The Ultimate Guide for Planning a Modern Day Kitchen Remodel

The Ultimate Guide for Planning a Modern Day Kitchen Remodel

The modern kitchen represents so much more than just a room where food is prepared. It’s a center for everyday life, a place to host guests, and a point to showcase where functionality meets beauty and design.

Remodeling the kitchen is one of the biggest decisions and investments a homeowner can make. It’s also a project that (more than likely) requires an enormous budget. The choices made during this process have a significant impact on the resale value of the property. Many experts recommend updating the kitchen every 10-15 years.

If you’ve been carefully saving over the years and the time is right, this guide will help direct you to solutions that fall in line with your budgetary spectrum.

Initial Steps

The first few steps of planning a kitchen remodel are far and away the most important part of the job, it is here where you outline your wants, needs, catalysts, and milestones. Statista took a poll from US consumers from 2014-2016 to determine the primary motivations to undergo a kitchen remodel.1

Remodeling a kitchen is a long, treacherous process. The more time you spend at the drawing board mapping out the details behind the “what” and the “why” for each move, the better outcome you will get. It’s highly recommended that you spend at least six months doing this.

Step one is determining your budget. Ultimately, this will decide what options you have for the remodel.

When finding the ideal budget, ask yourself these questions:

1. How much are you willing to spend, and how much value will you get for it?

Total cost/recouped value of kitchen remodels can vary quite a bit.

National Average2$21,898
Typical Range2$12,569 – $33,255
High-End2$50,000 +
Minor Project Recouped Value80.2%
Major Project Recouped Value65.3%

Note, the high-end cost is more on the modest side. An intricate and lavish project can easily set homeowner’s back six figures or more.

In general, most people allocate their budget like this:

Lighting and Electrical45%
Walls and Trim43%

In most cases, you can expect to recoup around 75% of the costs back into the value of the home. When choosing materials, appliances, hardware, layouts, etc. you need to consider how each of your budgetary decisions will impact the home’s value down the road.

The complexity of this project is completely dependent on the budget. If your plan is to gut the entire room and form a completely new layout, you need to consider factors like moving the plumbing, air ducts, and possibly the walls – all of which will cost you a pretty penny.

2. How long will you be in the house?

If you are doing a kitchen remodel with the intention of selling the home in a few years, the project should be viewed a real estate investment. In this case, your decisions should be based on how much return you will get once the home in sold. If you plan on being in the home for the long term, decisions should be made to accommodate the personal lifestyle of you and your family.

3. What is the neighborhood like?

Do most of the homes fall into the upscale category? Are they the opposite? Do most of the inhabitants classify as middle-class?

Your budget for a kitchen remodel should align with the surroundings as much as possible. For instance, sparing no expense in creating a luxury kitchen for a house in a more modest neighborhood can actually cause you to lose money on the investment.


If your goal is to tear the current layout to shreds and start from scratch, this is a very exciting time where you can implement a completely new system. The more drastic the changes are; the bigger budget you will need. However, based on your current setup, changing the layout may not require a huge effort. There are several popular styles to think about.


Originally called the “Pullman kitchen,” one-wall layouts are typical for smaller spaces. Everything from the cabinets to appliances are installed on a single wall.


L-shaped layouts are all about maximizing the corner space. Ideal for small-to-medium sized kitchens, this style encompasses two rows of cabinets and countertops joined perpendicularly. The goal of this design is to eliminate traffic and provide options to add dining space or multiple work areas.


Horseshoe, or U-shaped kitchens, have three walls of cabinets and countertops. This layout makes workflows quicker and provides a sense of closure in the kitchen.


Designed with efficiency in mind, the galley setup is perfect for smaller spaces in which the kitchen is built for one cook. The layout is comprised of two parallel sets of cabinets and countertops with a space to walk in between. Perhaps the most prominent trait of this layout is that it uses every square inch to the fullest advantage, without any complicated corner cabinets to factor in.


Islands have been a big trend to emerge over the past few decades. Ideal of larger kitchens, a set of cabinets and a countertop in the center does wonders to add storage, functionality, create a meeting point, and much more.


Cost Range5MaterialsInstallationTotal
*estimate for 15 lineal ft
Low$1,350 – $1,830$340 – $410$1,690 – $2,240
Mid$2,240 – $2,500$480 – $580$2,720 – $3,080
High$3,040 – $3,720 +$750 – $1,360 +$2,311 – $5,080 +

In a kitchen remodel, the cabinets are the most expensive and impactful part of the project. The choices you make in this area will play a significant role in the final output of the remodel.

When looking at the overall project, there are several major construction options to consider.


Going custom gives you all kinds of freedom for design flexibility. This route will typically result in the best quality in terms of construction. If you choose this option, the cabinetmaker and designer make all the difference. Select yours wisely. Also, as you could have probably guessed, custom cabinets are the most expensive.

