Kitchen Remodel Planning Checklist | Kitchen Layout & Design

how to approach a kitchen remodel

We have here for you an extensive kitchen remodel planning checklist.

But a checklist is only a tool.  It’s like a hammer. You need to know what it is you are trying to achieve before you hit the nail.

So let’s look at the checklist simply as tool to achieve your kitchen remodel layout and design goals.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

1: Adopt a “write it down” mindset  
2: Consider the kitchen in the “whole house” context
3: Understand how to layout a kitchen remodel 
4: Address the 7 major kitchen space design elements
5: Work through our 101 point kitchen remodel checklist 
6: Use a remodeling project binder

Kitchen Remodels

The kitchen has become the focal point of the modern home for everyday living and also entertaining family and friends. The kitchen has become a multipurpose room. It is no longer just where food is cooked. It is where homework is done, bills are paid, and the family comes together. Even the process of cooking itself has become a participatory event.

The kitchen is the most utilized room in the home. So, we want the kitchen to be stylish and aesthetically pleasing as well as entirely functional, comfortable and with plenty of storage and great workspace.

Where to start with a kitchen remodel? 

First, you must adopt a “write it down” mindset. Please take a look at our post on how to approach a whole house remodel. This will put the kitchen in context and help you get off on the right foot, especially with getting and staying organized.

Bottom line: We recommend starting out with a Remodeling Organizer Binder.

Then we’ll get on with what to consider when remodeling a kitchen specifically.

The kitchen space itself

Next, see if the entire kitchen space can be reconfigured. Depending on the home, the most dramatic and effective improvement to the kitchen space come from the careful removal of walls, raising of ceilings and re-engineering of roof supports in order to create a “great room” effect. This sounds dramatic but it can be surprisingly inexpensive.  And the effect can certainly be dramatic. Doing this single thing can add to our home’s value in updating it, to say nothing of the improvements you will be making to the kitchen itself.  

Address the 7 Major Kitchen Space Design Elements 

Next, consider the kitchen design elements listed below individually and as they relate to each other. All of these need material selection and orchestration. And please also refer to our more technical post on kitchen design standards and the Illinois Rules. After this, you will be in a position to complete the kitchen checklist-wishlist we have set out further below in this post.

1: Multiple Workstations

This is an informal development of the basic “work triangle.” Multiple workstations within the kitchen allow two to four people to work efficiently on food preparation without getting in each other’s way. Food prep becomes a social event.

We create a work station simply by providing counter space within easy reach of an appliance or sink. The easiest way to do this is by adding a kitchen island. The further addition of seating at the island creates a conversation center or somewhere to do homework or handle household correspondence.

The addition of an island completes the design of the basic kitchen infrastructure. We now turn to the finish items.

2: Cabinetry

Cabinets are the most costly of the finish items but range widely in cost depending on whether they are custom, semi-custom, or from stock. They also vary in wood and finish options and in the mechanics of their drawers and hinges. When selecting cabinetry pay close attention to storage options, especially pull-outs and a Lazy Susan to maximize the use of otherwise lost corner space. Consider drawers versus cupboards. More on this below.

3: Countertops & backsplashes

Countertops are potentially the next most costly finish items after cabinets. While less expensive laminate options are available for countertops, if you are going to the expense of a remodel anyway, it is best to choose the more durable and beautiful materials, such as granite, especially if eventual resale is a consideration. Counter tops are typically complemented by custom backsplashes in a matching or contrasting material.

4: Flooring

As with countertops, if you are going to the expense of a remodel anyway, tile or hardwood should be preferred over less expensive vinyl flooring. A good looking tile can be surprisingly inexpensive. On a side note, while carpeting is certainly appropriate for bedrooms, many people prefer to carry the same tile or wood used in the kitchen throughout the home.

5: Kitchen Sinks

These come in cast iron, stainless steel, fiberglass and plastic and in a variety of sizes and features (single-bowl, double-bowl, deep or shallow). They are top mount (where a flange at the top edge of the sink sits on top of the counter) or undermount (where the surface of the counter sweeps directly into the sink.

