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Once you’ve drawn up plans and selected finishes, executing your kitchen renovation is the next step. If you’re wondering, Where do I start? We’re here to help.

First, let’s get one thing straight: the key to a successful kitchen renovation, like many things in life, is being organized. This means you’ll need to have the foresight to order each piece of your renovation puzzle at the right time to ensure a smooth install. From there, it’s as easy as following a renovation “order of operations,” as we like to call it. Trying to wrap your head around this sequence of events without prior experience can be challenging, though, which is why we consulted three experts to explain the proper progression.

We called on rehabber Crystal Denmon and interior designers Francis Dominguez and Natalie Myers to weigh in on the correct order of operations for a kitchen renovation so you know precisely what to do and when. Let their expertise be your guide.

Order Ahead Whenever Possible

“When ordering materials for a kitchen, you should first focus on the items that normally take the longest to arrive — especially if they are custom or imported,” Denmon recommends. Myers agrees, noting that tiles in certain patterns and colors can take 10 weeks or more, while appliances may take 6 months due to pandemic-related delays.

After ordering all the products that have a long lead time, Dominguez suggests ordering everything else that you can. “Even though we aren’t going to use backsplash materials, hardware, and light fixtures until the end of the project, I like to order them as soon as possible, so I can have them on-hand if the contractors work ahead of schedule,” he explains. On the other hand, Myers opts to order hardware later on because she believes it’ll get lost in the shuffle if it sits around.


Install Walls and Floors First

Walls, which include the vents, ducts, and pipes behind them, and floors must come first. These elements serve as the foundation for the project and allow you to then measure for all the other pieces once they’re installed. “Sometimes developers install the cabinetry before the floors and I think that’s a huge no-no,” Dominguez opines. “I can’t order the cabinets until all the walls are done and I can’t install them until the flooring is complete and level.”


Put In Cabinets Next

The next job is cabinetry installation, which gives the kitchen its structure and layout. During this process, it’s important to already know the measurements of your appliances and build in openings accordingly. “Leave an inch here and there for wiggle room because no wall is perfectly straight and you will need to make up the difference with filler trim,” Myers advises.


Fabricate Countertop, Then Insert Backsplash

Only once the cabinets are in place can you take your final measurements for the countertop. Then they can be fabricated—aka cut and inspected—to align with the cabinets and installed on top. Depending on how speedy your countertop maker is, this process could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so make sure to factor that into your timeline. Afterwards, the backsplash should go in so that it perfectly meets the countertop. “In construction, each task builds upon the previous task,” details Denmon. “If you try to cheat the process, by going out of order, using incorrect measurements, or skimping on materials, you probably won’t like the end result.”


You’ve Made It to the Finish Line

The finishing touches are hardware, lighting, and appliances. These features adorn the laborious construction work and make the kitchen sparkle. “Voila,” says Myers. “Completed kitchen.”

Comments (2)

  • Hmmm… most of the things I’ve seen say to install the cabinets 1st and flooring last. What’s the benefit of installing flooring under the cabinets?

  • It’s been more than 10 years since we bought the house we’re living in right now. I think it might be high time to do some renovations, especially in our kitchen. Thanks for this guide on how to start my project such as remembering that I should only install a new countertop after new cabinets have been made and mounted already.

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We don’t believe that renovations should be daunting. The key is to arm yourself with the right knowledge, people, and products to achieve your goals. It also helps to ask the right questions: How much does it cost to renovate a kitchen? How do I find the right general contractor in my area? Where do I even start if I’ve never remodeled before? This is where we come in. Through hard-to-believe before and afters, first-person renovation accounts, and step-by-step DIY projects, we demystify every aspect of remodeling and give you a ton of full-house, bathroom, and kitchen renovation ideas. Semihandmade was built on a strong make-it-yourself spirit and we’re carrying that legacy beyond DIY kitchen cabinets (though we’ll certainly touch on those too) by bringing you a ton of weekend projects for novices (have you ever tried making your own planter?) and experts (try your hand at a full-wall media center). What do people really mean when they say a house has “good bones”? Before and after projects show first-hand what’s possible in a transformative remodel. How do you make the most of a narrow galley? Should you swap your upper cabinets for floating shelves? What would it look like if you opened up your small kitchen? Renovation ideas abound in our spotlighted projects. A lot goes into a kitchen renovation, but it’s usually hard to tell from a beautiful “after” shot. Our monthly series “Island Hopping” is about getting a behind-the-scenes account of what the process is like through honest conversations—you know, the kind that typically take place around a kitchen island. We’ll chat with designers, homeowners, and architects about their projects, hoping to peel back the curtain on picture-perfect spaces.