About Your House
Renovating Your Kitchen
Your kitchen is probably the most used room in your house.
Poor layout, inadequate lighting, cramped spaces, outdated
fixtures and old cabinetry are common complaints of
Before you decide to go ahead with a kitchen renovation, it
is important to clearly identify the features you want in your
new kitchen. Just as important is a thorough pre-renovation
inspection to identify any existing problems.
Kitchen renovations are high on the list of the most common
home renovations. A renovation can be as simple as installing
new flooring or be a major undertaking that includes enlarging
the space and replacing all fixtures and finishes.
Homeowners consider kitchen renovations for many reasons
- Size and design — the existing kitchen
may be too small or poorly laid out.
- Fixtures and appliances — The fixtures
and appliances may be worn out, inefficient or outdated.
- Cabinets and countertops — cabinet
finishes, hardware or countertops may be outdated, need
repair or replacement.
- Structural problems—there may be
problems that require structural changes or repairs.
- Moisture — the floor, walls or finishes
may be unsightly or damaged due to moisture problems.
- Plumbing and electrical — many older
kitchens don’t have enough electrical outlets and circuits.
Older plumbing and plumbing fixtures may include lead or
galvanized steel piping.
- Heating and ventilation — older
kitchens often have inadequate ventilation or heating
systems. The area may be poorly insulated and have a high
degree of air leakage, two factors that lead to high energy
- Finishes — older finishes may be
unattractive or not durable enough to withstand the daily
wear and tear.
Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier
for you, the community and the environment. When assessing
your renovation project, be sure to consider the five
essentials of Healthy
House as a System
A house is much more than just four walls and a roof — it’s
an interactive system made up of many components including the
basic structure, heating, ventilation and air conditioning
(HVAC) equipment, the external environment and the occupants.
Each component influences the performance of the entire
system. A renovation provides an opportunity to improve how
your house performs. Kitchen renovations often include changes
to HVAC equipment that can improve indoor air quality and
moisture management in the house. Be careful if choosing large
volume exhaust fans because they can cause combustion heating
equipment to backdraft. Structural changes may give you a
chance to improve air tightness and insulation, resulting in
increased occupant comfort and house durability.
Once you start a renovation, there’s no turning back. Your
life is disrupted and any unexpected problems will lead to
higher costs and delays in finishing the project. Thorough
planning will help you to develop a realistic understanding of
the work to be done and the costs involved. Here are some of
the likely situations that people encounter. However, every
situation is unique and you may need to hire a qualified
professional to do a thorough investigation, find the problems
and suggest the best solutions.
|Size and design|
- How much workspace do you need? Is an eating area
in the kitchen important?
- What are the traffic patterns?
- Is there adequate storage space?
- Does the kitchen meet the needs of everyone in the
household including anyone with special needs,
extended family and guests?
- Plan thoroughly before you start. Sometimes a
simple reorganization of the space will solve many of
the shortcomings of older kitchens.
- Consider an addition or adding space from
adjoining areas to meet your space and function
- Use a professional designer to help you design a
plan to best meet your existing and future needs.
- You will have to live with the results even if
they don’t meet your needs.
- A poor layout will seriously detract from your
enjoyment of the renovation.
- The layout may not be flexible enough to meet
existing or future demands for space, storage and
anyone with special needs such as wheelchair
- Do the existing fixtures and appliances have years
of useful life left?
- Do you like the style and features of your
appliances? Are they energy efficient?
- Is there adequate general and task lighting?
- Replace or repair worn out appliances or fixtures.
- Familiarize yourself with available products and
- Choose efficient fixtures that will reduce water
and electricity consumption. New kitchen appliances
carry an EnerGuide label identifying their energy
- Update lighting so that it provides the brightness
that you need. Compact fluorescent light fixtures are
four times more efficient than standard incandescent
- Old fixtures may have to be replaced later and the
new fixtures may not fit into the spaces allowed. This
may involve further modification of cabinets or room
- If you don’t do your homework, you may find more
appropriate, appealing appliances or fixtures after
you have completed the work.
