Your Kitchen Renovation Survival Guide: Tips and Tricks for a Successful Remodel

Erica Dean | Dean Cabinetry

By: Leah Dean

This overview is created to help you prepare for your kitchen renovation. This “Kitchen Renovation Survival Guide” is broken into the following sections:

kitchen renovation sketch versus real life
Kitchen Renovation Sketch

If a kitchen renovation is in your future, it is never too early to start making a plan. You will have many questions, and you will need time to research and get all of them answered. One question you may have is “What professionals do I need to hire to help with my kitchen renovation?”.

Do I need to hire professionals other than my cabinet provider? 

As you search for your cabinet provider, determine pros and cons of each one. A kitchen renovation is something most homeowners do once, maybe twice in their lifetime. It’s important to choose a reputable provider that can provide information that is easy to access and understand. 

If you decide that you want to keep your project simple and costs at a minimum, replacing your cabinetry and countertops is a good way to go. This esthetic update may create just the look and feeling in your kitchen you are hoping for. In this situation, there are two items that will need attention; your plumbing and your countertops. Fortunately, these two areas may be the only professional help you need. 


Your plumbing will need to be disconnected (prior to your existing cabinetry being removed), and reconnected (once your new cabinetry is installed). For your countertops, you may be reusing your existing stone countertops, or you may be getting new. 

You could hire a plumber to disconnect and reconnect your plumbing, or you may be able to do this yourself. 


Your countertops, on the other hand, will most likely need the help of a professional. If you already have stone countertops, and you want to try to reuse them, it is important to contact a qualified countertop company. This professional would come to your home, review your layout, and evaluate the feasibility of removing and replacing your countertops. They would provide you with a cost for this service, and would need you to sign a waiver. The waiver would describe the possibility that the stone may crack or break upon removal, and/or during installation, once your new cabinets are installed.

cabinets being installed before countertops
Dean Cabinetry Kitchen Remodel Before Countertops Installed

Outside of these two items, if you are making any changes or updates to your kitchen, you can either do this work yourself (make sure the proper permits are pulled), or you can hire a professional. These items may include but are not limited to demo, electrical, sheetrock, new flooring, removing/changing doors, doorways, non-bearing walls, and structural changes of any load-bearing walls. 


Choosing a contractor with whom you are comfortable is essential. Your contractor will be in your home for a period of days, weeks, even months. Feeling positive about his/her communication skills, attention to detail, and their ability to complete your project in a quality and timely manner are all extremely important. If you need help finding a contractor, these articles may help: How do I Find the Right Contractor and Tips for Selecting a Contractor.

You may already have a contractor in mind, one that you’ve hired previously, one that was referred to you, or one that has great reviews. You can also search for general contractors in different professional associations: Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) or Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Central Connecticut (HBRA). A contractor’s involvement in these associations may mean they are participating in continuing education, licensing information, and up-to-date details going on in their particular field of expertise.

white kitchen island with barstools
Updated Kitchen Interior Design
photo: ITW Performance

Do I need an Interior Designer to help with my kitchen renovation? 

There are times when a kitchen renovation involves more decisions than cabinet layout, design, and functionality. An aspect that is not the focus of a kitchen designer are spatial issues in the home, ie. improving the flow between separate rooms of your home. In order to achieve this, walls and/or door openings may need to be removed or changed, and an interior designer is able to offer expertise in this area. To accomplish your objectives, they may need to bring in a contractor and/or a structural engineer. Individually, or as a team, they can develop a conceptual design for your space and create a budget for this project.

Depending on the scope of work you determine your interior designer will manage, they may provide coordination with other tradesmen needed for your project. They can also be helpful in choosing or recommending professionals who manufacture and install flooring, lighting, fixtures, etc. The interior designer may also act as the project manager and provide construction oversight.

white cabinets with under mount lighting
Dean Cabinetry Kitchen Renovation with Under Cabinet Lighting

Ultimately, the interior designer’s goal is not to simply enhance the look of your kitchen, but to improve and enhance the function of your kitchen and of your adjoining rooms or spaces. This extra guidance can dramatically transform your home, making improvements one never thought possible. 

Finding an interior designer is similar to seeking out a good contractor. One can start by asking a friend for a recommendation, searching Google, or Instagram. There are other resources available such as the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) where you can search for designers in your area. Checking with cabinet makers, tile retailers, and other home remodeling suppliers for their recommendations of interior designers, can be another great resource. Kitchen Designer vs Interior Designer

A trained, experienced professional can ensure that your kitchen renovation goes smoothly and seamlessly. With someone guiding you through each step of the process, your project should stay on track.

How do I Determine a Budget for my Kitchen Renovation?

