Kitchen Remodeling Tips: 5 Things to Do Before Work Begins on Your New Kitchen

Kitchen Remodeling Tips: 5 Things to Do Before Work Begins on Your New Kitchen

Renovating a kitchen is a huge project that requires proper planning. When it comes to making magic happen, there are a lot of variables to consider. 

So, before you take a sledgehammer and start breaking down walls, it’s important to take a good look at your plan. Is it realistic? Do you have enough leeway in your budget to achieve both your needs and wants?

To help you jumpstart the process, here are five things we recommend you accomplish before starting your kitchen renovation.

1. Decide how you want to conduct the project

Not surprisingly, we believe you should hire a design-build firm. In fact, we can even offer recommendations along that line. Regardless of your approach to your project, we believe it’s imperative that you involve other people to get a broader, more informed perspective.

But remember; even if you’re using professional help, you must still provide your own input. Your kitchen must work for you, which means you have to be involved. 

2. Figure out how much time you need for the project.

Kitchen Remodeling Tips 5 Things to Do Before Work Begins on Your New Kitchen1There are really only two projects: design and construction. It’s important to allow enough time for both but, unfortunately, most homeowners end up underestimating the duration of each phase.

We recommend allowing leeway for incubation time during the design phase.  Set your design aside for a few days and try not to think about it too hard. Chances are, you’ll get hit with a bolt of fresh inspiration after a while—an idea that’ll transform your design from good to great. 

Once you have a full design—including selections—then you can move on to creating a construction schedule. Include everything that needs to be done and come up with a rough time estimate for each. And then add at least 25% of that timeframe to that timeframe.

Is there a deadline—some sort of event that the remodel needs to be completed by? If so, you’ll want to work backwards, starting with your end date, to see when your actual start date should ideally be. If there is no deadline, then you can simply work forward with your schedule. For anything that you’re trying to do yourself, we recommend that you at least double the time you think it’ll take. Speaking from experience, it is not uncommon for us—as a design-build company—to be asked to pick up projects that had previously been abandoned for years.


3. Leave some leeway for the unexpected.

Regarding your timeline, don’t forget to give you and your contractor a bit of wiggle room. No matter how meticulously you plan you’re remodeling, there are variables in a renovation that will always be beyond our control. It isn’t uncommon to come across something that couldn’t have been anticipated. This includes things like rot or unexpected piping in the walls.

Remember to leave room for the unexpected and scheduling adjustments when designing your kitchen remodeling schedule. The smallest adjustment in the project schedule can trigger disruption for the entire thing. For instance, if you add something to the plumber’s schedule that will keep them on the job for an extra day, everyone gets affected. Let’s say that addition should ideally only throw the electrician’s schedule off by a day. However, that one-day delay has also forced the entire crew to postpone by their schedule by another day or two because the plumber and electrician aren’t done. By that time, the AC guy is going to have to push his HSVR back a week just to accommodate the extra days of the whole team.

You can see why construction schedules are so difficult to maintain.

4. Check your priorities.

If your budget does not allow you to make your dream kitchen a reality in one shot, there’s no need to compromise. Instead, do it in phases. Start with the areas you absolutely need to complete immediately. For instance, you’ll usually need your countertops, cabinets, infrastructure, layout, and wiring right away. The little add-ons, however, like appliance upgrades, new tiles, expensive faucets, and fancy light fixtures can afford to be pushed to a later date.

Choose The Right Sink For Your Kitchen Upgrade

5. Create a temporary kitchen.

While your main kitchen is under renovation, make sure to set up a temporary kitchen in another part of your home. This is where you’ll wash dishes and prepare meals for the time being. Having a kitchen remodel doesn’t have to be an excuse to start eating out or ordering in all the time, and you’ll be happy for this temporary space when you need your 7AM morning coffee.

You don’t need a fancy set-up. You just need a countertop or two, a small cooking surface (electric or camping will work fine), a refrigerator or even an ice chest, and a few essential utensils for cooking and eating.

