Getting Your Remodel Off to a Good Start

Before beginning a kitchen remodel, a lot of prep work is required. Here are five things you'll need to do before even hiring a designer.

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Are you itching to breathe new life into an outdated or poorly-functioning kitchen? Hold on. Put down the phone. Before contacting a remodeling professional, you'll need to do a little soul-searching and research first.

"[Planning] is the first phase of any project, and sometimes it's the phase that's ignored," says Everett Collier, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). "The more pre-planning that one can do, the better off they are."

1. CREATE A STYLEBOOK
If you're even thinking about a kitchen remodel, odds are you have been leafing through design magazines and watching HGTV. Both are great ways to jumpstart the process, but to get the most out of this step, you'll need to do more than turn pages and program your TiVo.

While looking through magazines, tear out photos of kitchens that appeal to you and write what you like about the room in the margin. Then slip the page into a clear sheet protector and insert that into a three-ring binder to create a stylebook.

The Internet is another source for kitchen inspiration. If you see a kitchen that interests you on HGTV, often photos of the room will be available on HGTV.com. (Start by looking at Designers' Portfolio: Kitchens). Simply print the photos and add them to your stylebook. As your stylebook grows, a clear picture of your desired style of kitchen will begin to emerge. That's helpful for you, but it's also helpful for the remodeling professional you will eventually hire.

"We like to go through [the stylebook] to get a blush of what they're after," says Sara Ann Busby, owner of Sara Busby Designs, a remodeling company in Elk Rapids, Mich.

2. DEFINE YOUR GOAL
There's obviously a reason you want to remodel your kitchen. What is it? Perhaps you want a kitchen that will help with resale in a few years. Maybe you desire a kitchen built for entertaining or one that allows several people to cook at once. This is the time to assess your needs and wants. Make notes about how you plan to use the remodeled space, then try to distill all that information into a one- or two-sentence goal such as, "My casual and open kitchen will be a place for family and friends to relax and enjoy healthy meals."

3. CREATE A BUDGET
To get a general idea of how much you have to spend on a kitchen remodel, you will need to crunch some numbers. NARI offers a worksheet that makes the math easy. Are granite countertops a must-have? How about stainless steel appliances? Do a little research into the costs of your wish list items and compare them with your preliminary budget. Are you on target?

4. SET A TIME BUDGET
When most people hear the word budget, they automatically think of money. However, when remodeling, it's also important to budget time. Is there an event on the calendar that would be affected if your kitchen was under construction? Discuss your time budget when interviewing potential remodelers.

5. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Above all else make sure you have reasonable expectations when it comes to your kitchen remodel. Talk to people who have been through the process before.

"Sit down with your family and talk about what you're about to embark on," says Suzie Williford, National Kitchen & Bath Association treasurer and vice president of sales for Westheimer Plumbing & Hardware in Houston. "It's going to take a certain amount of time. It's going to have a certain amount of mess. It's going to be a financial stress, and if you don't know all this ahead of time and you go in with rose colored glasses, then that takes all the fun out of it. And, you know, it should be fun."

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