How to project manage your kitchen’s reno

A kitchen is one of the two key rooms that can add the most value to any property.

And also one of the rooms where a lot of amateur DIY mistakes are made.

In the video below, I teach you how to project manage each stage of your complete kitchen’s renovation (and how to avoid costly mistakes!).

  • How to calculate how much you should spend on your kitchen’s renovation
  • The critical stages of a kitchen’s renovation
  • The importance of finishes and how they relate to the property value
  • What type of trades people  you WILL require
  • Specific sizes, specifications and details of what is required and where
  • What type of products to choose and the associated costs for your project plan and budget


[00:00:09] Without question, your kitchen’s one of the most important rooms in your property! Tends to be the real hub of any family home and it’s definitely the one room that adds the most value according to the bank valuers.

[00:00:20] But before you start mapping out your kitchen’s renovation, you need to be smart.

[00:00:25] Now we all know that a well-designed kitchen with quality fixtures and fittings definitely adds a lot of value. It also helps if your kitchen has a better WOW factor too but not every kitchen deserves a big splurge. Make sure that your budget is relevant to your property value, otherwise you risk over capitalizing and that’s the dirty word in renovating.

[00:00:45] Now the big question is, do you project manage the kitchen yourself or outsource it to the kitchen showroom companies?

[00:00:52] If you outsource it, it’s definitely the easier way to go. It will typically take longer and it will typically cost you at least double the cost of project managing it yourself. On the other hand, you can DIY project manage it yourself – but you will need good time and organizational skills. So let’s go through some of the things you need to think about.

[00:01:15] Now if your kitchen has seen better days and you’ve made the decision to rip out and install a brand new kitchen,

… there’s a good rule of thumb to stick by, 2 percent of your property value. So for example if your house is currently valued around $600,000; your kitchen renovation budget should be no more than $12,000, fully finished. All you need is a basic kitchen that looks good and functions well.

[00:01:41] So here’s the key: it’s all about preplanning research to know what makes a good kitchen.

[00:01:46] First and foremost you need to make sure that your new kitchen is a functional practical space.

[00:01:51] Typical layouts that you can follow. Let’s have a look at these now:

[00:01:54] Single wall. This layout is perfect if space is an issue or if you’re a fan of open plan kitchens.

[00:02:01] Galley. This takes its name from a typical ship kitchen’s layout so there’s two opposing working and storage areas.

[00:02:08] L shape. This is one of the more common layouts. It’s great for all sorts of rooms; narrow, long or open-plan.

[00:02:15] U-shaped. This suits small or large kitchens. It offers optimal bench and storage space.

[00:02:22] Island. This as any style of kitchen with a separate workbench or island bench.

[00:02:27] The right choice for you will ultimately depend on your room size and what space you have to work with. Unless there’s a really compelling reason to change the layout, I advise you to stick with the existing one and save your pennies for a fancy fitout.

[00:02:41] There’s an old trick kitchen designers have used for years.

[00:02:43] It’s called the Working Triangle.

[00:02:45] Basically you want to create a logical working relationship between the sink, the cooking zone, and the fridge, which are the 3 points of the triangle.

[00:02:59] First on your list will be the kitchen’s cabinets.

[00:03:01] Cabinets come in three basic types. Every kitchen starts with base cabinets, which have adjustable feet that sit on the floor and are concealed by kick plates. These are the strips that run along the floor under the base of the cupboards. The base cabinets house both cupboards and drawers.

[00:03:18] Big slideout drawers or something like a lazy susan in a corner cabinet, allow you to easily get at things. Then there are overhead cabinets, which are screwed to the wall. These are always shallower so you can see what’s in them. If you’re building fridges, microwaves and dishwashers into cabinetry. Remember you’ll need to leave space for ventilation around these appliances so they can operate properly.

[00:03:42] When it comes to your finishes, your budget will largely dictate what you choose.

[00:03:46] For low value properties, always opt for laminate.

[00:03:49] For higher value properties, you want to be looking at two pack polyurethane and extremely durable spray-painted finish that comes in matte, semi-gloss and high gloss.

[00:04:02] It’s not always the case that your flooring will need replacing. However, most of the time you’ll want to rethink the flooring.

[00:04:09] Your kitchen’s flooring must be hardwearing, waterproof, stain-resistant and definitely easy on the feet.

