Kitchen renovations: how to avoid renovation horror stories

Kitchen renovations can increase the value of your home

A large modern kitchen with a double stainless steel stove, and granite countertops.

A renovated kitchen can give a more modern feel or create a more efficient cooking space. — Photo courtesy moodboard/thinkstock

Kitchens are one of the most popular renovations that homeowners invest in. They can increase the value of your home, give more space and add a whole new look to your home.  The kitchen is most likely the centre of your home.  If you enjoy cooking and entertaining, the kitchen space and layout become more important and the amount of time you spend in a kitchen becomes more valuable.

There seems to be as many renovation horror stories as there are kitchens.  So how can homeowners ensure that they get their dream kitchen but avoid the headaches that seem to come with kitchen renovations?

Count the cost 

Sit down and determine what your budget really is. Decide what you want to spend your money on and what you can afford.   Countertops, flooring, cabinets, lighting and backsplashes all come in a huge range of styles, quality and price.  You need to decide what you want that is within your budget.

“Be realistic with what you want to achieve for the money you want to spend,” said Jason Berry of Jason Berry Interior Finishing in Cranbrook, B.C. “People think they should get a magazine kitchen for xx amount of dollars, but then they want all the extras.”

Almost any budget can get kitchen renovations done, but if you want a showroom kitchen, it is much more expensive.

Value of your home

After poring through magazines for months, you have planned your dream kitchen down to the last detail. You want granite countertops, custom cabinets, a professional oven and a walk-in freezer.  If you are planning on staying in your home for the rest of your life, are an avid cook and entertainer, and have an unlimited budget, that is probably the way to go.  However, if you are only thinking of staying in your home for a few more years and you would like your kitchen to increase the resale value of your home, you may need to rethink your plan. 

The rule of thumb is that your kitchen should be around 15 per cent of the value of your home, any higher and you won’t see that money in the resale value. 

Make a plan

While almost all plans will change to some degree during the renovation process, make sure to have one that is as concrete as possible from the very start of the project. Without a solid plan, the work could take months longer than expected and cost much more than you budgeted for.

Hire a kitchen designer to make you a 3-D drawing of what you have in mind.  Make sure you have the accurate measurements of your appliances, especially your fridge. Other appliances usually have a standard size, but be sure to measure the height, width and depth of your fridge. You don’t want to have your cabinets installed, then bring home any of your brand new appliances only to discover they do not fit in the spots you allocated for them.

If your kitchen is already ripped out or you are building a new home, you can also measure everything and cut out cardboard boxes to give you a better idea of how everything is going to fit.

Look behind the scenes

When planning a new kitchen, most people get excited about picking out their cabinets, countertops and flooring and choosing a colour of paint.  But there is a lot of work that goes into the kitchen long before you get to the esthetics. Make sure you have planned to put the stove where there is an outlet for it.  If you want to change the position of the current stove, you will have to change the wiring as well.  The same goes for the plumbing.  If you want to move your sink or dishwasher from their current locations, check and see how much extra work and cost that would be for the plumber.

Have extra money available for the unexpected

People often complain that kitchen renovations don't come in on budget or aren't finished on the scheduled deadline.

“Renovations do take a little bit longer as you don’t know what you are getting into when you open certain walls,” said Berry. “You might open up a wall and uncover a leak or faulty wiring. There are certain things that do need [to be] fixed [before you move on].”

Make sure you understand exactly what is in your contractor's quote.  If your quote includes standard materials and you decide you want to upgrade to something more deluxe, that will influence your price.  If you know in advance that you want crown mouldings or hardwood instead of softwood, make sure your contractor knows so that he can give you an accurate quote. 

Expect delays

In a perfect world your renovations will start on time, go smoothly with no glitches and will be finished before deadline and under budget. Kitchen renovations have more potential for problems than do other projects.

In older houses, there is always the risk of finding surprises behind the walls when things are taken apart.  These unexpected situations must be dealt with before the rest of the job can move on.

Kitchens are also more complicated to keep within the renovation schedule because there will be more than one tradesperson working.  Delays may start coming into play when the electrician can’t come on the day he is needed, or the plumber is still working on another job when you thought he would be at your house. 

How to decide on a contractor

You need to feel comfortable with the person you will have working in your home for weeks at a time. Go with someone who is reputable.  Talk to suppliers who are actually doing a lot of business in the neighbourhood.

“Find someone who is helpful,” said Berry,  “[and who] is recommended by someone else in the industry.” 

Kimberly Shellborn

Kim is the editorial coordinator at Koocanusa Publications. She recently returned to the Kootenays after 15 years in Spain, where she taught English and got to know the food and wine regions of the country. When she’s not writing or taking photographs, she can be found showing her husband and two children all the backcountry trails that she longed for while in Europe. View all of Kimberly Shellborn’s articles

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