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September. We all know what that means: the temperatures start dropping, the leaves start falling and the kids start leaving for school. Maybe now is the time for you to embrace that kitchen renovation you’ve been dreaming of all through summer. But what if DIY gives you the chills? Don’t worry, that’s no longer an issue. With our help, you can get set for school as well, because with an empty house, you can prove that when the cat’s away, the mice… can start embracing a DIY kitchen challenge!

Of course, renovation can be a tough job but if you follow some easy tips, and straightforward do’s and don’ts, it doesn’t have to be. In part one of this three-part series, we’ll focus on what you need to know before you get started, what products to select for your kitchen makeover and how to know you’re on the right track.

What will you change about the kitchen?

If you’re renovating your kitchen, it’s important to make a statement and go all the way. Half measures just won’t cut it. Take a look at your space and budget, and figure out what needs to change to give you peace of mind. The chances are that, regardless of your space, three areas that you can focus on will be flooring, countertops and backsplash. These products represent the foundation of a kitchen renovation, and can transform your space from drab to dreamy.

How do you choose the right products?

Let’s start with flooring for a kitchen. There are a huge number of options from which to choose; it all depends on your budget and taste. For example, vinyl is relatively cheap, waterproof and does not need much maintenance. Laminate is highly resistant to stains and is a piece of cake to install, while bamboo is environmentally friendly and resistant to dampness. But for the purposes of this renovation, let’s go with engineered hardwood flooring.

Technology is making it possible for a wide range of flooring options to shine in the kitchen. Consider budget, lifestyle and installation when selecting which flooring is right for you.

Engineered hardwood vs solid hardwood

Engineered hardwood is made up of a layer of solid wood on top of multiple layers of plywood. This is a fantastic product because it combines the beautiful look and feel of solid hardwood with easy installation and the ability to be laid over a variety of sub-floors. So what does this really mean, and how does engineered hardwood differ from solid hardwood?

  1. In most cases, the floor you choose will depend on where your kitchen is located. For example, solid hardwood is not the best choice for below grade (beneath ground level) renovation, as moisture coming through the ground can cause issues. Similarly, if you live in a very humid area, avoid solid hardwood as it expands in hot, humid conditions. But no such problems exist for engineered hardwood, which can be installed in your kitchen, no matter where it is in the house.
  2. Ensure you know your sub-floor. Plywood is the most accommodating sub-floor, and is perfect for any kind of floor installation, but engineered hardwood can also be installed on a number of other sub-floors, such as concrete, terrazzo and ceramic tile.
  3. Choose a wood that’s hard enough for your kitchen’s traffic. Use the Janka hardness rating to determine the strength of your wood floor before purchase. Remember, if you have pets and kids running around, or a decent amount of human traffic, harder is better. But, domestic species like white oak are a good median species for hardness to give you an idea of where to begin your search.
  4. Know what look is right for your space. Walnut is great for both traditional and modern kitchens, but know that your options are huge. Remember, distressed, handscraped designs are great for kitchens that see a lot of children and pets, and they’re in vogue in 2014!
  5. Engineered hardwood can be installed in a number of different ways, including floating installation (which does not require glue or nails). Solid hardwood, by comparison, must be nailed down, which is a laborious and time-consuming process best undertaken by a professional.

What about the backsplash?

What about a backsplash? Again, there are a number of options available. For example, the Hammersmith subway tile has enduring style, looks great in any space and is highly popular. Ceramic tile is also environmentally-friendly, and does not emit any toxins or fumes.

Remember, your backsplash will complement your floor and countertop, so make sure it’s the right design fit. You’ll want to lay this tile in a brick pattern, using spacers, and find a good starting point from which to spread out. Luckily, it’s extremely durable and easy to maintain.

A countertop to match

Finally, let’s look at your countertop. Again, the world is your oyster here: laminate countertops are affordable but are easily scorched, wood is warm and welcoming, but easily damaged, and concrete is gaining in popularity. Here, we’re going to focus on a granite countertop, the most popular style on the market and the hardest stone there is.

Granite is available in a wide variety of shades, and in two finishes: polished and honed. Remember, granite is tough but needs to be sealed every few years.

Let’s go to work

Now, you’ve selected your products and you’re ready for the big installation. Let’s get to work!