Your Kitchen Remodel: Cost Factors, Layout Ideas and How to Renovate

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Going into a kitchen remodel is a very intimidating task, especially if you are not very familiar with the process. In spite of this, there are a lot of people blindly diving into this large-scale project every year … including me!

How many? According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, over ten million Americans had their kitchens remodeled in 2015. And the numbers have only risen in the years since.

If you are one of those more than 10 million people tackling a kitchen remodel this year, this post is for you.

Everything To Expect When Remodeling A Kitchen

Kitchen Remodel

When I set out to get my kitchen remodeled, I honestly had no clue where to start. I had such a hard time finding info online that could map out the process for a rookie like me.

I vowed right then and there I would offer the internet everything I learned after I lived through that experience!

Take it from me, seeing the whole picture from the start is extremely helpful.

Most of the hard work (for anyone not physically putting together their kitchen infrastructure themselves) is at the front end of the process. Renovation is a lot like cooking: there’s a lot of prep.

Read over the complete process someone goes through before any work actually happens on a kitchen space:

  • Establish a budget
  • Find a designer to confirm new layout and provide accurate blueprints
  • Find and hire a contractor you trust and can afford
  • Identify where you want to buy cabinets and countertops
  • Research colors, textures, trends, materials, etc.
  • Order your cabinet and countertop and triple check to confirm your kitchen’s specs
  • Order anything else you may need (appliances, backsplash, light fixtures, faucets, sink, range hood, etc.)
  • Work with your contractor to establish a timeline
  • Keep track of all of all materials as they arrive
  • Clean out all of your old kitchen cabinets
  • Set up a temporary kitchen somewhere else in the house
  • Allow the contractors to do the heavy lifting, but be prepared to live in total chaos

Seems like a lot, huh? Don’t worry, here’s the step-by-step process.

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The first step is to create a layout, with or without a designer

Kitchen Remodel

If you plan on changing the layout your kitchen, the first thing you should do is hire a designer to work with you in identifying the best layout. Believe it or not, there’s a website for that. Head to ASID (the American Society of Interior Designers) to find one for hire near you!

From there, the designer will provide scaled blueprints that you will need to move onto the next steps. This step is technically optional, but it turned out to be the best thing I did during my remodel process!

Collect bids from contractorsKitchen Remodel

The next step in the process is collecting bids from contractors you are interested in hiring to complete your project.

Usually, bids come at no cost, so I encourage you to get several bids so you have a more accurate idea of what the project will cost you in the end. Before you decide on the contractor you wish to work with, be sure to check out this contract hiring guide and make sure you outline all of the details before you commit (and pay!).

What Specific Decisions Will I Have To Make?

To be perfectly honest, the amount of decisions you need to make as you prep for a kitchen renovation is overwhelming. But preparing for them in advance makes each task a lot more manageable.

Outside of the obvious questions regarding color and style, there are a lot of other things you will need to consider and purchase. Here is a list to keep handy:

  • Cabinet hardware
  • Cabinet door design
  • The material of the cabinet (which impacts cost)
  • The material of the countertop (which, again, impacts cost)
  • Box cabinets or special order cabinetry
  • Backsplash style, size, material
  • Appliances (style, brand, cost, color, “extras”)
  • Open shelving or closed cabinetry
  • Flooring materials and costs
  • Window treatments
  • Light fixtures
  • Extra organization (there are options built-into your cabinetry)
  • Installation of the cabinetry
  • Size of the cabinets (depth, width, and height)
  • Drawers vs. cabinets
  • Timeline
  • Can lights or fan
  • Material of sink
  • Plumping changes
  • Electrical changes

Be smart when shopping for materials

Kitchen Remodel

Once you hire the contractor, they will be a great resource for pointing you in the right directions for your materials, specifically for cabinets and countertops.

Sometimes contractors can get these products at a discounted rate if you shop at the retailers they recommend. Talk to them about this option before you decide on where you want to purchase your big-ticket items.

And if they don’t have any recommendations, you can always shop at big box hardware stores.

Protip: You will need to bring your exact measurements from your designer (or contractor) when you go out to physically shop, as well as have an idea of what design you want the kitchen to have. Of course, the salesperson can also help you make these decisions, but this is your kitchen, after all!

