Your New Kitchen

Tips for Updating Your Kitchen

Photo: Greenberg Construction ©2020

Updating Your Kitchen

Before you start renovating your kitchen, check out our articles, tips and videos from local contractors. Find what you need to create a stylish new kitchen that fits your budget.

  • Get Started: Wondering where to start with your kitchen remodeling project? This is what you need to know.
  • Find: Find a quality kitchen remodeling contractor.
  • Research: Take a deep dive into resources and articles on kitchen renovation.

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Remodeling your kitchen can be stressful if you aren’t prepared. Photo: Next Stage Design + Build ©2020

What Contractors Say About Kitchen Remodeling

A kitchen remodeling project is an exciting venture, but as most homeowners soon discover, the actual process can be dauntingly complex. To ease your apprehension about starting your own kitchen remodel, we’ve asked Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to break down the essential aspects of the process and provide some helpful insights.

1. Establish your style

Before you can get the ball rolling with your kitchen remodeling project, you’ll need to have an idea of what you want to achieve aesthetically. “Get a sense of your style and make sure it’s appropriate for the size, price, and architecture of your home…

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What you need to know about remodeling your kitchen

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Kitchen Remodeling Tips From Diamond Certified Experts

Mitch Alves

MCA Remodeling Inc.

Scott Amarant

Amarant Design & Build

Steve Daniel

Steve Daniel Construction Inc.

Miro Bokaric

BV Electric Inc.

Jim Kabel

Next Stage Design + Build

Mike Patterson

Martin & Harris Appliances

Ric Plummer

Ric’s Kitchen & Bath Showroom

Jack Chan

Amazing Stone, Inc.

Adam Garza

San Jose Plumbing, Inc.

Kevin Oliva

California Dreaming Construction

Carlos Aguilera

A C A Remodeling Design

Luis Barrera

Advanced Plumbing & Drain Master

Jeff Kann


Stan Wahl

Cabinets 101

Merlyn DeLeon

AMS Construction

Gary Robertson

Robertson Renovations

Ken Ryan

Kitchens by Ken Ryan, Inc.

Comparing Quartz and Granite Countertops

Comparing Quartz and Granite Countertops

UNION CITY — When it comes to kitchen countertops, two of the most popular materials on the market are quartz and granite. Both materials are similar in some ways while very different in others. To make an informed choice, it’s a good idea to learn about these similarities and differences.


Fabrication/Installation: Both quartz and granite countertops are fabricated and installed in virtually the same way.

Dimensions: Regardless of what material it’s made of, your countertop will have the same thickness (typically two to three centimeters).


Composition: Quartz is a man-made, non-porous material that is easy to clean and doesn’t require any auxiliary sealers. Granite, on the other hand, is a natural stone product. Any stone product is porous, which means it will absorb liquids and form stains. For this reason, granite countertops need to be sealed and resealed from time to time to protect against staining. Fortunately, if you get a quality sealer, your countertops should only need to be resealed every 25 years.

Price: You can get a granite stone slab for as little as $8 to $10 per square foot or as high as $150 per square foot. In contrast, quartz has a much narrower price range: $30 to $60 per square foot.

Plumbing Tip for a Kitchen Remodel

Plumbing Tip for a Kitchen Remodel

DUBLIN — When planning for a kitchen remodel, one aspect to consider is the location of plumbing fixtures such as water shut-off valves, which control the delivery of water to fixtures like the faucet, dishwasher and refrigerator. In most cases, the shut-off valve for the dishwasher and refrigerator is situated behind the refrigerator, but if you’re redesigning your kitchen, you should consider adding another valve for these appliances, located under the sink or in a similarly accessible area.

An additional shut-off valve is a good idea because if your dishwasher or refrigerator starts leaking, you can simply reach under the sink and turn off the valve instead of pulling out the refrigerator, which can be difficult and time-consuming. In this way, an additional water shut-off valve can help you minimize water damage caused by a leakage emergency.

