The kitchen is often the most heavily traveled room in your house since it’s where you entertain and enjoy meals. If you’re considering upgrading the look of your kitchen, it’s wise to plan out the details ahead of time and understand what’s involved in the process to avoid any issues.

A Fresh New Look

There’s no need to completely redo your entire kitchen in order to get a new and inviting look. Simply putting in new cabinets, countertops and new flooring will brighten the room and give it a more modern appeal. If you’re unsure what type of kitchen you desire you can always look in home improvement magazines for inspiration as well as watch shows on HGTV, such as “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers.”

One of the best ways to decide on countertops, cabinets and flooring is to visit your local home improvement store so you can see and feel the different styles and materials.

Replacing Old Cabinets

If you have old, worn metal or wooden cabinets, a thorough cleaning and a fresh coat of paint isn’t going to do the trick. It may even be less expensive to replace them than to do a complete restoration.

You may like your current cabinets but don’t like the way they’re organized in your kitchen. For example, if your current kitchen doesn’t accommodate a pantry, you can consider changing the location of your cabinets in order to add a pantry. Before, deciding on a layout for your kitchen, you should contact a home improvement professional to see if it makes senses and is feasible.

 Fm House / Horma photo by Mariela Apollonio

Streamlining your cabinets is essential today. It allows for more space and efficiency. While any type of wood can be used to create the perfect cabinet styles for your taste, not all wood is the same. The supplier may say “solid wood,” but there are harder woods, softer woods and the aging process of the cabinets over time can either darken or lighten the color of the natural wood. Here are four trending wood cabinet options that might want to consider:

1. Oak cabinetry

Oak cabinets are still trending today, especially since the wood is hard, durable and heavy. Homeowners are less likely to replace their solid oak cabinets and instead may choose to either refinish them or even paint them to give them a fresh look. You can simply replace the handles and other hardware to give your oak cabinets a facelift.

2. Maple wood

This type of wood is similar to oak since it’s durable and efficient. It’s also long lasting and maple cabinets are usually left in the house for decades. If exposed to direct sunlight, however, the grain may lose its luster. But like oak, it’s less expensive and easier to just give your cabinets a facelift rather than replace them.

3. Hickory

Hickory is a popular wood to use for your cabinetry. It’s almost tri-color in a variety of browns and tans. Hickory is one of the strongest woods and will last a lifetime even with small children around, yet it is also one of the most expensive. If you’re planning on painting over the wood, you may want to opt for one of the lesser expensive woods.

4. Birch

If you’re longing for oak or maple cabinets but can’t afford them, you can choose birch cabinets. They have a similar look to oak and maple cabinets but are much more affordable. Birch also takes well to just about any type of stain or paint, so you can customize it to your own design.

Updating Your Countertop

A kitchen remodel isn’t finished without a new and sparkling countertop to make your room pop. The most durable and long-lasting counter tops are made of natural stone. Granite appears to be one of the most popular types of natural stone due to its price and unique look.

When searching for a new countertop it’s best to visit some local home improvement stores or stores that specialize in natural stone and see in person the look of each stone. Also, you can find out more information about the characteristics of each type of stone and see if it fits within your budget.

 House In Vincennes / Les Ateliers Tristan - photo by Sagitta Fiaime Meloni

Here are some trending natural stone options for your new countertop, ranging from least to most expensive, including maintenance costs:

1. Slate

Slate is a very durable and stunning natural stone with low maintenance costs. It’s a great option for a sleek décor and you can save even more money by purchasing slate tiles instead of slabs.

Cost: $50-$65 per-square foot for tile and $100+ per square foot for a slab

Maintenance: Low

2. Soapstone

This natural stone thrives in a cozy and rustic looking kitchen due to its warm look. It’s not as bold as some of the other natural stones and will quickly upgrade the appearance of your kitchen. It’s extremely durable and doesn’t require a lot of care in order to keep it looking new.

Cost: $60- $185

Maintenance:Low

3. Granite

Granite has become a staple in most kitchens due to its various stunning looks and its wonderful durability. This natural stone does well in high traffic areas, such as the kitchen, and doesn’t require a ton of maintenance in order to keep its shiny look.

Cost: $45 – $200

Maintenance: Moderate

Marble

Marble is one of the most luxurious natural stones due to its glamorous look. It’s also the costliest though since it’s in high demand and requires a lot of maintenance to keep it looking beautiful and desirable. Not everyone can take the extra precautions around marble to avoid chips and prevent staining.

Cost: $75 – $250

Maintenance: High

Measuring for a New Countertop

Once you have your natural stone picked out you should have someone come to your home to measure for the new countertops. It’s important to ensure that you have enough space to accommodate for your new kitchen island. A home improvement professional will know how to effectively measure your kitchen and tell you the right size for your new countertop.

