A step-by-step guide and timeline for a kitchen renovation
(Above) Katherine + Chris’ kitchen renovation
One of the most common questions that we at Sweeten hear from homeowners is “How long does a kitchen renovation take?” This usually comes right after “How much is it going to cost?” (As part of its free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, Sweeten developed a kitchen cost guide to help.) Our handy Renovation Checklist tells you what you need to do—but how long does it take to do it all?
Typically, we suggest that after closing on your apartment, you allow three weeks to four months for the completion of your kitchen renovation, depending on complexity, the size of your space, and scope.
For example, if you are 1) not altering the footprint, 2) not changing or adding electrical or plumbing, and 3) using stock cabinetry and appliances, it’s reasonable to expect that your renovation will be in done in a few weeks. If, however, you are moving your kitchen from one part of your home to another, requiring both city permits as well as board approvals, and using imported custom cabinets—you should give it several months. As you’ll see, the wide range is due to the fact that there can be many moving parts and multiple parties involved. Certain aspects may be beyond your control. Sweeten, a free renovation service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, breaks down a kitchen renovation step-by-step.
While the attention is usually on the most visible construction phase, a lot needs to happen before picking up that sledgehammer. Here, the details on each box that needs to be ticked before you break ground on the project.
STEP 1: Close on your property (1-3 months)
While some homeowners already own, a significant number of homeowners are in contract or preparing to close on a property when they begin the process of planning a renovation. The best advice is that you should wait until you have closed on the property, with keys in hand, before doing anything. If you’re in a hurry—at least wait until you’ve signed the contract before beginning the design process.
STEP 2: Post your project (1-3 days)
First things first: Post your project to Sweeten and begin soliciting bids. On the Sweeten site, add some details about the space you want to renovate, your inspiration photos (optional but useful for us finding you contractors who have done similar styles), and any other information that would help Sweeten match you with the right contractors. You’ll receive 3-5 matches within three days, with links to check out contractors’ profiles online. Now’s your chance to take a look at reviews from clients and photos of their past projects to see whether they might be a good fit.
STEP 3: Schedule site visits and solicit bids (1-3 weeks)
After you’ve previewed the Sweeten contractors’ profiles, decide who you’d like to set up a meeting. An on-site visit is the best way for a contractor to understand the scope of the project, the physical possibilities, and limitations of the space, and for the two of you to see if you hit it off. After you schedule your on-site visit, check out our blog post about how to prepare for the meeting. You should expect a written bid within 5-7 business days after your visit.
STEP 4: Level bids and choose a contractor (1-2 weeks)
Once all the written bids have come in, it’s time to compare and contrast! This primer on leveling bids might come in handy. If you have follow-up questions, now is the time to ask. You can also schedule time with Sweeten to walk you through the various bids and weigh in on the selection.
STEP 5: Sign a contract and finalize construction schedule (1 week)
Once you’ve decided on a contractor, he or she will put together a contract for you to review. This will typically include a description of the work to be done, an outline of the costs, as well as the timing of payments throughout the project.
STEP 6: Obtain permits and approvals (ranges widely)
Of all the steps where hiccups or delays might occur, this is it. Obtaining the correct permits and necessary approvals have held up many a renovation, but don’t be daunted: our expert contractors are well-versed in navigating these processes and often can advise you on how best to achieve your renovation goals with the least amount of hassle. If you’re moving plumbing or gas lines, you’ll need an architect and additional DOB permits. Sweeten homeowners have reported obtaining approvals in as little as two weeks—but it’s more common for it to take a couple months.
If you live in a stand-alone house, you won’t need to worry about building board approvals, but you’ll still need the requisite city permits for any electrical or plumbing work to make sure that everything is up to code.
STEP 7: Source materials (ranges widely)
If you are responsible for sourcing all or some of the materials in your renovation, be sure to place the orders as soon as the design plan is finished. Certain items have long lead times, and you don’t want that one faucet to hold up the entire renovation. If time is a concern, look at what’s currently in stock and ready to ship. Speak with your contractor about timing the product delivery to coincide with time of installation.
