A number of homeowner questions come up on nearly every kitchen renovation project. Many companies avoid or simply refuse to answer these questions — sometimes because they do not have enough information to be accurate, and other times because they do not want to turn off a potential client. But that does not make it any easier for homeowners to navigate the process. So here are the top four kitchen renovation questions, answered and explained, in this four-part series.
Previously, we covered the reality of how much a kitchen renovation costs. Money is a critical factor in any major home project, but the only thing debatably more important than money is: time.
Design firms often hesitate to answer this question to strangers. Is it because construction times vary based on the scale and scope of your project? Is it because different cabinetry manufacturers have different lead times to fabricate and/or delivery product? Is it because different construction crews work at different paces? Yes, yes, and yes. There are many variables that impact timelines, and no firm wants to deter prospective clients with too long of a lead time. (And no good firm should want to mismanage expectations by suggesting too short of a lead time, either.)
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But there is another reason most companies carefully word their answer to this question: because it is, secretly, a multipart question.
A kitchen renovation runs on two, sometimes even three, separate but related timelines. Each timeline runs on its own schedule, yet they are all interconnected and — if you have a good project manager on the job — smoothly in sync with one another.
Design firms are not likely to admit it to you outright, but the first timeline is the most variable and absolutely least reliable: It is the timeline for the design phase of the project, and it is completely dependent on you making decisions. For some homeowners, decision-making is a strength; other homeowners sometimes have other strengths. And that’s perfectly okay. This is your project, and you should not feel pressured into decisions regarding the design of your home.
The design phase is an opportunity for your designer to showcase their creative talent and skill at translating your dreams into architectural realities. Unless your kitchen renovation is a small part in a larger home construction project, there is usually no pressure for you to make a decision: You are in the driver’s seat.
However, being in the driver’s seat, you should still pay attention to road signs that announce things like limited time discounts or milestones in the decision-making process required to meet your own personal timeline for completion. It is also good practice to be respectful of your passengers’ time, too (especially because many of them may work on commission).
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From your initial consultation to every minutia (materials, appliances, hardware, plumbing fixtures, tile designs, etc.) detailed, it is reasonable to expect to meet with your designer at least five or six times for a full and comprehensive kitchen design — at a minimum. The more adjustments you make to a design, or other selection, the more that estimate will extend. Depending on the frequency of your meetings, two months is a reasonable starting ballpark for the design phase — but it could also be much longer than that.
But this only answers part of the “how long will it take” question.
Ordering and construction
Once you have established a budget, selected a design, and all of the finalizations have been made, the contracts are signed and your materials get ordered. For a kitchen renovation (not an addition or large-scale construction endeavor), this ordering period could take two weeks, two months, or more, depending on the kinds of materials selected (stock, semi-custom or fully custom).
While it may feel like a lull to you, this is when all of the behind-the-scenes coordination happens to best prepare for a smooth and unencumbered construction phase. It is good practice to ask early on for an estimate of the time between the contract signing and construction beginning so you can plan and prepare your home accordingly.
Then, finally. It is time to begin the construction phase. You made it through the design phase and now just need to survive demolition inside your home and the construction period. This often takes less time than the planning and design phase but, for homeowners, tends to be the most stressful part of the process.
For a “typical” kitchen renovation (you have a kitchen; that kitchen is gutted; a new kitchen replaces it) construction can usually run about five to six weeks. Size and scope do matter: A small kitchen will take less time to demo, and there will be fewer things (like cabinet boxes and tiles) to install, so you can expect that to be on the quicker end of the estimate.
But if your kitchen is tiny, there may only be room for one trade at a time to work, which could put you at the later end. If your scope involves relocating appliances or your sink (read: gas or plumbing), it may also fall on the later end of the spectrum. If you are taking down or adding any walls, that is likely to add an extra week.
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If you are planning to have a brand new kitchen just in time for the holidays, be sure to start planning well in advance. Ideally, do what you can (which is to say, start earlier than you think you need to) to avoid the Thanksgiving-Christmas black hole. Installers’ schedules and resources start to feel the force of the Thanksgiving-Christmas season well before Halloween, but once a project schedule starts dipping into November … You may not be guaranteed a finished renovation in time for the holidays, but you will absolutely be guaranteed high-stress levels as you near the finish line.
There are other factors at play, too. While there are some savvy tools of the trade, we have yet to develop X-ray vision, and that means unexpected conditions sometimes are revealed during demolition or while the work is being done. So, just like with the holidays, plan any big events with a few weeks’ buffer from your kitchen completion date, just to be safe.
Also, a good project manager will know to coordinate different trades at different times so there are no (or minimal) gaps in the schedule. And an installation crew with five carpenters is going to work faster than a crew with one carpenter.
Finally, keep in mind the adage that three things define a perfect project: fast time, high quality, or low cost. You can have any two.
The timing of your kitchen renovation project depends on a variety of factors. The guideline of “twos” is a basic way to estimate: two months for the design, two months for the ordering and two months for construction. For the least stressful experience, it is recommended to start any project earlier than you think you should so that you can pace yourself throughout the process. Then, before you know it, you will be standing in a beautiful new kitchen.