Bobby and I have owned our home for two years now. We bought a home that was move-in ready, but a bit outdated… a little 1990’s. But, when you are in your mid-twenties… you learn to deal. Honestly, we were just so damn happy to have a place to call our own. We were so proud to take the leap together as a newly engaged couple.
When you first buy a house, you become overwhelmed with wanting to make the house your own. It is normal to get all caught up in the excitement of Pinning your dream plans. A new driveway, a lavish deck, updated bathrooms, and…most often, a brand spanking new kitchen.
Kitchens are the heart of a home. They usually end up selling houses and inspire bidding wars. Plus, when you have company over, where do they hang out? Your kitchen.
That is why kitchens are such a large decision when it comes to design and layout. A lot goes into the process and it can be overwhelming. Especially if it is your first time renovating a kitchen.
Now, many contractors will order your cabinets for you. Go for it! But, it usually ends up being more expensive than if you just ordered them on your own. They are not worried about trying to find you cabinets that will save you in the long run.
It is more legwork on your part to purchase the cabinets. Yes. But, to me… it is worth saving thousands on cabinets. So, we chose to go through The Home Depot. The process has been amazing.
In this post I will give you the steps we took when beginning to plan our kitchen renovation, as well as the process we went through when ordering our cabinets through The Home Depot.
Hold off as long as you can.
The benefit of waiting
Our kitchen is super tiny. But, waiting two years to renovate has been such a great decision. We were able to save enough cash to redo our kitchen this summer into what we envision it to look like. Waiting might not be for everyone, but buying in cash has so many benefits. #1… no loan! You will not have to think about making a payment every month. #2… discounts. When you pay for almost any home renovation job in cash, you get a break. You can usually shave off 10-20% when it comes to many home improvement projects paid for straight up in cash.
Our first year renovations
The first year we only made minor changes to the house. Honestly, although they were small, they made a HUGE difference appearance-wise. We demoed our office room to take off the wood paneling and to re-insulate the room. Also, we changed all the dark colors of the house to bright, light colors. Even putting a coat of paint of bright white paint on each closet door made a big different. Overall, we maybe spent $3,500 for the demo and all of the paint (Yep…we painted ourselves! Easy way to save money).
Our second year renovations
The second year we decided to convert from oil to gas. Our furnace was an original from the 1950’s when the house was built (so disgusting, large, and old). Also, we were barely having enough hot water to shower each day. I’d also like to mention that cooking on an electric stove is a major drag if you love to cook, which I do. So…we made the decision to convert knowing that when our new kitchen was built, we could have a beautiful gas stove!
Find a way to make it work
Although our kitchen is very small, we have made it work in many ways. Annoying? Yes. But, totally was worth all the money we were able to save. If we immediately redid our kitchen we would have been in $30,000 of debt. We used all of our money on a downpayment. A loan was not an option for us. We survived with a rollable island from The Christmas Tree stop to have extra storage and cooking space. Also, we are still taking turns hand washing all of our dishes. Time consuming and a pain, but not the end of the world.
So, if you are like us and do not have $30-50,000 readily available for a renovation, take careful thought as to when you NEED a new kitchen. Being impulsive will not only hurt your wallet, but your mind will change rapidly as to what you “think” truly want and need in a new kitchen.
Begin to narrow down your kitchen ideas.
Just like planning a wedding, Pinterest is a goldmine for getting your ideas together. Click around and look at different designs and ideas. There are really so many more options that you can imagine. It is also a great idea to break your pins down into different boards (i.e. white designs, countertops, farm style kitchens, open concept, etc.). Breaking it down by boards can help you narrow down what you want. I bet you will change your mind 10 times over. So, these will come in handy when the design decisions finally need to be made.
TV shows can also be a place of inspiration when renovating your kitchen. Overall, my favorite design show is Flip or Flop. Not sure if it is cancelled now (awkwarrrrrrd), but I always loved how their kitchens were simple and clean looking. That is our taste. They usually flipped homes that were for the middle class buyers, like myself. But, it was also nice to see them flip million dollar homes and install insane kitchen designs. Hey!…a girl can dream. There are many other shows to fit different style homes. You just have to find your pick!
Another way to figure out what you want is to get in the car and drive to some stores. You can stop at specialty locations if you want a large variety of something particular. For example, if you are unsure about countertops, there are places that focus on just selling that. You also might want to go to a store with hundreds of cabinet options. The same goes for flooring, backsplashes, and appliances. But, if you want a one stop place (hey girl… over here!) just go to any Home Depot or Lowes. No, you don’t have to buy any or all of your materials from there. But, they have a good array of options for each piece of your kitchen. Checking them out and simply browsing can give you ideas and help you narrow down your likes.
Needs & wants checklist
A kitchen renovation is a lot of compromise. Especially if more than one person is involved. Of course, everyone has a laundry list of things they dream to have in their ideal kitchen. But, if you are on a budget, you will have to be realistic about what you plan to do. A simple, effective way of doing this is to create a checklist. Outline what you absolutely NEED! For me? That was extra cabinets and drawers for storage and a dishwasher (we suffered without one for 2 years!). Then, you need to map out your WANTS. For example, you might want that fancy two tier stove… but… is it worth it? Include average prices for each aspect and find out what will work for you.
Get a digital design.