Finished buying? Your timeline begins now

Kitchen Remodel

After you make the cabinet and countertop order, your contractor will work with you to create a timeline of the projects that need to be done before the cabinets arrive, which will include:

  • Demolition
  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing work

Remember, cabinets can take up to eight weeks to arrive, and possibly longer if they are custom. Getting to work before the cabinets arrive will ensure they are ready to install quickly after they get to your front door.

Your contractor (or you) will get to work

Kitchen Remodel

It’s time to get to work! If you have contractors, they will work to demo your current kitchen, then work even harder to put the new and improved one back together. If you did get a contractor, this is the easy part for you because, at this point, the work is out of your hands. Most all of your hard work should have already occurred during the front end of this project.

Hope you don’t mind living without a proper kitchen for a while. Be patient and your new kitchen will be ready soon enough for you to enjoy!

How long will a kitchen renovation take?

Kitchen Remodel

Every kitchen renovation will vary in terms of timing, depending on the scope of work and the size of the space. But traditionally, a kitchen renovation can run on average 4-8 weeks. Living without a kitchen for that long can be a large inconvenience, but I am here to reassure you that if we can manage it, so can you!

Kitchen Remodel

My best advice to handle this chaos is to set up a temporary kitchen prior to demoing your current kitchen. We have our fridge, microwave, and crockpot working overtime! Plus, we meal prep at our parent’s house to make healthy food for the week (so you don’t have months and months of takeout).

Is It All Really Worth It?

Kitchen Remodel

Now being on the other side of it, it was absolutely worth it!

According to HGTV, a kitchen remodel is projected to give you a 70% return on your investment, while statistics from Today’s Homeowner reports that this number could be as high as 91% of a return on this investment! So as much as this intimidating task may seem overwhelming at first and chaotic to live through, coming out the other side will be worth it in the long run. You are adding significant value to your home by making these updates now and getting a gorgeous kitchen to enjoy at the same time.

Of course, there is a lot more information you can devour as you prepare for your upcoming kitchen remodel, but I hope this beginner’s guide gave you an overview of what to expect. Seeing the bigger picture from the start will provide you peace of mind to tackle each step with confidence, and maybe even a little bit of excitement!

How to Do Noisy Home Improvement When You Have Neighbors

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As two girls who are constantly improving our homes, we’ve completed our fair share of DIY projects.

And in case you were wondering, most home improvement projects come with a fair amount of noise.

While this can obviously be disruptive to the people in your own home, it can be especially disruptive to your neighbors.

Luckily, because DIY projects are sort of our thing, we have some tried and true ways to tackle home improvement projects without making our neighbors hate us. We’ll discuss how these tips vary depending on your living situation, with one of us living in a condo building in the city, the other in a single-family home in the suburbs.

Home Improvement Projects in a Condo Building

I, Casey, live in a five-unit building in the heart of Chicago—and I’m super lucky. Why? Because I absolutely love all of my neighbors.

They all know about my passion for DIY and have come to embrace the noise that erupts from our unit every weekend or so.

However, the reason they love me in spite of that fact is because I’ve taken lots of the following measures to be as respectful as possible to everyone living under the same roof as me, especially with any of my large-scale projects.

Read Your Home Owners Association (HOA) Rules

Every HOA comes with its own rules. You should definitely give that little handbook a read before you start any projects.

Take note of what projects are allowed (sometimes you’re not allowed to make updates on the exterior of your unit/building for instance), what permits are required, and the times when construction can take place. Being up to date on the rules will come in handy when you tackle the next item on this list…

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Discuss Your Project At Your Next Building Meeting

In our building, we get together every few months to discuss finances, building issues, and other random items that pop up. Most condo buildings do this. Before my husband and I renovated our guest bathroom, we brought up our plan at our condo association meeting.

This was months before we were set to begin our project, but we wanted to get it on everyone’s radar and address any concerns ahead of time.

It ended up working out wonderfully because not only were our neighbors supportive, but we were able to gain insight on a few contractors our neighbors had used in their own homes!