Having the Right Motivation With Remodeling

Having the Right Motivation With Remodeling

SACRAMENTO — When planning for a home remodeling project, it’s important to reflect on your motivation. Otherwise, you may end up making decisions that you later regret. For example, a lot of homeowners get caught up in following the latest remodeling trends. However, while trends change, functionality always remains the same. You want your new kitchen or bathroom to function well over the next 20 years, so be sure to prioritize function over fashion.

Another motivational pitfall that some homeowners fall into is becoming overly focused on the reactions of others. They want to “wow” their friends and neighbors, so that becomes the focal point of the remodel. In reality, you should be designing your new kitchen or bathroom for yourself, not for others. If your friends like it, that’s great, but it’s more important that you like it.

Electrical Upgrades for a Kitchen Remodel

Electrical Upgrades for a Kitchen Remodel

SAN FRANCISCO — Are you remodeling your kitchen? If so, you probably want to upgrade your lighting fixtures and appliances. However, if you live in an older home, there’s one thing you may be forgetting: your electrical panel. If your panel isn’t up to code, you’ll need to upgrade it—otherwise, it may not be able to handle the power needs of your newly remodeled kitchen.

The extent to which panel upgrades are needed can depend in part on the age of your home. For example, if it was built in the early 20th century and still has knob-and-tube wiring, you’ll need to replace its old fuse box with a modern breaker panel. This will make your electrical system safer, improve its performance and lower your home insurance costs.

Here are a few other factors to consider for upgrading your electrical panel:


As per the National Electrical Code (NEC), a breaker panel must be situated a specified distance from things like the ceiling and HVAC equipment. Additionally, it can’t be enclosed in a closet or have anything blocking it (like garbage cans, for example). These rules are designed to prevent potential hazards and ensure ample accessibility to the panel when needed.

Arc protection

An arc fault can be caused by loose or corroded wires, which can generate heat that potentially leads to an electrical fire. As of 2014, the NEC requires that all electrical panel breakers be equipped with arc fault protection.


In some cases, a kitchen remodeling project may involve the installation of a sub-panel—a smaller service panel that functions as an offshoot of the main panel. Sub-panels are often used to provide more convenient access to breakers or in cases where the main panel doesn’t have room to install additional breakers.

Due to the important role electricity plays in kitchen remodeling, it’s wise to get an electrician involved early in your project. For one thing, you’ll get a clear idea of how much work will be needed, which will help you determine your budget. Also, your electrician will be able to work with your designer and contractor to ensure you get exactly what you’re looking for in your remodeled kitchen.

Considerations for Remodeling

Considerations for Remodeling

SAN JOSE — When planning for a large remodeling project (or any project that’s design-intensive), consider the following points:

Define the scope of the project. Before you begin interviewing designers and contractors, have a clear idea of what you want. Consider which aspects you plan to change and which you plan to keep. Knowing what you want will be very important when it comes to determining the project’s budget.

Establish your style. Get a sense of your style and make sure it’s appropriate for the size, price and architecture of your home. Browse home remodeling websites and magazines and note what you like and don’t like. You may not understand the nuances of all the different styles, but if you can get a clear idea of what you like and don’t like and communicate that to your designer, it can be extremely helpful.

Define structural details as early as possible. Whether you plan to open up a wall or change the size of a door or window, structural changes are one of the most expensive aspects of remodeling. They can consume your budget very quickly if you’re not careful, so you should get a contractor involved in the design early to verify the viability of planned structural alterations.

Insist on detailed documentation. Unless it’s a simple repair, design and drafting make a huge difference in clarity of scope and accuracy of detail, so make sure every phase is accompanied with detailed drawings. In addition, make sure you have a written contract that spells out all the terms of the project.

Choose the right partners. One of the most essential aspects of remodeling is finding a quality, trustworthy contractor and designer. Additionally, since home remodeling is often a long-term affair, make sure you hire someone you feel comfortable working with.

How to Measure Space for a New Appliance

How to Measure Space for a New Appliance

SAN RAFAEL — When purchasing a new stove or refrigerator, many homeowners mistakenly assume these types of appliances come in standard sizes. In reality, appliance sizes can vary considerably, so before you visit your local retailer, it’s important to measure the space where your new appliance will go.

