So you want a new kitchen? Whether you're considering designing a kitchen using your own architect, a kitchen planner hired through a store like IKEA or Home Depot, or an online planning service, professionals suggest keeping a few things in mind.
Plan way ahead
"Many people start planning their kitchen a year ahead of time, and that's about right," says John Allen, a services planner at IKEA in the United States. "The more you've worked out what you want ahead of time, the more smoothly things will go once you start working with a kitchen planner."
Be as specific as you can about what you like and how much you can spend.
"If you already know exactly which appliances you want, and what kind of sink, that helps a lot," Allen says. Changing a fridge or range halfway through the planning can throw everything off, since even an inch or two difference in appliance dimensions could mean rethinking all the cabinets.
Make your kitchen work for you
Do you have kids? Are you right-handed or left-handed? Will more than one person be cooking at the same time?
The answers to questions like these affect the placement of microwave, dishwasher, sink, cabinet, kitchen island and more. "If you're 5 feet tall, 40-inch cabinets may not be ideal for you," Allen says.
And just because you're going with one company for kitchen planning and cabinet boxes doesn't mean you can't use another for cabinet and drawer fronts, decorative drawer pulls and more.
For example, Semihandmade, a Los Angeles company, makes cabinets, drawer fronts and accessories specifically made to fit IKEA cabinet boxes. Company founder John McDonald says he can offer more upscale veneers "and can manage a lot of customization work that Ikea can't do, like special door sizes, doors for appliance fronts, and custom bookcases to match cabinetry."
Consider value with floors, countertops
Even if going with a laminate countertop seems tempting and more affordable in the short term, consider the impact your choices will make on the eventual resale value of your home. "People move a lot these days, and countertops and flooring always come up in home ads," Allen says.
Measure, and measure again
"There's a saying that goes 'measure twice, cut once.' Well for kitchens, I'd say measure three times," Allen warns. "No matter how new or old your house is, chances are things aren't quite even. And you'll need to measure outlets and vents and window frames as well."
There's more involved than meets the eye, and it often pays to hire a professional to measure the room.
"The foundation of everything you do is getting accurate and comprehensive measurements up front," says Rachel Getz, associate merchant in countertops at Home Depot. For between $99 and $129, Home Depot will send a service provider to measure the kitchen and design the project. IKEA will have your site professionally measured and designed for a refundable $199.
"No matter who's doing your kitchen, it's worth it to invest a few hundred dollars up front to get things properly measured," says McDonald.
Know when to cut corners, call in pros
"When clients propose installing their own kitchen, I like to ask them if they installed their own water heater or did their own roofing," says Allen. "If the answer is yes, they can probably manage it. If not, they may want to reconsider."
To save money, he suggest, homeowners might do the disassembly and painting themselves, leaving the installation to the pros.
Be realistic about time frame
Dismantling and preparing the kitchen and flooring ahead of installation will take time. Contractors often take longer than expected, and plumbers and electricians aren't always available on the day you'll need them. And even with perfect turnaround time, custom countertops will take at least two weeks, the experts say, and can't be templated until the cabinets have been installed.
Have an alternative space set up with a microwave, tabletop and small fridge; you'll need a place to prepare food while your dream kitchen is in the works.
"It's important to remember that you're likely to encounter roadblocks that may extend the timeline," says Stephanie Sisco, home editor at Real Simple magazine.
"Whether it's a surprise that's uncovered when a wall is opened up or a change is made to the design plan, it can delay your renovation's progress. So give yourself some wiggle room and don't plan a party for the day you think it's going to be completed."