A step-by-step guide and timeline for a kitchen renovation
One of the most common questions that we hear from homeowners is “How long does a kitchen renovation take?” This usually comes right after “How much is it going to cost?”
Typically, we suggest you allow three weeks to four months for the completion of your kitchen renovation, depending on complexity, the size of your space, and scope.
For example, if you are 1) not altering the footprint, 2) not changing or adding electrical or plumbing, and 3) using stock cabinetry and appliances, it’s reasonable to expect that your renovation will be in done in a few weeks. If, however, you are moving your kitchen from one part of your home to another, requiring both city permits as well as board approvals if you live in a condo, and using imported custom cabinets—you should give it several months. As you’ll see, the wide range is due to the fact that there can be many moving parts and multiple parties involved. Certain aspects may be beyond your control.
While the attention is usually on the most visible construction phase, a lot needs to happen before picking up that sledgehammer.
STEP 1: Close on your property (1-3 months)
While some homeowners already own, a significant number of homeowners are in contract or preparing to close on a property when they begin the process of planning a renovation. The best advice is that you should wait until you have closed on the property, with keys in hand, before doing anything.
STEP 2: Find contractors (1-3 days)
First things first, begin soliciting bids: Google, Houzz, word of mouth are great sources to identify contractors. Explore potential contractors’ website photos to see whether they might be a good fit.
STEP 3: Schedule site visits and solicit bids (1-3 weeks)
Once you’ve previewed contractors’ profiles, reach out to two or three contractors to set up onsite meetings. An on-site visit is the best way for a contractor to understand the scope of the project, the physical possibilities, and limitations of the space, and for the two of you to see if you hit it off. You should expect a written bid within a 5-7 business days after your visit.
STEP 4: Level bids and choose a contractor (1-2 weeks)
Once all the written bids have come in, it’s time to compare and contrast. If you have follow-up questions, now is the time to ask.
STEP 5: Sign a contract and finalize construction schedule (1 week)
Once you’ve decided on a contractor, he or she will put together a contract for you to review. This will typically include a description of the work to be done, an estimated timeline for completion, as well as the timing of payments throughout the project.
STEP 6: Obtain permits and approvals (ranges widely)
Of all the steps where hiccups or delays might occur, this is it. Obtaining the correct permits and necessary approvals have held up many a renovation, but don’t be daunted: good contractors are well-versed in navigating these processes and often can advise you on how best to achieve your renovation goals with the least amount of hassle.
STEP 7: Source materials (ranges widely)
If you are responsible for sourcing all or some of the materials in your renovation, be sure to place the orders as soon as the design plan is finished. Certain items have long lead times, and you don’t want that one faucet to hold up the entire renovation. If time is a concern, look at what’s currently in stock and ready to ship. Speak with your contractor about timing the product delivery to coincide with time of installation.
STEP 8: Tell your neighbors you’re renovating (15 minutes)
Be a good neighbor and warn yours that a renovation is beginning imminently. Tell them what to expect and how long the project is slated to last. It’s always easier to stomach the disruption when you know there’s an end in sight! It doesn’t hurt to bring some sweets, a bottle of wine, or a gift card for a local coffee shop. When the reno is over, invite them over!
Note: While most of the steps under “Construction” are your contractor’s responsibility, it’s important to understand what should be happening when. The most crucial steps you’ll be in charge of here are making scheduled payments to your contractor (as they are outlined in your contract), and keeping your schedule open for several hours a week to answer a myriad of questions about details or changes that come up over the course of construction.
STEP 9: It’s demo time (1-2 days)
Out with the old! Now that you’re done with the paperwork, it’s time (for your contractor) to pick up that sledgehammer. Be sure items that are staying are protected with tarp or plastic while the crew gets to work tearing out everything else. Depending on how large your kitchen is, and how extensive the renovation, this shouldn’t take more than a day or two.
STEP 10: Reroute plumbing and electrical (1-4 days)
Now that you’ve stripped the space down to the studs, it’ll be easy to get new plumbing or electrical where it needs to go. Consider whether any plans need to be altered now that you can see what’s behind the walls.
STEP 11: City inspections and sign-offs (1 hour)
If you needed city permits, you may need to have inspections and a final sign-off as well prior to closing up the walls. While a master plumber is typically allowed to sign off on pipework for water lines in the case of a no-show by the city inspector, an ESA inspector must examine and approve any electrical work. You are not allowed to close up the walls and move onto the next phase of the project before this inspection happens.
STEP 12: Installation – floors (1-5 days)
To prevent having to redo the floors if you decide to reconfigure your cabinets in the future, make sure that the flooring is consistent throughout the space, even if some of it will be hidden.
STEP 13: Installation – all other material including cabinets and appliances (1-10 days)
Installation of all other materials is usually in this order: cabinets, appliances, fixtures and lighting, counters, backsplash, and cabinet hardware. Aspects of this may vary, depending on site conditions, and the arrival time of the materials.
STEP 14: Clean-up (1 day)
Typically, contracts allow that the space is left in “broom-swept” condition. However, you may want to hire post-construction cleaning specialists to make sure that your new floor is clean enough to eat off.
STEP 15: Final walk-through with contractor (30-60 minutes)
Review the work with your contractor: try all the drawers and doors, look closely at the edges and finishes, and make sure everything is working the way it should. If there are any problems, point them out and add them to the punch list. The contractor will either fix it on the spot (if it’s minor) or set up another time to return.
STEP 16: Punch list items (1-10 days)
Depending on what the items are—this could be anything from straightening a cabinet door to waiting on installing that last out-of-stock item—it could take anywhere from a day to several weeks. When it’s on the long side, though, that is usually due to backordered items. Otherwise, your contractor should be able to return and fix everything in a few days.
STEP 17: The final payment (10 minutes)
You’ve been making installments throughout the renovation, but when the last item on your punch list has been addressed, it’s time to pay the remaining percentage to your contractor and say goodbye.
This timeline is meant to give you a detailed look at the various aspects of renovating and a range of how long each step should take, taking into account factors that may be outside of both your and the contractor’s control. In general, we find that kitchen renovations are completed between three weeks to two months (depending on the level of complexity). The key to staying on track is isolating the steps that you think might be obstacles and allotting more time to get them done.