- Outdated appliances and lighting usually mean
higher ongoing energy costs.
- Are existing cabinets or countertops damaged? Do
you like the style of the cabinets and countertops?
- Is there enough storage and workspace?
- Replace or repair damaged or outdated cabinets or
- Install additional cabinets or countertops to meet
your work needs. Consult with a kitchen planner to
organize storage and workspace more efficiently.
- Damaged, hard-to-clean countertops can harbour
bacteria. The kitchen may be less functional and an
unappealing work and living space.
- Are there any existing structural deficiencies in
this area or nearby areas of the house?
- Do any structural walls or lintels need to be
- Will installation of new windows or doors require
special structural details?
- Are the walls, ceiling, floor or basement areas
well-insulated and air-sealed to provide a comfortable
energy efficient space?
- Carry out a complete inspection before your start.
You may want to hire an expert.
- Repair, strengthen or replace structural
components so they can carry the new loads.
- Insulate and air-seal the building to provide warm
interior surfaces and a draft-free living space.
- Remove wall coverings, when possible, to properly
insulate and install a sealed air and vapour barrier.
The open wall cavities will also make it easier to
install new wiring, plumbing and other services.
- Structural deficiencies can lead to cracked
finishes, floor vibration, bowing or displacement of
walls, floors or roof structures and possible
- Exterior walls that are poorly insulated and not
air-sealed will lead to continued high energy costs,
possible condensation problems and discomfort in the
- Do any of the finishes have moisture damage?
- Is there visible mold growth on any surfaces? Are
there any water stains?
- Is there blistered or peeled paint?
- Is any of the caulking or grout cracked or
- Has there been condensation on windows, wall or
- Determine the source of the moisture that is
causing the problems. It may be from building or
plumbing leaks or from condensation of humidity on
- Clean up visible mold growth according to CMHC
- Insulate, air-seal and use energy efficient
windows to provide warmer inside surface temperatures.
- Repair or replace all deteriorated finishes or
- Maintain caulking, grout and flashings to prevent
water access to the building structure.
- Minimize moisture sources and ventilate to control
- Unsolved water damage problems will continue and
lead to further deterioration of the building or newly
- Mold growth caused by excess moisture can be a
serious source of IAQ problems.
- Superficial cleanup or hiding of moisture damage
behind new finishes will allow deterioration to
- Is the electrical service adequate for the number
of outlets and circuits required and for future
- Does the existing plumbing service work well? Is
there adequate water pressure? Do the drains flow
- Are there any leaks or evidence of water damage?
- If the house is pre-1950, are there any lead or
galvanized steel water pipes?
- Have a professional electrician assess the
electrical service and your needs. Upgrade and repair
the electrical service and wiring as required.
- Repair any plumbing leaks and upgrade the existing
service as required.
- Equip outlets near the sink with ground fault
circuit interrupters to prevent shocks.
- Replace any lead or corroded metal water pipes.
- An undersized electrical service can lead to
circuit overloads and the constant jockeying of
- Inadequate or leaky plumbing will cause ongoing
inconvenience. Leaks can lead to mold growth and IAQ
- Even minor leaks around plumbing joints, gaskets
and sinks will damage new materials.
- Lead piping and corroded metals can contaminate
- Is the room comfortable and easy to heat?
- Does excess condensation form on windows or other
- Is there an exhaust fan that is ducted to the
- Is the air fresh and clean? Are there lingering
- Would a large exhaust fan lead to backdrafting of
an oil or wood stove, furnace or water heater?
- Make sure that there is adequate heating to the
area. Poor insulation levels and high air leakage will
make the area hard to heat, drafty and uncomfortable.
- Install an exhaust fan with adequate airflow
capacity, 50 L/s (105 cubic feet per minute minimum).
