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DESIGN TIPS - Articles

• Planning Your Kitchen Remodel
• Cabinet Refacing
• Guidelines for Kitchen Design






Planning Your Kitchen Remodel by Brendan Mathews

Before any work can be done on a major remodeling project, there are several aspects to be carefully analyzed. As a homeowner, it is important to solicit the help of professionals who regularly engage in the type of project you are planning. A preliminary consultation can help to determine several important factors.

Oftentimes, the scope of the project may be determined by budgetary concerns. It is important to establish what the guidelines or constraints will be to help dictate the design process. In many cases, it may be possible to “ballpark” an estimate on a project, but accurate pricing usually takes careful planning and design work. It is helpful to determine early in the planning process whether the project is viable or financially feasible.

Another important consideration is the role of the homeowner in the scheduling and staging of the various aspects of the project. There are two basic approaches to handling the hiring of contractual work.

First: Homeowners may choose to hire a general contractor, who then supervises and handles all sub-contracted work. Generally, a contractor who specializes in this type of arrangement will charge between 15-25% additional fees to compensate him for his services. Depending on the availability and willingness of the client to participate in the planning and scheduling process, this may prove to be a valuable service. It should be noted that consideration should be given to whom the contractor intends to hire for major portions of the remodel, such as built-in cabinetry. It is entirely possible to hire a general contractor to handle all phases of the remodeling work, excluding cabinet work. This arrangement would allow the homeowner to select a qualified cabinetmaker and work directly with him to achieve the desired results.

Second: The other approach to hiring contractual work is for the homeowner to act as his own agent in determining who will perform the necessary jobs related to the entire project. It is entirely legal and will enable the owner to facilitate the project using contractors of his/her choice and also saving a significant amount of money from his/her overall expenditures.

As a licensed California contractor for Cabinet and Millwork, I am authorized to act as an individual contractor or work in conjunction with other contractors to complete the necessary phases of the project within my own specialty. In addition, I often offer assistance in choosing and hiring other tradesmen to complete the necessary work and help facilitate the design process.

Once the major decisions regarding scope of project and overall budgetary considerations have been analyzed, the planning and scheduling process can begin to evolve. The outline that I will describe will help to form a framework for planning and scheduling a major kitchen remodel. Of course, the same format could be adjusted to allow for a remodel in a different area of the home.

Preliminary Design Consultation: During this phase of planning, homeowners can meet with a qualified designer/contractor and discuss what they hope to achieve in their anticipated remodel project. All aspects of the overall project should be discussed to allow for the development of a new, cohesive, design strategy. Every issue that relates to the eventual design should be analyzed. This will allow the design process to be fluid and flexible.

Design considerations:
• Removal or restructuring of existing soffits or walls.
• Implementation of new ceiling lighting.
• Relocation of major appliances.
• New appliance options with specifications listed.
• New or existing flooring.
• New or existing windows.
• Countertop choices including granite, tile, laminate, Corian, Silestone, butcher block, Formica, etc.
• Cabinet choices- frameless or traditional.
• Cabinet finishing options, including wood species, door style, stains, glazing, paint.
• Specialized storage options including lazy susans, trash bin cabinets, pantry slideouts, spice cabinets, vertical storage, wine racks, etc.
• Glass door or open shelf cabinets, glass shelving, cabinet lighting.
• Under cabinet lighting.
• Drawer box and drawer guide options including solid wood dovetail boxes, plywood drawer boxes, full extension drawer guides, concealed self-closing drawer guides.
• Secondary sinks.
• Island cabinets with optional seating spaces.

After analyzing the above listed criteria, a qualified cabinetmaker/designer can develop a preliminary design, which will enable him to make a realistic estimate on the overall cost of the cabinetry phase of the project. Combined with estimates on the other phases, a comprehensive price can be determined which should guide the homeowner in the decision making process. In order to be realistic about any budgetary analysis, it is important to understand that all remodeling may incur some unknown elements, which are likely to cause additional costs. Careful evaluation of these situations, as they occur, will help guide you to the right decisions.
If preliminary discussions lead you to make a final decision to pursue the remodeling process, the following steps will help to organize the sequence of the work and reach a successful completion of the project:

• Approve final cabinet design, including wood species, door styles, decorative hardware, and finishes.
• Select appliances and provide all specifications to cabinet designer.
• Select counter top choices.
• Select flooring choices.
• Demolition and remodeling of structural changes.
• New electrical, plumbing or gas lines.
• New drywall, texture, and paint.
• Install new cabinets.
• Install roughtop for new countertop, if required.
• Template for new countertop. (if required; this should be scheduled in advance, anticipate a 2-3 week fabrication time before installation of new countertops.)
• On site finish of new cabinets.
• Install new doors, drawer fronts, and decorative hardware.
• Cabinet lighting may now be installed.
• New flooring may be installed at this point. Flooring should extend under dishwashers, freestanding ranges, and refrigerators.
• Countertop installation, including backsplash, may be installed. (under counter sinks will be installed, simultaneously)
• All appliances may be installed.

Congratulations, you are now ready for your new kitchen to be fully operable!


Cabinet Refacing by Brendan Mathews

Cabinet refacing is the process of renewing existing cabinets by removing old doors and drawer fronts, resurfacing the exterior face frames and end panels and then installing new doors, drawer fronts and moldings.

There are a number of combinations of materials that can be used to accomplish this task successfully. They can be categorized by cost, complexity, personal preference and quality of the finished product. Outlined below are a number of possibilities, starting from the least expensive options and moving up.