6: Kitchen Faucets

Kitchen faucets come in a variety of finishes (polished brass or nickel, brushed nickel, chrome, stainless steel, oiled bronze). Faucet options include pull-out sprayers, single-levers, double-handles, and pot fillers.

7: Appliances

Appliances are free-standing or built-in, if space is at a premium. Refrigerators are full depth or counter-depth, side-by-side or with top or bottom mounted freezers. Range options include gas or electric (halogen, smooth top, induction). Ovens are single, double and/or convection. Appliances also include microwaves, disposals, dishwashers, range hoods, downdraft vents.

We like the separate cooktop and wall oven arrangement as opposed to the slide-in range. Check out our cooktop resource

Bear in mind that when developing a budget for a kitchen remodel the single major factor affecting the budget is the cost of the finishes and fixtures you choose. The cost of labor does not change.

The key to a successful kitchen remodel is in developing an appropriate scope of work and in the selection of materials and products. Our kitchen checklist below will help you do this. 

Generating Ideas for Your Kitchen 

This Kitchen Checklist-to- Wish List is a tool to generate your own ideas as to how your new kitchen should look and perform.

First, off the top of your head, what are the three topics that come immediately to mind when you think of your kitchen remodel?

Then consider whether the kitchen must accommodate anyone with special needs. 

Next, copy and paste the text below into a word processor and highlight or circle words that get a reaction either positively or negatively. Add a comment in the margin.

Note: When it comes to cabinetry, some of these questions may appear redundant. But they are asked this way because cabinetry is really a subject all its own. It is the most expensive of your new kitchen’s components and it is the last thing you want to make a mistake over.

We are former cabinet company owners and we have seen people literally in tears over a mistake made with cabinetry. Of course, there is no remodeling mistake that money can’t cure. But why make the mistake in the first place?

Use of Kitchen

1: Do you like family and guests welcomed into the kitchen (to help, to visit) or nearby or separated from the kitchen?

2: Do you want others to be able to cook / prep food at the same time? Additional work triangle?

3: Is the primary cook left-handed or right-handed?

4: Does the cook have special needs (height, disabilities, etc)?

5: Do you retain caterers to prepare, serve and clean up meals for entertainment?

6: Do you want family members/guests to eat at the kitchen table or kitchen counter or in a separate dining room or family room? Do small children need to be considered?

7: Do you want the dining room formal or informal? Dining for how many people?

8: Do you want the kitchen separate from or integrated into the family room/dining room?

9: Is your cooking style down-home or gourmet? Do you bake?

10: Type of food prep? daily heat & serve; weekend family meals; weekend quantity cooking; socializing; daily full course

11: Are there secondary activities/amenities you would want to be incorporated in the kitchen planning? For example computer workstation/desk, eating, walk-in pantry, wet bar, wine storage, kids’ projects/homework, laundry, growing plants, hobbies, study, TV/radio, ironing, sewing, telephone, cell phone charger, other

Orientation of Kitchen

12: Have you considered changing the location of doors and windows?

13: Does the kitchen relate to adjacent rooms the way you would like?

14: Should partition walls be removed/altered?

15: Should the ceiling be lowered/raised?

16: Are the views from the kitchen to the interior and exterior where you want them?

17: Do you want to make structural changes? Move/eliminate partitions / make part of great room effect / bring in greater light / greater feeling of space.

18: Should the sink or appliances be relocated?

19: Island or kitchen table? Additional work surfaces/work triangle?

Kitchen Equipment

20: Desired equipment to incorporate. Highlight or circle:

21: Disposal, microwave, trash compactor, ice maker, dishwasher.

22: Separate cooktop (gas, electric, dual), (exhaust downdraft, updraft).

23: Oven/cooktop combination (range), double ovens, convection oven.

24: Refrigerator (what size?); built-in, standard, freezer (side-by-side, top/bottom, separate units). 

25: Wine coolers, wine storage

26: Double bowl sink or single sink, second sink, depth of the sink.

27: Separate pot filler faucet, instant hot.