[00:04:17] Lighting is particularly important in the kitchen, both as practical task lighting and to create mood. You’ll therefore need different lights for different functions.

[00:04:26] Underbench lights, as the name suggests, are installed underneath your overhead cupboards. On your ceiling, you may want some kind of track lighting or maybe a grid of recessed downlights.

[00:04:46] Before any renovation work starts, you need to either disconnect or isolate your services. Now, your services tend to be electricity, gas and water – and you’ll find all of those three things typically in most kitchens.

[00:04:59] Now if you’re living in your house while you’re doing your kitchen’srenovation, your electrician can come through and turn off electricity just in your kitchen’s area, still giving you power all throughout the other house.

[00:05:10] If you’re doing a whole house renovation like this, then the best thing to do is to get your Sparky to turn off all of the power in the house and isolate it just to electrical meter box. What you’ll do, is you actually run power boards and/or your tradies tools will run from this central point and that’s the safest way to manage your kitchen’s renovation.

[00:05:29] Next up, is the isolation of your water and this is always done by a plumber.

[00:05:32] Now if you’re living in your house, your plumber can isolate the water to just your bathroom so that you’ve got water flowing all throughout the rest of your house.

[00:05:41] But if you’re doing a whole house renovation like this, it’s best to isolate your water to the water mains – and normally your water mains is located somewhere around the front of your property. All your plumber does is come on site; they literally turn off the tap and it’s as easy as that!

[00:05:56] What you might want to ask your plumber to do, is install a temporary tap, because your trades will need water during the course of your renovation.

[00:06:04] And don’t forget your gas. Your plumber will isolate that to.

[00:06:14] This is where the mess begins. Tiles may have to be laboriously chipped off and years of grease same grime exposed when you begin dismantling the old cabinets.

[00:06:23] Powerpoints, cooktops and ovens need to be safely disconnected and the waterpipes capped off.

[00:06:30] And here’s a tip, if your existing kitchen is in good condition then take particular care when disassembling it.

[00:06:36] Plenty of people are in the market for a second-hand kitchen and you might get a thousand bucks for the kitchen you’re about to throw away.

[00:06:46] Now floors typically come in a number of ways. You might have bearers and joists with real timber floorboards on, have a tiled floor, concrete slab, vinyl. It doesn’t matter what flooring you have, you have to make sure that you have a good base to work from.

[00:07:02] For example, this old floor had vinyl tiles has some plywood, so that plywood needs to be ripped up. Once I rip that up, I will make sure the floor is level, in great condition.

[00:07:15] Now before you go crazy with the sledge hammer and you knock out a wall, you need to determine if it’s a structural, load-bearing wall. If it is, it means a structural beam will need to be put in overhead and the best tradesperson to do that will be either a licensed builder or a senior carpenter.

[00:07:31] Conversely you might be adding a wall in and that’s quite often done in a kitchen renovation where you might have cabinetry that’s not tied into anything, so adding walls can be a great thing as well.

[00:07:41] Now when you’re looking at your wall set out, make sure that all your walls are perfectly square. If you don’t make sure these are correct, it can really catch you out on items like your cabinetry install.

[00:07:55] I’m here with Mickey my chippy. Mick can you give me some carpentry tips for walls set out.

[00:08:01] [Mick] Well Cherie, a first thing that you want to start with is once you’ve taken off your original skins, you must check in that you peeled off all your old glues. It could be done with a chisel, all your old nails or old screws. Cut them out.

[00:08:14] Re-secure your studs or your blocking. As you can see here, that timbers protruding a bit, you can either give it a few taps with a hammer.[/Mick].

[00:08:23] [Cherie] Or if doesn’t go in you’re..?

[00:08:24] [Mick] You’re planing it down.

[00:08:26] [Cherie] So Micky, how can people tell if their walls are straight?

[00:08:30] [Mick] First thing that you’re going to do is with a straight edge or a level, is check that your walls haven’t got any bellies in it – they are all entwined.

[00:08:37] [Cherie] What do mean by ‘bellies’?

[00:08:39] [Mick] Lumps and bumps, or being hardwood timber, they will have bows in them in places. So you want to be checking that they’re all entwined meaning that they all lining up with each other, there is no –.