• Painting all of the exteriors of the cabinets, doors and drawer fronts. This is generally not really considered refacing, but is the least expensive possibility for changing the appearance of the exteriors of cabinets. Of course, there is a wide range of possibilities, depending on the quality of the application of the paint.
• Painting cabinet exteriors and installing new paint grade doors and drawer fronts. New moldings, hardware, and drawer boxes can be included, as well as integrating new or modifying existing cabinets.
• Stripping existing stain grade cabinets, doors and drawer fronts. Refinish with new stain and clear coat. The process of stripping and sanding is messy, labor intensive, and uses harsh chemicals. Options may include a new set of stain grade doors and drawer fronts. There may be some challenge to matching the older wood with the new wood.

None of the above scenarios is one that I have a particular preference for. If a client is interested in those options, I generally refer them to a good painter. It is important to remember that even though nearly everyone can paint, there are only a few that paint well. You generally get what you pay for when hiring painters.

• The most efficient method of refacing involves using products that don’t require finishing after installation. The best material that meets this qualification is plastic laminate applied to the cabinet exteriors and mated to Rigid Thermofoil doors, drawer fronts, and moldings. Laminate is available in solid colors or wood grains, as are the RTF doors. Typically, I would also build a new set of drawer boxes and install new drawer guides, as well as new European hinges. This entire process can usually be accomplished in 2 – 4 days, by an experienced installer.

If real wood is desired, there are a few different approaches to reaching this goal.

• My normal approach involves resurfacing the existing cabinets with a combination of ¼” plywood finished end panels and wood veneers for the face frames. Raised panel finished ends to match the doors can be substituted for ¼” plywood. Adhesive backed veneers are a little more expensive, but offer ease of use. Regular paper backed veneers can be used but will need an application of contact cement. With either of these two products, water based contact cement is applied to the cabinets, prior to application. I normally used unfinished veneers, to allow me to match the finish on the cabinets, doors, and drawer fronts. All finishing done to the cabinets is done on site using spray finishing techniques. Usually, 4-5 coats of sealer and precatalyzed lacquer is applied. Staining or glazing is optional. Finishing of the doors and drawer fronts is done off site.
kitchen design plan
• Another approach to real wood refacing involves resurfacing the face frames with either 1/8” or ¼” veneer plywood, instead of the paper backed veneers. The pitfall of this approach is the visibility of the plywood core on the inside lips of the face frames and on the outside corners where the face frame and end panel intersect. Proponents of this approach usually will cover the outside corners with some sort of molding and just leave the edges of the lips as is. The primary advantage of this system is the relative ease of handling the thin plywood as compared to the veneers. In this system, the plywood could either be prefinished or finished on site.

• In some instances, rebuilding the entire set of face frames and then installing them on the existing cabinets may seem worthwhile. Typically, the existing face frames can be removed fairly easily, unless they are glued on. (This is rare) Another obstacle to this approach is when the metal strip that holds the tile bullnose is nailed into the face frame, making removal difficult if the countertop is to be left intact. Assuming that these issues are resolved, new face frames should be attached to the cabinets using either pocket screws or some system of glue blocks and screws to provide for attachment from the back side of the new face frame. Face frames adjacent to finished end panels can be manufactured wider to accommodate whatever thickness of finished end is applied. Finishing can be accomplished either on site or prior to installation, depending on your systems and situation.

Whatever the chosen approach, cabinet refacing can be a viable alternative to new cabinetry if chosen with care.


Guidelines for Kitchen Designspacerby Brendan Mathews

The following list of guidelines is intended to assist in the design process.

The goal of any kitchen remodel is to combine storage cabinets, work stations, and appliances into an aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically oriented room which will facilitate the needs of those using the space.

As always, we should consider the rule ”Form follows function”.

There are many other considerations which enter into the design process; such as:

Available space
Specific needs of individual clients
Budgetary allowances
Materials used for cabinets, counters, floors, etc.
Traffic patterns
Overall lighting
Task lighting
Natural light availability
Appliances- including dishwasher, stove, oven, refrigerator, warming drawer, microwave, vent hood, wine cooler, trash compactor, sink, faucet, disposal, coffee maker, mixer, toaster, blender, reverse osmosis system, computer, TV, phone, answering machine, etc.

Specific storage requirements; such as:

Pantry - dry food items
Serving and cooking utensils
Mixing bowls and storage containers
Trash and recycling
Dish towels and linens
Stemware or display china
Decorative items

Design Rules

• Entryways and pathways should be minimum of 36” wide.
• Tall cabinets should be on ends of cabinet runs, whenever possible.
• Refrigerator units should be place to allow for full opening of doors.
• Allow clearance for appliance doors to open.
• Avoid putting appliances on an inside corner.
• Provide landing zones directly adjacent to refrigerator, oven, cooktop, and pantry.
• Maximize clear counter top space.
• Provide custom storage solutions in corner cabinets; such as lazy susan, diagonal uppers.
• Create “work triangle” that is efficient and unobstructed.
• Create work zones directly adjacent to stovetop, sink, auxiliary sink.
• Standard countertop height - 36”.
• Standard space between countertop and upper cabinets - 18”.
• All cooktop surfaces should be vented to the outside.
• Maximize base cabinet storage with drawers and full extension guides or other special storage solutions; such as: slideout trash bins, slideout spice storage, slideout trays, vertical storage units, drawer dividers, etc.
• Counter seating areas should provide minimum 24” width per person and 12” knee space.
• Bar stool seating can be either 36” height or 42” height.
• Provide radius corners on open end countertops.
• Maximize upper storage capacity by utilizing full ceiling height; up to 96”.
• If feasible, eliminate soffit intrusion.
• Create clear line of sight by eliminating overhead peninsula cabinets.

These guidelines are a start in the right direction in kitchen design. Please contact me for a more specific discussion about the project you are considering, and all best wishes in your endeavor!

© Copyright 2009 Brendan Mathews. All rights reserved.