Home Improvement

Kitchen renovation guide

The kitchen is the heart of the home, but as a space it needs to be both visually appealing and highly functional. Find out what you need to consider about kitchen design, kitchen appliances and laying out your workspaces. We cover everything from splashbacks to bench tops to make sure your kitchen renovation is designed perfectly.

Design elements>
Lighting & ambience>
Common mistakes>
Easy fixes>


Depending on the extent of the work you intend to undertake, a kitchen renovation can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars for some minor cosmetic changes, up to $45,000 for a bigger project – and even more if you really want to splash out.

It is important to note, in the kitchen if you are doing a complete redo there will be plenty of areas where technical expertise is needed – think electrical, gas and plumbing. Make sure you engage expert tradespeople where necessary to avoid costly mistakes.

How much does a small kitchen renovation cost?

When remodelling a small-to-medium-sized kitchen be prepared to spend anywhere from $5000 to $20,000. This budget will unlikely allow for any major structural changes like moving walls, changing plumbing, or installing new gas, but you can definitely still achieve a beautiful makeover, especially if you are a competent DIY-er. Flat-packed cabinets are relatively affordable and can help give a kitchen a whole new look. Flooring designs are also cheap and easy to install, and a lick of paint, new fittings, and new lighting will brighten up the space.

How much does a big kitchen renovation cost?

It can be easy to spend big when it comes to a larger kitchen, with people typically spending between $20,000 to $40,000. However high-end kitchens will set you back up to $100,000, especially if you are splashing out on appliances. The standard budget range includes the cost of using some professional trades and buying some new appliances, new cabinets resurfacing benches, tiling, painting, and installing a new lighting scheme.

Kitchen design elements

When choosing a design, a good place to start is to think about the kitchens you have lived with up until this point. Consider, what you liked about the spaces, what worked and what was annoying? In doing this you can ensure your new kitchen will not have any of the issues you’ve faced in the past and get you one step closer to your dream kitchen.

Simple changes may include updating flooring, replacing light fixtures, overhauling cabinetry, and new handles or a splashback. However, if you are planning something bigger here are the design elements that should be front of mind.


Deciding on what kitchen layout to go with is the first and most crucial step to planning the space. Straight line or galley kitchens are ideal for smaller spaces, while island kitchens – where you can fit in additional storage – are perfect for larger family homes.

Think about how you will move through the space – you’ll want to ensure you allow a comfortable distance between the kitchen’s key functions. It is recommended key items such as the fridge, cooktop and sink be arranged in a triangle no more than seven metres apart.

It is also worth considering which items go together. For example, sinks, drainage and dishwashers are usually grouped together and positioned on an outside wall under a window for good natural light.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to place the benches and preparation areas somewhere between the stove and sink.


Positioning pipes, gas and electrical outlets correctly is crucial when planning a kitchen as they will dictate the functionality of the space and can be costly to relocate if you get it wrong.  Try and avoid rerouting gas and plumbing pipes if possible to minimise cost, and make sure you have enough power points placed thoughtfully throughout the space.

Utilities checklist

Does any wiring need to be redone or new electrical outlets installed?Do plumbing and gas pipes need to be rerouted?Install sink, oven, and plumbing fixtures.Do you need a new rangehood and how will it be installed?Should you update appliances?Is there adequate space for the refrigerator?Consider lighting design and placementDo you need a ceiling fan?


We spend a lot of time in the kitchen so light needs to be ample but also atmospheric. Think about the ambience when choosing the right lights but also where you carry out tasks and highlight those areas. It’s also becoming popular to also install LED strip lights under kitchen cabinets to light up dark cupboards and spaces. If you’re not sure about where to put lights consult your electrician.

Types of lighting for your kitchen

Light influences mood, so, it’s pretty important to think about what kind will suit your kitchen.

Here are some common kitchen lighting design options to consider:

Pendant Lights – these are available in a range of shapes, sizes, and styles. They create a focal point and can be used in conjunction with downlights to achieve the right amount of brightness.

Cabinet Lighting – installing lights within draws and cabinets, or running beneath the cupboards can be convenient and add to the aesthetics of a new design, especially when you have glass cabinets.

Spot lighting – highlighting workstations, especially in larger kitchens, will improve functionality.

Natural light – don’t just think about artificial light. Brightening up a space using natural light can create a nicer atmosphere, enhance design, and reduce power use.

Decorative lighting – to up the impact, a decorative ceiling light or lamp can really make a kitchen shine. This can include a classic pendant or something more modern depending on your design.


Storage is king, and that having too much is better than having too little. Make sure you allow room for bulky appliances, pots and pan and any odd-shaped kitchen implements. It’s also a good idea to allow a separate cupboard for your bin – rubbish and recycling – to keep floor and bench space clean. There are also plenty of nifty storage solutions these days, so don’t be afraid to get creative if you are living in tight quarters.

Choosing appliances

Kitchen appliances have a big impact both visually and functionally. Appliance choice will generally depend on your budget, but it’s important not to purchase just on price and looks. Longevity, energy rating, size and quality must also be considered. Expect appliances – like a fridge or dishwasher – to last for 10 years, while ovens should last even longer. If you’re renovating for profit, high-end branded appliances are not a wise choice – go with an affordable, quality brand that will last.

