Planning a Kitchen Remodel

Planning a Kitchen Remodel

Planning a kitchen remodel: The Ultimate How-To Guide

So you’re sick of your kitchen and now plan on selling your home. This way you can get the dream kitchen that you have seen on tv and in the new homes in the area. Don’t do that. Keep your equity- keep your home. Moving is a pain in the butt. 

Turn your thinking into a redesign of your current kitchen. 

Follow this guide, save thousands of dollars and get the dream kitchen you envision. It is not that hard.

Get Kitchen Remodel Design Ideas

The first step to great kitchen design is to research and figure out your style. There are a ton of resources out there that were not available until recently. You can check out our RTA Cabinets online gallery here. Other great kitchen resources to help define your style is Instagram and Houzz.com. Both are an awesome resource and both are picture based so you can see what is trending and also what you can envision your kitchen or bath to look like. Instagram is great for an overview, but Houzz can help with what is trending in your region. Houzz is able to zoom into the area you live by zip code (Instagram may be the same). Houzz also can bring you professionals in the area that are in the trades you are going to need for a kitchen remodel  (if you are not doing it yourself). 

Once you have figured out what your style(s) is/are, you need to define how you are going to lay your dream kitchen out. Read on for all the important tips in planning a kitchen remodel.

Kitchen Remodel Measurements

The first step for your dream kitchen design is to measure the space you are going to use. It may be larger than your existing kitchen’s footprint. This is ok. You still need to measure all of the existing kitchen and adjacent areas you plan to use- especially if you are going to blow out a wall or vault the ceiling. So, measure the existing kitchen, the adjacent room areas and ceiling heights in all of those. Go around the rooms and verify the ceiling heights are similar. This will ensure the cabinets and utility cabinets can and will fit if you decide to go large (like 42’s or 96:” tall utility cabinet). 

This is important!

It really stinks when you start to install and find out the cabinets do not fit the space.

Kitchen Remodel Layout & Actual Design

So now you have your room measurements. It is time to put them on paper. The initial layout does not have to be to scale at this point but it is helpful. If you have a CAD program place the measurements and get going.

Layout your room by the dimensions you took and get an overview of the space for your kitchen. Using a pencil is really helpful after you have the walls laid out because you can erase and re-insert cabinets as you need to fit the area. Also, write down the ceiling height you are working with so you can determine the height of your new cabinets.

For me, the first part of the design is what type of kitchen are you designing. Is it a galley kitchen, an open floor plan with an island that opens into your entertainment area or what? 

After I figure out the layout style, I anchor the where will the sink go. A lot of the kitchen will be designed around this and the oven and stove because of the plumbing, gas, electric and exhaust venting. 

Sink bases (the cabinet that holds the sink) come in a variety of sizes.  Our Sink bases start at 30” wide and have 33 and 36” options as well. A 36” is most common to use. 

Once you have the sink base located, you will need to build off of that using the kitchen work triangle

The Kitchen Work Triangle is what designers use to put your main appliances in the most functional positions. The triangle consists of the refrigerator, the oven and sink. 

The legs of the triangle should be no less than 4’ from each other and no more than 9’ apart. The sum of the length of the triangle should be between 13 and 26 feet in total. This triangle puts everything in the most ergonomic and functional spot in the kitchen. It is what will make your kitchen scream.

Kitchen Remodel Appliance Measurements

Appliances are usually (verify yours) standard in their width and heights. Below are the most common dimensions:

  • Dishwasher 24” wide / 34 tall
  • Oven/Stovetop 30” Wide / 36” Countertop height
  • Refrigerators Vary in both width and height so check this before you order your design
  • Above cooktop Microwaves  30” wide / 18” tall (verify height)

I like to get a rough idea where my other appliances are going to go and then add in the other base cabinets. Afterward, I verify that everything fits into the triangle. It almost always does. Sometimes you have to tweak to the layout a bit to get it to work.

Issues with the Triangle:

Alright, sometimes the triangle will not fit your space. This is ok – not ideal, but ok. This is where the layout really comes into play. You have a bird’s eye view of how the kitchen is going to look and you now have the power and ability to change it so it fits you, your lifestyle and your space. Do not get paralyzed by the triangle. Breathe!