STEP 8: Tell your neighbors you’re renovating (15 minutes)
Be a good neighbor and warn yours that a renovation is beginning imminently. Tell them what to expect and how long the project is slated to last. It’s always easier to stomach the disruption when you know there’s an end in sight! It doesn’t hurt to bring some sweets, a bottle of wine, or a gift card for a local coffee shop. When the reno is over, invite them over!
Note: While most of the steps under “Construction” are your contractor’s responsibility, it’s important to understand what should be happening when. The most crucial steps you’ll be in charge of here are making scheduled payments to your contractor (as they are outlined in your contract), and keeping your schedule open for several hours a week to answer a myriad of questions about details or changes that come up over the course of construction.
STEP 9: It’s demo time (1-2 days)
Out with the old! Now that you’re done with the paperwork, it’s time (for your contractor) to pick up that sledgehammer. Be sure items that are staying are protected with tarp or plastic while the crew gets to work tearing out everything else. Depending on how large your kitchen is, and how extensive the renovation, this shouldn’t take more than a day or two.
STEP 10: Reroute plumbing and electrical (1-4 days)
Now that you’ve stripped the space down to the studs, it’ll be easy to get new plumbing or electrical where it needs to go. Consider whether any plans need to be altered now that you can see what’s behind the walls.
STEP 11: City inspections and sign-offs (1 hour on-site)
If you needed city permits, you may need to have inspections and a final sign-off as well prior to closing up the walls, particularly with gas lines. (Check out what the city has to say about plumbing permits here, and electrical permits here.) While it may take the inspector an hour to do his job at the site, scheduling the actual appointment could take days or weeks.
While a master plumber is typically allowed to sign off on pipework for water lines in the case of a no-show by the city inspector, an inspector must examine and approve any work on gas lines. You are not allowed to close up the walls and move onto the next phase of the project before this inspection happens.
Note: With electrical work, inspectors generally are scheduled for visits once the project is 100 percent complete, and they will check the electrical panel, junction boxes, and outlets. Sometimes, because of city bureaucracy and delays, your electrical inspection may be rescheduled two or three times. Check with your contractor or architect about this.
STEP 12: Installation – floors (1-5 days)
To prevent having to redo the floors if you decide to reconfigure your cabinets in the future, make sure that the flooring is consistent throughout the space, even if some of it will be hidden.
STEP 13: Installation – all other material including cabinets and appliances (1-10 days)
Installation of all other materials is usually in this order: cabinets, appliances, fixtures and lighting, counters, backsplash, and cabinet hardware. Aspects of this may vary, depending on site conditions, and the arrival time of the materials.
STEP 14: Clean-up (1 day)
Typically, contracts allow that the space is left in “broom-swept” condition. However, you may want to hire post-construction cleaning specialists to make sure that your new floor is clean enough to eat off.
STEP 15: Final walk-through with contractor (30-60 minutes)
Review the work with your contractor: try all the drawers and doors, look closely at the edges and finishes, and make sure everything is working the way it should. If there are any problems, point them out and add them to the punch list. The contractor will either fix it on the spot (if it’s minor) or set up another time to return. Sweeten’s founder + CEO, Jean Brownhill advises to keep notepads in each space, and do not speak to your contractor for two weeks during this time, but take notes of what needs fixing as you live in your new home.
STEP 16: Punch list items (1-10 days)
Depending on what the items are—this could be anything from straightening a cabinet door to waiting on installing that last out-of-stock item—it could take anywhere from a day to several weeks. When it’s on the long side, though, that is usually due to backordered items. Otherwise, your contractor should be able to return and fix everything in a few days.
STEP 17: The final payment (10 minutes)
You’ve been making installments throughout the renovation, but when the last item on your punch list has been addressed, it’s time to pay the remaining percentage to your contractor and say goodbye.
This timeline is meant to give you a detailed look at the various aspects of renovating and a range of how long each step should take, taking into account factors that may be outside of both your and the contractor’s control. In general, Sweeten renovators report that their kitchen renovations are completed between three weeks to two months (depending on the level of complexity). The key to staying on track is isolating the steps that you think might be obstacles and allotting more time to get them done.
If you’re still stuck on that first question of “how much is it going to cost?” check out our guide on kitchen renovation costs.
Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.