DIY Do’s and Don’ts: What Kitchen DIYers Need to Know

Posted October 21, 2019 by Katlyn Droke

Thinking about being more hands-on with your kitchen upgrades? It makes sense that you’d want to add your personal touch to your favorite room in the house, and you don’t necessarily have to be a professional to make your mark. However, there are common pitfalls to avoid and tricks to try out — both of which will make your DIY efforts a success instead of a DIY disaster. The professionals are pro’s because they’ve figured all that out. Luckily, our pro’s don’t mind sharing their tips and tricks because we all want to see beautiful kitchens, no matter who brings it to life. 

So take it from the pro’s — here are the main Do’s and Don’ts that DIYers need to know:

Man putting in wood flooring
Being your own Pro can be a great feeling but knowing the Do’s and the Dont’s are crucial when DIYing your own kitchen.

DO: Follow the right order of installation.

There are many, many reasons why you want to install flooring before cabinets, or paint before adding the splash, or even not to save lighting for last. Skipping parts of the process or rearranging parts may get you into a sticky situation later. You may not be doing a full reno, but it’s still good to keep the things you’re doing ‘in order’. A general order of operations to follow in most kitchens is this: Demo → Plumbing → Electrical → Drywall → Paint → Lighting → Flooring → Cabinets → Countertops → Backsplash → Hardware → Appliances.

A family moving boxes in a living room
Installing the flooring adds the foundation to the room, making the rest of the renovations easier to put together.

DON’T: Forget about lead times for items you have to order.

You’ve made your design decisions, and now it feels like time to start. But wait: did you double-check your timeline? Let’s say you want to install new flooring yourself, you’ve found the perfect option, and you ordered it. This turns your project into a bit of a waiting game. So don’t demo your existing kitchen flooring if it’s going to take 2-3 weeks to get flooring delivered, AND give yourself some wiggle room in planning just in case things go wrong. If didn’t order enough or if they didn’t send the right material, then that can add a couple of weeks to your timeline. Give yourself some breathing room, and your DIY project will be much less stressful.

A modern kitchen with white cabinetry, gold details, and blue accented cabinet island.
Placement is essential to keep maximum kitchen flow.

DO: Keep the ‘kitchen triangle’ in mind.

Think about the placement of your sink, refrigerator, and stove/oven — each one is a point in your three-pointed triangle. For maximum kitchen flow, you should be able to draw lines between each and get a triangle shape. While cooking or cleaning, these are your hotspots. You shouldn’t feel like you just ran a marathon because you have to move around your space too much. Be more efficient by considering the triangle. You want these components to be near each other, but not too close. Just make sure your triangle isn’t a teeny tiny one. That way, you get the benefits of the flow without bumping elbows with other cooks in the kitchen.

Small kitchen with pops of color such as mint green chairs, navy cabinets, and a small wooden island.
Thinking of the big picture for your DIY renovation is important in the outcome of your project.
Image: HGTV Canada

DON’T: Piecemeal your design.

Many homeowners tackle one project at a time, and they only consider each project individually. But in the long-run, this kind of piece-meal thinking may result in a kitchen that looks piece-meal. If you know you want to replace the flooring and countertops, as well as install a new backsplash and pick out new appliances, then design or plan for all of those things together. Create one big, futuristic picture to work towards. Then decide what order you’re going to be tackling things in, and whether there will be months or even years between phases. Even if you change your mind about some components later down the line, you’ll still be working from a cohesive vision. 

A woman at her desk doing research on her laptop.
Inspiration and tutorials help make the process easier to envision and produce.

DO: Watch YouTube before trying new skills.

There are a myriad of videos out there from professionals and other DIYers that can show you how to do something. Don’t just struggle through understanding owner’s manuals or manufacturer installation guides designed for professionals. And, something might look easier than it is. In fact, watch videos before you start and play it while you’re working. Bring that tablet or laptop into your DIY space to pause and play as you go. It’s like having a pro you can consult as needed.

A couple speaking with a professional about how to DIY their next project.
Sometimes even the pros need an extra hand, when you catch yourself in a rut ask help from an expert.

DON’T: Let pride prevent you from consulting an expert.

It’s ok to admit that you may be in over your head, and most professionals understand it. With some kitchen upgrades, there’s just too much to learn in a short period of time. Some tasks require a lot of practice, and nothing is going to be absolutely perfect the first time. The experts have a perfect touch because they’ve been practicing over and over and over. Keeping this in mind will minimize any negative experiences you could have with your DIY project.

Ultimately, if you account for these Do’s and Don’ts before your next project, you will be less stressed and more prepared to deal with unexpected events. Knowing what to do and what not to do will prevent your DIY project from becoming a DIY disaster. You’ve got this!