I hope this is the right board for this post.
I am looking to renovate my kitchen. I would love to hear other people's experiences. What materials did you use, what did you learn, what are you glad you did, what would you do different, how long did it take and what did you eat/do while it was in process, etc? I don't know what to expect and need to hear some stories.
We just got done with a 5 month remodel that the contractor said would take "2 to 3 weeks." Still no knobs on the cabinets - but that's our fault. It cost almost twice what we expected but we've learned that is typical, especially with an unpredictable almost 100 year old house. We ended up needing a new electrical service, etc. So budget carefully and plan on it taking much longer than you expect. Move out if you possibly can or plan to get away from the noise and dust as much as possible. Also make up a detailed list of everything that will need to be done for the contractor to write an estimate from. We got burned on "extras."
The best thing we did was hire a kitchen designer for a few hours of time. She was totally reasonable, drew up the plans and came up will all kinds of brilliant ideas including putting in an L-shape bench/banquette to save space in the dining area. It is incredibly cozy.
We are very happy with the results. We spent a lot on custom cabinets - which were actually cheaper than Home Depot - and are glad we did because we got exactly what we wanted (cabinets go to the ceiling, big cabinet for upright trays and platters, wide baking drawer) and didn't waste space. We learned there is no good countertop surface. Thought about stainless, butcher block, concrete, formica, soapstone, tile and ended up with granite which, while I fear it will become the dated avocado green of the 00s, is easy to clean, durable and I can roll dough out right on it. What luxury. We got a 10" deep double-bowl Blanco sink from ebay which I love.
The saddest part about the process was I lost the will to cook for about two months. Everything became a chore. People kept saying use a camp stove or get an electric skillet, but without any place to prep or keep ingredients, I just gave up. The fridge was in the living room full of much-needed beer. We do have a big propane grill which we cooked meat and vegetables on, ate a lot of bread and microwaved vegetables, and learned to grill pizzas made from TJs bread dough. I hope you live in a place with good, cheap take out. We don't and could only stomach so much pizza and burritos. We learned there is no good frozen food. In a strange way, not thinking so much about food and cooking, which generally consume my life, both personally and professionally, was liberating. It freed up quite a bit of time.
The biggest thing I learned is to really have your stuff picked out (floor, countertops, light fixtures, appliances and so on) and hopefully ordered long before demolition starts. We really tried to but things changed, stuff got late, and best laid plans.... Take the time to know what you want going in. Best of luck!
Can't help with a "reno" but we did build a home and by the time we got to the kitchen details we were about done in!! Junie D has invaluable advice. We too were over our kitchen budget and overdue! What I learned very early....the magazines all show kitchens that are big bucks. They ask you to bring in pictures of what you like and then you find out it's waaaaay over your budget. Decide on your budget first, unless it's unlimited!! Shop, shop and shop.... Have your appliances decided first (the cabinet folks need these specs before they can design). Get references about the quality of workmanship AND installation - the latter was not pleasant for us! Be strong.... :>)
If you're a chowhound, my advice is to RUN from the typical face frame cabinents and "custom" face frame cabinents. When we replaced those with inexpensive prefab frameless cabinents with pull out trays, I doubled my storage and halved the time it took to put stuff away in the kitchen. Putting pull out trays in the old cabinents took half the storage away because the frame around the doors prevented my using much of the space.
I just finished a kitchen renovation and found the kitchen forum at gardenweb.net (click on home forums and then kitchens) an invaluable resource.
I have a pretty basic kitchen, with little counter space but blessed with a full cold pantry and a pan pantry (my house is 100 years old). The cabinetry is cheap stuff from the 1980s, and I've basically managed ad hoc. The kitchen is not pretty, and is heavily used. I designed a partial renovation several years ago, and that alone was going to cost $20-30K and take months (realistically, ignoring the lying promises and reassurances). I decided to bag the idea while the renovation market was hot (as it still is), under thinking that one should not buy high (for services or goods) unless it's a real necessity. Frankly, a pretty kitchen is not important: what's important is functionality. Actually, it's my experience that the prettier the kitchens get, the less hard use they receive. I guess my thoughts are that our grandparents made fantastic foods in kitchens far less commodious than anything we have today, so I'd rather spend the money on the chow and entertaining.
If it means I get a slightly lower price when I sell my place, so be it. Kitchen renovations should not be about trying to increase the value of the place (studies increasingly show that on average they barely cover their costs in that regard), but what about what is the best value for your money right now.
Just my tuppence/twopence.