Picture the scene. You’re in your new kitchen creating Michelin star quality meals for family and friends. You entertain effortlessly in a relaxed, comfortable and ever so chic space. Sound good? It should, and it’s not the stuff of dreams.
When a kitchen renovation is done properly, those are the kind of evenings you can look forward to.
But there’s another scenario you need to be aware of. The one where the renovation is poorly planned and executed, and the hassle, mess and financial strain that often results.
The big question is: what do you need to do to ensure your kitchen renovation doesn’t become a living nightmare.
Take heed of the steps below, and you’ll be heading for delight rather than disaster.
Don’t Do It Yourself
Yes, the TV shows like The Block can make it look so easy.
But what they don’t show you is the work that goes on behind the scenes, where qualified tradesmen often fix up the botched work of enthusiastic DIYers who are in over their heads.
So be honest with yourself (and your significant other): do you really have the skills and experience to renovate the most important room in your home?
Kitchen renovations are complex, costly and time consuming. Even if you think you do have the skills, is it a good use of your time?
Make a Plan
A very common renovation mistake that most people make is a lack of planning.
Yes, it is time-consuming, but to achieve an ideal kitchen to suit you and your family’s needs, you need to plan and organise in detail at the very beginning of th renovation process.
Talk to the professionals
Good kitchen designers have seen it all before and will have clever ideas on how to solve your problems, make the most of your space and help you achieve your renovation and lifestyle goals.
They’ll also ensure you avoid common mistakes you might not have considered. Here are just a few:
Mistake #1: Exhaust Fan
A new kitchen will still be uninviting if it smells. Exhaust fans and rangehoods don’t just stop water condensation above the stove. They also suck up unpleasant smells, bring in fresh air and stop grease settling on cabinetry.
Mistake #2: Door Clearances
It’s easy to misjudge or not consider the amount of space required to open doors and whether an appliance requires ventilation clearance.
Appliances like stoves, dishwashers and refrigerators need sufficient clearance for their doors to not only open, but also to leave enough room to walk past. It’s pretty irritating if you open a dishwasher but can’t walk around to put the dishes away.
Mistake #3: Lighting
A bright fluorescent light in the middle of your kitchen won’t cut the mustard. Consider task lighting placed above the work spaces and recessed lighting in cabinets. If you have an island bench, look at feature pendants to add interest and light.
Mistake #4: Power Points
You’ve planned for the power needs of all the larger appliances. Great. But what about the smaller portable appliances that will inevitably end up on the bench and require power? Will your family be looking for places to charge their smartphones, iPads and laptops?
Make sure there are enough power points to have many appliances and devices plugged in at once, and space them appropriately so no one area of the kitchen gets too clogged.
Mistake #5: Storage Solutions
Everybody requires lots of storage, but remember that storage is only usable if it’s functional.
Overhead cupboards will be more of a pain than a pleasure if you need a ladder to reach anything inside them. Also think carefully about the depth of drawers and cabinets.
Mistake #6: Benchtops
The biggest complaint in kitchen design is the lack of bench space. To stop you making this mistake, understanding the flow of the kitchen and how you want to use it is crucial.
From entertaining friends, to having enough space to place your foodstuffs and preparing your meals, there should be enough space to conduct your day-to-day activities comfortably.
Check out our comprehensive guide on kitchen benchtops for more information.
Hire the right contractor
The best contractors and tradespeople are highly sought-after. They’re in big demand for a reason.
And ask around. Do your friends and family or work colleagues know anyone? You’ll probably find that there are more stories of woe than glowing commendations.
Once you get a lead on a contractor, spend time talking to them (you’re interviewing them really), visit them on-site and ask for references – as well as the all-important quote.
Also, you need to be able to trust and communicate well with your contractors. When issues crop up, and they almost always do, you need to be confident that everything is in-hand.
Plus, remember that these people are going to be in your home and you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them over the course of your renovation.
The all-important quote
Make sure you put the same specs to all contractors you ask to quote – otherwise you’re not going to be comparing like with like.
Really understand what is, and what is not, included in the quotes that come back to you.
It’s the only way to avoid haemorrhaging money at a later date. If a quote seems too good to be true – it normally is. Walk away.
Know – and respect, your budget
Know how much money you have to spend on your kitchen renovation and don’t be embarrassed about it if funds are tight.
By being upfront and honest about money, the kitchen designers and contractors will be able to help you get what you need at a price you can afford.
I can’t stress enough that it’s more important to invest on structural elements and high quality fixtures like door hinges and drawer runners so your kitchen stands the test of time.
There are ways to make your kitchen look more high-end than it actually is.
Whilst not ideal, there may also be the potential to stagger the renovation. Prioritising what you most need and can afford now, and waiting until you can pay for the rest, might help you manage costs (although keep in mind that the overall spend may be higher in the long term).
And all costs should also be covered in your contract. Speaking of which…
Contract – yes you absolutely need one
Once you have your contractor, get a binding contract. Not negotiable. You can save yourself a world of financial, mental and legal pain with a sound contract.
No, no and no.
Clear payment terms should be outlined in your contract. While some percentage paid up-front is standard, do not pay more than a third to a half in advance – and under no circumstances pay the full amount up-front.
Think about the extent of your bargaining power if your contractor has been paid 100% in full before the job is complete.
Payment is power – make sure you retain it.
Know what you want
Really think about why you’re renovating your kitchen and what you want to get out of it.
If you’re addressing a poor existing layout, or lack of bench or storage space, make sure you solve those problems first.
Also, know the difference between what you want and what you need. Make sure you prioritise what you need, and then work through the wants wish-list, adding in as much as you can afford and is practical for the space.
Stick to your guns
Once you’ve settled on your layout, surfaces, splashbacks and appliances etc, try not to change your mind.
Every time you change what you want, you add time and money to your project. That being said, if you’re really not happy with something – change it while you can. It will be more costly to bring a tradesperson back in to fix or change something once the renovation is finished.
And ensure the contract is updated to reflect any changes.
Keep it real
Even the best-planned renovations using experienced professionals can go wrong, get delayed or crop up unexpectedly.
Manage your expectations and stay on-top of what’s happening. Sure, we don’t live in a perfect world – but working with great professionals means a solution will be at hand if issues arise.
Your dream kitchen awaits
Don’t be put off by this advice. The beauty of being aware of the pitfalls in advance is that you’re far less likely to fall into them once you decide to renovate your kitchen.
I hope it’s of help, and if you’ve got any questions I haven’t addressed here please get in contact and we’ll do our best to help out.