Now that you have an idea of where the other appliances will go layout the base cabinets. Starting at a tray base that is 9 inches wide,  RTA cabinets increase in 3” increments all the way to 42” wide base cabinets. There are also 36” wide lazy susans ( these sit in the corner and take up 36” of the wall on each side of the cabinet). 

Once you have the basic layout, you probably will have a gap or have too much cabinet for the wall. Remember that the cabinets come in 3” increments. If you have too many cabinets by 1 inch, figure out which cabinet you want to decrease by 3”. Once you do this, you can add a filler strip (or two). 

Filler Strips: these fill the areas between both upper and lower cabinets where there is not enough room for the 3” increment of a cabinet to fit. An example would be that you have a wall that you want to place a bank of cabinets that is 121 inches wide. 

So-you have the base cabinet layout below:

 [Lazy Susan 36”] [Base 18] [Tray Base 18”] [Sink Base 33”] [Dishwasher(24” Standard)] = 120 inches

Because the wall is 121 inches wide and you have 120 inches of base cabinet you will need to add a filler strip that is 1 inch wide to your layout. 

Easy Peezy.

Upper Cabinets:

After you have your base cabinets roughly placed, you will need to place your upper cabinets. The first decision is to figure out is how they will fit with the base layout. Mostly you will mimic the base layout so it looks symmetrical. However, a lot of kitchens have windows, doors, and other weird things that you will need to take into consideration when drawing your layout.

Openings Like windows are the largest concern for uppers. I like to keep a minimum of 3” off a window so I can trim it out when placing cabinets. If you have room, I would give a larger gap so your design looks intentional and not squished. If you do not have room, I like to give 3” so I can either trim the opening or let the drywall wrap have a little space and allow light in.

BTW- these are not hard rules- just things to consider while doing your layout.

Fillers work the same as the base cabinets so you can fill any gaps you need to. If the fill on base or upper cabinets is over 3“ you can rip a couple of fillers and place them as needed to make the appearance of your kitchen look more symmetrical.

Cabinet Height

Using the wall height measurement you took and wrote down on your layout earlier you can figure out what will work best for your kitchen. The gap between the upper cabinets and countertop should be roughly 18”.

Bob Villa recommends that you hang the uppers with their bottom 54” off the floor. This will get you an 18” Gap between the upper and lower countertop. This 54” measurement will also let you measure at your ceiling’s lowest point the difference from 54” off the floor to the ceiling. From there you will be able to determine the tallest cabinet you can use/storage is king.


Upper Cabinet Height reference:

Base cabinets are a standard of 34.5”

Countertops are 1.5”

Gap should Be 18” 

This equals 54” and the remainder is what you have for the height of your upper cabinets.


Also, if your ceiling height of soffit height throughout the kitchen is slightly different and you plan on hanging your cabinets flush to the ceiling, you will need to either buy scribe molding or crown to mask the difference. Scribe molding is a small thin strip that matches the cabinet in color and helps to hide gaps that run along uneven walls and ceilings.

Fillers, Crown, Panels, Toe Kick And Scribe

Now that you have your initial layout completed, you will need to verify your accessories. 

Fillers -The fillers were explained above. They come in 3” and 6” strips. They also come in different lengths. I like to order the taller (96”) fillers so I can cut them to both the uppers and base cabinets as needed. I also like to order an extra one in case there is a mis-cut or snafu on a measurement. They are not expensive and it is insurance your project will not get delayed.

Crown – If you are going to place a crown, measure all the way around the cabinets including where they cabinets go back to the wall. This is a 12” add-on on each end and also refrigerator cabinets can stand proud of the other uppers. You need to take these measurements into account. Crown comes in 8’ lengths. 

Panels – If you are building an island and the backside needs to be covered you will need to order a panel that will fit the area. There are a lot of options, but a ¼ “ panel is usually sufficed as long as it fits. 

Refrigerator Panels and dishwasher panels are other options that can look great. If you have a refrigerator or dishwasher that sits on the end of a cabinet run, an end panel will really dress this up. You do need to remember that this panel will add ¾ of an inch to  3 inches to your cabinet run measurement- so make sure you have the room.