[00:08:50] [Cherie] So, you mean when you put a level on, if it rocks, means there’s a belly.

[00:08:54] [Mick] Absolutely!

[00:08:54] [Cherie] So this wall, for example was not rocking, it’s pretty good.

[00:08:58] [Mick] Yes! Yeah, if there is, then you just gotta be planing that down or wedging out your studs.

[00:09:04] [Cherie] Ok great! So if you don’t go for those dags, those nails, when it comes time to do your sheeting they become an obstruction, which means that the plasterer, or your carpenters will need to stop, pull it out so it’s best done at this stage.

[00:09:19] Once all your walls are set out, the next stage is ‘plumbing rough-in’. So your plumber comes in before your sparkie and what they’ll do is they’ll start to install all your new water lines. Things like your sink, your dishwasher.

[00:09:31] Now if you’re doing a structural renovation, you’ll have very detailed architectural plans that will itemize all the plumbing set outs.

[00:09:38] You’ll give that to your plumber they’ll know where to install everything. But if you’re a cosmetic renovator, chances are, these plans won’t exist, so you’ll need to do this manually with your plumber. Make sure you get this right!

[00:09:51] Because if you put your taps, things in the wrong location, you sheet it up your tile it and then fit off, this is where it can really catch you, where you’ll need to do rework – and who wants that!

[00:10:01] What do plumbers cost? Between 70 to a 100 dollars an hour inclusive of GST. And if you can get a fixed price quote for the work, that’s even better.

[00:10:14] Now, if you’re project managing your own kitchen renovation and you don’t have detailed architectural plans, it’s super important to have a layout of where all your base cabinets are going to go and your upper cabinets as well. And if you don’t have that base plan, it will mean a delay, which ultimately costs you more money with your plumber.

[00:10:33] After your plumbing, comes your ‘electrical rough-in’ and this is where your electrician, commonly known as a ‘sparky’, will come on-site and they’ll start to install your new light switches, your power points, and they’ll get power to anywhere where your new appliances are going to be.

[00:10:47] Now if you’re dealing with a brick construction, what will happen is your electrician will need to do what’s called ‘chasing in’. And that’s where they’ll come through with a saw, they’ll create a notch on the wall, they’ll run the new electrical wires down.

[00:10:59] If you’re dealing with a timber stud wall, what they basically do is drill through the walls, they run their wires to the new location.


I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you have plans and know exactly where everything is going.

Always take a photo of where the services are located before the wall sheeting goes up, because once you have sheeted, once you get your cabinetry in, your tiles splashback on and then you suddenly work out things are in the wrong location… you have to rip all those things out and that is a lot of unnecessary expense.

[00:11:33] Once your plumbling and electrical lines are all roughed in, now comes the exciting part, which is your ceiling and wall sheeting and this is where your kitchen really starts to take shape.

[00:11:42] What you should do is start with the ceiling sheeting first.

[00:11:45] Once that’s done, then do your wall sheeting.

[00:11:48] And then once that’s in, you follow through with your cornice. Once all of those three items are in, then you need to plaster set it. Now your plasterer can do this – or, if you’ve got a carpenter they can do it for you as well.

[00:12:04] Your next stage is ‘check measure’.

[00:12:06] Now if you’re installing DIY flatpack kitchen cabinetry, this stage is not so critical. Where it is really important, is if you’re getting custom cabinetry installed by a cabinetmaker.

[00:12:16] What will happen is once you’ve got all your walls and your ceilings in, make sure you phone your custom cabinet maker, tell them to come out to your property. What they’ll do is they’ll measure all the width of the walls, the heights, they’ll look at where your windows sit in relation to your overall kitchen plan.

[00:12:31] Once they have those precise measurements, what they’ll then do is then go away, design your kitchen and they’ll put your cabinets into production.

[00:12:38] Typically if you’re going through a cabinet maker, expect a delay of somewhere between four to eight weeks for your cabinetry to be manufactured.

[00:12:48] Next in line is your kitchen cabinetry installation.

[00:12:52] Now because this kitchen is a low budget property, I’ve just opted to buy standard, self-assemble flatpack kitchen cabinetry. I’ve assembled it myself which is a great way to save money. But whatever you do, do not install the cabinetry yourself. This should be done by a licensed carpenter.

