Kitchen Renovation 101

by | May 21, 2019 | Apartment Renovations, Interior Design

There are a lot of issues to learn about kitchen renovations. This blog post will be a basic introduction to renovating a kitchen.


Kitchen Renovation 101


  • Stock, Semi Custom, and Custom Kitchen Cabinets
  • Standard Kitchen Cabinet Sizes
  • Measuring For Kitchen Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Appliances
  • Smoke Soffit
  • Lighting
  • Flooring
  • Backslash
  • Architect
  • Permits
  • Contractors


Stock, Custom, and Semi Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are typically put into one of three categories: Stock, Semi Custom, and Custom cabinets.

Kitchen Remodel NYC

Kitchen Remodel NYC

Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets are prefabricated come as they are cabinets that can be selected from a catalog. These will come in standard sizes, materials, and finishes. Stock cabinets will not have the option for customization of size or style and will be the most affordable choice. Ikea is an example of stock cabinets. Although stock cabinets may seem limited manufactures will often have a variety of selections. All stock cabinets will have a limit to the available sizes, styles, finishes, materials, etc…

Custom Cabinets 

Custom Cabinets are made to order and designed to order. These are typically made by smaller custom mill work shops. They can be made to any size, in any material, style, and finish.

Semi Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Semi Custom Kitchen Cabinets are cabinets that come in certain designs, finishes, and materials but have some customization options. These are made to order cabinets but the design is selected form the manufactures option of styles. Semi Custom have a wide price range and some brands can be more expensive than custom cabinets. Cesar is an example of Semi Custom cabinets we have used.

Standard Kitchen Cabinet Sizes

Although some manufactures will have more sizes below is a general outline of standard cabinet sizes.

Standard Cabinet Widths come in 3″ increments: 9″, 12″, 15″, 18″. 21″, 24″, 27″, 30″, 33″. 36″, 39″, 42″.

The standard height of a base cabinet is 34.5″ without the counter top and the standard depth is 24″ for a base cabinet.

Wall cabinets or upper cabinets come in 12″ standard depths and 30″, 36″, or 42″ standard heights.

Kitchen Renovation NYC

Kitchen Renovation NYC

Measuring For Kitchen Cabinets

The manufacturer or the installer are the only people who should measure for ordering kitchen cabinets. This is a liability issue. If one of the cabinets do not fit you want the manufacturer or contractor taking responsibility. Real quality professional contractors know this. I have an entire blog post covering Kitchen Cabinet Measurements because this is such an important issue. Cabinets are also not ordered from dimensions on architectural or interior design plans. They are ordered ideally from post demolition and construction field measurements and shop drawings.

Kitchen Countertops 

There are many different countertop materials you can use. The most common kitchen countertop materials we have used are:

  • Quartz
  • Granite
  • Marble
  • Concrete
  • Solid Surfacing
  • Stainless Steel
  • Butcher Block
  • Recycled Glass

Kitchen Countertop Waterfall detail with Miter Corner

Kitchen Appliances

When renovating your kitchen you will need to consider things like existing plumbing and gas locations. Sometimes these are easy to relocate sometimes they are not. Also if you are renovating an apartment you may have risers for the entire building in your walls. The existing conditions may affect your final kitchen layout. A few things to consider on appliances:

Refrigerator: Smart or not? With or without water and ice?

Cooking: Two piece (cooktop and separate oven) or one piece range. Also gas or electric cooking is a decision to make.

Ventilation: Do you want an exhaust hood and if so can you accommodate a vented hood or do you need a recirculating.

Kitchen Appliances

Kitchen Appliances

Smoke Soffit

In New York City any open kitchen without a window must have a smoke soffit. This is a 12″ drop down at the perimeter of the kitchen. Many people do not like these but some jurisdictions like NYC require it. You can add reseed lighting to the soffit and try to make it a design feature. You can see another post we wrote to learn more about Open Kitchen Designs.

Open Kitchen smoke soffit

Open Kitchen smoke soffit with LED Recessed Lights

Kitchen Lighting

Under Cabinet lighting is a great way to add light and a cool design feature to your kitchen. LED lights are standard. For undercabinet lights I prefer strip lights to puck lights but its your kitchen. When renovating a kitchen people often like to add recessed lights and pendant lights over an island.

Kitchen Under cabinet Lighting

NYC Kitchen Renovation with Kitchen Under cabinet Lighting


It seems Porcelain is the most popular kitchen floor right now. Some people like to have wood floors in their kitchens that is personal taste. Wood may not be the most durable material for a kitchen floor. Natural stone is often used for kitchens like granite or marble but I think porcelain has taken over. Also there are specialty finishes like concrete or epoxy that you can use.


The kitchen backsplash is an important feature. This wants to be a durable material but can also enhance the design with a bit of undercabinet lighting. You should add sufficient outlets to the kitchen usually in the backsplash. All outlets in the kitchen are GFI. You may have code requirements like NYC has that determine the number of outlets required per linear footage of countertop.

Kitchen Backsplash

Kitchen Backsplash in a Brooklyn Kitchen Renovation

Architect for Kitchen Renovation

I am an architect. So maybe I’m a little biased here, but you should always hire an architect when renovating a kitchen. Different locations will have different rules but you will need an architect to get permits (at least you do in NYC). You also want oversight on your contractors. But most importantly you want design help from a qualified and trained professional. Check out our company homepage to learn more about me as a New York Architect.

Kitchen renovation Architect

Kitchen renovation Architectural Plans

Permits for Kitchen Renovations

I am a New York Architect so this will all be based on NYC rules. If you are making basic repairs to your kitchen you do not need a permit. This means minimal work like replacing countertops or something simple. If you are opening walls or changing appliance and fixture layouts you will need permits especially if moving plumbing and gas. In NYC a kitchen renovation is filed by a Registered Architect as an Alteration Type 2. You can easily get 3 permits for a kitchen renovation one for each: Electrical Plumbing and General Construction. We have another post on NYC Kitchen Renovation Rules.


Always work with licensed, insured, and professional contractors. In my experience there is a direct relationship between how good a contractor is and how expensive there price is. The reality is that the cheapest contractors are not going to do the same quality of work. Also the low ball contractors hit you with a lot of change orders to make up for their low ball price. My advice is whenever possible avoid the lowest bidders.

The most important thing about your team is that everyone works together.

Kitchen Renovation Construction

Kitchen Renovation Construction Meeting with Architect Jorge Fontan and Construction Foreman.


Kitchen Renovation 101

In this article we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to Kitchen Renovations. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank you for reading our blog post on Kitchen Remodeling 101.

I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect you can Contact Fontan Architecture directly.


Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.