Now that we’ve discussed the kitchen remodeling process and the role you play in it, we can set our sights on planning that new kitchen you’ve been pining (or pinning) after. Before we start picking out cabinets and appliances, it’s important to take a close look at your kitchen today. In this post, we’re going to take a hard look at your current kitchen, and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. You can then record those characteristics, and feed them to your designer and GC. The last thing you want to do with a kitchen remodel is make something worse than it already is, or let an issue with your current kitchen drive you nuts in your next kitchen.
We’ll also take a hard look at the electrical, plumbing, lighting, and other areas of your existing kitchen to try and get an idea of how much work is needed to bring your new kitchen up to date. By completing this process, you’ll be better aware of the task ahead of you, and you’ll be better prepared to deal with a GC.
What Needs to Go In the Remodel?
When I was planning the kitchen remodel in my first home, there was a lot that I hated about that space. The paneling was awful. The vinyl floor was torn, stained, and peeling. The windows were single pane, broken, and had about ten layers of paint on them. In case you’re wondering, yes, ten layers of paint is enough to prevent them from opening. On a cold morning, which in Philly is 9 months out of the year, dew would form on the inside of the windows.
The kitchen had a drop ceiling. A DROP CEILING! The upper cabinets were sheet metal painted white. The bottom cabinets were wooden, but not well made. The lighting was inadequate. There were only a few small windows, and the light fixtures were fluorescent and would of looked more in-place at a 1970s factory. There wasn’t enough storage. Not even close. The countertop was a laminated particleboard that was starting to de-laminate after a good 40 years of use. All in all, it was fairly typical for a 40-year-old kitchen designed in the 1960s.
As much as I enjoyed venting about the condition of my first kitchen, it actually serves a purpose. It helped me list all of the features of the kitchen that were worn, dated, non-functional, ugly, and broken. All of those horrible characteristics had to go in order for me to consider my kitchen remodel to be successful.
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t hard to walk into that kitchen, and identify everything wrong with it. Your kitchen may not be in as bad condition as mine was, and it may be harder to pick out the things that bug you, but there is value in performing this exercise yourself.
Let’s get started. Take a stroll through your kitchen, and give the room a real hard visual examination. We’ll start with the ceiling, and work our way down. I’ve listed a series of questions you can read through, and you should write down your answers. Remember, the intent of this exercise it to identify the areas you can’t stand. For example, I’m going to ask you if you have a popcorn ceiling. I’m not a fan of popcorn ceilings. If I were to remodel a home with a popcorn ceiling, I’d have it smoothed out. If it were me, I’d list “popcorn ceiling” as a major negative, but you are free to let your own taste be your guide. If you like popcorn ceilings and don’t mind keeping it, then you wouldn’t list popcorn ceiling as a negative feature.
The point of this exercise is to define the scope of the renovation up front, so you can give your designer and your GC a complete list of everything that needs work. Nothing will eat into your remodeling budget more than expanding the scope after you’ve already started. The tendency for the budget to grow due to the scope growing is often referred to as “scope creep.”
You may know you want your paneled walls replaced, but unless you tell your designer and your GC up front, they may assume you don’t want them fixed. They might think they look fine. If they find out after the demo that you wanted those panel walls ripped out, then prepare to pay additional costs for new demo, debris disposal, and any nasty surprises behind those walls.
That’s not to say that this exercise will eliminate unexpected costs, because it won’t. It will, however, put you and your team on the same page in terms of workload expectation. You have to keep in mind that you’ve likely been living in your home for some significant amount of time. You are aware of all the minutia that you want corrected.
Your GC probably spent 30 minutes there during a walk through. The things that stand out to you won’t necessarily be the things that stand out to the GC. Don’t assume they’re going to fix something unless you point it out, and the repair gets reflected in the quote. Got it? Good.
Let’s get started. We’ll work from high to low. Be sure to take notes.
Assessing Your Kitchen’s Problem Areas
What Condition is the Kitchen Ceiling In?
Is your ceiling in good shape? Are there any cracks, watermarks, nail pops, or obvious seams? Is there a drop ceiling? Will it need to be painted? Is it level? Is it a popcorn ceiling? Is the ceiling sagging?
How Does the Current Overhead Lighting Fit In to Your Plan?
Is your overhead lighting in need of replacement? Do you have those long industrial fluorescent tubes? Would you like the light(s) relocated? Do you need more lighting? Are the work areas properly lit? Is it difficult to prepare meals in the kitchen due to insufficient lighting? Is the lighting too much or too harsh?
Do the Non-Cabinet Kitchen Walls Needs a Fresh Coat of Paint or Wallpapering?
On the walls where you have no cabinets installed: Are they smooth? Are they scratched, dented, dirty, or full of holes? Is there wallpaper? Is there paneling? Do you have pictures or other frames? Are those frames hanging on screws or nails? Are you replacing or rearranging those items? Is there any visible water damage? Are there nail pops?
Will a Window Replacement Be Necessary?
Are the windows in good shape? Are they broken, cloudy, discolored, or full of rain or mildew? Are the window frames vinyl or wooden? If vinyl, have they yellowed or darkened from sun exposure? Is there any mold or any dark spots on the window ledge or sill? Does the window have a sill? If not, would you like it to? Do the windows leak when it rains?