The fan be quiet with a sound rating of 3.5 sones or
less and be vented to the outside. Choose ventilation
appliances that are certified by HVI (Heating and
- Install a whole house ventilation system if
possible. Consider one that includes heat recovery.
- Use a licensed installer for heating and
- The heating system may not be able to maintain a
comfortable temperature in the living space during
cold, windy weather.
- You may experience lingering odours and excess
humidity in the house.
- Large volume exhaust fans can cause backdrafting
(smells, smoke or toxic gases escaping into the house)
of combustion equipment such as fuel burning
fireplaces, furnaces, wood stoves and water heaters
that use oil, natural gas or propane. A trained
technician can remedy or avoid this health and safety
- What is the condition of current finishes? Do they
need to be replaced because of wear or styling?
- What finishes will be durable enough for the
intended use, for example countertops, floor covering
and wall finishes?
- Are the planned materials and finishes low odour
and low in chemical emissions such as volatile organic
- What preparation is required for the new finishes?
Are special skills needed to install the finishes?
- Decide what finishes need to be repaired or
replaced. Do your research. There are many new and
different products on the market. Vinyl, ceramic and
hardwood flooring all have different installation
- Choose products that are designed to meet specific
needs e.g., water resistance, durability or cleaning.
- Choose low odour materials, finishes and adhesives
to minimize effects on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
- Use a qualified installer for products that
require special installation conditions or skills.
- Improper installation of finishes will void the
warranty and may provide unattractive results.
- Cracked ceramic tile or grout are common problems
resulting from inadequate subfloor strength and
- Hardwood flooring can shrink or swell if it is not
allowed time to condition to the humidity of the space
before installation or if it is not sealed properly.
- Potentially harmful emissions from new materials
can linger for long periods within the house.
- Repairing structural problems, fixing leaks and
making sure that all services are adequate will
prolong the life of your house and make the renovation
look and work better.
- By using low odour and easy to clean finishes, you
will improve the IAQ of your home. Reducing
condensation and controlling humidity will help to
prevent mold growth.
- Thorough planning will result in a warm,
comfortable, useable kitchen with good lighting and
plenty of work and storage space.
- A well thought out and executed renovation will
increase the value of your house.
Skills to Do the Job
A homeowner with good fix-it skills may be able to do
some of the work on the renovation such as:
- Removing old fixtures and finishes.
- Caulking or repairing roof and window leaks.
- Installing insulation.
- Air-sealing the building.
Consider a professional renovator for structural
changes, finish work or to undertake the complete
project management. If you are doing it yourself, you
will still need to hire subcontractors to carry out the
electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation work.
Depending on the nature of the project, you may also
need to hire other tradespeople to do roofing, window
and door installation, install cabinets and flooring or
paint and do drywall finishing. Remember to obtain all
necessary permits, sign a written contract, ensure that
workers use safe working practices, have professional
licenses where required and are covered by workers’
compensation. Protect yourself, your family and your
Use the Kitchen Assessment Worksheet to record the
present condition, any problems and to estimate costs for your
||Options or Upgrades
|Ceiling and Finishes
|Walls and Finishes
|Floor and Finishes
|Cabinets, Countertops and Hardware
|Sink and faucets
Costing Your Project
The cost of the renovation work will depend on the
condition of the existing structure, the extent of the work to
be done and local labour and material prices. Costs of
finishes and fixtures vary widely. A good budget checklist
will help you to develop a realistic cost for the project
before you start. Some of the items to include are:
Other Useful Information From Canada Mortgage and Housing
Although this information product reflects
housing experts’ current knowledge, it is provided for general
information purposes only. Any reliance or action taken based
on the information, materials and techniques described are the
responsibility of the user. Readers are advised to consult
appropriate professional resources to determine what is safe
and suitable in their particular case. CMHC assumes no
responsibility for any consequence arising from use of the
information, materials and techniques