Schedule your appointment
Places like Home Depot will actually meet with you to design your new kitchen. It is completely free (yes.. it is!) and, I think, totally worth it. You schedule an appointment with Home Depot for someone to come to your home. They measure your kitchen to get an idea of the dimensions that you will work with while you choose your cabinets and layout. You can schedule your appointment in the store or you can simply do it over the phone. They are flexible and can usually fit you in almost immediately.
Discuss your visions & get recommendations
When the Home Depot employee comes to measure, it will take around 15-60 minutes. This all depends on how much you want out of it. Personally, even though the measurement was free, I wanted to get all I could out of it. Bobby and I asked dozens of questions. The guy measuring gave us his personal advice based on the size of our room. He also broke down the average price and labor of gutting versus refacing cabinets. The great part is, he did not push us to have Home Depot do the work. He seemed to be giving genuine advice and was kind. When he left, he gave us a few pages that included all of our measurements to keep and bring back to Home Depot.
Bring your measurements & choose your cabinets
After you have your measurements, you can schedule an appointment with the designer at Home Depot. The appointment can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes. It all depends on how prepared you are with what you want your kitchen to include. They have you walk around their showroom and choose the cabinets you want. There are so many to choose from at Home Depot! I highly suggest that you choose your cabinets BEFORE your appointment so you don’t waste too much time. Also, if you might feel rushed having to choose cabinets within a small timeframe.
Design your kitchen
Once you choose your cabinets, the designer walks you through building your kitchen digitally. You will have many options to choose from. How tall will your cabinets be?Where do you want all of your appliances? Do you want shelving? A garbage/recycling drawer? Island? Make sure you have an idea before you spend time with the designer. Seriously, we were blown away with the results! Again, this is free and there is no commitment for you to purchase the cabinets. You will walk away with the designs in your hand. Not a bad deal.
Get quotes & ideas from contractors.
Ask each contractor for their professional opinion
Unless your in the business of kitchens, you will probably need to meet with various contractors before making your decision. Redoing a kitchen is a huge, expensive job that can make or break a house. While you have each of them over for an estimate, don’t be afraid to pick their brains! Ask them what they recommend. I liked asking them this before even showing them my own ideas. We changed many things about our kitchen just from great conversations we had with people who build them for a living. Don’t forget to use your Home Depot design printout while explaining your visions! It can help contractors get a more exact understanding, which helps with giving accurate estimates. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for before and after pictures. If they can’t show you those, say “bye bye.”
Ask if they create free designs
If they are a good contracting business, they will most likely offer to make a design for you. Many times, this is for free! Why? Their goal is to blow you away with their plans so that you will fork over thousands of dollars for them to do the job. Let them! Gathering designs will help you further your kitchen plans. Don’t be stubborn or narrow-minded, either. It is ok to change your mind many times. That is why you should leave a good amount of time for the beginning process of remodeling a kitchen. It should be well-thought out!
Once you are comfortable with how many contractors you met with, it will be time to analyze the results. Make sure contractors give you a break down of the costs. If they just give you a ballpark number, no bueno. Ask for a breakdown of what you are paying for (labor, appliances, flooring, cabinets, etc.). You should pick someone that can meet your financial needs. Don’t fall in love with plans double your budget just because the idea seems amazing. Things might seem glamorous and perfect, but that does not mean you should be in debt for that. Remember your needs and wants checklist!
Choose your contractor
Do your research. You might have three solid companies to choose from. All around a similar price and time frame to get the work done. Reviews online can help you figure out who the best choice is. There are may ways you can narrow down your decision. Make a list of rules to help you. For me? If I didn’t get a call back in a certain time frame, they were out. Also, if they missed an appointment, they never heard from me again. All of those were red flags that the job would be a disaster if I hired them.
Finalize your plans & order your cabinets!
Schedule a second appointment to finalize your cabinet plans
This is not necessarily a standard. Many people make their designs and go ahead and order them. But, I decided to use the plans given to me by a contracting company. I brought them in and the designer altered my plans based on my new ideas. It took about 15 minutes and I had new plans in my hand! Also, little secret… I didn’t even end up choosing the contractor whose plans I am going to use! High five to me.
Have your measurements done for your cabinets
After you have your plans finalized with the designer, you will set up an appointment to get your kitchen specifically measured for the cabinets you chose. The measurements cost $100 and it gets refunded if Home Depot installs the cabinets for you. (Side note: I do not recommend having Home Depot install them. They subcontract their work and I heard it is an absolute disaster. Stick to your own contractor). You can even make changes when the measurements are being done in your own home. The contractors Home Depot sends will write out all of your plans and fax them over to Home Depot immediately. It is that simple!
Place your order
Next, you have to go back to Home Depot to meet with the designer one last time. She goes over he measurements with you. You review the sizes and exact color(s) wanted and your order is placed! Great thing about Home Depot is that there are always sales going on. I saved 20% off my cabinets and ended up paying less than $5,000 for all of them. Crazy deal.
Wait 4 weeks!
Your kitchen renovation cannot start until your cabinets are in. So, sit tight and wait for your beautiful pieces to arrive!
In the meantime…you have bit of work.
Choose countertops, appliances, handles, lights, wall color, light fixtures, windows, etc.
Any recommendations for the beginning process of planning a kitchen renovation?