Cheap options should be avoided, especially if you are renovating a rental because you will be replacing them sooner than you think. If renovating a premium property to sell, then quality big name brands will be needed to appeal to the target market.

Things to remember:

Placement: when choosing your appliances and designing your kitchen layout, make sure you do this in the correct order so as to ensure everything fits. It’s also a good idea to do a “sweep” of the layout thinking about how the doors and drawers open and allowing enough room.

Warranty: most warranties for large kitchen appliances last for two years, with an added five years for components. Make sure you factor in the length of the warranty when buying appliances – the longer the warranty, the higher the manufacturer’s confidence in their product.

Energy efficiency: By law, larger kitchen appliances are required to be rated for energy efficiency. The rating will be indicated on the product label revealing how much energy the appliance will consume and compare it to the market standard.

Cabinetry, splashbacks and worktops

A kitchen should have a good aesthetic and cabinetry, splashbacks and worktops will dictate the end look and feel of your kitchen renovation.


When it comes to kitchen cabinetry, storage must be the biggest consideration, as well as where they are located as this will impact the flow of the kitchen. Determine where you want drawers and cupboards, and whether they are suitably placed for opening and closing, as well as use. Many people like to make as much use of the available space as possible when planning kitchen storage – including taking cupboards all the way up to the ceiling. Remember, cabinetry can also play an important role in hiding big bulky appliances like dishwashers and fridges.

When it comes to cost, flat-packed options are more affordable and offer plenty of styles that can be customised to suit most kitchens. This is the most common option in kitchen renovations and can also be easily installed by DIYers. However, if your budget allows you can opt for a fully bespoke option made to order.


Splashbacks are not only decorative but practical given the mess that occurs in the kitchen. When deciding what splashback is right for your kitchen consider the style – for example modern, minimal, country, industrial, traditional – and whether it will match. Colour is also important depending on whether you want the splashback to blend in or stand out.

When it comes to picking a material – tiles, acrylic, marble, stone, stainless steel – consider surfaces that are easy to clean and don’t stain.


Your kitchen benchtop has a big impact on the overall look and feel of the space with plenty of styles and materials to choose from. Firstly, budget will narrow down your options, with materials like marble presenting a much higher cost than laminate. Function should be another consideration including whether the material will stand the test of time or whether it’s porous and will stain easily. The last thing to consider is size and weight. Not only must it fit in the space but materials come in a multitude of sizes and thicknesses so this may impact the price and design of the benches and cabinets.

Popular materials:

Quartz engineered stone: This is a great option as it’s durable and non-porous. It also comes in a great variety of colours and patterns, including options that look a lot like natural stone. The bonus about engineered stone kitchen worktops is that they don’t require ongoing maintenance and come in at a low to medium price point.

Granite: Just as lovely and effective as marble but this option is much more resistant to staining, chipping and scratching and is available at a range of price points.

Marble: Not all marble is created equal. There are some that are not practical because they are not just porous but also can be very expensive. However, there are affordable and durable options available like Carrara marble.

Corian: This acrylic-based option is very hygienic and also stain-resistant making it low maintenance.

Porcelain: This option is easy to clean, and scratch resistant. However, it’s in the high-end price range and is brittle and prone to cracking and chipping.

Concrete: This is a great choice for more modern or industrial kitchens and can be made in any shape and size. But it scratches easily, can chip in the corners and will also need resealing and re-polishing.

Metal: If you want a chef-style kitchen or your space is industrial in style this is a good option. It’s affordable, simple to install and easy to maintain.

Timber: This option looks great but will require maintenance to keep in good condition. It’s also less resistant to heat and stains.

Kitchen renovation common mistakes

Remodelling a kitchen is a big job so it’s important not to simply dive in and hope for the best. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Not taking the time to plan properly: Walkways that are too small or cupboards that can’t open properly are not signs of a small space, it’s bad design. You need to run through all needs and requirements for a kitchen and then map it out carefully.

Not balancing function and style: While style is an important part of a kitchen it’s not everything. If you don’t think about function and flow, you could be left with a very impractical kitchen.

Not thinking about appliance placement and measurements: Picking cabinets and appliances is all part of the journey but if they don’t’ fit together you will have a hard time squeezing everything in. Know your space and check sizes of appliances carefully.

Choosing the wrong worktop: Once installed a worktop is expensive to replace so if the care and maintenance needed doesn’t suit your lifestyle, your kitchen bench might end up in bad shape.

Not maximising vertical space: In kitchens, especially small ones, space is king. But a lot of people fail to make use of vertical space and take their cupboards right up to the ceiling.

Easy fixes

When it comes to kitchen renovations, you can get a lot of bang for your buck with simple tricks that might not require a huge spend or effort. Take a good look at your kitchen and note what small things can be done to give it an instant facelift.

Here are some ideas:

New tapsUpdate handlesPaint cupboardsDecoratePaint or replace splashbackNew lightsNew blindsRemove clutter

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