Since there’s no such thing as a “plumb” home, thoroughness is crucial for getting an accurate measurement of your space. For example, if you’re measuring for a new refrigerator, there are a number of dimensions you need to take into account. Face the refrigerator and measure its height on the left side from the floor up to the highest obstacle (either the ceiling or a cabinet). Repeat this measurement in the middle and on the right side. The smallest of these three measurements is the height you have to work with. After determining height, perform similar measurements of the refrigerator’s width and depth. Depth in particular is an area where refrigerators can vary dramatically—typically from 27 inches to 36 inches.

In addition to determining the dimensions of the space itself, look for any obstacles that may get in the way when installing the appliance. By proactively taking measurements, you can help your appliance retailer find a product that fits both your kitchen and your needs.

How to Expand a Small Kitchen

How to Expand a Small Kitchen

CASTRO VALLEY — Does your kitchen feel cramped? Do you wish you had more space for cooking, sharing family meals and entertaining? There are several ways to improve upon a small kitchen, but perhaps the most popular option nowadays is to remove one or more walls to open up the space. By altering the room’s structural layout, this option gives homeowners more freedom to design their dream kitchens.

The biggest challenge with this type of kitchen remodeling project is dealing with load-bearing walls. Removing a non-structural wall is pretty simple, but some walls provide necessary support for the roof. In such cases, the solution is to install a structural beam across the affected area. While this adds a considerable amount to the project’s price tag, it’s crucial for ensuring the structural stability of the home.

In some cases, a homeowner may choose to combine their kitchen, dining room and even living room spaces. This “open concept” design removes social barriers by removing literal ones, creating a more inclusive environment that fosters a sense of togetherness.

Understanding Your Countertop Options

Understanding Your Countertop Options

SAN LEANDRO — When it comes to stone countertops, homeowners have three main options to choose from: granite, quartz and marble. There are other, less common materials available (including some high-end options), but nine times out of 10, homeowners choose one of these three. The question is, which option is right for you? To help you decide, let’s look at some key attributes of each:


Granite is a natural stone. It’s very tough—one of the toughest natural materials on the planet. However, like any natural stone, granite is porous, so it needs to be sealed to prevent stains. Fortunately, there are professionally applied sealers available that last up to 25 years, so you don’t have to reseal often.

Since it’s a natural product, granite contains natural colors and patterns. The only potential downside of this is you can’t customize the look of your countertops—you’re limited to what nature provides.


Quartz is a man-made material that’s completely customizable in terms of colors and patterns. Additionally, since it’s non-porous, no additional sealant is necessary. However, prompt cleaning and proactive care are still important with quartz countertops. For example, if you leave a red wine spill on your counter overnight, you’ll likely end up with a stain. Basically, it’s tough but not “bulletproof,” so you can’t be careless.


Like granite, marble is a natural material, but unlike granite, it’s very soft and can be easily stained or etched by acidic liquids and other elements. For this reason, sealing (as well as recurrent resealing) is imperative with marble countertops. Even with sealing, marble countertops are still vulnerable to etching, so you need to consider the level of activity that takes place in your kitchen. If you regularly cook with acidic substances, marble probably isn’t a great choice.

It’s also important to note that marble changes over time. Think of an older building with a marble façade—the marble has yellowed a bit, is no longer shiny and has developed a patina. A marble countertop will behave the same way. So, if you’re thinking of choosing marble, make sure you’re the kind of person who embraces natural change, because your countertops won’t stay the same.