Scribe -I like to order a lot of this because it is cheap insurance against out of square walls and ceilings. To get an idea of how much you may need to measure you sides of the uppers and base cabinets where they will be sitting on the exposed end walls and the tops. Add this up and divide by 8’ to get the number of scribe pieces you will need. I always like to add an extra piece.

Toekick– These also come in 8’ lengths.  Measure your base cabinet run and divide by 8 to get the number of pieces you will need. The toe-kick does not run under the dishwasher, oven or fridge.


Now you have your initial Kitchen remodel layout and you are ready to order!!


Choose Your Cabinet Style

You probably have already done this, but now is the time you can choose your cabinet style and you are ready to order!
We have 18 styles of high-quality, affordable, ready to assemble kitchen cabinets to choose from, that are delivered in 15 days or less.

Ordering Cabinets

Go to thecabinetresource.com choose your cabinet door style and set up an account profile.

Once you have done this, you will take your layout and grab a colored marker. I like to use a bright orange or red marker. I then start ordering my base cabinets. After I select the base cabinet online, I place a dot on the cabinet with the colored marker and work my way around the kitchen layout until I have ordered each cabinet, filler strip, toe kick, and scribe.

Once all the cabinets have been ordered, I like to take a different colored marker to go to the cart and verify I have not missed anything. This way, when you order the cabinets and they show up on your door, you will not be missing a thing. It also will save you a ton because shipping is free on any order over $3000.00.

Final Steps in Planning a Kitchen Remodel

Prepping the space before demolishing the existing kitchen

  • Checking electric and plumbing
  • Are these staying in the same place
  • If yes cap the plumbing
  • Leave the electric alone
  • If things are changing get your plumber and electrician involved as soon as you have your layout complete
  • Get them to bid (and let you know if your layout is easy or not possible)

Things to consider :

  • Lighting- cans/ under-counter lights
  • Fans-exhaust- roof access for the vent – what ductwork is up there already
  • Ceiling fans
  • Bringing existing kitchen up to cade if pulling permits
  • Plumbing- drain pipe access
  • Venting- Studa vent or stack
  • Demolishing walls to open up space
  • Is it load-bearing?
  • Is it just a partition wall?

Demo existing Kitchen

  • Cap off all plumbing and/or turn off the water – have towels available for spillage
  • Cut existing or remove exiting plumbing ( are you saving the sink (be gentile)
  • Pull out cabinets-If donating or planning on re-using in the garage – go easy

Tools Needed to Remodel a Kitchen

  • Impact/drill
  • Utility knife
  • Pry bar
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves(?)
  • Framing hammer
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • Music
  • Helper, if possible.

RTA Kitchen Cabinet Installation Tips

How to Remove Old Kitchen Cabinets

There are usually 4 -6 screws on each cabinet. Look for 2 under the cabinet on the cabinet’s outside edge against the wall. The others are usually at the top inside the box where the studs are located. Sometimes there are other screws in the middle of the box- I do not really know why, but I have found them there. 

The cabinets are almost always face screwed to each other as well. Check the inside of the door frame for a screw. If there are none and they are set together, check under the door hinge. Sometimes they are face screwed there.

If they are built-in from the 40’s, 50’s or early 60’s they may not be salvageable. If you are giving them away make sure you get them down in one piece before you give, sell or trade.

I do not normally worry about damaging the walls (within reason) you are going to rehang new cabinets (most likely) over the damage. 

Once the cabinets are down, have a place predetermined where they are going to be moved to. Garage, basement, Dumpster, neighbor’s house, backyard. You just want them out of the way.

How to Hang New Kitchen Cabinets

Now, mark all the locations where the cabinets were previously screwed- this should be where the studs are. Marking these locations with a vertical line using the level as a guide will help you find the studs when you are hanging the new cabinets.

 If you pulled them from an old brick or stucco wall you will have to use a concrete screw/plug set to hang the next set.

You now have the knowledge for planning a kitchen remodel – Bon appetit!