Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Kitchen Remodel

Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Kitchen Remodel

I’m not going to lie… starting a kitchen remodel can be daunting. And the first kitchen renovation project I ever took on was a bit of a doozy.  When it comes to kitchens, there are SO MANY factors and customizations to consider that it can be totally paralyzing to pick materials.  And that’s the fun part of it!  Don’t even get me started on the snags you can run into with plumbing, layout, and more.  After working on hundreds of kitchens over the years, I’ve learned some serious pro tips I’m going to share with you to help you get your project off on the right foot.




Since my knowledge of kitchen reno projects knows no bounds, I had my Built Custom Homes team create a Q&A with me to help me organize my thoughts.  I’m sharing all the Things I Wish I Knew (and kicking off a super informative new monthly series with you guys!) before starting a kitchen remodel. So hopefully you can get your project headed in the right direction!  Whether you’re just painting your cabinets a new color or ripping everything out and starting over, I’m hoping these tips will help you make the best decisions for your project.  Let’s get to work!


Starting a Kitchen Remodel: Things I Wish I Knew

1. How important is it to start with your WHY for remodeling the kitchen?

That is, before you make any purchases or demo anything? Why do you need to answer questions with yourself and your contractor to figure out your space’s needs? The first thing you should start with on any remodeling project is the “why.”  For the kitchen, it’s why you’re redoing it and what you hope to accomplish.  Do you need more space?  New everything?  Seating?  Better lighting?  Making a list of “why” you’re redoing your kitchen will help you stay focused when you actually start making decisions.  We can get really sidetracked with crazy tile patterns, expensive appliances, etc., and end up losing vision of our original goal.



2. What’s the first thing you need to consider when starting a kitchen remodel?

The first thing to consider when updating your kitchen is EVERYTHING.  Ha!  No, but really, you can’t just start picking things at random and expect everything to fall into place.  The place I always start with is making a list of everything I need to decide on, from start to finish.  This list could include: flooring, cabinets, countertops, backsplash, cabinet hardware, fixtures (faucet, etc.), sinks, appliances, lighting, wall and ceiling paint colors… the list gets long!  However, if you think you might change the floor plan of your kitchen, that would be the best place to start.



3. What’s the most timeless or classic material you could use in a kitchen?

Easy answer: subway tile.  Unpredictable answer: marble.  Best of both worlds – use them together!  If you want a really “safe” and timeless kitchen, don’t try to reinvent the wheel!  Look no further than a beautiful white subway tile and marble (or marble look) countertops.  OR, you can mix it up and do clean white quartz countertops and marble 3×6” tile for the backsplash. 



4. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen made when people attempt to update this space?

Oh wow, so many!  I would say getting too caught up on having a “white kitchen” because their last kitchen was dark.  You want your kitchen to be bright and airy, I get it, but you still want to have a little something going on with other textures (think butcher block or reclaimed wood shelves), colors (think about painting your island a fun color), or with materials (there’s more to life than just plain white countertops – I promise).  The other mistake I see all the time are pendant lights above the island that are too small and make a space feel busy and cluttered.  If the light isn’t bigger than your head, in my opinion it’s too small.


5. What’s the WORST material to use in the kitchen that *seems* like a good idea but actually isn’t?

Well, that’s easy because it’s in my own kitchen – marble!  I love the look, don’t get me wrong, but natural stone stains and etches.  Everyone warned us before we put in our honed marble countertops, but did we listen?  Nope!  We spent years following our friends around with coasters until we finally found a UV COATING solution that made our marble countertops as durable as quartz.  So if you’re going to get marble, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Other options that look really similar are porcelain or quartz.



6. What’s a surefire “can’t reverse that” change in the kitchen people should know about before starting a kitchen remodel?

Once you move plumbing in a kitchen, that’s where it’s gonna stay.  If you have a raised foundation house, it’s easier, but most of the houses in Southern California are on a “slab” of concrete, so moving plumbing is a big deal.  Before you move any plumbing, make sure you ask yourself “why.” Is the floor plan change going to accomplish the goals from your original list?

*In both the Before & Afters above and below, the kitchen flow changed drastically without having to move the plumbing.



