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How to Plan a DIY Kitchen Remodel

May 24, 2019

How to Plan a DIY Kitchen Remodel

May 24, 2019

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This post contains affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.

how to plan a DIY kitchen remodel cover image
Our previous kitchen

Planning your own DIY kitchen remodel can be a daunting project. The kitchen in the photo above was in our previous house and almost 100% DIY. If you’re wondering how to get started, I’ve outlined the route I usually follow in this post.

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Right now, we’re in the midst of planning our third DIY kitchen remodel, which just means that we’ll do most of the work ourselves, however that plays out. I’m researching different scenarios from ordering all new cabinetry to keeping most of the cabinets and just updating the overall look. We’re hoping to make the second option work, but that’s why it’s important to do all this research and planning first. Here’s where we started in our current house:

original kitchen when we bought the house

Our current plan: add more cabinets along the back wall of our kitchen, change the existing doors and drawer fronts to a shaker style, paint everything to match, and update the appliances and countertops. We’re trying a more middle-of-the-road DIY kitchen remodel approach for three reasons. Not only would this plan (hopefully) save on some of the cost of a complete remodel, but the cabinets are still in great shape and it seems so wasteful to just rip them out. Also, I painted the cabinets last year in General Finishes Milk Paint in Seagull Gray and they turned out SO much better than we expected, so we’re optimistic that we could make this idea work.

painted east wall of kitchen cabinets
General Finishes Milk Paint in Seagull Gray

First: Decide on a Kitchen Remodel Design Plan

When you’re planning a kitchen remodel, the first step is to decide on any major changes to your existing layout. You probably already know whether you’ll need to hire a contractor or can do some of the labor yourself, but one of the first questions you’ll need to answer in either case is – will anything major need to change? Do you need to hire a plumber to move a gas line or an electrician to change your wiring? Are you removing any walls? It helps to sketch your ideas for the basic layout so you’ll have a visual to show and discuss with contractors or kitchen designers.

We don’t plan to make any major changes that will require an electrician or plumber. Because we’re planning to move the refrigerator to the back wall, Wyatt can figure out how to move the water line to that new location. Otherwise, we are just installing some additional cabinets and replacing the countertops and appliances. This part is pretty straight-forward.

As for appliances, we’ve started with this amazing Bosch dishwasher. It’s the second one we’ve owned and we still love and recommend it! I’m planning to just stick with stainless steel for the rest of the appliances, so they will all match. Here’s the back wall of the kitchen with temporary cabinets. We plan to install a stainless steel fridge right where Wyatt is working:

temporary cabinets on back wall

Second: Research Contractors and Gather Bids

Once you have a plan in mind, you can start meeting with kitchen designers and/or contractors and getting some estimates. Figure out which parts you’ll handle yourself, so you can get the most accurate quotes. In this kitchen, our DIY plan includes: all cabinet installation, painting, tiling the floor and backsplash, and lighting. We’ll definitely hire a countertop company to install quartz countertop. I’m still figuring out if I’ll order cabinets through a design company or online.

So far, I’ve met with three different kitchen remodeling businesses and a kitchen designer at my local Home Depot. There are a range of options out there, based on the type of changes you plan to make, from a full remodel to just refacing your existing cabinets. You can always plan a new kitchen at Ikea, too, but that’s really only economical if you’re able to do the cabinet installation yourself.

Another angle I’m considering is buying cabinets and replacement doors online. Gasp! It’s one thing to order new shoes on Amazon, but I’m a little nervous about spending thousands of dollars on a seemingly random online source. However, these things are sure priced right! I’ve found a few companies with detailed websites and what appear to be legitimate customer reviews, so I’ve ordered a few samples. If we’re going to paint everything anyway, it might be worth the risk.

The lesson learned here is – do the research! See what different companies offer and how they react to your plans for a DIY kitchen remodel. Some will be willing to work with you, and they might source items that others won’t. This takes some time to figure out.

painted cabinet boxes without doors
General Finishes Milk Paint in Seagull Gray

Third: Consider Your Own Skills

Can you build and install Ikea cabinets? If so, you can probably install cabinets from another company, too. In my research, I’m finding that the labor for installation costs almost as much as the new cabinetry. That’s a huge potential savings in the cabinetry alone! Can you tile the floor and/or backsplash? If not, can you learn? Can you hardwire new light fixtures? Honestly, watching YouTube videos can go a LONG way in the money-saving game, if you’re willing to invest the time to learn and try some projects yourself.

Stone countertops are the one element that you really can’t DIY. Unless you’re keeping your existing counters, you’ll need to hire someone to install a new stone countertop. This is part of what takes so long in remodeling a kitchen. Once the new cabinets are installed, the countertop people will use lasers to measure your kitchen and order the quartz or granite, etc. Then, they’ll return weeks later to install it. I don’t have experience with butcher block, so that material may have a different scenario.

Last: Look Again – Will Your DIY Kitchen Remodel Work?

Once the bids are in and you’ve looked at your schedule for the work timeline, it’s time to reassess. How do your DIY kitchen remodel design plans look now? Should you reconsider any suggestions you might have gathered from kitchen designers? Do you need to research additional contractors or product sources? Do you need to start again at square one (or two, or three)?

In my research, I’ve learned that our DIY kitchen remodel approach is more expensive than I expected. I have a quote for $11,000 for all new cabinetry, for the entire kitchen, and we would do the installation ourselves. Or, the same company would charge $7,800 for just a few new, unfinished cabinets along the back wall, which I would then need to paint. I would still need to order (and paint!) new doors and drawers for the rest of the kitchen. That will probably make the cost about the same as entirely new kitchen cabinets. Yikes! To complicate matters, I need to find a source for those new doors and drawers, since this company won’t supply them. Can you see where our current plan is getting tricky? (This is why I’m seriously considering sourcing the cabinetry myself, online.)

For inspiration, and a pep talk, here’s a breakdown of our last DIY kitchen remodel. Wyatt and I did part of the work, and we hired a few subcontractors to do the rest. It was gorgeous in the end!

our last kitchen with the DIY projects we completed labeled
Fridge | Range | Dishwasher | Floor Tile | Wall Paint | Trim Paint | Faucet (similar)

I hope sharing my process breakdown helps you start planning your own project. Or at least, thinking about which aspects you can DIY vs. which you’ll sub out. I’m still in the second, research phase of this DIY kitchen remodel plan. Once I get a few more numbers and see my sample doors from an online retailer, I hope to refine the game plan. Stay tuned!

Read about my recommendations and tips on cabinet paint in this post: The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets.


Hi! I’m Erin, a Colorado-based home improvement blogger and lover of all things DIY. I aim to inspire creative folks to tackle home improvement with confidence and style. READ MORE

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