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Planning Your Kitchen with James Young

When we think about a kitchen renovation, we usually imagine the aesthetic beauty of the new space. We think of things like new recycled glass, or marble countertops or how dashing the slate or natural wood floors will look. We ask ourselves: Do I want to go with cherry cabinets or do I want to go contemporary with high gloss acrylic? Should my appliances be stainless, black or built-in to match my cabinets?

The world is your oyster when it comes to planning your kitchen renovation. But one big question that most homeowners neglect to ask is this: What’s going on inside, above or on the walls of the dream kitchen I’m planning? For most people the answer is: Beats me! And yet, your kitchen needs wires for electrical, pipes for plumbing and let’s not forget about ducting for ventilation. These are just a few of the “behind-the-wall” things you need to consider when planning your renovation.

There’s more. Don’t forget about outlets. How many do you need on each wall and where do you want to put them? Think about the coffeemaker, toaster and everything else you might use. You love all the features of the new commercial range but, remember, you’re going to need gas and electrical run through the walls before you sear the steaks or bake the bird. You’re also going to want a good ventilation system to keep the air circulating.

Think about lighting, too. It's always nice to have under cabinet and task lighting for kitchen prep. Since we're on the subject of lighting – are you going with recessed cans or pendant lighting? Both?

I bring up these points not to scare you, but to remind you that when you plan your renovation, you have to consider what needs to happen inside those walls. Electrical, plumbing, gas and ventilation must be coordinated and budgeted for, as vital components of your design.

Now that we have an understanding of what happens inside those walls, let's talk about the walls themselves. 8 out of 10 homeowners I deal with ask me if it’s possible to knock down a wall and open up their kitchen to the rest of the house. My answer is always the same: yes.

But. You must consider whether the wall is load bearing, which means whether the wall supports the floor or roof above it. If it does, the weight or load must be transferred to another bearing point. The plumbing, electrical and ventilation would also have to be rerouted – and all of these things affect your budget. Opening the walls of your kitchen is a great option because it unifies the space and gives you the opportunity to come together with family and friends in the heart of your home. It’ll make your home feel bigger, even though you didn’t add a square inch to the footprint of your house.

Anything is possible. But you do need to remember that a kitchen renovation is not just superficial. When you plan things, remember to think about your walls: inside and out. You’ll be glad you did.

James Young, host of the DIY Network’s TV show I Hate My Kitchen, is a licensed building contractor and electrician. A multi-skilled U.S. Army veteran, James is hardcore when it comes to home improvement. He has remodeled a number of homes and over 100 kitchens, bringing them from ugly to awesome. He has also worked on numerous large-scale commercial and residential projects across the United States. Working on his 8th season as host of I Hate My Kitchen, James loves tearing up kitchens and showing homeowners innovative ways to remodel without breaking the bank. He also hosts DIY Network's The Hot List, which highlights the latest and greatest in kitchen products and design from around the world.

-by James Young