At these meetings, it’s also important to give everyone your contact information so they can text or email you if things get too noisy or out of hand.

Giving your neighbors the go ahead to reach out at any point can potentially save you from headaches when the project begins. No one wants an angry neighbor pounding on their door!

Have a Plan for Extra Trash

In our building, we pay to have our trash and recycling hauled away each week. If our cans are overflowing, we face some extra charges and fines. When you’re gutting a space, you’re bound to have lots of trash, so make a plan to discard all of it.

Our plan was that we were able to pay our contractor to haul away all of the debris. This worked out perfectly because it didn’t hog up valuable space in our building’s crowded dumpster. Make a plan of attack before you start and let your neighbors know that you have things under control!

Always Keep Hallways and Common Areas Clean

Home improvement projects bring loads of dust and dirt into your home. And sometimes? The mess can spill into the hallway and common areas of your building. Be respectful. Keep those spaces as clean as possible. After a long day of DIY, don’t just clean up your own home, tackle those communal hallways too.

After we renovated our bathroom, I made sure to do a deep clean of the hallways and front of our building when the project was 100% finished. My neighbors appreciated it and I felt good knowing that our property was neat and tidy even after such a large construction project.

Stick to a Schedule

Your HOA may have specific rules on when you can do construction work. Ours didn’t have set hours, but we never started a project before 8 a.m. and tried to always finish by 7 p.m.

If we were up early and wanted to get moving, we would only do quiet tasks (getting out tools, taping walls, etc.) and we kept the loud tasks (like using the wet saw to cut tile!) to mid-day.

It’s also important to keep your neighbors in the loop when it comes to the timeline of your project. We thought our bathroom renovation would take four weeks, but it somehow extended into seven weeks. I emailed our neighbors a few times throughout the process to let them know that things were being pushed back and addressed any concerns. The new deadline ended up being a non-issue and I really believe it was because we were so open with our neighbors throughout the process.

Always Say Thank You

When we (finally!) completed our bathroom project, we left handwritten thank you notes on everyone’s front doors. We even went the extra mile and put coffee gift cards into each one. This was a simple way to say thanks for putting up with all of our noise and our neighbors really appreciated the gesture!

Home Improvement Projects in a Single-Family Home

While Casey lives in a condo in the city, I navigate these same noisy projects a little differently inside a single-family home located in the suburbs. Some of her tips are still helpful to consider, but the rules are slightly different for neighborly etiquette when you’re not living in such close quarters.

But even with the extra space a single family home offers, it’s still important to consider your neighbors when tackling large and noisy projects! Here’s how!

Physically Go Talk to Your Nearby Neighbors

Sounds simple enough, but it’s critically important to talk to your neighbors well in advance! Discussing your plans will avoid them feeling off-guard one the project (and noise) starts.

You also don’t want to cause alarm if they start seeing foreign vehicles from contractors or workers parked outside of your home while you’re away at work. Getting them in-the-know before the project starts will actually be to your advantage. Heck, get on their good side and maybe they could field a delivery if you’re running late or let a worker inside if needed. Neighbors want to help – in most cases – especially when they know what’s going on.

Secure a City Permit

Securing a permit, if your city/village requires one, is essential before starting any large-scale projects. (And this will protect you just in case a problem arises from one of your neighbors.) If they are unhappy about the noise, or dumpster placement, or anything else, and then they take action to report you, not having a permit will be a bigger problem than your neighbor’s complaints.

Start Inside Early and Move Outside Later

There have been plenty of times when we are knee-deep in a DIY project that we get up super early to continue. But, truly, saws are very noisy, so we typically wait for that step until it’s appropriate, or we take the time to get everything set up early (even if it is outside) and don’t cut until late in the morning.

Don’t waste time waiting for your neighbors to get up, but don’t go about your business waking them up either!

Let Your Neighbors Follow the Progress

An easy way to keep neighbors in the loop is to invite them in a time or two throughout the process to share your progress! Show them what you’re working on and how excited you are for the progress. Including your neighbors helps them feel special and they will be less inclined to be annoyed if things do get a little noisy or messy.

