The Ultimate Guide to Planning A Kitchen Remodel

Ahh… the ever so essential room. The space where we congregate to share stories, laugh at experiences, and vent about our long day at work. The space where your inner Bobby Flay comes alive and not only conquers a new recipe but also inhabits an unfathomable mess. The space where you begin and end your day. But most importantly, the single handedly best spot to come together as one whether it be with your family, you and your significant other, or maybe just you and your adorable furry friend.

Since the early 1800s, the kitchen has become the most enjoyed area of the home. The National Association of Home Builder’s conducted a survey that points out that 81% of all home remodels are kitchen remodels. Another survey carried out by London Cleaning Systems portrayed cooking to be the most time consuming chore. The average person spends 253 minutes per week in the kitchen cooking meals. That’s the equivalent of 219 hours per year, or 439 days over the course of your lifetime. Let that sink in a minute…holy cow!! No matter what your day to day lifestyle is, we can all agree that our kitchen is the most used space of our home – So why not remodel it and enjoy it’s full potential?!?! But to do so, we must use our past project expertise to prepare you for what to expect and some things to consider before diving in. Go ahead; grab a cocktail and a notepad and buckle up, we’re in for a hefty topic!

Budget Accordingly

The most common factor to consider with any remodel is your budget. Let’s be honest here and especially since we are based in beautiful Marin County – your renovation will cost you a pretty penny. But wait! There are definitely ways to create a remodel to fit your budget. First off, evaluate whether you plan to completely gut your kitchen and start from scratch, or if you just want to modernize and make a few changes. A simple face lift to appliances, counter tops, and new cabinet paint can completely change your kitchen’s appearance on a frugal budget.

No matter what you have heard, budget for an architect and designer (and for some projects and engineer. It may be tempting to save money by skipping this step, but we don’t suggest it. In turn this will actually be more cost affect as a designer will help ensure items are in stock, arrive on time to avoid excess shipping or sourcing efforts/costs, implement cohesiveness with the overall design, stay on track with your desired budget, and can help source out budget friendly products that fit your design and are similar to the looks of designer brands. They are a wealth of knowledge and worth factoring into your budget. Just trust us on this one!

Allow for “wiggle room”. Issues will arise somewhere along the way. As we have recently experienced with Covid-19 shortages. Materials and appliances are not as plentiful and can be placed on backorder for a long while meaning you may need to make adjustments to your original specs/budget. Additionally, we like to factor in any unforeseen items into the estimate as well.

Aim for quality. Source out high end products where your budget allows. Most importantly, always remember that what you pay for is what you get. Now, we aren’t just talking about the quality of the materials but also the quality of the professionals. Take this for example; name brand ice cream over generic. If you’re in pursuit of the best flavor, don’t veer from premium brands, like Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s. They always win! They cost more but they are much better than the knock-offs. Use this same thought process when it comes to materials and hiring. There is a difference between a Home Depot renovation versus a professional project with all the factors. If you plan to purchase all your materials and appliances from Home Depot and Amazon, they will be great but not as durable. Whereas if you purchase high end name brand materials and products you spend more but get exactly what you want and they withstands their promise. Same goes for hiring. Spending more money on a qualified, licensed contractor will get you much more in the long run rather than hiring some guy in a pick up truck who essentially is a “handy man” with less experience and not as well versed in all skill sets. Additionally, this will require more owner involvement.

Design Elements

Thinking we know everything from how to demo an unnecessary wall to coordinating colors and textures for a cohesive living space from binging HGTV shows does not make you a designer. We hate to burst your bubble, but we want to be blunt about this; hiring professionals will always give you better results. As great as it might be, let your inner Chip and Joanna Gaine’s shine in the designing of your kids bedroom and not your common areas!

Planning your remodel involves many parties. You’ve got your engineer, architect, designer, then finally your contractor. As a bespoke construction firm, Dotto Construction works alongside projects involving all these professionals. Before getting connected with a design professional, you will find your acquaintance with Pinterest and Instagram. These two will be your best friends for design and layout concepts. Be careful though! These two apps tend to take you down many avenues and you may find yourself a full bottle of Chardonnay deep. – oops! Stay focused and try not to let them overwhelm you and your initial ideas as you become inundated with all kinds of design concepts. To narrow down your research, begin with finding a style that fits the rest of your home. You want to keep a coherent appearance throughout your home. Incorporate the same style, colors, and aesthetic to help the design process flow easily. Don’t be afraid to go bold with some design decisions such as appliances or lighting but always keep your budget top of mind, of course.

Next, think about practicality. You spend so much time in your kitchen cooking, meal prepping, working from home, etc. that it will be stressful to maintain the desired look such as seen on the cover of a Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Select materials that are modern with neutral, cool tones to make the space feel larger and always fresh and clean. Maximize your storage for cooking appliances and to keep the clutter off the counters. Choose appliances that are reliable, timeless, and easy to clean. Timelessness is key here. After spending the time and money on your kitchen remodel, you won’t want to redo it for a long while.