Basically, the professional will need to multiply the length and width for each section of countertop you need. You’ll also have to allow for overhang and any specialization for the corners, as well as space for the sink. Once you know the measurements, you’ll need a sketch of the layout of your cabinets with the correct measurements written in the drawing.

Once you have your drawing and measurements done, you can visit several online sites which offer free countertop estimator tools so you can start comparing costs between different styles of natural stone.

You should give the contractor all of the information you’ve gathered about your countertop measurements and the type of natural stone you desire so he knows what to look for when he’s getting the materials and supplies for the project.

 2009 Stand / Elena Cerizza

Flooring Upgrades

If you’d like to have your kitchen make a statement you can opt for natural stone flooring to match or complement your new granite countertops. If the price is an issue, you might want to use the granite as an edging around the floor and do the rest of the flooring in complementary hardwood, laminate or tile.

Alternatively, you can choose to have porcelain or ceramic tiles for your kitchen floor since they have a gorgeous appeal and aren’t that costly compared to other flooring options.

As with the countertops, it’s wise to first measure the area so you can give yourself an estimate of how much the material costs.

1. Porcelain Tile 

Porcelain tiles are best for a high-traffic room. It’s a hard material, extremely durable and stain and water resistant, so you don’t need to stress over spilled liquid on your floor. Any scratches to unglazed porcelain won’t show because the color is mixed throughout the porcelain, unlike the glazed porcelain type.

2. Ceramic Tile

If your budget doesn’t allow for you to have porcelain tile in your kitchen, then you can consider ceramic tile. It’s a wonderful alternative to porcelain and its glaze finish makes gives it the exact same look as porcelain. This flooring is extremely durable as well as stain-resistant. However, ceramic tile is softer than porcelain, making cutting and installation much easier and faster.

3. Stone Tile

Stone tiles include marble, slate, granite, limestone and travertine. Each of these options have a higher maintenance cost after installation. Due to wear and tear it’s advised to have the stone sealed every two to three years to maintain its look and durability. Before installing stone in your kitchen you should know that it can become extremely slippery when its wet.

4. Hardwood floors 

Hardwood floors are ideal for a kitchen. They have a timeless look that’s bound to make your kitchen stand out. In addition, if you have a country style or farmhouse kitchen, hardwood flooring will match perfectly the rest of your décor. With hardwood flooring you don’t need to worry about it looking outdated after a few years since it will always be considered trendy. To keep your hardwood floor in pristine condition you should avoid moving heavy objects on it and if it’s starting to lose its shimmer you’ll need to have the floor refinished and sealed.

 Flat Refurbishment In Chiado, Lisbon / Marta Sequeira, Pedro Matos Gameiro - photo by Carolina Delgado

Choosing a Home Improvement Specialist

Searching for a professional to remodel your kitchen requires more than just going through the yellow pages and looking for a contractor.

1. Specialization

Since you’re only upgrading a few aspects of your kitchen, there’s no need to invest a contractor that can work on several areas of your home. It’s more cost effective to have a contractor that specifically works on remodeling kitchens. Specialists have more experience in their areas than a general contractor therefore you’ll end up more pleased with the result once they’re done. A specialist knows where to get the best deals on materials and the best vendors to contact for supplies.

2. Background Research

Once you have a couple of contractors in mind, it’s time to do some background research. You want to hire someone who’s not only experienced but very honest and responsible. This person will be spending several hours each week in your kitchen so it’s wise to pick someone who you can trust to not steal any of your valuables. You can ask friends, neighbors and co-workers who may have had similar jobs done in the past. In addition, there’s several online services that post reviews and ratings about contractors. Before considering a specific contractor you’ll need to check if they’re licensed and insured as well. This is one of the most crucial aspects of hiring a contractor.

3. “Interview” Contractor Prospects

When searching for a contractor you should ask them for referrals, find out how many projects they have completed thus far and learn how long they have been in the home improvement business. If he’s a reputable contractor, he’ll be comfortable providing information and may even appreciate that you’re doing your due diligence before making a decision.

4. Get Estimates in Writing

Before committing to a specific contractor you need to see the total cost of the project in writing. It’s important that the estimate is in writing to avoid the contractor from stating he never agreed to a specific price. Also, it’s helpful to compare the costs of each contractor and decide which one you view as the most reasonable.

5. Get the Contract in Writing

Once you’ve made your final decision on which specialist to hire, be sure to go over the contract in detail before signing it. If you’re not sure about something – ask. Since this is going to be a costly project you don’t want any surprise costs added on to the project without you knowing.  Also, you want to ensure that you and the contractor are on the same page about what you expect to happen during the remodel, the intended results and the estimated time it will take for the project to be completed.

Remember, when you’re looking at new design upgrades or a remodel, you want your work to be something you’ll still be happy with for another 15 to 20 years, so planning is key to your success.

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