Overcommunicate

Overcommunicating is always a good idea to avoid confrontation. Don’t be afraid to let your neighbor know when the dumpster is scheduled to get picked up, any problems that may impact your deadline, when a large delivery is expected, etc. The more they know in advance on some of these larger “issues”, the fewer problems will arise. Use Nextdoor. Communicate, communicate and overcommunicate.

Keep Your Contractor up to Date Often

This overcommunication should also be applied to your contractors. Be sure to share with them your expectations on start times, end times, and any other issues that may impact the neighborhood. Don’t go to your contractor only after you’ve heard complaints or it’s become a full-blown problem. Being proactive and communicating your expectations in advance will hopefully help avoid any issues in your neighborhood.

Celebrate Together!

Now it’s time for the fun part! Once your noisy project is over, don’t be afraid to invite some of the neighbors over to check out the new space and enjoy a few cocktails while they’re there. We just had a large landscaping renovation happen that made our streets, sidewalks and overall curb appeal a huge mess for several weeks.

Once our patio was paved and the mess was cleared, we invited our neighbors over to enjoy the new space with some food, but most importantly, to thank them for their patience.

They were all so grateful and gracious, which gives me a lot more confidence to tackle another noisy project soon. Knowing I have their support makes the process a whole lot less stressful!


We hope these steps help you tackle your next noisy home improvement project while still keeping the peace. We’re no Mr. Rogers, but we’re confident you can tackle those DIY projects and still make it a beautiful day in the neighborhood for your neighbors.

What You Should Know Before Renovating your Bathroom

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Renovating a bathroom is no small task. But upgrading your outdated bathroom is often a worthy investment, especially if you’re looking to increase the value of your home.

According to U.S. News, investing in a bathroom remodel results in a 62% return on average.

My husband and I recently tackled our own bathroom renovation all by ourselves. (Well, mostly by ourselves … we did hire out a few advanced tasks.) While it was a difficult and time-consuming job, we lived to tell the tale and we now have a gorgeous new space that undoubtedly increased the value of our Chicago condo.

Our new bathroom! But how did we get here?

We learned a lot along the way. A lot of preparation goes into planning a bathroom renovation. So before you whip out that sledgehammer, here’s what you should do to start your bathroom renovation off on the right foot.

Write Out a Detailed Wish List For Your Bathroom Rennovation

When you buy a home, you often go in with a “wish list” of items (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large backyard, etc.). There are some items on the list that are non-negotiable, and others that “would be nice to have…”

You need to make this exact same type of list for your bathroom renovation.

Spend an hour inside the space you’re renovating writing down “wants” and “needs”. It’s pretty important that you and your roomie/spouse/partner are on the same page from the start on what you want for the space, so make sure you do this step together if applicable!

For our bathroom renovation, we decided that removing our outdated tub and replacing it with a standing shower was our number one objective. Ideally, we also wanted to build a shower niche to hold all of our shower accessories, but that item was on the “would be nice to have” list.

Learn What to DIY vs. What to Hire Out

Renovating a bathroom yourself can definitely save you money because professional labor is often the most expensive part of any renovation. However, if you don’t have the time (or skills) to DIY, this will not be the best option for you. My advice? Make a list of every single task that you think needs to be done in the space … all the way from the demolition to installing the final light fixture.

An image from our DIY journey

Some of the small tasks can definitely be done by yourself, even with little to no DIY skills. We had never tackled a bathroom renovation before but figured out each step along the way. (We  watched plenty of YouTube tutorials, which we highly recommend!).

The number one task we’d recommend doing yourself is the demolition of the space.

As long as you wear the proper safety gear, you can gut your bathroom in a weekend (here’s how we demoed our space!). We ripped everything out down to the studs, and this ended up saving us at least a few hundred dollars in labor.

Other (more advanced) tasks are often best left to the professionals. These things include:

  • Waterproofing the shower
  • Moving plumbing fixtures
  • Moving lighting fixtures

This stuff ended up being too advanced for us. We both knew that we would need to find a pro to get those important tasks done correctly.

