9 Questions to Ask Before You Plan Your New Kitchen

To get your dream kitchen, start with a strong mission and wish list, and consider where you’re willing to compromise

A kitchen renovation can seem daunting at the outset because there so many elements to get right. It’s not just about creating a stunning design, but about planning for its practicality as well. Don’t worry — the journey needn’t be a hard one. These pointers can set you on your way.

1. Whom Shall I Hire?

Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make when undertaking a building project is choosing the right people to work on it.

Some building companies will take on your whole project, with responsibility for the building work, cabinetry, and electrical and plumbing considerations too. If you aren’t planning a lot of structural change, however, you may need to employ just a cabinetmaker, who may or may not come with a certified plumber or electrician. Bear in mind that if you need tiling or plastering, this probably will cost extra. Check with the cabinetmakers beforehand about exactly what they’re agreeing to do so that you aren’t left with annoying odd jobs when they’re gone.

Search on Houzz for home professionals in your area and check out their profiles to see if their previous work fits in with your vision. Read reviews from previous customers too. Alternatively, ask friends, neighbors and colleagues who have had kitchens done recently about whether they’d recommend their builder or installer, and don’t be shy about asking to see examples of previous work.

Most kitchen firms will offer an installation service, and this can provide peace of mind if you don’t want to be intimately involved in overseeing the process. You then have a company to come back to in case anything doesn’t quite work out.

As with your products, you should shop around and get at least three quotes for comparison. There may be a few unexpected problems, but if you trust your tradesperson, you should be able to work out solutions together.

2. What’s My Mission?

Before you do anything, it’s important to establish how you want your kitchen to function. Maybe you have a large family and want the room to be a busy hub right at the heart of the household, or perhaps you love to entertain in style and want a stunning space to show off. Ask yourself questions like: Do I love to cook or find it a necessary chore? Will we want to eat in here?

By asking these big questions before you start making smaller-scale decisions, you’ll be able to pin down exactly what you want out of your ideal space. This process also will help you answer a lot of questions as you go along, since you’ll know from the beginning what you’re aiming for.

3. What’s on My Wish List?

After you’ve defined the main theme of your new kitchen, it’s time to identify the nonnegotiable items that are at the top of your wish list. For some, a new kitchen is an opportunity to install that upscale range they’ve been hankering after forever. Others may want to include a quirky window seat, a piece of antique furniture or maybe an indulgent wine fridge. Hopefully, you won’t need to make compromises on these (see the next point!), but it’s worth settling on your dream items early.

4. Where Should I Compromise?

After the pie-in-the-sky dreaming of the previous two points, it’s time to come back down to earth. Although it’s great to aim high for that bright blue fridge, it’s also necessary to ensure that such items fit both your space and your budget.

For those who yearn for a sumptuous island but have a slim galley kitchen, it’s going to be back to the drawing board with those aspirations. Likewise, when you’re sticking to a limited budget, a luxury-brand appliance could well be a step too far.

5. How Do I Get the Most Efficient Layout?

The layout of your kitchen is a big decision, and you may need professional advice. It’s helpful to know early on where gas and electrical outlets are going to go for each appliance, and of course drainage for plumbed items. Kitchen designers strive to create zones for cooking, washing and prepping. This is useful for the smooth running of your kitchen and for ensuring that your plumbed items can be easily drained (positioned on an outside wall or with a straight run to the outside).

Consider the space between cooktops and windows or tower cabinets, and between electrical outlets and sinks. Think about which appliances can sit in close proximity to others, and take account of whether doors can open safely, as well as the minimum distance between a run of cabinets and an island, for instance, for a comfortable walkway.

Most retailers will draw up a plan for you, and some will even visit your home to measure and check the positions of things like the water heater and utility meters. Ask around and get a variety of designs to help you make the best use of your space.

6. Where Do I Want My Lights and Heating?

At this planning stage, you also should consider accompanying elements of the kitchen design, such as lighting and heating. It’s so important to get your lighting right in the kitchen — not only to create a welcoming atmosphere, but also to see clearly while you’re cooking! Decide whether you need direct lighting over the work surfaces and general spotlights from the ceiling. Consider also the possibility of feature lighting in the toe kick or soffit, on the walls, or from glamorous ceiling pendants.

You may decide to keep your toes warm with underfloor heating, or perhaps you need to find a good spot for a radiator (or two). As with the kitchen cabinets and appliances, it’s best to decide on positions for these at the outset so that you can get services installed at the correct locations before the kitchen goes in. Once you’ve decided on the layout of your heating and lighting, as well as the position of your appliances and cabinets, try not to make any huge changes (though it’s likely that the dimensions of specific appliances or cabinets may require a few adjustments). Just remember that it can be costly to reposition or divert your utilities once you’re at the installation stage.

7. Do I Need Building Permits?

If you’re having building work done as part of the job, obtain any building permits early. If you’re undertaking this level of work, you’ll more than likely have an architect who will be able to let you know how to go about applying for the right sort of permission for the job.

Smaller-scale changes, such as installing a range hood, need to be investigated also. You can get advice on these matters from your local planning office.

8. What’s My Style?

After considering the practicalities, you can finally get to the fun part. If you’ve spent any happy evenings browsing on Houzz, you most likely have collected a mass of inspirational images just waiting to be translated into your own home. Informed by your mission statement and ideabook photos, you can work out your look. Maybe you’re attracted to designs that feature eclectic and quirky ideas or to a rambling farmhouse kitchen with a huge central table. Or perhaps a sleek minimalist block with hidden appliances has taken your fancy?

It should be possible to achieve your style within a broad range of budgets, so look at major retailers and independents to get a few quotes.

9. Which Details Should I Choose?

At this point, you need to start choosing things like sinks and faucets, countertops, and appliances. Try to pin down the associated elements as well, such as wall tile and flooring.

Although it seems exhausting to have to choose so many items, getting clarity beforehand will mean that you won’t be hassled at installation stage into making snap decisions that you may later regret.

Keep referring back to your planned layout to make sure that everything will fit. If you need to make adjustments, this is the best point to do it so that you’re absolutely sure where everything will go by the time your kitchen is being installed.