Starting Out

Kitchen 1You may have been thinking about changing your kitchen or bath for years – every time you bump into that countertop corner, when your sink faucet sprays water back on you for the umpteenth time, or when that cabinet door won’t close (and hasn’t for two years). Here are some things to think about when you’re thinking about renovating your outdated kitchen or bath.

“The most important phase of any project is planning,” says Patti Willey of Allen’s Kitchen and Bath. “Do your homework first, and then you’ll be ready to create the kitchen or bath you’ve been dreaming about.”

Five Key Questions to Ask (and their answers) When You’re Starting Out:



This is the time to consider what you really need and want in a new kitchen or bath. Think about how you plan to use the remodeled space.
    • Maybe you want a kitchen built for entertaining or one that allows several people to cook at once. If that describes the way you cook, you’ll want to investigate multiple workstations where everyone can take a role in food preparation.
    • You might be considering a kitchen renovation as part of adding a family-style great room. In that case, your kitchen will become the hub of the household, and you’ll want to be sure to include plenty of space for the kids to do their homework and you to check your email.
     • Is your vacation camp or home ready to be modernized? You might be considering using it more often, and updating the kitchen and baths will Kitchen 4make it comfortable in all seasons.
    • Is the “footprint” of your kitchen fine, but your appliances, countertops and cabinets old and outdated? If so, you may be interested in a “facelift” rather than a complete overhaul. New countertops, paint, flooring and appliances can make a worn-out kitchen seem brand-new again.
    • Do you want a kitchen that will help with resale in a few years? If so, ask yourself, “How long do I plan to stay in my home?” If the answer is five years or less, then you’ll want to make changes that will increase the value of your home, within the realities of the current real estate market. If you plan to be there for longer than 5 years, do what makes you and your family the most comfortable.
    • Have you been dreaming of a relaxing master bath that is your spa getaway? There are beautiful new whirlpool baths and luxurious shower systems available that can give your bath the update you want.


If you’ve been thinking about a kitchen or bath remodel, you’ve probably already been looking in magazines, surfing the Internet, or watching home renovation television programs. Now it’s time to collect that information in one place for easy reference.
 Tub and vanity photo
You can use a simple 3-ring binder to keep all of your information handy. Get a packet of clear sheet protectors, some plain paper and a gluestick.

While you’re looking through magazines, tear out photos of kitchens or baths that appeal to you and glue them onto the plain paper. Write what you like about the room in the margin. Then slip the page into a clear sheet protector and insert that into your three-ring binder. Do the same with appliances, faucets, fixtures, tile – whatever you see that strikes your fancy as you look at magazines and manufacturer’s literature.

The Internet is another source for kitchen inspiration. Check out sites like, Home Renovations,,,, (the National Association of the Remodeling Industry), plus sites for any specific manufacturers you may be interested in. When you see an item that interests you, print the photos and add them to your stylebook. As your stylebook grows, a clear picture of your style for your kitchen or bath will begin to emerge. That’s helpful for you, but it’s also helpful for the remodeling professionals.

“I had a binder of ideas that I shared with my designer from Allen’s Kitchen and Bath,” says Denise Perry of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. “It was a great way for her to understand exactly the look I wanted for my new kitchen and master bath. And it was fun to research lots of ideas and learn about new kitchen and bath products.”

Dupont offers a fun way to play with cabinet colors, countertop choices and wall colors. Try it out.


To get a general idea of how much you have to spend on a kitchen or bath remodel, you will need to crunch some numbers.

Do a little research into the costs of your wish list items and put them into your preliminary budget. Do you really want granite countertops? Are you ready for a whirlpool bath? How about stainless steel appliances? Add up some ball-park figures of the items you most want to include, plus estimate the labor costs. As a rule of thimb, labor tends to be one-third of the entire total budget of a remodeling project. HGTV’s website offers a “Remodeling Budget Estimator” to help give you an idea of the cost of the kind of changes you want.

On the NARI (National Association of the Renovation Industry), you can use those estimates in a budgeting worksheet that will help you determine how much you can afford to spend.

Using these kinds of financial tools and doing a little homework into the costs will prepare you for the figure your contractor will give you, and you’ll have an estimate of how much financing you may need for the job.


Side view of 2 sinks

When remodeling or building new, it’s critical to consider your timeframe.

Is there an event on the calendar that would be affected if your kitchen or bath were under construction? You probably don’t want to have your house in disarray during the holidays, unless you visit your relatives then. If your master bath will be out of commission for a while, make sure there’s another bath in the house that will work for you during the construction. It’s much easier to deal with inconvenience during construction and remodeling when you have planned for it.

Discuss your time budget when interviewing potential contractors, and find the right time for the work for both of you.



One of the best things you can do to prepare for any remodeling or building project is to talk to people who have been through the process before. Ask your friends who have upgraded their kitchens or baths about how the process worked. No doubt they’ve learned some things that could be helpful in your project.Kitchen 3

When you’ve heard from a few trusted sources about their remodeling projects, you’ll have reasonable expectations about your own project. “Redoing a kitchen or bath is fun,” says Ray Clouatre of Allen’s Kitchen & Bath. “We recommend you talk with your family about what to expect, because construction makes a household a little more challenging. But when everyone’s excited about the prospect of the new project, they’ll all be able to take the occasional stresses in stride. And we’ll help you through the whole process to keep it on track from start to finish.”