Consider Hiring a Designer to Finalize the Floor Plan Before You Touch Anything

If you plan to move plumbing and electrical fixtures, you may want to consider hiring a designer to help plan the layout of the space. Yes, this comes at a cost, but it may save you headaches and expensive mistakes down the line.

I used Angie’s List to find a designer to help with the layout of our bathroom. For $400, she:

  • Measured our space
  • Made suggestions on placement of items
  • Provided a detailed rendering of the final plan for renovation

For our budget and what we got out of it, it was worth every penny. A designer can also help you source items and figure out the style and look of the space they’re tasked on. We were happy to handle that stuff ourselves, so we didn’t need to pay for additional services. Also, our designer also provided us with a few recommendations for contractors. Which brings us to…

Find and Hire a Contractor

Finding the right contractor is no easy feat. You want someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and will do a good job. We received recommendations from our designer, but you can ask neighbors, friends or check out a review site like Angie’s List. I recommend meeting with at least two to three potential contractors to get in-person estimates.

Here are some questions we learned to ask when interviewing for a contractor:

  • What will this project entail?
  • How long will it take?
  • Do I need to be home?
  • Can you break down the cost of labor and materials?
  • Are the materials included?
  • When can you start? Is that date firm?
  • Do I need a building permit?
  • How will payment work?
  • How will you protect my home?
  • What are the next steps?

It’s important to over-communicate with your contractor and make sure you’re on the same page from the start. If you’re DIY-ing some tasks of the renovation, you’ll want to discuss this with them ahead of time to make sure they recommend that. We outlined exactly what we needed our contractor to do and what we would be handling ourselves, so ours was “in the know” from the start!

Set the Budget and Order Your Bathroom Renovation Stuff Now

Once you find a contractor that’s the right fit, you’ll get an estimate from them for the project. Understand what they will be providing for the renovation and what you will need to buy yourself.

Which means if you are DIY’ing portions of the project, now is the time to gather your tools and supplies to get the job done. Look up each task and make a list of the tools you will need. You may need to rent a few power tools (like a wet saw for tiling), so keep those rental costs in mind. Or see if you can borrow some of these larger tools from friends or neighbors. When it comes to DIY supplies, local home improvement stores are your best bet. Our advice? Go in with a detailed list and try to visit on a weeknight when the store will be less crowded and you can get one-on-one attention from an employee.

As for the new bathroom products, now is the time to place your order. While you can certainly hit up the big box home improvement stores, we’ve found a lot of success with online retailers.

Here are some of the spots we recommend for the major bathroom products:

If you take away one piece of advice from this entire article, I hope it’s this next part: Order all of your products now and do not start your renovation until everything has arrived.

Sometimes you can place an order for a vanity or shower hardware, only to find that it’s back ordered for six weeks! You don’t want your entire renovation on hold because of that, so order everything and get it delivered before the project physically starts!

Make a Timeline

Now that all of your product is ordered (and arriving soon!), you can create a bathroom renovation timeline. Communicate this timeline with everyone involved in the project … your contractor, designer, spouse, family members, etc.

Because we were DIY-ing a good portion of our bathroom, I reserved every weekend for a month on my calendar (as well as my husband’s). That way we didn’t book anything during that time, and we could focus on getting the job done. But even though you have a timeline, know that it will probably change. I anticipated that we could get our renovation done in 4 weeks, but it ended up taking about 7 weeks. Go in with a plan, but be flexible because you’re always going to run into problems!

Have a Physical Place to Survive During Renovations

Chances are you’ll be living in your home throughout your bathroom renovation, so it’s important to have a plan on how you’re going to continue to live amongst the dust and chaos. We live in a small condo and once our demolition started, our entire place was a disaster zone. Right then and there, we decided that we wouldn’t let any of the mess trickle into our master bathroom or master bedroom. Instead, those were our “sanctuaries” away from the chaos of the renovation.

Create these safe zones ahead of time and vow to keep those areas clean and free from any of your bathroom mess. Trust me, you’ll need those retreats when you’re living through a renovation.

I know you may be eager to start smashing away your outdated bathroom to get it looking fresh, clean, and modern. But it’s important to do work upfront before you get started. That way you have a clear idea of the amount of money and time you’ll need to create the bathroom of your dreams!

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