Average Low-End Cost Per Unit6$668.63
Average High-End Cost Per Unit$1,008.64


Semi-custom cabinets are the most popular choice for kitchen remodels. This option simplifies both the design and manufacturing processes. In many cases, semi-custom cabinets do not last as long as custom. If you plan on remodeling in the next 10-15 years, there is no point in spending a fortune on custom cabinets built to last a lifetime.

Average Low-End Cost Per Unit7$479.66
Average High-End Cost Per Unit$726.98


Ideal for budget remodels, stock cabinets are mass produced and offer little in terms of unique character. However, there are plenty of High-End variations that are well-crafted. The major drawback is you do not get to tailor the cabinets to your exact desires. On the flip side, they are available immediately – you don’t have to wait for them to be produced.

Average Low-End Cost Per Unit8$380.40
Average High-End Cost Per Unit$579.03


Kitchen cabinets can be constructed using a wide variety of materials. Each has their own set of special traits. The material you choose for your cabinets should involve a great deal of planning. You will need to consider the durability, the ambiance you are wanting to achieve, and how it will factor into your budget (it will take up a significant chunk).


Wood is by far the most commonly used material for kitchen cabinets. The term “wood” encompasses many different types that impact the final product. Some of the most commonly used woods are oak, cherry, walnut, maple, mahogany, birch, and pine. If you want to go environmentally-friendly, lyptus and bamboo are great choices. In general, solid woods are going be a bit pricey. A more economical option would be wood veneers. These are thin slices of wood glued to plywood, particleboard, or fiberboard.


Laminate cabinets are slightly cheaper than solid wood and are one of the most convenient material choices. They provide a huge amount of freedom in terms of how you want to present the energy of your kitchen- as they come in all
kinds of colors, textures, and patterns. Laminate cabinets are highly durable, resistant to stains, and easy to clean.


Even though it has the word “foil” in the name, there is nothing metallic about this material. It is made up of medium-density fiberboard and has a thin layer of vinyl vacuum-pressed to the face. Thermofoil is a budget-friendly solution that is water resistant and has easy upkeep. The drawbacks are the vinyl is susceptible to peeling and chipping. Additionally, this material cannot be repainted.


Melamine cabinets are a low cost option comprised of particle board covered with a resin or paper finish. The tough coating of this material makes it resistant to moisture, heat, and stains. Cabinets made of this material can be heavier than most, so be sure to invest in quality brackets. Due to its composition, melamine may not cooperate well with nails and screws.

Stainless Steel

The industrial look of a kitchen has been trending for several years now. Stainless steel cabinets present a sleek, vintage, and polished look. Perhaps the biggest upside to stainless steel is the durability. It will never chip, peel, or warp in relation to the elements it’s exposed to. The main thing you need to worry about is smudges, as the chrome color will highlight them.


Acrylic is becoming more and more popular in contemporary kitchens. It provides a glossy, inviting look and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. It is easy to clean and resistant to the elements. The downside is that things like fingerprints and dirt stains are highly visible on the face. Considered a premium finish, acrylic can be a costly item.

Replacing vs. Refacing

If you are happy with your current cabinet setup, refacing is a MUCH cheaper option than starting from scratch. You can still get a brand new look and feel to your kitchen without all the cumbersome demolition and redesign.

The cost of cabinet refacing in San Diego is typically 40-50% less than fully replacing kitchen cabinets.


The hardware of kitchen cabinets can sometimes be a forgotten factor. However, it is one of the most important. Keep in mind, each piece will reflect light and contribute to the overall energy of the room.

Average Low-End Cost Per Piece10$2
Average High-End Cost Per Unit$20

There are many, many options keep in mind.

Glass or Ceramic Knobs and Pulls

If you want your cabinets to possess a vintage look, glass or ceramic knobs are a fantastic choice. While the knobs will certainly have a more powerful impression, pulls are better for daily use. This hardware typically comes in a variety of opaque or transparent colors.

Nickel or Steel Knobs and Pulls

Nickel or Steel are perhaps the most commonly found hardware types in the modern kitchen. The best part of this option is the versatility. Whether you want a classic or contemporary look, nickel and steel hardware can do it all.

Tubular Bar Pulls

Ideal for a more traditional kitchen styles, tubular bar pulls (also known as barrel pulls) can do a lot to add a modern touch. This hardware type is normally used on a slab or flat-panel cabinet doors.

Accented Wire Pulls

Accented wire pulls are a great way to add subtle decoration to a classic kitchen. Perfect for elements like plate racks, bronze accents, or crown molding, this hardware type can be used in many different ways.