7. Why is it important to consider resale in the kitchen?

We’ve all heard “the kitchen is the heart of the home,” and I think it’s true.  The kitchen is so important for resale value.  It will sell your house, but even quicker, it will NOT sell your house.  Meaning, a good kitchen is NECESSARY if you want top dollar for your house.  The good news is, any money you put into your kitchen, you will get back out when you sell your house.  People are looking for updated kitchens and will pay a premium for this room being beautiful and functional.  So when you’re designing your kitchen (appliances, tile, countertops, cabinets, etc.) try to keep in mind a few things…




The current value of your house and what level of finishes makes sense for your house.  Don’t put a $40,000 kitchen into a property that’s worth $120,000 total – that makes no sense.  But on the flip side, don’t put a $40,000 kitchen into a property worth $3,200,000 – that also doesn’t make sense!

The style of your house.  If you have a Spanish Style Tudor, don’t ignore that fact when designing your kitchen and put an ultra mid-mod style kitchen in.  It just won’t feel right!  Also, your kitchen should be part of the same design aesthetic as your bathrooms. So if you aren’t redoing your bathrooms, you should take that into consideration.

*The bathroom pictured below is in the same house as the kitchen picture above – cohesive is key!

What MOST people like is so important to understand when designing a kitchen with a mind towards resale.  If you show your favorite backsplash tile to 5 people and 4 of them think it’s too wild, it will be up to you to make the decision . Stick to your guns and take the risk, or pick something more approachable and lock in your resale value.  Remember, you can always add that “pop” with fun kitchen towels, art, and accessories.  Tile is forever!

8. If you had to tell a homeowner ONE thing that should definitely be left up to the pros and not attempt on their own, what would it be?

Plumbing and electrical are tied for first place on the list.  Both of these should be done by licensed contractors – you need to pull permits, and you need it done RIGHT.  I don’t mess with either and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen these projects done wrong, putting the entire family in harm’s way

9. If someone could only make one change to their kitchen, which one would have the biggest impact?

Painting the cabinets is the easiest way to make a big impact in the kitchen.  A close second (and sometimes it’s less expensive than painting) is “refacing” the cabinets.  This is when a company comes in and takes your old cabinet doors and drawer fronts and replaces them with new ones.  It’s amazing how much of a difference this can make.

10. What’s the most common problem you’ve run into with ordering materials for the kitchen?

Where do I begin?  Ha, just kidding.  One of the most common problems I run into is fitting appliances into cabinets.  When redoing a kitchen, the appliances are one of the last things to go in, but they have to be chosen at the very beginning because the entire kitchen is built around them.  Sometimes the “specs” (that’s the factory measurements from the manufacturer) are a little off or are misleading and things don’t fit.  That’s the worst feeling, so double/triple check and, if possible, get your appliances delivered before you build your cabinets.

11. Anything else you want to add?

Of course! A few tips:

  • Your local tile shop is your friend, go there and spend some time looking at tile.  You won’t regret it!
  • It’s fun to use handles on drawers and kitchen cabinet doors.  You don’t have to use a knob anywhere in your kitchen if you don’t want to.
  • Find some photos of kitchens you love and identify what it is about the photos that draws you to it.  Then print those photos, make notes about what you like, and show them to your contractor or cabinet designer.
  • Don’t forget the lighting!  Add can lights in the ceiling, add pendant lights over your island, and add under-cabinet lighting to make sure your countertops and backsplash are well lit.  You’re in your kitchen A LOT when it’s dark outside, but you don’t want it to be dark inside as well.




  • I recently came upon your blog and wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying reading your writings. Thanks for sharing.

    Custom Kitchens Fairport, NY

    on January 31, 2024

  • Elevate your living experience with top-notch home remodeling.


    on January 31, 2024

  • Thank you, Jasmine for sharing invaluable insights for starting a kitchen remodel. Your tips are a treasure trove for anyone embarking on this journey. Your expertise and transparency make the remodeling process feel more manageable. Grateful for the guidance!

    build on your lot

    on January 31, 2024

  • This blog is a lifesaver! I wish I had known the importance of a detailed budget and timeline before diving into my kitchen remodel. The tip about considering temporary living arrangements during the process is brilliant. These insights would have saved me from unexpected hassles. Great advice for anyone planning a remodel!

    Adrien Nguyen

    on January 31, 2024

  • When you proposed combining subway tiles and marble to use as the material for our worktops and backsplash in order to create a secure and classic kitchen, I thought your suggestion was extremely intriguing. Due to the age of our home, my kitchen is getting refurbished because it appears to be rather worn out right now. Once I locate a renovation contractor to hire shortly, I will make sure to take your advice into account.

