Kitchen remodel in your future: items for your checklist

I recently offered a friend that I would put together a list of things to consider for a remodel. I sat down to write the list and it started looking more like a book. Maybe I’ll fill in all the details one day, but heres what I have so far.

In no particular order

Cabinet layout

The most common problem I see in amateur kitchen layouts is a refrigerator pushed into a corner. It’s a big bulky thing so it’s a natural desire to move it out of the way of everything else in the room. What you won’t see on paper though, is once all the cabinets are in place, the counter is in, and you go to put the food in your fridge, you find out the door doesn’t open all the way because the handle bumps into the wall. To make things worse, the drawers open part way so you can use them, but WILL Not come out all the way unless you roll the entire fridge out of the corner to allow the door to swing open far enough. Take a look at your fridge and make sure your design allows the doors to open all the way. Look at other fridges too, because the one you have now probably won’t last forever. I can do a good, functional kitchen layout. I know what works and what doesn’t, and I know what I think looks good. I put a lot of personal pride into my projects, and am not going to build something that doesn’t lay out right. There are a handful of organizations that offer certification for kitchen designers, I have never held one and don’t plan on it. You can go past any big box store and they have a dozen “Certified kitchen designers” walking around….Okay haha right.

Cabinet style



Interior design is a profession. The person who holds that title has completed years of training and experience in a professional setting. In the state of Florida at least, interior designers are licensed by the state. Not to be confused with an “Interior decorator”, a title that can be claimed by anyone who at best “has an interest in design” so in other words, wii are all interior decorators. If you plan to hire a design professional, you can easily check their credentials at the Florida DBPR website.

Part of a designers skill set is the ability to work from conceptual drawings, swatches of fabric, paint chips, tile samples, glass, wood, and bits and pieces of everything else, and know what it’s all going to look like when its put together, that everything scales nicely, works with the available natural light, and tons of other things that someone without the proper training and experience cant reasonably expect to equal.

If you are going to hire a designer, find one that has multiple completed projects in their portfolio that you love. Some people like Coke, some people like Pepsi. Don’t open a Pepsi and expect it to taste like Coke.

If you decide to be your own designer, that’s fine, lots of people go that route. Realize though, you probably aren’t going to be able to pick every finish just by looking at the layout on paper. I do this all the time and if its left up to me, I don’t think too much about decorative hardware until the cabinets are in place. You may well paint the walls one color, then once the job is done, decide to repaint. If you aren’t a designer, don’t expect yourself to be able to do a designer’s work.

Lighting plan

Electricians seem to love can lights. If you tell an electrician you want more light in a room, 9 or 10 times out of 10 he will go about selling you on recessed can lights. Can lights are cheap and easy to install in most cases. The electrical supply houses sell a 6 or 7 inch holesaw that mounts on a drill and they can make the perfect size hole in your ceiling in about 30 seconds. Before long, sparky has it all wired together and hands you a bill.

There’s a couple big problems with can lights though. Unless you have one every two feet, the light in the room is spotty.  The other problem, even the ones that say they are “sealed enclosure” leak air like crazy. The air leaking thing probably sounds like no big deal but I know that it is something to be taken seriously, but that’s another story for another day. Some lighting designers jokingly call them “hag lights” because anytime someone stands right under it their face is shadowed by thier own head and it looks like a 70’s music video.

I think indirect lighting is the answer, bright lights hidden above the cabinets bouncing light off the ceiling in every direction. Also, more lights above the counters provide good light to work by. If the light source is behind you when youre making a sandwich, your work space is in your own shadow. The old school halogen lights that were so commonly used over counters are a thing of the past. The new LED lights use a fraction of the electricity, put out almost zero heat, and provide nice, even light that is dimmable.

Window treatments


These days granite is a lot more affordable than ever. The price of granite can vary quite a bit, depending on the quality and other factors. Usually the nicer looking slabs cost more. Some slabs can have fracturing or other defects that may or may not be noticeable to the untrained eye. Sometimes resin is used to fill voids in stone slabs, which, sometimes that’s bad, sometimes it’s good, your safest bet is to work with a fabricator you trust.  There are tons of choices beyond granite, concrete, quartz, solid surface, even recycled paper and glass and the list goes on…

Appliance dimensions and electrical requirements

Theres a lot of choices when it comes to appliances. Built in or not? You can apply cabinet faces to the fronts of your appliances. Most are designed to be fully integrated, others will accept a cabinet panel but still show around the edges.

Gas or electric cooktop? Induction cooktops have been around for a while now and are ever –increasing in popularity. They deliver very precise heating to the pot or pan without actually heating the surface of the cooktop itself. For that reason, it can deliver a lot of heat to the pot with minimal energy loss, and you can bring cold water to a boil in about 30 seconds. It uses electro-magnetic energy, so it will work with any pot that a magnet will stick to. conversely, anything that a magnet doesn’t stick to, like your shirt or your hand, won’t get hot even if you touch the burner and its turned all the way up.

If you like to bake, experts say a convection oven is the only way to go. You might want to add a warming drawer or second oven to your design; all things to consider based on what you plan do in your new kitchen.

In any case, the appliances you want to install may have different electrical demands from what you’re taking out.

There may be code requirements for a range hood depending on the size and type of cook top you choose, there are CFM minimums and specified minimum distance from combustibles that apply to gas cook tops. The building code in most cases defers to the manufactures’ specs. Some building inspectors check this detail, some don’t, but you don’t want to leave it up to chance. More or less, 20”vertically and 3” horizontally from the edge of the cook top will meet the requirement.


So many choices, wood tile, stained concrete, carpet… who would put carpet in a kitchen? I don’t know but there are some neat ideas, check out

If you’re putting down new flooring, should you install the new floor under the cabinets? You don’t have to, but there aren’t many good reasons not to, and a couple reasons you should. If you don’t, it leaves a lower area under the cabinets, where if you ever have a seeping water leak in the future, not a gusher but a corroded ice maker line or a drippy connection, then you have a place for water to accumulate and cause damage without being noticed for a long time. In any case, the floor must be made even under all the appliances, dishwasher, range, and fridge. Enough times I’ve seen where they tiled a floor right in front of a dishwasher, then two years or two months later the machine needs to be fixed or replaced, there’s no way to get it out, and there’s no way to get a new one in. the opening needs to be 34-1/2” high, if it’s less than that, no dice

Still, there are situations where the cabinets have to go in before the flooring and if that’s how it has to be then it’s ok, just make sure the added height is taken into account, and don’t let the flooring installer convince you that no one will see under the dishwasher so there is no need to put flooring under there because that statement is only half right.



Windows and doors

Plumbing rough in

Plumbing fixtures

Consider options like faucet type and whether you want to install a soap dispenser, filtered water tap. If you are going to use a garbage disposal then I recommend an air switch. An air switch is a small round button that mounts in the countertop next to the faucet and operates the disposal via solenoid, so there is no risk of shock to someone with wet hands.  

Sink bowl. Most countertop fabricators will include an under mount stainless sink, so before you spend too much time looking at the plumbing supplier, check the selection with your counter-topper.