[00:13:07] If you don’t install your kitchen cabinets correctly, it can play real havoc with your benchtops. Things will roll off, plates will rock. And who wants that!

[00:13:19] Once your kitchen cabinets are installed, it’s time for your benchtop installation.

[00:13:23] Now bench tops typically come in three types.

[00:13:26] You got laminate benchtops, which are the cheapest.

[00:13:29] Your next tier up, is the engineered stones. They are the man-made products that mimic the look of stone.

[00:13:35] And the top tier of benchtops is the real stone bench tops.

[00:13:39] Now what I say for a low budget property under 750 thousand, it is perfectly fine to use a laminate benchtop. The great thing about this is that they are widely used in Australia. They come in a sea of colors, different types and textures. A lot of them also mimic the look of stone.

[00:13:57] If you have a property that’s between 750 thousand and 1.5 million, I would recommend that you go with an engineered stone benchtop. CaeserStone for example is a very popular option.

[00:14:08] And if you have a more expensive property, a property over 2 million and above, you really should install a stone benchtop. Either a marble or a granite.

[00:14:18] Once your cabinetry and your benchtops are installed, it’s time for splashback installation. Now your splashback is the area typically from the top of the benchtops to the underside of your upper cabinets, and the purpose of the splashback really is to stop cooking oils washing up splashback.

[00:14:35] Your splashback can be anything you want it to be. Tiles, frosted glass, stainless steel, even people put wallpaper with clear glass over the top. It’s definitely one area that you can inject a little bit of personality into your kitchen.

[00:14:49] The cheapest type of splashback however is just your standard tiles.

[00:14:53] For example of this kitchen, I’ve just opted for a straight polished tile. This tile cost me twenty dollars a square meter. Normally in your kitchen you only have two to three square metres of tiles at the absolute most. So in this case, the tiles are only about 60 dollars plus the tiling labor.

[00:15:08] The tiling labor for your splashback typically around the 300 dollar mark. So I’ll be getting out of this splashback for under five hundred dollars. But if you want to use a more luxurious material, obviously it’ll cost you more.

[00:15:22] Next up you’ve got your plumbing fit off.

[00:15:24] Your plumber will do this for you. They’ll come back towards the end of your kitchen renovation, they’ll fit off the dishwasher, the sink and if you have a gas cooktop, they’ll take care of that for you as well.

[00:15:37] You’re going to have to call your Sparky back to do what’s called ‘Electric fit-off’.

[00:15:41] This is where your Sparky will now install your power points, your oven, your range hood, and sometimes your cooktop, depending on whether it’s electric or gas.

[00:15:53] You’re in the final stages of your kitchen renovation, now comes the carpentry fit-off. This is where your carpenter will install your cabinet handles, they may hang your blinds and they’ll certainly do all the adjustment on your doors – making sure that the space in the gaps are too small or too large.

[00:16:12] In an ideal world, you would do all your painting before your kitchen cabinetry is installed. That way you’re not splashing paint over your new kitchen or having to paint awkward objects like top cabinets.

[00:16:24] But in reality it often happens right at the very end. Don’t waste paint on areas that will be covered by cabinets and splashbacks. Experiment with big patches of paint on your walls to help you decide on colour. And remember to choose a quality kitchen specific paint that resist stains and mould. You may need to do a little touch up here and there once your kitchen is all finished and that’s okay.

[00:16:46] So there you have it! Everything you need to know about project managing your very own kitchen renovation.

[00:16:51] I think you’ll agree it’s definitely something not to rush into considering the expense. But if you do have time, and are willing to do some research and have good communication and organizational skills, you can definitely save yourself a lot of money rather than paying a premium to the kitchen renovation companies. Good luck with your kitchen reno!

Want to learn how to do bathroom renovations and cosmetic renovations to your home? Come along to my FREE Renovation Riches – 2.5 hour Masterclass. Register for FREE your tickets here


  1. Hi Cherie
    Thanks for your great article on how to project manage your kitchen. I am planning on doing a Kitchen renovation and found your article really inspiring. I have watched and read it several times now. The one question I have is regarding flooring. I am looking at installing the waterproof laminate flooring and I was wondering at what stage should I have the flooring installed?
    Thanks for your work.

    1. You can look to do the flooring after the other works. In the wet areas there are adhesive flooring options that are water proof around water wastes. Hope that helps.

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