Q: I need to redesign my kitchen. What do I need to know before jumping in?

A: Remodeling is an opportunity to create a new, vibrant space. With the right design, your custom kitchen will not only meet all your needs, it will be a place for spending quality time with family and friends.

With the current stay-at-home order in place, it’s a great time to begin the planning process. Before you start working with a designer, there are some key questions you’ll need to answer to ensure a smooth process that results in a kitchen that you’ll love.

1. How do you use your kitchen now, and how do you want to use it?

Do you use your kitchen as a place to gather the family, or to whip up your favorite recipes while they’re playing outside? How you answer this can help you determine if you need to open things up, add an island or redesign the cabinetry. If you choose to work with an experienced designer, they will ask questions about how you currently use the kitchen and how you’d like to use it after the redesign. Before your first meeting, it’s a good idea to start paying attention to your day-to-day routines, listing problem areas and creating a wish list of features to meet your future needs.

2. Do you need more space or just better use of the space you have?

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In many of Seattle’s older homes, kitchens can be tight, and most were not built with the popular open-floor-plan style. New kitchens may require an add-on or a remodel that carves out more space from the existing house. Removing a wall or two can sometimes make your kitchen feel more open and accessible. Adding windows can also give the illusion of more space.

3. Do you need to move appliances and fixtures or can you live with the current arrangement?

Moving major appliances and plumbing fixtures is one of the quickest ways to drive up costs. In some cases, redesigning the kitchen around its original arrangement works, but often the only way to achieve the look and functionality you want is by changing the layout. Be honest with your designer about how your current setup is working for you, and they’ll help you find the most cost-effective solution.

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4. Should you stay or should you go?

How will you cope during the construction phase? If you’re one of a lucky few, you can move out of your home while your new kitchen is being built. However, if you’re like most homeowners, you’ll be staying put. Make sure you choose a building team that pays serious attention to dust control and maintaining a clean job site. Also, start thinking about locations for a temporary kitchen that includes storage and cooking necessities.

5. What are your personal storage needs?

This is a big question that is often overlooked until it’s too late. It’s important to consider which types of storage will best meet your unique needs. Do you make a big Costco run every few weeks? Then a walk-in pantry may be in order. If you mostly order takeout or pick up a few small items at the co-op, a massive pantry space would be a massive waste. Start paying close attention to the items you use every day, then start imagining how they might be conveniently organized.

6. What’s a realistic budget?

This depends on many factors that are specific to your home. It’s nearly impossible for remodeling contractors to guess a price-per-square-foot figure. The size of your kitchen is one factor, but your budget will likely be most affected by structural changes like removing walls or relocating plumbing and appliances.

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The prices you see on home-remodeling television shows are generally unrealistic for Seattle. It’s fun to watch HGTV for inspiration, but ignore the prices and timelines they flash on the screen. They’re pure fantasy! Unfortunately, in the real world, prices are higher and everything takes longer.

Does that mean you have to start construction without knowing how much it will cost? No. Most reputable design-build firms will be able to provide a very rough cost estimate over the phone. A few companies also publish annual pricing guides that can help you set a realistic budget.

One useful yardstick is Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value Report,” which is based on data from builders and real estate professionals. The last report, published in 2019, found the average cost of a major kitchen remodel in Seattle to be $145,658.

Considering the cost, it makes sense to put as much thought as possible into your remodeling plans. Examining your family’s habits, storage needs and preferences can help make your dream kitchen a reality.

 

Teri McDermott is owner and operations manager at CRD Design Build and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS), and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s more than 2,700 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.