Any suggestions, warnings or advise about getting my kitchen remodeled?

My house is from the early 50s, and the last time my kitchen was remodeled was probably the early 70s. My stove is so old it’s considered cool again by mid-mod fans.

But I’ve lived with it for almost 15 years, and I’m ready for something more modern. I have about $20,000 saved up, which seems like a freakin’ fortune, but it’s small change in the kitchen remodel world.

I have someone coming next week from a contractor, but on the phone she seemed dismissive of my measley budget, so all I’m really hoping for is some good ideas. I’ll probably end up getting it done through Home Depot or Lowes. I don’t want fancy, just more modern and functional.

So give me advice, warn me about what can go wrong, or tell me how fast and easy it will be!

If you’re at all into DIY, consider an IKEA kitchen. We love ours, even 6 years on! The best bits: big drawers in lower cabs so you can actually get at your stuff, nice modern finishes with lots of choices, easy to put together, and they often have a promotion where if you buy their appliances, you get a big discount on the cabinets (we got 20%). The appliances are fine, but limited in choice, so if you’re picky about features, you’ll probably want the fanciest/most $ model. Our kitchen is tiny, and a galley layout, so we didn’t even consider changing the floorplan, which is another way to keep costs down.

Get three quotes, don’t home depot or Lowe’s, they sub out to the lowest bidder. It’s more helpful if you get a designer to draw up plans and specs, so when the contractors bid it, you know they are bidding on the same thing.

What specifically are you planning on doing, how big is the kitchen, moving any walls?

Here’s a rough guide for pricing
fisha, Contractor

My advice: Focus on Function.

Everything I regret about my kitchen remodel, which is very little, has been functional stuff I did NOT think of. Everything I love about my kitchen remodel is functional stuff I DID think of.

I have a tall pantry cabinet, a great choice for a small galley kitchen. But I opted for a narrow one (12") in order to have more counter space. But I would’ve been MUCH better off giving up 4 or 8 or 12 more inches of counter space to have a bigger one.

I left a space under my counter top for the recycling bin. If I didn’t keep it there, I could use that space to keep my dog food container, or a stool or a trashcan or all sorts of things.
Think about how you WILL use your kitchen. Not how you WANT to use your kitchen. So many spiffy kitchen things that I want, I know deep in my soul I will not actually use enough to make it worth the money.

Make sure whoever does the work is BONDED and insured; not just licensed. Being licensed doesn’t mean shit, and is no guarantee that the person will not just run off with your money. I licensed business can take your $12,000 down payment, do an hour of work, and never come back or answer the phone again. And there is nothing you can do about it. It isn’t criminal, it’s civil. You can win in civil court, but there is nothing actually making the company pay you back. I thought that making sure the company was licensed was enough. I learned that a license is meaningless. So, make sure the company is bonded.

“two weeks!”

Do you mind saying where you are, that $20K is small change?

For kitchens, bigger is not better. Size it according to how many people are usually in it at any one time.

For a single person (or one-and-a-helper), you don’t want it to be more than a pace and half to anything, IMO. Two people, maybe two paces. That’s it.

In a previous house I had a huge kitchen (nearly 5m of contiguous bench space) and it was a nightmare. You spent all your time running up and down between cupboards and on-bench stuff at opposite ends. Too much bench space and storage space just encourages you to have more stuff, which is inefficient and slows you down.

I live in Tucson, not some over-priced fashionable place. But to get new counter tops, cabinets, appliances, etc… it can cost a lot. And my kitchen is big, but poorly laid out, so I might want to change the footprint which is reaaaaaly expensive. And my pluming and electrical are old, so that would need to be updated… Cost go up quickly.

Decades ago I help my mother plan her kitchen remodel. The rule of thumb back then was to make a triangle between the cooktop/stove/range, sink and refrigerator such that no side of the triangle was more than seven feet. The idea is that you’re moving between these three locations constantly while cooking.

As for the OP, it’s easier to keep the budget down if you keep the sink (and dishwasher if you have one) and stove where they’re located already. Laminate countertops (Formica or the equivalent), sheet vinyl flooring and stock cabinets will also help to keep costs down.

I’m in St. Louis, and $20k would get you a decent refresh, but not a full remodel.

Advice: if you’re happy from a functional standpoint, start small. A new paint job, new blinds for the window, new appliances, new overhead lights. If you’re happy with the result, stop there.

If you want more, consider cabinet refacing rather than new cabinets and stay away from granite countertops (which look great but cost big bucks.)

Most important of all – you and whoever you hire should come up with a detailed plan and then stick to it. As you get into the job you’ll find lots of great little things you want to add. Resist that urge. Those little changes cost big money when they force the contractor to go off-plan.

Ikea, ikea, ikea. You can get much better cabinets for a lot less money there than anywhere else. We have done 2 kitchens with their cabinets and they are excellent. Very easy to assemble and install. Also check out restore stores and craigslist.

Consider an induction cooktop stove. I don’t have one but I’ve researched it a bit and people who have them love them.

Moving any walls?

The contractor will bid on the happy path, but you will have weird stuff somewhere that will cause head scratching and a day or two of extra work.

My wife wanted to open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room. Before the job began, my contractor came and opened up the wall to see what was inside: there were two heating ducts right in the center of the part she wanted opened. There’s always a way to take care of stuff like that, but it adds to the price. In our case they rerouted the ductwork.

I wouldn’t skimp on the countertops. Maybe granite is overdone, but there are plenty of neat surfaces out there–we went with a dark gray quartz (marketing-speak for manufactured stone).