Next, consider functionality. Are you a full household with kids running around and doing homework at the center island, or, are you a low key couple looking to entertain guests on a weekly basis? As mentioned previously, this is the place everyone will congregate therefore, design a layout with wide walkways and plenty of counter space. On the topic of countertops – select a material that works with your daily habits. Do you need something durable and kid proof, or do you want a sophisticated all natural stone? If you plan to host a lot, we suggest incorporating a bar overhang at the counter or middle island with chairs to allow your guests to sit with a glass of wine while you prepare a lovely meal.

To sum this topic up (and that bottle of chardonnay!), remember that “pinning” comes before engaging. The purpose of hiring on a professional design team will help mitigate your involvement in the project once construction begins. We love our clients but removing them as the middleman trying to convey their thoughts and ideas is much more ideal. This will alleviate stress, unexpected financial burdens, and allow the process to be more streamlined.


Take your time in doing your research. We cannot stress this enough – Research! Research! Research!

Find a contractor that understands your goals and aligns with your budget. You want to be able to trust your contractor. This stretches as far as trusting their estimated project costs and trusting that they are hiring amicable and knowledgeable subcontractors and employees to work the job. Afterall, they are in and out of your home for months on end. You want them to be very honest, transparent and communicative as well. This goes the same for the homeowner. Especially in the beginning before signing the contract with the contractor, you will want to tell them all your ideas up front. These should be concrete ideas and displayed on the project plans. Construction laborers, foreman, and subcontractors,all work off the plans and not off phone calls or emails. Therefore, if changes are discussed with your contractor via email or phone, the ones performing the physical work will not see these changes and this could cause a lot of confusion, delay in the project schedule, unpredicted costs, and frustration for all parties. Less is not more in the eyes of a remodel. If items are not spec’d in the plans, they will not get included in the work. Having heavy, detailed conversations with your architect/designer/engineer and initiating a set of physical plans is an absolute must before contacting the general contractor. Besides this will help in the cost analysis of the project.

Remain on the same page as your partner/designer/architect/contractor. Know what you are willing to give up and what you are not. Learn about potential setbacks just to be aware. Accept the timeframe and project schedule and work with it the best you can. Understand that the estimate will most likely change and change orders conducted by the contractor are very likely. If you plan to onboard an architect and or a designer, get all your ducks in a row before beginning the work to ensure a smooth process and streamline the timeframe.

The Process

Like all good things in life – things take time. We like to emphasize this with all clients. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your kitchen be. Let’s be transparent, why don’t we?

We like to showcase this by thinking about the remodeling process as a rollercoaster. First you get strapped into the ride and the excitement builds as we discuss ideas and get planning. We then begin the demolition stage and you instantly see the changes begin to occur and excitement continues to build (especially when we are knocking down that old 70s designed tile! Yippie!!) But, we all know the big drop is ahead…post demo we find some unforeseen fixes to address and this may set us back a bit on our project schedule. (the motion sickness settles in). As time progresses you start to get antsy and want to get back to normalcy. Project managers, foreman, carpenters, subcontractors, and inspectors fluctuate in and out of your home on the daily. It’s hectic to say the least (here comes a loop-de-loop at the end of the ride…). But, just around the corner is the end in sight. Materials are arriving, drywall is up, paint is applied, countertops and appliances are being installed, and the finishing touches are almost done. Ahhh the moment of relief when the roller coaster comes to a halt. Finally, your beloved remodel is complete and you are stoked!

Best Time for Kitchen Remodels

Let’s get real, is there ever really a perfect time to cut off access to your kitchen and dive into a remodel? The answer is ‘no’, however, there are some ideal timeframes that are suggested. The inconvenience of limited kitchen access can be a stressor. With the holidays filling up most of mid October to mid January, you definitely don’t want to be caught up in a kitchen remodel if you can avoid it. Seemingly, you also want to keep your kitchen access open in the summertime when the kids are out of school and times are busy. We recommend entering a kitchen remodel in late winter into early spring and/or later summer into early fall.

Our Last Two Cents

A kitchen remodel should be fun and exciting! Build rapport with your contractor and become friends if you want to. Nothing is wrong with that, in fact we encourage it! Try to put together a plan for your family for where to go during the remodel to make life easier and to avoid added stress. Moving out of your home will make the project move quicker. Remember to stick to your ideas and needs, and don’t get caught up in the excitement or let yourself get talked into things you don’t want or need. All in all, look back to what we said at the beginning of this article; kitchen remodels encapsulate 81% of all home remodeling projects. This is not their first kitchen remodel but we understand it might be your first or one and only. We have been through and seen it all from our experiences with past projects and have tried every possible scenario when it comes to pinching pennies. Please do not become overly involved or over-think the process as we have proven to be much more successful when we have the opportunity to do our jobs without too much involvement from the owner. Trust the process and expertise of the contractor and enjoy the wild rollercoaster ride.

Until the next project- sayonara!

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