Arced and Footed Bar Pulls

If you want your cabinets to have a more classic look, arced and foot bar pulls can be easily pared with both dark and light cabinet finishes for a polished look. They especially work well with stone mosaic backsplashes and marble


One of the biggest trends in kitchen remodeling these days is hidden functionality. Utilizing the small nooks and crannies throughout your kitchen cabinets is a great way to reduce clutter. Some of the most popular accessories these days include, pull-out trash and recycling bins, sink tip out trays, hanging stemware, pull-out spice organizers, pull-out drawers for pots and pans, and wine bottle lattice racks.

If you go with custom cabinets, this where you really get to be creative in streamlining your kitchen.


The countertops play a huge role in any kitchen remodel. It is the home base for your food preparation, a surface that provides character, and a way to set the tone for the rest of the room. The possibilities are practically endless. For the sake of costs, granite countertops are a good reference point.

Cost Range 11MaterialsInstallationTotal
*estimate for 30 sq. ft. granite
Low$1,095 – $1,240$420 – $455$1,515 – $1,695
Mid$1,360 – $1,510$465 – $510$1,830 – $2,016
High$1,765 – $2,450 +$545 – $560 +$2,311 – $3,010 +


The material you choose will have an immense impact on the rest of the kitchen. Here are some the most popular ones to consider.


In terms of cost, Soapstone is in a similar ballpark as granite. Impervious to acids and water, this material is heat resistant and can be easily cleaned with soap and water. Although it will not stain or warp, Soapstone’s softness makes it susceptible to nicks and dings.


Marble countertops are a very popular choice these days. It gives the kitchen a sleek and polished look that strongly contributes to the overall energy. While not as expensive as granite, marble is porous and vulnerable to staining agents. Thus, it requires a good deal of maintenance to keep it looking fresh. You will need to have it professionally sealed to prevent damage. This process will need to be done periodically.


Slate countertops provide a wonderful look backed with high durability. The non-porous surface makes it easy to clean and there is much less maintenance involved than with granite or marble. Similar in cost to soapstone, slate is a common favorite for countertop material. The downside is the corners, as they can sometimes be sharp or brittle.


Quartz is an up and coming material being used for kitchen countertops. The end result can present a luxurious and attractive look. While slightly less expensive than granite, it has a very similar durability in that it won’t chip or crack. One of the common complaints of this engineered stone is that it’s tough to get a raw, natural feel from
it. Additionally, it is not quite as heat resistant as granite.

Stainless Steel

For a sleek look with high durability, you can’t go wrong with stainless steel. A little bit cheaper than granite, this material is ideal for a more industrial-looking kitchen. While the benefits are huge, stainless steel always runs the risk of getting scratched or dented. If you decide to go this route, don’t skimp on quality. Get the strongest, thickest material your budget allows.

Reclaimed Wood

Environmentalists are all about reclaimed wood. There are many perks to this choice. For one, you have the freedom to choose whatever wood you would like. You might even find a wood that is no longer sold commercially – giving your kitchen a unique, retro character. Depending on the wood, costs vary greatly for this material. More often than not, depending on scarcity, reclaimed wood will cost more than granite.

Pairing with Cabinets

The process of pairing countertops with cabinets requires a good eye for interior design. There are many different ways to approach it. It all depends on which features you want to highlight. Here are a few styles to consider.

Dark on Light

Having a darker countertop with lighter cabinets does a great job of letting your kitchen accents shine through. This style can add a lot of depth to the room.

Light on Dark

Light countertops with dark cabinets are a great way to highlight both components. This route is ideal for kitchens that get a lot of natural light.

White on White

If you want to go super modern with your remodel, all white is the way to go. A nice marble countertop will provide an appealing level of detail and contrast in the pattern. Be warned, if you choose this style, prepare yourself for a lot of frequent cleaning.

Dark on Dark

This is a trend that has stood the test of time. The dark cabinets and countertop make for a sleek and polished look. Choosing a dark stone countertop is a great way to add focus to the room.


The purpose of a backsplash is to bridge the gap between countertops and high cabinets in the most beautiful way possible. The best part is you can get as creative as you want in terms of color, pattern, and material. Backsplashes do a wonderful job of presenting a unique sense of character in a kitchen.

There are all kinds of possibilities for material choices. Here are several of the most commonly used, as well as the average costs for a typical 40 square foot project.

Stainless Steel$1,317


Ceramic is very durable and affordable. While the upkeep is simple, it needs to be installed by a professional to avoid any mishaps.


Glass gives you a great deal of freedom in relation to color and pattern. It’s relatively low maintenance and easy to install.


Stone materials like quartz, granite, and slate make for gorgeous backsplashes. While easy to clean, you need to make sure that you stay on top of stain maintenance. Seek out a professional for installation.

Stainless Steel

Polished and easy to take care of, stainless steel is a fantastic choice for a backsplash. The timeless look is great for kitchen remodels meant for the long term.