Exterior Doors – Interior Doors: Will They Fit the New design?
Are there any doors to the exterior or interior that need replacing? Are the existing doors wide enough for your needs, or should they be wider? Is a double door, sliding door, or French door required? Do the doors leak when it rains? Do they close properly? Are they in need of any hardware change, including the addition of a deadbolt?
Is the Flooring Intact or Does it Need Replacing?
Does the flooring need to be replaced? Does it need to be power cleaned? Does it need to be repaired? Are there major dips or uneven spots? Is the floor level? Does it squeak or make any creaking noises when you walk on it? Does the floor have a lot of movement when you step in certain spots?
Are the Cabinets to Be Replaced or Refaced?
Do the cabinets need to be replaced completely, or can they be salvaged with a painting or a refinishing? Are they dirty or broken? Do all the drawers still work? Is there a soffit above the cabinets that you would like removed? Are they in good enough shape that they can be donated, or do they need to be trashed?
Are You Going to Need New Appliances?
Do the appliances need to be replaced? Are they old? Do they require a lot of electricity to operate? Is there any discoloration from age visible? Are any of them broken? Is the microwave or range hood connected to an outside vent?
Is the Kitchen Plumbing Up to Snuff?
Looking underneath the sink, are there any leaks? Does the refrigerator have a water supply line installed for an ice or water dispenser? Is your oven gas or electrical? If you’d like a gas oven, is there a gas supply line available behind the oven? Does the faucet need to be replaced? Do you have a soap dispenser? Would you like one?
How Does Your Kitchen Electrical System Measure Up?
Are all of your appliances currently on their own separate circuits? You can determine that by turning off a kitchen circuit breaker, and see which appliances lose power. Are any appliances sharing circuits? Are your kitchen lights on their own circuit? The countertop outlets, how many do have? Could you use more? Are the countertop outlets Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)? How many open spots are there in your circuit breaker box? Do any of your circuit breakers trip often?
Could There Be Hazardous Material in the Kitchen?
Up until now we haven’t discussed any hazardous material that could be lurking in your kitchen, but it’s important we address them. Some home products might contain lead or asbestos, and it’s vital to identify those items well before you hire a GC and start the project.
If during the course of the renovation you disturb those elements, then you may be putting you and your family’s health in danger along with the health of anyone that enters your home. Lead is a toxic chemical that can cause major health issues to both adults and children, but is especially hazardous to pregnant women. Asbestos can also lead to long-term health problems, like mesothelioma, if inhaled.
Are There Asbestos Concerns?
The first thing you need to do is identify the possible areas in your home that could contain asbestos. In most residential settings, asbestos can be found in plumbing, attic or furnace insulation, and in floor or ceiling tiles. Additionally, it can be found in some drywall joint compounds.
If you suspect something in your home may contain asbestos, you need to leave it alone. Don’t touch it. If you were planning on ripping out your 40 year old kitchen tiles without checking to see if they contain asbestos first, you need to re-think that. Typically, asbestos is only a concern if it is disturbed and becomes airborne. Don’t ever try to remove asbestos yourself. Asbestos abatement needs to be handled by a trained professional.
How do you know what items in your home have asbestos? If your home was built before 1980, you need to be concerned about the presence of asbestos. Next, you should contact an asbestos abatement professional to have them survey and sample those suspected items in your home. A Professional in this industry will be able to properly assess your home to make sure they’ve identified everything of concern. You should tell them upfront that you are going to be renovating your kitchen. They will collect samples from anything they suspect of being hazardous, and have them tested at a laboratory. Once the results from the test are known, you’ll know what items in your home contain asbestos.
You can then proceed with your renovation and/or the asbestos remediation. You should not hire the asbestos professional that did the survey to perform the remediation. Make sure you tell the survey company that fact. That arrangement will help keep the survey folks honest.
Can you still renovate your kitchen if there’s asbestos in certain kitchen products? The answer to that question is yes. Yes, you can. However, your GC will need to either encapsulate the asbestos, or a professional remediation team will need to remove it first. For example, if your old vinyl kitchen floor contains asbestos, you have the option of tiling or installing hardwood floor over it, or you can have a professional remove it. Unfortunately, you can’t simply rip it out with abandon, it needs to be protected and removed properly.
Are There Lead Paint Concerns?
Lead paint can be most commonly found in homes built before 1970. It poses a problem similar to asbestos in that it is when it is disturbed it can become airborne, and be inhaled. Children can also ingest it if they chew on items covered with lead paint like windowsills, for example. If you suspect any areas in your home were painted with paint containing lead, you need to be very careful how you handle those items. There are commercially available lead paint test kits that you can purchase. The kits are fairly simple to use. In the case of a kitchen renovation, you’d want to test any painted areas that are going to be disturbed as in removed or sanded. If anything tests positive, you and your GC will need a lead abatement plan for dealing with those items. At a minimum, you should hang plastic tarps around the kitchen entryways to prevent any lead dust from leaving the kitchen during the renovation.
Let’s kitchen remodel cost implications next.
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