28: Architectural type of stove hood

29: Professional or regular grade appliances.

Storage Systems

30: Do you shop in bulk and need extra food or paper product storage? Would you consider utilizing /creating separate storage in the garage?

31: What cooking equipment needs to be accommodated? pots, pans, utensils, other.

32: What small appliances need to be accommodated? blender, wok, toaster, coffeemaker, tea maker, can opener, electric frypan, griddle, crock-pot, food processor, other.

33: What items need specialized storage? bottles, breadboard, breadbox, cookbooks, cutlery, dishes, display items, glassware, containers, lids, linen, soft drinks, spices, wine, baking equipment, paper products, cleaning supplies, glassware, leftover containers, fruits/vegetables (non-refrigerated), other.

34: Recycling receptacles? Paper, plastic, glass, cans. Location? Kitchen, garage, utility room.

35: Storage facilities to consider: pantry; countertop; tray storage; towel bar; recycling bins; island; rollout shelves; bottle storage; hostess cart; Lazy Susan; base cabinet; wall cabinet; tall utility cabinet; appliance hutch; bookcase; bulk storage; sink door storage; built-In trash basket; warmer drawer; cutlery dividers; divided drawers; extra breadboard; vegetable storage; dough kneading; display Items; linen storage. We address this more specifically below under cabinetry.

Utility or Laundry Room

This is not strictly part of the kitchen but it is part of the domestic operation, so it should be covered here.

36: Does the utility room need extra or different storage? Should it accommodate overflow storage from the kitchen? Does it need a utility sink to complement the washer/dryer, fold-down ironing board, hampers, hanging /drying racks?

Mechanical & Electrical

37: Questions to be addressed related to the kitchen’s mechanical and electrical systems:

38: Does your current kitchen have enough electrical outlets?

39: Is the electric power supply adequate?

40: Does gas need to be brought in?

41: Is there enough light (natural light / electrical light)?

42: Is the lighting where you want it?

43: Do you want to add recessed lighting in the ceiling?

44: Are your light switches located where you need them?

45: Do you want dimmer switches?

46: Is ventilation/cooking exhaust adequate?

47: Would you want to add instant hot water to the kitchen sink?

Style, Appearance, Finish, Ambiance

48: What type of style, look or feel would you like the new kitchen space to have? Formal, traditional, family retreat, functional, open, contemporary, country, other.

49: If you are replacing your cabinets, what type of facing material do you prefer? wood (type); painted; stained; paint or stain wash; laminate; therrmofoil?

50: What cabinet door styles do you prefer? Plain front; Raised panels; Arched panels; Recessed panels; Glass fronts; self-closing doors /drawers?

51: Preferred countertop material: Corian, granite, quartz, tile, slate, stone, stainless steel, laminate, butcher block, other?

52: Preferred backsplash: Same as the countertop, tile, Corian, stainless steel?

53: Preferred flooring: tile, stone, wood (hardwood, cork, bamboo), or vinyl?

54: Preferred Wall Color

55: Preferred Ceiling Color

56: Colors to avoid

57: Preferred sink material: stainless, porcelain, other

58: Preferred faucet finish: chrome, brushed nickel, bronze, other

59: Preferred lighting: Pendant lights, recessed, under cabinet, or in cabinet lighting? (See the related post on lighting above) 

Research

60: Have you made a sketch of your kitchen or collected magazine clippings or other items illustrating your kitchen vision? We suggest searching on Houzz and Pinterest.

Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinetry is a dominant item in the kitchen and needs to be addressed separately.

This checklist focuses narrowly on the cabinetry element of a kitchen remodeling project and will help in the selection, layout, and design of the cabinetry best suited to your purpose.

Pro Tip: Select your desired appliances before settling on cabinetry, especially range hoods.

Functional Considerations in the Design of Cabinets for the Kitchen

61: Utilization of upper & lower cabinets

62: Pullout pantry system in tall, deep, narrow cabinets

63: Pull out options like Rev-a-Shelf

64: Pullout shelves for spices, pots, under the sink

65: Pullout shelves in base cabinets

66: Pull-out chopping block/cutting board

67: Roll out trays

68: Open shelving for (e.g. cookbooks)

69: Where will your paper towel holder be?

