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A step-by-step guide to kitchen renovations

A kitchen renovation can be complex, time consuming and costly. Most kitchen refits require coordinated effort from half a dozen contractors (unless Smart & Handy is in charge), in a multi-stage project that keeps your kitchen out of action for four to eight weeks. Use our step-by-step guide to help you plan a cost effective, stress-free kitchen renovation with a satisfying outcome.

1: Design

If designing your own kitchen renovation, start by doing your style homework in regards to cabinetry, appliances, layouts and finishes. Measure the space accurately (noting the position of existing doors, windows, fixtures, plumbing and power) before deciding on the new layout. Draw up plans, then consult with Smart & Handy staff before shopping for fittings and appliances.

If hiring an interior designer, schedule an initial inspection and consultation. At this meeting, they’ll assess and measure the space and discuss design options with respect to layout, lighting, flooring, appliances, cabinetry, fittings and finishes; then come up with a detailed, itemised plan.

Use your floorplan to brief and guide contractors, decide the schedule and come up with time and cost estimates.

2: Kitchen renovation procedure

Complete your kitchen renovation in the following order:

  • Remove and store food, utensils, crockery and appliances.
  • Secure plastic sheeting across doorways to block dust and create ‘walkways’ to stop dirt being tracked through other areas.
  • Dismantle and remove the existing kitchen, including appliances, cabinetry, benchtops, splashbacks, light fittings, sinks, taps, finishes and floor coverings.
  • If making structural changes (resizing doors or windows, knocking down interior walls, adding skylights or serveries, concreting floors etc), these jobs come next.
  • Configure electrical and plumbing services.
  • Install cabinetry
  • Install countertops and splashbacks
  • Fit all appliances
  • Add floor coverings
  • Seal surfaces and paint
  • Clean and re-stock

3:Structural alterations

Structural alterations such as adding a window, door or skylight, removing a load-bearing wall to open up the space or adding a breakfast bar are best done by licensed, insured professionals. Prior consultation ensures proposed alterations are feasible and legal, avoiding potentially costly errors.

Note that this part of a kitchen renovation is noisy, messy and hazardous, so screen the area with plastic, keep everyone but workers out of the area, and warn neighbours about noise (ditto for plumbing work, onsite carpentry and flooring).

Allow one to three weeks for the construction phase, depending on the scope of the job (if time permits, allow a few extra days before scheduling other contractors to accommodate unforeseen construction problems).


Provide Smart & Handy with a detailed floorplan well ahead of time. If you know the configuration of existing pipes and outlets, mark these on the plan.

Discuss plumbing options such as resiting fixtures and adding eco-friendly fittings and systems (grey water recycling, solar hot water services and water-saving taps) before finalising your plans.

Following structural work, schedule your plumber to install or reposition pipes, drains, plumbing fixtures and water heating units. Allow one to four days, depending on the complexity of the job.

Reschedule your plumber late in a kitchen renovation to install appliances and fittings such as dishwashers, sinks, tapware, in-sink garbage disposals and water filters.

5: Electricals

Schedule electrical work early in a kitchen renovation, following structural work but before flooring, cabinetry and tiling.

Ensure all new electricals are feasible, given the existing circuitry, cavity dimensions and rafter configuration.

6: Benchtops and splashbacks

If your kitchen renovation requires stone, marble stainless steel, hardwood or imported benchtops and splashbacks, order them well in advance.

Benchtop installation can be done by your builder, renovator or a specialist.

Splashbacks in glass, stone, treated wood or stainless-steel are generally installed directly following the benchtops.

If tiling (or retiling) a splashback, allow time to strip existing tiles, prepare surfaces, lay new tiles, drying time and grouting.

If planning to resurface tiles, do a sample section before proceeding.

7: Flooring

As kitchens are heavily trafficked and subject to spillages, floors should be hardwearing and properly sealed. New-generation stone, tile, rendered concrete, treated hardwood, cork and bamboo are all suitable kitchen flooring.

The time and labor involved in laying new flooring depends on the materials you choose, and the subsurface preparation required. Some materials require excavation or substantial preparation, while others need careful installation or repeated sealing.

Wood, cork, bamboo, slate, tile and lino floors are generally laid late in a kitchen renovation, before or after installing cabinetry (depending on whether the new floor surface extends beneath it).

If laying concrete flooring schedule this early in the renovation and ensure access for barrows and compactors. Allow extra time for stenciling and sealing.

If laying stone or tiles, allow time to dry, grout, then seal and re-dry before installing appliances and cabinetry.

With wooden floors, allow time to apply three coats of varnish and let it harden before installing fittings.

Choose low-slip flooring to minimise kitchen accidents and comply with current building regulations (check that your proposed materials meet Standards Australia guidelines).

8: Carpentry/cabinetry

Carpentry work may be needed early in a kitchen renovation to resite doors, walls or windows; install a pantry, or lay wooden flooring.

Reschedule the carpenter after plumbing, electricals and flooring is in place to install cabinetry, shelving, benches, buffets, wood benchtops and splashbacks.

Order custom-built cabinetry well in advance.

9: Sinks, hot water services, tapware

Reschedule the plumber late in a kitchen renovation to fit sinks, tapware, in-sink garbage disposal and water filtration systems. The plumber can also install, connect and test dishwashers, grey water recycling and hot water systems on this visit.

10: Painting

Painting and sealing is generally a short, simple job – in a kitchen renovation it’s performed next to last:

  • Clean, prepare and dry all surfaces before painting or varnishing.
  • Allow time for successive coats of finishes to dry.
  • Air the room before restocking the kitchen.

11: Environmental considerations

Before drawing up plans, check current government environmental guidelines for home renovations. To ensure your kitchen renovation makes the room more eco-friendly, consider:

  • Water-saving taps
  • Energy-efficient (star-rated) appliances
  • A solar hot water service
  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Grey water recycling
  • An underfloor rainwater tank
  • A waste recycling unit
  • Eco-friendly finishes/flooring

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