Home Depot / Lowes have so much buying power that you will almost always get a better deal there than in specialty shops–as long as you like what they have. For a bathroom remodel it was cheaper for me to buy two full shower/tub faucet sets than to buy the one additional 3-way valve I needed for my install.
The stuff isn’t the highest quality, but it isn’t junk either. No need to pay $60 per square foot for some amazing milky white tile when there is something almost identical for $2 per square foot at Lowes, unless you really want that boutique tile.

On a whim, I went for a dual-oven stove. That has turned out to be one of the best ideas ever–it is amazing to have to independent ovens to work with, even though each one is half-height. This is especially good around the holidays.

Oh yes…refrigerators are pretty amazing these days, with double-opening swing doors and all. Check the size of the hole first and make sure you can open the doors all the way. If you can’t (e.g. it’s in a corner), make sure you check how a 90-degree open door looks in the store, to see if you will be able to open the drawers and get at things.

You’ll burn through that 20k like nothing. And more.

Demo the cabinets yourself. I triple the IKEA suggestion for new ones–and put them together yourself, to save even more money. We moved away from an IKEA kitchen last summer and I’m still mourning it. Those bottom cabinet drawers are gold.

A couple of things:

Moving plumbing is difficult and VERY expensive. Leave the sink where it is.

There is a triangle in a kitchen that represents about 90% of the foot traffic:
Sink to refer to oven/cooktop.
Those huge “Chef’s Kitchens” in the photos get old real fast - you want that triangle a small and compact as possible,

Always have a counter beside the refer - you need somewhere to park the bag of groceries while putting them in the refer.

As to the actual work:
Forget Ikea. Just forget it. Cabinets need to be a bit sturdier.

This does not mean “forget DIY”. It means finding a source for real, grown-up stuff.
That is NOT Ikea, Home Depot, Lowes, or any other “Home Improvement” store - it means a cabinet shop, a plumbing supply shop, floor covering shop.

About the only thing I can imagine getting from a big box is the weekend “training” demonstrations.

I found a cabinet shop which offered a real, multi-week series on how to put cabinets together.
It is not difficult, and about any able-bodied person can do it.

Get a tape measure, a 4’ level, a straight bit of 1x4, a stud finder and drill with screwdriver and counter-sink bits. Chalk line a plus, as is a plumb bob.

By now, there are youtube clips showing how to do this.

To get you started: the doors and drawers come off (label them) and the wall cabby’s go up first.
The first base cabby goes at the HIGHEST point of the floor - it is much easier to shim up a lower cabby than to cut down a high one.

If you are changing your sink and want a garbage disposal, you need to make sure that the new pipes still angle down. If your new sink is deeper than the old one, or your new garbage disposal is bigger than the old one, you can run into trouble.

I was trying to get the most cabinet space and counter top area I could…so flat top oven as an extra place to pile things. Cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. I actually pushed a little side wall by 30" to get an extra cabinet set.

$20K is nothing. Counter top replacement alone runs at least $80/sqft (depending on material used). If you want back splash, add another 20-30/sqft. Plus the sink has to be demounted and remounted (if it’s even possible). We just got an estimate to replace the crappy granite tile counter top with a one piece Caesarstone quartz top and backsplash, and was quoted nearly $7,000 for under 60sqft. We’re going to tell him to fuck off.

We just did a pretty significant kitchen redo - I think the kitchen and bath together were just over $100k. We did it nicely, but not (IMO) over-the-top. Custom wood cabinets and granite, but no wine freezers, double ovens, etc. We plan on living here for a long time, so we were willing to pay to get just what we wanted. If you might move soon, you might be satisfied with something more superficial.

You have to really decide what is the most important to you. If you try to do it all for $20k, I bet you end up with something cheap, or not just what you want.

I would favor taking it in steps, to eventually end up with what you want. You say the size/functionality is an issue, so I’d get some contractors to give ideas on how the space can be organized to be the most useful. They’ll all talk about the triangle. Focus on how YOU will use it. How many folk will use it at 1 time. How the kitchen space relates to the rest of the house. Then, get the plumbing/gas/electric appliances where you want them - and make a plan for how you will finish off the space. This initial step might involve changing a windows/doors/walls. All that is necessary before you start picking tile and paint colors.

For the next steps, I’d recommend buying some tools and developing your DIY abilities. Unless you are buying and installing cabinets/flooring yourself, you really aren’t going to be saving all that much money. When we priced out jobs, the major things we could do - demo and painting - really were a drop in the bucket. To save serious coin you gotta eliminate high-priced labor.

Good luck!

Plan for your needs, not for what’s fashionable, much less for what “everybody” does. “Everybody” has a different family than you do. Example: “everybody” around here is creating these nests for the microwave, which are high enough to be completely unusable for half my family (nephews can’t even reach, Mom would be highly likely to drop anything while taking it from that height, Aunt Idiot can’t raise her arms that high due to her surgeries); microwave goes on the counter and the “nest” gets filled with decorative metal boxes full of food (tea tins, pasta tins).

What are you missing? What do you want to keep, what do you want to change? Don’t just ask different contractors for budgets, but ask for different plans: keeping certain features vs removing them, for example. Sometimes keeping something actually makes things more expensive as it means more man-hours.

Appliances. That hob is old, ok, but does it fit your needs? Which appliances need to be “holed in” and which can be on their own? Replacing for example a fridge that’s by itself is a lot easier and more flexible than if it needs to fit in a specific space. Plugs: where? The kitchen in my rental has a very long counter, but several of the plugs are too close to the hob, the faucet or both for my taste.