70: What will be used for hand soap, dish soap, SOS etc

71: Where will wet dish towels go, dishes that will air dry?

72: Utilization of space above the fridge

73: Deep drawers for dishes

74: Drawer dividers for Knives, Flatware, Utensils Spices

75: Built-in trash/recycle bins

76: Separate Spice storage

77: Vertical cookie sheet platter storage

78: Storage for lids that accompany pots and pans

79: Lazy Susan in the corner and/or pullout shelving

80: Pull-up shelf for an electric mixer

81: Towel bar

82: Sink front tilt-out trays

83: Tray dividers

84: Spice racks or drawers

85: Wine rack or wine storage

86: Cutting board, serving trays, cookie sheet storage

87: Do you need wheelchair access to your sinks?

88: Desk

89: Under cabinet lighting

90: Over cabinet lighting

91: Interior cabinet lighting

Considerations related to Cabinetry

These will have an effect on the functional and aesthetic cabinetry considerations above and are a continuation of our checklist:

92: Location of plumbing: Do any of the plumbing (supply lines and waste) need to be moved to accommodate the cabinetry or does the cabinetry need to conform to existing plumbing? Will there be additional plumbing (e.g. for a pot filler faucet)? Does gas supply need to be brought in or relocated? Will there be a new disposal?

93: Location of electrical: Does any of the wiring (including outlets and GFI) need to be moved to accommodate the cabinetry or does the cabinetry need to conform to existing electrical? There will be general lighting. Will there also be task lighting, under cabinet lighting, over cabinet lighting, in cabinet lighting etc? Computer/phone charging station? Location of switches. Hiding or placement of outlets in cabinets/island/drawer.

94: Possible installation of the island: Most built-in islands will require an electrical outlet. Consider pendant lighting over the island. The cooktop on the island? Sink in the island? Wine cooler in the island? Microwave in the island? Is a furniture type or rolling island appropriate.

95: Possible relocation of window(s): Will this be necessary? Consider skylight, solar tube.

96: Selection and location of equipment & appliances: sink (double or single bowl, second sink, depth of sink), disposal, range (gas or electric), range exhaust (downdraft or updraft), range hood, microwave, cooktop (gas or electric), oven/double oven, warming drawer, refrigerator (built-in, standard, freezer (side by side, top/bottom, separate units), refrigerator drawers, ice maker, dishwasher, dishwasher drawers, trash compactor, wine cooler. Will any of them have decorative cabinet fronts? Appliance dimensions are critical to cabinet layout and design. TV location?

97: Selection of countertops: Material (laminate, granite, quartz, tile, etc.); color; style; edge treatment (self-edge, wrap edge, edge shape)

98: Selection of kitchen sink: Under-mount or drop-in? What size? Will there be a separate veggie prep sink, island sink? What color? The choice will depend on the type of countertop selected. Cabinetry needs to be tailored to sink size

99: Selection of backsplash: Wall treatment between lower and upper cabinets. Will this be wallpaper, paint, tile, or the same material as the countertop?

100: Selection of plumbing fixtures: There are aesthetic and functional factors in the selection of faucets for the sink(s). Coordinate with cabinet hardware.

101: Selection of hardware: There are aesthetic and functional factors in the selection of knobs and pulls for the cabinetry. Need to coordinate with plumbing fixtures and appliance fronts. Material (metal, wood, plastic); size (length, diameter); shape; color; finger pull / U Channel cabinet doors (no hardware).

Organization and Project Binder

Just because a kitchen remodel is not as extensive as a whole house remodel, it is still a complex exercise and requires detailed planning. See again our post on How to Approach a Whole House Remodel and the section at the end on maintaining a Project Binder. 

Here is a purpose-made Remodeling Project Binder Kit. Click on the image link and check it out on Amazon:

remodel binder

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kitchen design and layout
kitchen design and layout
kitchen design and layout