Fixtures and Appliances


The appliances you choose for your kitchen should be relative to every other aspect of the job. They should also reflect the style and vibe you are looking to achieve your remodel. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to allocate 19% of your total budget for appliances and ventilation.4


As many interior designers will tell you, the lighting is what brings every other factor in the room to life. Advised to allocate 5% of your total budget to this area, there are many options to choose from. Here are a few of the most popular.


These hang from the ceiling and are meant to create strong focal points. They are most commonly used above the dining area.


Track lighting, or rail lighting, offers a lot of flexibility. The tracks can be curved in whichever way highlights certain elements of the kitchen. This type of lighting can significantly add to the character of the room.


Suspended from the ceiling, pendant lighting can deliver a myriad of accents and bring attention to specific features of the kitchen. These are commonly found over islands or longer workspaces.


Deciding on the perfect flooring option should not be done lightly. There are so many factors that play into this choice. How much do you cook? How much foot traffic does your kitchen get? What does the floor plan look like?

Average Cost13$2,883
Typical Range$1,532 – $4,350
Low-End Cost$200
High-End Cost$10,000 +


Choosing the flooring material is a very important decision you will make in the remodeling process. Be sure to gauge the properties with how your kitchen is used.


Hardwood is ideal for open floor plans. It is highly durable and provides a considerable amount of warmth and appeal. If you want a flooring solution to last, hardwood is the way to go.


Vinyl is a budget-friendly option that is easy to clean and maintain. Based on the thickness, vinyl flooring can provide a slight cushioning that is comfortable to walk on. Most of these products are built to last 10-15 years.

Porcelain Tile

No flooring solution is tougher than porcelain tile. It gives a sleek stone look that doesn’t require much upkeep.


Cork is an environmentally-friendly option. It is also much softer than tile or hardwood. However, it requires a good deal of maintenance. The floor will need to be resealed every 3-4 years to prevent damage.


When you are remodeling a kitchen, it’s very important to keep up with the trends. The way in which you coordinate your project with industry standards has a big impact on the resale value of the home. The trick is knowing which trends are current, yet timeless. For this purpose, it’s always wise to consult the professionals.

Choosing the Perfect Contractor

Without question, selecting the contractor to execute your plan is the most important piece of the puzzle. Making the wrong choice can result in an uncanny amount of wasted time and money – not to mention the headaches.

There is no need to rush this decision.

How to Separate the Good from the Bad

One of the harsh realities is that bad contractors are often times overly charming and likeable. This is why it’s crucial to identify the red flags.

Bad Contractors

  • Are hesitant and uncomfortable about showing proof of insurance.
  • Don’t show you past work.
  • Make bold promises.
  • Pressure you into buying certain materials.
  • Try to convince you to deviate from industry standards.
  • Don’t write anything down when you are discussing plans.
  • Demand huge payments upfront.
  • Don’t show up on time.
  • Leave your home a mess.

Good Contractors

  • Make it a point to show you proof of insurance.
  • Proudly talk about their previous body of work.
  • Openly discuss certain challenges for the project.
  • Put you in the driver’s seat while making decisions.
  • Clearly defines responsibilities.
  • Don’t pressure huge payments.
  • Ask for a reasonable deposit upfront.
  • Tidy up the job site at the end of each day.
  • Due to a good reputation, are busy and tough to book for immediate projects.

Questions to Ask

  1. What’s your business history?

    Look for detailed answers in relation to kitchen remodels. If they seem confident and proud to discuss, this is a good sign.

  2. What is the timeline for a project like this?

    This is normally a question to ask later in the process, after you have discussed all the aspects of the job. A good contractor will have done their homework and present a timeline with a detailed agenda.

  3. What’s your routine?

    This should give you an idea of what the day-to-day will be like. As the job site is a prominent part of your home, you should understand the finer details. The most important answers will be in relation to start time, end time, cleanup, noise factor, etc.

  4. How much do I have to put down?

    On a project of this scale, most good contractors will break up the payments into 3rds or 4ths. So, expect to make a down payment of around 25-35%. If they want the majority up front, steer clear.

  5. Can I get that in writing?

    When a contractor provides answers in regards to timelines, budgetary figures, or anything pertinent to the job, always ask to get it in writing. A dependable contractor will have no problem doing so.


Remodeling a kitchen is one of the most exciting (and expensive) projects throughout home ownership.

No move should be made without a fair amount of prior planning and consideration.

A kitchen remodel is an investment. Throughout this process, it’s crucial to not
only think about how each detail will impact the layout and home value in the current times, but how it will do so in five, ten, or twenty years down the road.

The choices you make here have an enormous effect on how you live your day-to-day life, and when it comes time to sell the home.

Our team at San Diego Kitchen Pros has been working on projects of all shapes and sizes for nearly thirty years. Please feel free to reach out to us for any questions or concerns regarding your kitchen remodel. We are always happy to help!