Basic Design Tips

Basic Design Tips for Remodeling Your Kitchen

Before You Get Started

  1. Choose Type of Cabinet: Decide whether you are going to install the kitchen cabinets yourself, or are you going have them professionally installed? Decide whether you want customized cabinets, or are you looking to save money and use (ready to assemble) RTA kitchen cabinets? Decide what type of wood species and finish do you want, painted or stained? Oak, Maple, Bass Wood, Red Birch, or Alder?
  2. Choose Type of Counter Tops:  Research your Countertop materials. Do you want Laminate, Ceramic Tile, Solid Surface, or Granite? Concrete countertops are now an option, and there are also some great resources out there if you are looking to do your countertops yourself. While cost is always going to be a factor in which type of countertop you select, you should also consider how heavily it is going to be used, and what kind of abuse it is going to take.
  3. Choose Appliances:  Decide which appliances you will put in your new kitchen. Perhaps you want to use some of the existing appliances, or perhaps you want to purchase new appliances.  Either way, you will need to know the measurements so that you can a lot adequate space for them.  It is common for remodelers to place the sink cabinets and appliances as close to the original layout as possible.  Remember, cooking surfaces should not be placed below an operable window.  Also, note locations of existing receptacles.  Make sure doors open properly, appliances are unobstructed, and traffic flows easily through your kitchen.  For a description of kitchen layout designs please see The Kitchen Work Triangle page for further information.

Measuring Your Kitchen

  1. Draw a rough sketch of your kitchen:  You can use a custom kitchen program or you can use grid paper to sketch out your kitchen design.
  2. Measure every wall in the horizontal direction:
    • Write down the total measurement in inches.
    • Measure from the corner of the wall to the edge of any opening, such as windows or doors.
    • Measure across the opening of doors and windows from outside edge of trim to outside edge of trim.
    • Measure from that trim edge to the far wall.
    • Measure all walls even if you do not plan to put cabinets on them.
  3. Measure the Location of appliances and utilities:
    • Measure the exact location of the sink, water and gas lines, wall switches and receptacles, and any other permanent objects in the room.
    • Measure to the center of these items and not the edge.
    • Measure existing appliance dimensions that you are planning to use.  If new appliances will be used, it is best to get the manufacturer's specifications prior to designing your new kitchen.
  4. Measure every wall in the vertical direction:
    • Measure from the bottom of your windows to the floor and mark it down.
    • Then measure from the top of the window to the bottom of the window from outside edge of trim.
    • Measure from the ceiling to the top of the window.
    • Measure from the floor to the ceiling.
  5. Add significant information on your Sketch:
    • Indicate on your sketch how each door swings. In to or out of the room and which side the hinge is on.
    • Sketch in the locations of all appliances including stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and sink using the measurements from the previous section. 

Choosing Your Cabinets

  1. Layout your new cabinets:
    • On the sketches of each kitchen wall draw in the base cabinets, tall and pantry cabinets, and wall cabinets.  Compare the space that is available along the wall to the cabinets that are available in the style you selected.
    • For large wall spaces multiple cabinets will be needed that are attached together during installation.
    • At the corners of your kitchen be sure to consider the space needed for cabinets along the adjacent walls.
    • Differences between the actual horizontal wall dimension and the widths of the cabinets are filled in with filler boards.  
    • Consider the height of the ceiling when deciding on the size of wall and tall or pantry cabinets.  The base cabinets are available in only the standard height of 34.5 inches, but the wall and tall or pantry cabinets are available in heights that range from 30 inches to 36 inches and 42 inches.  Remember the counter top is typically 36 inches above the floor and the distance between the counter top and the bottom of the wall cabinets is usually 18 inches.
    • Consider “specialty” type cabinets which are those that will be located above the refrigerator and above the stove or sink.  Also decide if you want a cabinet for the microwave oven, or plate rack or wine bottle cabinets. 
    • Add your personal touch to your new kitchen by adding items like crown molding and trim molding, decorative posts, feet, and corbels, and end panels for base and wall cabinets.  Also, consider maximizing the space used by selecting corner cabinets (base and wall) that utilize the corner space created by adjacent wall cabinets.
    • If your kitchen has an island or peninsula where the back of the cabinet will be exposed you may also want to order wood panels or skins to finish the back of the cabinets.  All of our cabinets have finished side panels, but the back of the cabinets are typically against a wall so that side is not finished.     
    • Create a list of the cabinets and accessories you want to order.  Be sure to include in you list the sizes of the cabinets and quantities.
  2. Double Check Your Measurements and Cabinet Layout
    • It is important for your measurements to be as accurate as possible in order for your new kitchen cabinetry to fit properly.
    • Remember all walkways should be at least 36" wide.
    • Check appliance doors and cabinet doors and drawers to be sure they do not interfere with another.
    • Finally place your order.  With your list of cabinets and accessories you can double check your order to be sure you order all of the cabinets and accessories you need to complete your new kitchen.
  3. Skills Required
    • Like any carpentry project, a good understanding of wood working is required to successfully install your cabinets.  If you find yourself with a problem that is beyond your capability we recommend that you enlist the help of a professional.
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