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New Kitchen Time

You’re getting a new kitchen. What are the steps to making it a success?

Design, style, and function.

These are three of the most critical choices you will make for your new kitchen. Done correctly these three elements will go far in giving you long term satisfaction of your new kitchen. Done improperly and you will regret it for years to come. A properly designed kitchen layout will add food preparation ease as well as resale value if you decide to sell.

The kitchen has evolved into the heart of the home, becoming a favorite gathering place for family and friends. It is less likely to be a separate area whose sole purpose is to prepare food. Making it a hospitable and functional area requires planning

You will need to decide what your comfort zone is as far as design and style. Do you want to stay with the motif of the home or do you want to make the kitchen a special oasis that fits your personality, allowing you to use materials other than what is found in the rest of the home.

What do you like about your current kitchen? What do you dislike? Are you staying within the current wall structure or are you removing walls? Is the kitchen going to be a one cook kitchen or does it need to be able to handle multiple people at one time? Are there any special storage requirements such as for large cooking utensils?

.An experienced kitchen designer can guide you through the decisions that need to be made. The knowledge that they have accumulated from doing many different layouts allows them to suggest ways that you have not been involved with. A good designer will ask lots of questions and offer suggestions to bring your dream to fruition.

Stock versus custom

There are basically 3 ways to get your new cabinets. Build them yourself, stock cabinets from a cabinet manufacturer, or customized cabinets from a cabinetmaker. When you compare apples to apples they are all about the same price.

You may ask how this can be. Let’s compare.

Build them yourself and you save the labor if you don’t value you time. You will pay retail for materials and hardware to go into the cabinets. This is normally about twice what a cabinet shop would pay. Any leftover material will become dunnage which you will probably need to pay to dispose of. If you don’t have the equipment already you will need to purchase for a one time project. Finishing will need to be done manually unless you have a spray booth or are willing to risk overspray on items in the area you are finishing. The big benefit of building them yourself will be the satisfaction of saying “I did it my self”

Stock cabinets are manufactured in larger plants and sold through home improvement stores. The manufacturer needs to make a profit and then the reseller needs a substantial markup to cover their business costs. Purchase stock cabinets and you will need to live with the 3” increment limitations and use multiple fillers or pay a premium for customizing. Some of the truly custom looks can’t be produced at all. Stock cabinetry tends to go with the one size fits all approach. If your home is truly built on 3” increments this might be cheaper.

Custom built cabinets from a cabinet makers shop are built to fit your homes requirement. You may want to go to the ceiling with your cabinets but your ceilings may only be 94 ½ high compared to 96” standard. With stock you would then need to reduce the space between upper cabinets and countertops or go to next shorter increment which may be 6” shorter. A cabinetmaker will just make the cabinets 1 ½ “shorter.

A cabinet shop competes by purchasing materials at wholesale to produce your kitchen and doesn’t incur the expense of a middleman. They already have equipment which is amortized across years of production on many jobs. You are only paying for a small percentage of their cost.

Cabinetmakers are knowledgeable in constructing cabinets and are able to maximize function and storage in your new kitchen. You receive a more balanced look in your cabinetry because they can build to fit the space. I like to use the example of a 45” wide opening. If you used stock cabinets you would either put in three 15” cabinets or one 24” and one 21” cabinet. A cabinet maker will make two 22 ½”cabinets instead. A more balanced look is achieved.


Today’s kitchen can achieve maximum function through the wide array of accessories available. They allow for increased organization and access. Ranging from 2 tier cutlery drawers, pull down spice organizers, to rollout trays in lower cabinets, and pullout waste and recycle bins. Replacing the old fashioned lazy susan is a snap with the KornerKing corner cabinet solution. This system combines the access of a drawer with the side storage of a lazy susan.

Diy or Contracted out?

It is tempting to do your project your self. Consider these issues before you take that plunge. Do you have the time to coordinate all the facets of the job? From doing the design properly to coordinating the trades that will be needed it becomes a labor intensive undertaking. If you are doing some of the work yourself, your production or lack of it will affect when the trades people can come in.

You will be using plumbers, electricians, flooring contractors, cabinet installers, painters, and maybe drywallers to get your project completed. For each of these trades you are probably a one time project in a steady stream of work they do. They will schedule your work for a certain time, and other work around your project. The problem arises when you or one of the trades gets off schedule it puts the rest off schedule. If the electrician is unable to get the correct parts for your job his next opening may be several days off. This means the other trades need to re adjust their schedules and it can start to snowball. Be prepared to make this a full time commitment or to be very patient.

A general contractor will work as your advocate in the process. They will coordinate any permitting that needs to be done. They have a stable of subcontractors who rely on them for work and will adjust their schedules to fit your project. As a cabinetmaker and installer I use several Contractors who work with my schedule to make the job flow smoothly. They come in the amount of time they need early so the homeowners downtime is minimized. I provide them with a substantial volume of work so they keep me and my customers taken care of.

A general contractor also offers you protection if accidents happen. They carry insurance to protect you and them if damage occurs. This will give you excellent peace of mind.

Budget Busters

If money was no object the sky would be the limit. Unfortunately that is not always the case and you need to make choices. This can range from wood selections to appliance selections to countertops. Here are a few tips on how to get back on budget.

The first place I have homeowners look to is countertop selection. In recent years solid surface countertops have been very popular. The new Laminate countertops are available at a fraction of the cost generally resulting in several thousand’s of dollars savings. Because of the laminates many customers are choosing them with the idea of replacing with solid surface in a few years. They feel it is better to do this than to go with a downgrade of the cabinetry.

Can the scope of the project be reduced without losing function? This might entail not putting in quite as many cabinets. I have a number of clients who make it a two part project. Do the important things first and if the budget allows add the rest at the end.

Regarding appliances, this is another way to reduce the project cost. Do you really need all of the features that are available?

Final Thoughts

“What are the latest trends?” or “Should I be doing this (whatever this is) in case we decide to sell in a few years?”

I get questions like this all the time. My response is don’t worry about the latest trends or doing it for the next homeowner. Do it for yourself. You are the one who will be living with your decisions after the project is complete. Do it your way.

Doing a new kitchen can be a gratifying or discouraging process depending on the people you choose. Choose wisely. Select 2 or 3 contractors to look at your project. Be prepared to pay for design work they will do for you. It’s a small price to pay to know you are getting someone who understands your needs and is able to put it on paper.

Now, take a deep breath and start making lists.