    Taylor Abrams

    on January 31, 2024

  • Jasmine! Thanks so much for writing this article. I am in the middle of a kitchen remodel right now and had questions on a few of the things you mentioned. This helped a ton and I wish I had seen it before I had even started remodeling. One thing that I have done during my remodel that has been helpful with the waste is getting a dumpster rental. I highly recommend it.

    Tina Puth

    on January 31, 2024

  • Great ideas about kitchen remodel that change my mind.

    Jhon Liva

    on January 31, 2024

  • You have done a wonderful job with your kitchen renovations! Your before and after pictures show how much effort and creativity you have put into transforming these spaces. The white cabinets with the black island is a striking contrast that adds elegance and style to that kitchen. I admire your taste and skill.


    on January 31, 2024

  • Thank you for sharing this fantastic and informative article. As a professional, I truly appreciate the way you’ve described every aspect of kitchen remodeling. Your insights and guidance are truly valuable and will certainly help me in my future projects. Keep up the great work!

    Kitchen Remodeling Houston

    on January 31, 2024

  • Oh, hi! This article reminds me of my friend in Washington who intends to redo his apartment kitchen this spring. You certainly sparked my interest in saying that subway tiles are perfect for kitchen remodeling because of their timelessness. Okay, I guess he should simply talk to a contractor to get things started.

    Sam Andrews

    on January 31, 2024

  • Beyond aesthetics, functionality is key when remodeling your home. Consider how you and your family use each space and aim for a layout that promotes efficiency and flow. Consult with professionals who can help you optimize the layout, maximize storage, and create seamless transitions between different areas. The goal is to make your home not only beautiful but also practical and tailored to your lifestyle.

    Point Vertex Construction

    on January 31, 2024

  • Thank you for your advice to make sure that your kitchen’s style fits with your home. I’ve been wondering what style we should go for for our kitchen. I hadn’t really thought about this, so I’ll have to get some inspiration from our home’s architecture and style.

    Olivia Smart

    on January 31, 2024

  • Thank you for pointing out that you should let professionals do the plumbing and electrical for your renovation. We’ve been wondering if there’s any of the renovation that we should completely avoid doing on our own. I’ll be sure to talk to our contractor to see about arranging this when the time rolls around to get things installed.

    Olivia Smart

    on January 31, 2024

  • I loved that you mentioned pairing butcher block with white to create an interesting texture. I really want to remodel my kitchen this year to make it look a bit brighter. I think that using natural wood in addition to white would make it look perfect.

    Eve Mitchell

    on October 15, 2023

  • We want to buy new plumbing fixtures to renovate our kitchen this month, but we think we’d like to change the location of our faucet. We’re glad you elaborated on leaving all the plumbing and electrical to licensed contractors, so we’ll look into that right away. Thanks.

    Eli Richardson

    on October 15, 2023

  • Really well written, Jasmine. You included and have some beautiful designs in your post. Cheers, John & CWR

    City Wide Remodelers

    on October 15, 2023

  • Yay! This article is just what my neighbor needs considering she wishes to redo her cooking area this spring. Perhaps she could get the job done more effectively by hiring a contractor straight away. Nevertheless, shout out to you for mentioning how timeless marble is as a remodeling material for our kitchen.

    Sam Andrews

    on October 15, 2023

  • Amazing Blog, You were so kind to explain to us how to keep marble out of our kitchen because it is easily stained.


    on October 15, 2023

  • Thank you, Jasmine, for sharing your valuable insights on kitchen remodeling. Your post has given me a lot of helpful tips and things to consider before starting my own project. I especially appreciate your emphasis on budgeting and planning ahead, as these are often overlooked but crucial aspects of any renovation. Your expertise and experience are truly inspiring, and I look forward to implementing your advice in my own home. Thank you again for your wonderful blog!

    John Christ

    on October 15, 2023

  • I’ve started creating vlogs where I post cooking videos on the internet to share my recipes with others. I’ve been considering giving my kitchen a makeover to enhance its appearance on camera. I’m relieved to know that significant improvements can be made to a kitchen without relocating plumbing fixtures. This is why I’ll carefully evaluate if remodeling is necessary before hiring contractors. I’ll remember this advice as I search for remodeling professionals.

    Elle Jones

    on April 24, 2023

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