Every renovation project has a budget. At the beginning of your project, it is important to create your list of goals; your must-haves, and your negotiables. Determine your overall budget, then allocate your dollars to each area. Costs can add up as the project moves along. It’s important to monitor expenses closely and account for them throughout the process. 

If you are on a tight budget and your existing layout works well for you, the most economical direction is to keep your sink and appliances where they are. You can choose different cabinet options, but your appliances, doors, doorways, windows, plumbing, and electrical outlets will all remain where they currently exist.

Keep in mind that the more areas of your kitchen that you change, the more costly your overall kitchen renovation will be. Using your list of “must-haves” and your “negotiables”, remember to add their corresponding cost to your overall budget. If you are hiring professionals to help in any area of your project, get their quotes early on in your process, and add them to the appropriate category. During the process, you may determine that you may need to get several quotes, or even cut back on your project scope. Keep a running total to make sure you are staying within your overall project budget.

Making Decisions About your New Kitchen

Cabinet designers are the experts for recommendations on how to utilize your cabinet space to its fullest potential. They also help with maximizing storage, convenience, and functionality. While you are creating your list of must-haves, include any items you would like in your cabinets; any drawer or cabinet accessories, roll-outs in base cabinets, pullout trash, pullout recycling bins, these are all examples of items that increase functionality. 

Don’t forget to speak with your designer about under cabinet lighting. This is a feature that not only provides a wonderfully lighted workspace but also adds beautiful ambiance in your kitchen. 

Now that you have potentially connected with a contractor or designer for your kitchen renovation, what role do you play as the homeowner? Have you handed over your decision-making rights to someone else? The answer is no, but you are paying these professionals for their expertise, so make the most of what they have to offer. 

Keep an Open Mind

Hopefully, you are also able to keep an open mind when it comes to your list of must-haves and negotiables. There are trends in kitchen design that started a decade ago that are still in style. Your designer will be able to guide you, so it’s a good idea to keep an open mind when it comes to your design.

Whether you have decided to work solely with your kitchen cabinet designer, or if you’ve hired other professionals, final decisions will require your input and eventually your signature. These decisions include your final layout, cabinet design, and appliance placement. The opinions and recommendations brought by the designer or contractor is the reason you’ve decided to partner with them. When they present their information, give thought to their recommendations, and together decide if they make the most sense for your project. 

The goal for any room renovation is to create a result that will leave you with a smile on your face when you enter that room. I’ve had many clients tell me that when they first enter their kitchen in the morning, they still can’t believe it’s their kitchen. My favorite thing to hear! 

temporary kitchen setup
Temporary Kitchen Setup
photo: K&B Galleries

How to Prepare for your Kitchen Renovation

We have now arrived at the focus of this survival guide. This is the time where your kitchen is taken apart and put back together. Unless you are choosing to live elsewhere during your remodel, there are certain challenges you will face while remaining in your home during your renovation. These include storing food, preparing and cooking meals, washing dishes, and managing your alternative kitchen space.

Empty your existing kitchen cabinets.

Packing the contents of your kitchen:

  • Label boxes for easy unpacking when the time comes.
  • Keep out the essentials for your temporary kitchen, prior to packing everything else (you’ll see a suggested list below).

Time to downsize:

  • Throw away broken items.
  • Make boxes of things you can give to your children, who may eventually move out one day.
  • Donate unused kitchen items.

Set up your temporary kitchen in the most ideal location:

  • You’ll need a table and work surface.
  • Water source, sink and area to wash dishes (this could be a bathroom or temporary sink set up by your contractor or self).
  • Suggested appliances: microwave, toaster oven, single electric burner, coffee maker, panini maker, crock pot, Instantpot. You may even find a use for your camping gear.
  • Keep safety in mind at all times.
  • For refrigeration, plan where your fridge can be plugged in for use, or utilize a mini-fridge during your renovation.
  • Plan to use your outdoor griddle or grill, if possible.

Freeze meals and entrees ahead of time in preparation for a big event.

Keep out just enough dishes for your needs, and plan to wash after each use. Paper plates are also an option.

Make sure you keep these items available:

  • Cooking utensils
  • Cutting board
  • Knives
  • A platter or two
  • Mugs, sweetener, coffee and tea 
  • Paper plates and napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Place setting and silverware for your family members
  • Dish soap and dish towels
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings and condiments
  • Serving utensils
  • Can opener, bottle opener, wine opener 

Finally, the following conditions may exist during your renovation, but it helps to expect them: dust, noise, and disruption. You and/or your contractor can plan on draping plastic sheets over openings to the kitchen, and any other areas to protect adjoining areas. 

We hope that this renovation guide will help you as you navigate your project. A kitchen renovation is an undertaking that involves time, energy, and money. Start with a detailed plan and work through each step of our survival guide, for a smooth project, from start to finish!