Plumbing Leak Prevention

Plumbing Leak Prevention

SAN JOSE — A minor plumbing leak may be easy to ignore, but over time it can constitute a substantial waste of water. Additionally, leaky plumbing connections beneath sinks and near floors often go unnoticed, which can lead to problems like water damage and increased utility bills. To avoid this, make it a habit to routinely inspect your plumbing fixtures and pipes for leaks. Here are some areas to check:

Whether in the kitchen or bathroom, leaky faucets are a common source of water waste. In many cases, leaks originate from the faucet’s inner cartridges, which can be difficult to replace if ignored for long periods of time, especially if corrosion has occurred. If the faucet is leaking at the base, it can cause water damage to the wood cabinetry beneath the sink. In addition to the faucet fixture itself, leaks can spring from connections beneath the sink such as water supply lines, the p-trap and (in the case of a kitchen sink) the garbage disposal.

To preventatively detect leaks, inspect your faucet and connections every three to six months. Don’t forget to check additional water fixtures like your water purification or instant hot water units. When checking for leaks beneath the sink, use your hands to feel for moisture around plumbing connections, as touch is a much more reliable indicator than visual detection. Of course, if you see any puddles forming under the sink, that’s a dead giveaway of an ongoing leak.

When checking for toilet leaks, there are a few key areas to address. Check the water supply line that connects the tank fill valve to the wall shutoff valve. If this isn’t secure, water can leak out each time the toilet is flushed, which can damage the flooring, baseboards and sheetrock. To rule out any leaks, feel around the fill valve connection and then run your hand all the way down the water line to the wall valve.

Other areas to check for moisture are around the tank bolts and at the base of the toilet. If left unchecked, a leak around the base (usually caused by a wax seal failure) can cause major damage to the subfloor that may potentially require replacement.

There are a few different areas where leaks can occur in a shower, starting with the showerhead itself. Besides being a significant waste of water, a constantly dripping showerhead can gradually damage your shower’s tile and grout. Another place where leaks can be problematic is behind the shower handle, which can result in hidden water damage behind the wall.

Hose bibs
Most homes have two to four exterior hose bibs around the property. Since they’re located outside, it’s easy for leaks to go unnoticed, which not only wastes water but can also damage your home’s foundation over time. Hose bibs are easy to replace, so if you find any leaks, don’t delay in addressing them. 

Water main shutoff valve
In the event of a catastrophic water leak, your home’s water main shutoff valve can be a lifesaver. That’s why it’s crucial to a) know where your water main is located so you can get to it quickly and b) periodically test it for proper functionality. A shutoff valve can freeze up if it’s not touched for several years, which can be a rude awakening in a dire situation. To avoid this, test your shutoff valve every three to six months by turning it off and on again.

Advice for a Remodeling Project

Advice for a Remodeling Project

PETALUMA — If you’re planning your first home remodeling project, there are a couple of steps you can take to be more prepared. One is to gain insight from others who have been through the process before. Talking to friends or family members who have experienced a remodeling project firsthand will help you develop realistic expectations and avoid beginner’s mistakes.

Another way to prepare for your remodeling project is to research any new fixtures or appliances you’re planning to purchase. This is especially important with a kitchen remodeling project, which may entail several new appliances (oven, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, etc.). Before purchasing, you’ll need to make sure the products you choose are going to be compatible with your kitchen’s layout. Also, energy and ventilation requirements can factor in, so you’ll want to address these in advance. Overall, when it comes to new appliances, a little research can go a long way toward avoiding a poor choice.

Remodeling to Maximize Space

Remodeling to Maximize Space

When it comes to remodeling, many homeowners underestimate what can be done with their interior spaces. A common assumption is that any changes made to a room have to conform to its existing layout. In reality, a room’s layout can often be substantially altered to maximize its space and utility.

For example, if your kitchen has always been too small for your needs, there are several ways to make it more spacious and functional. One common practice is relocating a kitchen closet or pantry to an adjacent hallway, which will give you more room to work when preparing meals. Additionally, removing and/or relocating walls can further open up a cramped space.

As you prepare for your remodeling project, be sure to discuss your options with your contractor, who will help you make the most of the space you have.

How to Unclog Your Kitchen Sink

How to Unclog Your Kitchen Sink

ANTIOCH — When your kitchen sink gets clogged, your first instinct might be to call a plumber. However, by using a simple technique, you may be able to solve this problem yourself. Simply cover up the clogged drain hole and turn on your garbage disposal. When the disposal comes on, it’ll create air in the pipe, which should generate enough force to remove the clog and allow the opposite basin to drain.