Kitchen remodeling is both exciting and potentially nerve-wracking. You need to invest time, effort, and commitment to get it done, so be sure to cover all the bases before diving in. If you take your time, seek help from professionals, and consider the above tips, you should have little to no trouble getting the results you want.

Kitchen Remodeling Tips: Choosing the Right Sink

Kitchen Remodeling Tips: Choosing the Right Sink

Most kitchen work involves the use of sinks; from prepping to the last washed pot. Sinks add to the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen and, of course, are functional. So, for your kitchen remodeling plans make sure to find a sink that fulfills both practical and aesthetic needs. 

What Kind of Sink Should I Install?

Kitchen sinks can be made from several different materials, including; stainless steel, cast iron, solid surface, composite, and acrylic. The material is usually an aesthetic choice but can also affect the function.

High-quality stainless-steel sinks are very sturdy. They are easy to clean and, compared to other sink options, are affordable. On the other hand, they are also one of the noisier ones—especially if you drop your silverware or plastic Tupperware—they easily display dried water spots, and scratches show up almost instantly on their surface. Sound deadening material placed under stainless steel sinks help reduce noise and improve strength. Stainless steel sinks come in varying metal thicknesses and gauges. Keep in mind that a smaller gauge means thicker metal.

Meanwhile, cast iron sinks are easy to clean and maintain. Just like stainless steel, they’re also durable. Cast iron also happens to be incompatible with abrasive cleaners as they can scratch and dull the finish. Enameled cast iron sinks are prone to chipping and scratching.

Solid surface sinks provide seamless joints with counter-tops of the same material. They are also durable, better handle dropped objects, and are easily reparable.

Using composite or artificial stone sinks will give you reasonably scratch-resistant and heat-tolerant option. However, scuffs and scrapes harder to remove.

Acrylic is an economical option. However, it is not heat-tolerant, and can be vulnerable to staining from petroleum-based products.

Want to Have The Best Scheme Design for Your Kitchen? Here are 3 of 2018’s Top Kitchen Trends!

What Size Should I Choose?

According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), small kitchens should consider single-bowl sinks. Larger kitchens can afford to have double- or even triple- bowls.

While large sinks like farm house sinks can be appealing in and of themselves, and functional when washing pans or filling large pots, they also decrease counter space—which is also usually a premium in the kitchen. A large sink that looks great in a close-up picture may look out of place in the full context of the kitchen.

What are the Best Configurations?

  • Depth. If you plan to go heavy on the dishwashing, you may want to use deeper bowls with straight side walls to accommodate washing and soaking large pans and pots. The flat bottom should also add sufficient space for stacking dishes while washing.
  • Sink Divider. When choosing a double-bowl sink, choose the one with a lower-leveled divider. This will prevent overflow while you’re doing dishes as it will allow the water to flow to the other bowl.
  • Offset Drains. Choosing a sink with offset drains will allow for smooth, even draining regardless of what’s soaking in the sink. With the drain to one side, there’s also more space for stacking washables.

What is the Best Mounting Style?

There are three basic mounting styles for kitchen sinks: drop-in, flush, and undermount.

The drop-in style is done by mounting the sink on the countertop. It’s the easiest way to install new sinks into existing countertops. You are, however, left with a rim above the countertop that is more difficult to clean.

In a flush style, the mounting is similar with that of a drop-in. However, it is even with the countertop. More commonly done in the past when laminate counter tops were prevalent, this mounting style employs a metal mounting strip that tends to collect grime.

The undermount sink has become the most popular sink in modern kitchens due to the ease of cleaning. Debris and water can be wiped right into the sink with no obstruction. However, this mounting style does not work well for laminate or tile countertops.

Pruning Bushes and Trees

                      Here are some limbs to look for when pruning your trees or bushes.

                     Here are some limbs to look for when pruning your trees or bushes.

