Kitchen (and general) renovations: tips and tricks

Calling CHOICE Community renovators!

I’m going to be redoing my kitchen in the next few months and was hoping some of our more experienced renovators might have some tips and tricks for kitchen renovations.

Specifically pondering the following at the moment:

  • Kitchen design company vs. design your cabinets at Bunnings/IKEA and having a builder install
  • How long did your kitchen reno take?
  • Tips on getting everything through strata smoothly (I live in NSW, and we have some new laws here, but interested to here how people navigate this process)
  • Any other general tips on getting a good deal and not being ripped off


Here’s some CHOICE tips for kitchen renovation:


Kit-kitchens are useful if you have a “standard” kitchen area. If you have any lengths that are not a multiple of 300mm (though sometimes 150mm can work too, such as 450mm drawers), or if the walls are not exactly perpendicular, then a custom kitchen is really your only option.

The rest of the factors are really dependent on how comfortable you are either project managing everything, and your comfort level with tools. For example, a kit kitchen with (fake) stone tops, is not doable if all you want to play is checkbook renovator. If you’re prepared to go in and organise the stonework tops with your own suppliers etc, then it can be done.

My most recent kitchen we did all the work except for the actual benches themselves. We paid for a high-end custom kitchen place to come in and do the fitting, but we did everything else - including demo work, flooring, tiling (wife does awesome custom tiles!) etc. Took us about 6 months to do it all, but only 3 weeks where we didn’t have usable benches/stoves etc.


Thanks @jcouch! It’s a 4200 length kitchen so it adds up to the right lengths. Problem is that I live alone, so completing all the elements is going to be a bit difficult if I DIY components.

You’ve given me an idea though… maybe I should have a demolition party and invite some friends over to get rid of the old kitchen :joy:

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If you do that, try to keep as many of the cupboards intact as you can. A good, decent sized set will sell very quickly on Gumtree. Mum got about $1000 for hers last year when she renovated her average sized-kitchen.

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We had ours done by a local kitchen mob. All is fine but OUR choice of floor tiles was not the best. We had cork tiles before and they were very serviceable. Our new ones are big beige-coloured ceramic, but the faint pattern looks smudgy when viewed against the light. Suggest you try a few just sitting on the floor before you decide.

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Hi @TillySouth, we have carried out three kitchen renovations over the years. For the first we got in a reputable cabinet maker who helped design the kitchen. They only supplied and fitted the cabinets. I project managed the rest of it employing the plumbers, carpenters etc. it was a good result in the end but required a lot of time and effort on my part.

For the second renovation, we chose to go with a kitchen company (primarily to avoid the time consuming project management). It was a disaster. I don’t know if the company was just starting out or they were just incompetent. If you choose this option do your homework well. Make sure they only employ qualified tradepeople, satisfy yourself of quality of materials and get references from previous contracts.

The last one we did we hired a builder who was recommended to us. We designed the kichen jointly. That takes care of the cabinets, countertop and splash back (we didn’t change our flooring). We purchased all the appliances & tap ware ourselves & passed the specs on to the builder. The builder then project managed the renovation. This was probably the best result, however it was also the most expensive.

If I was to do another one, I chose the builder again.

Thanks @albie that’s really helpful! My parents recently re-did their kitchen and used a builder to project manage, and ordered the cabinets from a kitchen company.

The result was really high quality.

Good to know @raybeebemcm. I’m thinking I’ll redo the tiles so I’ll have to get a few samples and see how they go in the light. I’m thinking a simple white though :slight_smile:

…long after the OP, and it is my bad for not responding at the time. Rather than a new thread there are good bits here so I am resurrecting it.

Our home was built in 1998 and reflects the period with a bit of American flavour. We bought it in 2002. My partner never liked the kitchen, and the bathroom cabinets were curiously under-specified compared to everything else, so we did a mini renovation in 2011. Some lessons:

  1. the original owners sized the fridge cavity for a particular Amana fridge. We either had to buy a much smaller fridge than we needed to fit the cavity, or buy the same model Amana that was still on the market. We did the latter and it is still humming along. We accounted for fridge replacement / cavity size during the 2011 reno so we could have a wider choice when the Amana eventually fails. We found the biggest dimensions of all the fridges on the market at the time and scaled the new fridge cavity to suit. Today the preponderance of similar capacity fridges are taller then they were in 2011 and thus most won’t fit. If we need a similar capacity fridge this year we have a choice of 2. Otherwise we have to buy too small or too big (our cavity is wide with some tricks for aesthetics, but reflects heights common in 2011 but now is ‘short’) There is much to be said for avoiding a fridge cavity even though they are attractive and often necessary in the overall scheme. If you have one, make it much bigger than you expect to need and get some fitted removable cabinetry made for aesthetics. ‘Popular’ appliance dimensions seem to change from time to time so be prepared. For maximum efficiency take into account recommended clearances not just dimensions, and most fridges recommend significant clearance on top, and / or upward venting at the rear wall when in a cavity.

  2. we bought a 75cm oven in 2011 and the oven cavity was built for it. 75cm is relatively rare vis the common 60 and 90cm sizes. As we learnt after the fact, most ovens need rear venting while ours does not so none was made, and different ovens have different venting requirements. Our oven has not been the most reliable. Although the manufacturer stepped up when we read the ACL in chapter and verse, we are almost eager to have a reason to replace it but today there is precisely one suitable 75cm product on the market that fits the cavity and does not require rear venting, and a few that need venting and thus cavity mods. Unnecessary venting inside the oven cavity can be blocked over but the options to retrofit venting could be anywhere from trivial to a showstopper. Build oven cavities with consideration for future replacement options.

  3. the original flooring is a period terracotta tile over 70% of the entire house floor, laid as if one room. It was style in the day. It would be impractical to replace any single room or rooms, and difficult (because of built in cabinetry), messy, and expensive to replace all of it. Tastes and fashion change. When doing tile, compartmentalise it so any room can be redone without having to do it all.

3a) The terracotta floor tiles were no longer available by 2011; we found a few leftovers and bought all available. They saved us – the kitchen and a bathroom each needed a few tiles to allow for new cabinet footprints. We also have wall tiles in 2 bathrooms, neither which were available by 2011 and we have zero extras. It severely limited what we could do within budget as the tiling dictated more than one decision. Buy an extra box or two of whatever tiles you use. They may be gifts to whomever eventually buys your house, but they may save significant cost if you need any a few years on. Also be aware that while it is obvious a colour can be difficult to match, there are quite a few shades of white and black, as well as subtleties of texture and finish.

  1. During renos plumbers and cabinet makers sometimes put bits together prior to final mounting (taps and drains to basins, and sinks) because it is easy. When all done sometimes the configuration makes it impossible to get a spanner in to tighten, remove, or replace fittings unless the unit is removed. A basin wrench can solve some but not all problems that can be encountered.
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My place has earthy slate-like floor tiles with lots of texture and colour - the benchtop is also a mottled-woody kind of colour … I thoroughly recommend this colour scheme, it doesn’t get dirty as much or need cleaning as often as white !!! :wink: :wink:

An article regarding the Federal Government’s recently announced $25,000 grants for home renovations and home building.

And from the article.

“We recognise that it’s a long supply chain,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday.

“It’s not just the sparkie and the plumber and the carpenter on the building site, it’s also the timber mill, it’s also the appliance manufacturer for the new kitchen. It’s also those who help with the materials that go into the bathroom.”

Appliance manufacturer for the new kitchen?

I don’t know what the treasurer has been smoking but it can’t be legal.