While this may solve your problem for the time being, if you’re having recurrent sink clogs, your drain pipe probably has a lot of buildup. Rather than letting this condition continue to get worse, have a plumber hydrojet the line. Since drain pipes tend to accumulate grease and other buildup over time, hydrojetting your line once a year is a good maintenance measure for keeping it clear. It’s also a good idea to have your plumber perform an in-line camera inspection to identify cracks, leaks and other potential issues.

How to Get Accurate Bids for Your Remodeling Project

How to Get Accurate Bids for Your Remodeling Project

SAN FRANCISCO — When planning for a remodeling project, homeowners are generally advised to get bids from at least three contractors so they can compare apples to apples. However, when the bids come in, homeowners are often confused and/or discouraged by what they read. For one thing, it’s common for bids to have substantial price variations, despite being for the same project. Furthermore, bids are often much higher than homeowners expect. In fact, the American Institute of Architects reports that over 60 percent of building plans never get built, in many cases due to the projected costs exceeding the amount homeowners are willing to spend.

Fortunately, your remodeling project doesn’t have to succumb to this fate. By gaining an understanding of what drives remodeling costs and taking proactive steps to address these factors, you can promote accuracy and consistency with your project bids. Additionally, this knowledge will help you stay in control of your costs throughout the project.

What causes cost variations with contractor bids?

The biggest reason for cost variations between bids is the assumptions contractors must make to complete their estimates. These assumptions are primarily based on three factors:

1. Architectural plans. The more detailed the plans, the more specific a contractor can be with the cost estimate. In contrast, vague architectural plans require a contractor to make lots of assumptions.

2. The contractor’s initial walkthrough of your home. A contractor that spends an ample amount of time evaluating your home during the walkthrough will be able to provide a more detailed and accurate estimate.

3. Specificity of materials to be used. Appliances, fixtures and finishes are some of the most expensive aspects of a remodeling project. Furthermore, there’s often a wide range of price variation for any given material. When materials aren’t specified, a contractor has to make assumptions, which unsurprisingly leads to a lack of accuracy with the bid.

Promoting bid accuracy

Given these factors, it’s clear that the best way to promote accuracy with project bids is to minimize the number of assumptions contractors must make when creating them. Here are some ways you can do this:

Determine your budget early. As you contemplate your remodeling project, establish the amount of money you’re willing to invest. You don’t need to know how much the renovations will cost; however, you do need to know what you’re willing and able to spend. Delivering this information to contractors upfront will give them specific parameters with which to create their bids.

Assemble a quality team. When you have an architect and a contractor working together, you tap into the experience necessary to inform construction means, methods and costs during (rather than after) the design phase. Utilize third-party verification (such as the Diamond Certified Resource) to find a quality architect and contractor. Another option is to hire a design/build team, wherein the architect, contractor and other key players are assembled under a single roof. This team-based approach helps keep things on target for meeting your project and budget objectives.

Select as many materials as possible during the design phase. This includes things like flooring, countertops, plumbing fixtures, cabinets and kitchen appliances. You should also identify the suppliers you’re going to purchase from and get specific cost quotes for each product. That way, you can deliver specific information to contractors and minimize cost surprises once construction begins.

Differentiating Quality with Cabinets

Differentiating Quality with Cabinets

ROHNERT PARK — When shopping for new cabinets, consumers often get confused by the price disparity between seemingly identical cabinet models. This is because the differences in quality that constitute the price difference aren’t always apparent at first glance.

Take two craftsman-style cabinets that look almost exactly the same but have a 20 percent difference in cost. Each is painted white, made of wood and has soft-close hinges, which allow the door to close smoothly and quietly. However, upon closer inspection, differences begin to emerge.

First, the doors: While the door of the less expensive cabinet is made of wood, it has a plywood center. You can tell by knocking on it—it has a more hollow sound than the other, which is composed of a solid wood panel.