As a general practice, we do not include yard work in our maintenance list but this is one that impacts the health and durability of your house.  Tree branches rubbing or falling on the house can do a tree-mendous amount of damage. Vines growing on the house can also do damage.  It is a good idea to do this chore early in February before spring starts to set in but once the worst of winter has passed.  Prune branches far enough back so that wind does not blow them against the roof or walls.  It is a good idea to go outside when there is a high wind and watch.  You will probably be surprised how far the branches will bend in a high wind.  And don’t forget that they will grow before you prune them again, so cut them back a little further.  Plant material built up on the house provides a good means for insects and rodents to get in.  Also, if you have an overhead power, telephone or cable line coming to your house, keep it clear of blowing branches. Be especially careful with ladders and other tools around power lines.


I recently returned from the Greenbuild 2014 conference in New Orleans.  This is an annual conference put on by the United States Green Building Committee (USGBC.)  It is three days of intensive learning about a wide range of design and construction concepts that relate to creating a smarter and healthier built environment.

My favorite sessions this year had to do with Biophilia, which is the study of the positive effects of nature in our lives and ways to increase our exposure to nature in the built environment.  The term and general concept has been around for many  years, introduced by E. O. Wilson in his book by the same name.  But it has only relatively recently been picked up by the design community.

This is a thrilling development for us at Stearns Design Build, as it is so similar to our own theory of design that we call Transitions.  Transitions is built on the knowledge that connection to nature and natural rhythms creates happiness.  We know, for example, that people who know what time the sun rises and sets, or what phase the moon is in, consistently report a higher level of happiness and contentment.  So the question becomes: in the modern world of rather insular homes, how do we create these connections for people?

The most predominant feature on the modern American home is the cavernous garage, with doors that open mechanically, swallowing cars, saving drivers and passengers from interaction with neighbors that they do not know.  The backyards of most homes are no less isolating. Surrounded by a tall privacy fence, maintaining protection form neighbors and natural surroundings.  Most of the trees that the yard may have once had were taken down during construction and replaced with turf that requires weekly maintenance and large amounts of pesticides and herbicides.

At one time American homes had large front porches that provide a fresh air room with access to neighbors who were frequently out for a walk.  Those porches have shrunk and, if they exist at all, are a façade feature too narrow to accommodate a chair.

Modern residential design creates homes that isolate us from both community and nature.

The Ancient Greek word for community was koinonia.  But it was more often used as a verb rather than a noun.  It also translated as share, participate jointly and intimacy.  This is the word that got translated to “fellowship” in the New Testament of the Bible.  For us, community has become a place or a group of people: a passive noun, not an active verb describing how we are in community.

The philosopher Martin Heidegger, in his book What Is Called Thinking, spoke about the separation of the self from nature in language and in thought.  This separation is the source of modern angst.  This angst belongs to us and to all of nature. When we do not view ourselves as a part of nature, it becomes easy to view nature only as expendable resource.  Heidegger said, “Nature becomes a gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry.”  Angst manifest in nature as climate change, habitat destruction, smog and extinction.

Our Transitions theory of design seeks to assuage modern angst through the phenomenology of design.  By placing us in the context of our surroundings, both natural and community, we can impact who we are and provide a sense of connection and transcendence in the world.  This bold undertaking is the essence of humbling, as we must recognize that we are a part of, and not apart from, larger systems.

To the extent that we seek “green” or sustainable solutions, it is not enough to consider the resources that we use in building, we must consider our relationship to all resources. We must design homes that put us into relationship with life’s resources so that we can become aware of our part of a process of dynamic balance.

Tankless Water Heaters No Longer our Recommendation

water heaters

water heaters

For years we confidently recommended tankless water heaters.  This recommendation was backed up by quite a bit of well documented research that was easily understood from a theoretic perspective.  Conventional water systems keep all of that water hot all of the time.  New research shows that the truth is somewhat counterintuitive.  This article does a nice job of explaining the problem with tankless water heaters.  

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