes drying

Space

Once you’ve listed all the essential appliances and convenience items you want to have in your kitchen, the next step is to check that there is enough floor space available for them all. Remember too – unless you are planning to do major re-building work, you’ll need to accept a few “givens”, such as:

  • sink position is limited by location of water supply and drains plumbing, and probably windows
  • same with dishwasher or clothes washing machine
  • cooker & hob positions are limited by gas and/or electricity supply connections and controls

You’ll see a repeated theme in the list above – “storage” – for all sorts of items from food to cleaning materials. That’s why kitchen storage cabinets play such a large part in the space allocation and costs. In fact, the largest component of cost in most kitchen re-design projects is the cost of kitchen cabinets and countertops, especially if you’ve chosen granite countertops.

Without already having good experience in kitchen cabinet design, you’d be well advised to select a local kitchen contractor, or at least visit a reputable kitchen showroom to get ideas on how best to use the available space, and develop practical ideas for possible kitchen floor plans.

Design

Along with developing potential floor plans, now is the time to bring the overall design of your kitchen together. What styles do you prefer – that would complement your home? Something contemporary – crisp, clean lines, bright and airy, maybe lots of shiny metal? Or would a warmer, natural or stained wood grain suit better – for example an elegant French kitchen, or perhaps a simpler, country style kitchen?

At this stage you should consider all aspects of your kitchen – materials, colors, texture and styles to make sure you have a coherent look:

  • appliances – “white goods”, or built-in
  • cabinets
  • countertops
  • floor covering
  • walls
  • lighting
  • ventilation
  • work flow

Making it Happen

The first question to ask (unless money is no object) is how much of your existing kitchen – appliances and cabinets – could be re-used, and still let you create your dream kitchen?

For example, if your cabinet frames are basically sound, and the existing floor layout is good for you, then you could avoid spending far more than necessary by simply refinishing kitchen cabinets, floors, walls, replacing aging appliances, and fitting contemporary kitchen light fixtures.

At the other end of the cost (and disruption) scale, you could have an expert cabinet maker building kitchen cabinets, fully customized to your design and style preferences, with brand new integrated appliances throughout, decorative kitchen tiles for the floor, and personalized picture kitchen backsplash designs on the walls. There would also be a modern kitchen island design featured in the center, and an elegant family dining space of course.

For many of us however, there will be trade-offs we need to make to get as close as possible to our ideal kitchen, while keeping within the bounds of affordability.

If this is your case, you could consider several lower cost approaches to kitchen construction, and especially cabinet installation:

  • factory-built cabinets – can be installed by a kitchen fitter (not as highly skilled as a cabinet maker)
  • flat-pack, or ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets – can be DIY installed, or by a kitchen fitter
  • refacing your existing cabinet doors and drawers – specialist task, but probably less costly than rebuilding all your kitchen storage cabinets.

But what if you’ve completed your dream kitchen specification, developed a practical layout design, selected your style preference, and chosen the best value installation approach, and its still way over your budget?

Then you’ve probably only 3 options:

  • Phase it – split the project into a series of sub-projects, and complete each as they are affordable
  • Finance it – take a loan to finance the project
  • Forget it – for now at least… postpone your plans until you can afford it.