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Planning Your Kitchen Renovation

The Martha Stewart Show, May 2006

- Before you start to plan your kitchen, spend some time dreaming; look at magazines, visit home centers, collect photos, and take stock of your existing kitchen. Start a binder with all of your research -- it will help you when you meet with your kitchen contractor and plan your kitchen makeover.

- Set your budget. This is very important! You should be as realistic as possible when you do this; it will affect most of the decisions you make along the way. You should also make sure that you have some money set aside for any unknowns that might happen during the process.

- Do a preliminary sketch of your kitchen; include accurate measurements of your space and of the location of your windows, doors, electrical outlets, and plumbing. This is just an initial plan for you to start deciding how to arrange your kitchen. Once you hire a contractor and a cabinetry maker, they will take more accurate measurements.

- Decide on the style of your dream kitchen. Is it formal? Casual? Are you a 30-minute cook, or a gourmet chef? How many people are going to cook in your kitchen? Do you want to spend time there with your family? Do you plan to eat meals in the kitchen?

- Use reference materials: "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" has an excellent section on kitchen design. You should also consult with the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Several cabinetry manufacturers have software that you can use to plan your kitchen.

- Think about color. You may have a platter or a plate that you want to use as inspiration for your kitchen. In the May edition of Martha Stewart Living, you can find some helpful tips about choosing color.

- Be aware of how you use your kitchen. In the "Homekeeping Handbook," we discuss work stations and work triangles that help you to make a kitchen that is not only beautiful but functional. Knowing this information in advance will help you to avoid some costly mistakes.

- If you are planning on changing the existing structure or moving walls or any other major existing structural parts of your kitchen, be sure to consult an architect and/or a structural engineer. Smaller changes may be worked out with your general contractor.

- When planning your kitchen, think about the equipment you're going to use and make a lighting plan. We recommend that a kitchen have good lighting and that you make sure you have outlets in strategic places.

- Decide if you are going to work with one general contractor or if you are going to manage each phase of the project yourself.

- Find a contractor that you trust. Consult with friends, coworkers, and people in your neighborhood who have completed work that you like. You should also check with your local building department, the Better Business Bureau, and other building associations in your state and county. Make sure you obtain a Certificate of Insurance from your contractor and that you sign a defined contract with your contractor before you start any work.

A good contractor will:
- Help you plan before you start.
- Acquire building permits for you.
- Assist you with purchasing and storing all of the components of your kitchen.
- Schedule and coordinate all phases of the construction project.
- Help you to navigate any questions or concerns that you may have about your new kitchen.
- Clean up the site of all debris.

- Research your appliance options. You will need to know what appliances you are using before you create a cabinetry design. To help with this, we recommend that you get the appropriate reference numbers. To find out what appliances suit your lifestyle, you should consider how many people you cook for and how often you cook. Look for reliability, energy efficiency, price, and style. This year, we chose GE Profile for our Dream Kitchen.

- When you plan your kitchen, make sure you have all the "cut sheets" for your appliances. This will help you to accurately plan your project.

- Sinks and faucets are an important part of your design. Do you have an idea of what you like? Is your kitchen a farm kitchen? Choose an apron front. Is it small and narrow? Look for a narrower sink. One suggestion is to take your biggest pot and place it in the sink to see if it will fit. Consider other plumbing fixtures: Do you want a garbage disposal? Instant hot water? A sprayer? All of these things should be decided in advance, so that your plumber will be able to do a single rough-in for all your needs.

- Contact your cabinetry consultant. He or she will come to your home to take field measurements. We highly recommend that you work with a design consultant. This will save you money and help you to avoid common pitfalls.

- Your cabinetry consultant will help you to create a floor plan, decide on trims and finishing touches, and create the kitchen of your dreams. Ask about finishes, glass cabinets, trim, and hardware.

- What kind of flooring do you want to use? Wood? Ceramic? Cork? Stone? Each of these materials has a benefit and you can find out more about these in "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" or by consulting your design professional.

- Decide if you are going to make any changes to your windows and doors. If so, make sure that you have the window fabricator come to your house to do field measurements. Order your windows and doors in advance because they will take six to eight weeks for delivery.

- Create a lighting and electrical plan. Are you going to have undercabinet lights? Do you have a baking station where you will use your mixer? If you have created a plan of stations or a triangle design in your kitchen, this will help you to know where the outlets and lighting should go.

- If you have always wanted a granite countertop, now is the time to order it. Your countertop is the final touch in your kitchen. There are numerous types of surfaces to choose from -- which one is the right one for you?

- Now that you have planned your space, place all your orders and track them. We recommend that you do not make any last-minute changes unless you know they will fit in the design or are needed as a result of your construction schedule.

- Schedule and plan your project. Working with your contractor(s), make plans for the construction to begin. Make sure you file for all the necessary permits before you begin construction. If you live in a deed-restricted area, find out about any local regulations or landmark issues.

Keep accurate records of all your purchase and delivery dates. We recommend you create a binder that has key information including:
- Delivery dates
- Phone numbers
- Receipts
- Product information
- Quotes
- Any notes that you have taken regarding the products you are using

Before the Contractors Arrive
- Take down all curtains and pictures. Make sure to preserve anything you would like to keep.

- Clean out all cabinets. Donate any goods that you can and throw out all outdated products.

- Discard all the items you don't need. Consider donating glasses or plates to any charities that might need them.

- If your appliances are in good shape, contact a local charity to see if you can donate them. In New York City, the Mayor's Office can direct you to organizations that need your help.

- Use bins or cardboard boxes to store your plates and other kitchen sundries. Find a safe place to keep them.

- Label each box so that you will be able to find things easily when you restock drawers and cabinets.

- Designate a room that your contractors can use to store any of the items they are going to need when they are working on your home.

- If you are going to have the contractors come while you are at work, you may need to get a set of keys made for them.

- Make sure that your pets have a place to stay while you are doing your home improvements.

- Create a place for your family to eat and a makeshift kitchen for you to use while you are having this work done.

For more helpful information on planning your kitchen renovation, check out "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" and visit the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

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