When you open each cabinet, you’ll find more differences. The less expensive cabinet only has one shelf, and the interior is lined with a vinyl coating intended to imitate wood. Meanwhile, the higher-priced cabinet has two shelves, and the interior is painted white just like the exterior.

Altogether, these minor variations add up to a substantial difference in quality, which explains the difference in cost. That’s why, when comparing one cabinet to another, it’s important to take a closer look and understand exactly what you’re getting before you purchase.

Choosing Products and Materials for a Remodel

Choosing Products and Materials for a Remodel

SAN FRANCISCO — When starting a home remodeling project, one of the most important things you can do is choose your materials and products early. For example, with kitchen remodeling, picking out cabinets is crucial. Cabinets take approximately six to eight weeks from the time of ordering to delivery, so you don’t want to wait until a week before the work begins to order. Likewise, when remodeling your bathroom, you’ll want to choose your vanity and tiles well in advance.

Ideally, you should decide on all products and materials during the beginning stages of the project—that way, your contractor can make sure they’re a good fit for the remodel and order them in a timely manner. Work with your contractor to ensure accuracy with things like measurements and quantities. Your contractor can also suggest alternative options in case a certain material or product won’t fit the design or is too expensive.

If you’re having difficulty choosing products and materials for your remodel, consult remodeling websites or magazines for ideas. Collect your favorite designs and share them with your contractor—this will help them understand the direction you want to go in. Remember, your contractor is there to help you make decisions, so don’t hesitate to rely on their professional insight.

Taking a “Hands-On” Approach to Home Remodeling

Taking a “Hands-On” Approach to Home Remodeling

WALNUT CREEK — When it comes to remodeling, a lot of homeowners just point to a picture in a magazine and say, “I want that.” The problem with this approach is that the homeowner has no tangible experience of what it’s like to live in such a space. If your entire remodeling project is based on pictures, when it’s finished, you might come across issues you hadn’t considered before. Worse still, you may not like the end result as much in reality as you did on paper.

To avoid buyer’s remorse, it’s best to take a “hands-on” approach by immersing yourself in the colors, textures and design of the space you’re planning. Here are a few examples of how to do this:

•  If you have plans to alter your home’s layout, put some masking tape on the floor that demarcates the location of the new wall/counter space/etc. Live with that for a few days and see whether the changed layout fits within or disrupts your daily flow.

•  When choosing new paint colors, apply samples to pieces of cardboard and tape them on your walls. This will give you an impression of how it feels to live with these colors on a daily basis.

•  Get a firsthand look and feel of any remodeling components you’ll be handling on a regular basis, such as door knobs and cabinet hardware. You may be surprised by the differences between seeing them in a magazine and handling them in person.

Utilizing these and similar techniques, you’ll be able to make more informed choices regarding your remodeling project and ensure satisfaction with the end result.

Choosing Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops

Choosing Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops

NOVATO — When it comes to remodeling your kitchen, two of the most important choices to make are which types of cabinets and countertops to install. Here are a couple of basic tips to help you make an educated choice:

Cabinets: Custom or Modular
With kitchen cabinets, you have two basic options: custom cabinetry that’s made locally or modular cabinetry that’s produced in a large manufacturing facility. While many consumers assume a local cabinet maker builds everything from scratch, many actually purchase components such as doors and drawer boxes separately, as well as send the cabinets to a separate location for finishing. In contrast, most modular cabinet manufacturers do everything at a single location: they dry their own lumber, make their own doors and drawer boxes, and do their own finishing. So, in a way, modular cabinets might be considered more “custom” than locally made ones.

Countertops: Granite or Quartz
In terms of countertop materials, there are generally two products to choose from: granite (including marble) and quartz. One of the main benefits of quartz is it’s mixed with an epoxy that acts as a natural sealant, which makes it impervious to stains. Granite offers a more natural look, but it requires a bit more maintenance, including sealing.

Watch This

Taking Measurements for a Kitchen Remodel

Ric Plummer of Ric’s Kitchen & Bath Showroom shows how to take measurements for new cabinets.