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  • Writer's pictureBill Gagne

The Kitchen Cabinet & Countertop Swap: How long does a basic kitchen renovation take?

The definition of a simple kitchen renovation is when existing cabinets and countertops are removed and new cabinets are put in the exact same or similar location. There is no moving plumbing fixtures or light fixtures.

We call it the cabinet and countertop swap.

Here are the phases of construction for a kitchen cabinet and countertop swap you will want to follow for a simple kitchen renovation and a time frame for each phase.

Planning and preparation

Every successful renovation starts with a plan. That plan may change through the course of construction but it’s important to do as much work before you get started as possible.

(Check out our blog post on How to plan a renovation with 3 Questions to learn more about planning your project.)

Selecting your cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, paint colour, etc all help you be prepared for the work ahead. Once you have all of those set in place, you can get to taking things apart to build them up again.

Demolition (1 - 2 days)

For a simple kitchen renovation plan to remove the existing countertop, sink, faucet, cabinets, backsplash, flooring, baseboard and door or window casing.

Plumbing rough in (1 day)

Generally, if you’re keeping everything as is, the plumbing rough in should be minor. Depending on the era of the house it may be time to add shutoffs for the cabinets but this can be done at the finish. Roughing in for a fridge waterline or an Reverse Osmosis unit can take place at this point but isn’t typically part of a simple kitchen renovation.

Electrical rough in (1 day)

Unless you’re changing something or the wiring isn’t to code, there should not be much work in this area. Things like aluminum wiring or adding dedicated circuits for a microwave range hood and fridge or putting in undercabinet lighting, rough in stage should be minor.

HVAC rough in (1 day)

Again, for a simple renovation where nothing is changing locations work in this subtask may be minimal.

Framing (1 day)

If you’re removing a backsplash, expect to have some backframing to do in order to receive drywall. Otherwise, there shouldn’t be much work to do in this subtask.

Drywall (2-5 days)

If there is some previous drywall damage from years past or you removed a backsplash and need to re-drywall, now is the time to do it.

Drywall taping and mudding requires drying time between coats so expect this to be one of the longer phases of your schedule depending on how much work needs to be done.

Paint (2 days)

This phase includes priming of any new drywall, painting of the ceiling, walls.

Flooring (1-3 days)

Include some floor prep prior to install depending on the condition of the subfloor. It would be wise to screw down the subfloor to ensure there is no potential movement after your flooring is installed.

There is a wide range of flooring that can go in kitchens, from classic ceramic tile or vinyl to hardwood or luxury vinyl tile, there options for a wide range of budgets and timelines.

Installation of tile is typically longer and more expensive while vinyl laminate products are the quicker more cost effective choice.

Ideally, you would have the flooring picked and on site before the installation phase to minimize time lost in your construction schedule.

Electrical finish (½ day)

If the project is a simple kitchen renovation where nothing was added other than updating the plugs and switches to decora and installing new light fixtures, this is a half day job and can be done any time after paint is completed.

Cabinet install (1-2 days)

When planning your schedule it’s important to consider the lead time for your cabinet delivery. You want to make sure before you start your project that your cabinets will be available when you’re ready for install.

We advise that for any kitchen renovations that selection of your cabinets is the first detail you should take care.

(If you’re looking for more information on cabinets check our post on Ikea Kitchen Cabinets: the good, the bad and the ugly)

Countertop measures (½ day)

Unless you’re kitchen is very straightforward and you can used prefab countertops, you’ll require your countertops to be measured, fabricated and installed.

Like selecting your kitchen cabinets, you’ll want to have your countertops selected beforehand.

Measures can only be done once the lower cabinets are installed and finalized.

With this in mind, you’ll want to coordinate the appointment for measures with the countertop company or contractor in advance of the installation so you can keep delays to a minimum.

It’s important to have your sink and faucet chosen and on site when measures are done. These will be taken into account when your countertop is fabricated as well as important details for the installation crew to have ahead of time.

Time for fabrication and measures can vary depending on the product you choose. Depending on the time of year and what items you select, install can be as soon as 5 business days but expect to be atleast 10 business days before installation of your countertop.

Note, kitchen sinks can’t be hooked up without the countertops being installed. So, if you’re in need of a sink in the interim time between your kitchen cabinets being completed and your countertops being installed, discuss with your contractor or plumber if a temp sink can be installed in the interim. Keep in mind, this will add cost to your project since it is another trip for the plumber to install.

Backsplash (2 days)

Backsplashes can only be done once the countertops are in. Depending on availability of the tile installer, this isn’t something that needs to happen immediately unless you’ve chosen a chimney range hood.

If that is the case, it’s ideal that the backsplash be done prior to installation of the chimney range hood but it can be done otherwise.

We put 2 days in the calendar because tiles get installed on one day and grout is another day. Technically, you need the grout to dry before silicone but we won’t add a day just to silicone.

HVAC finish (½ day)

This could be something as simple as installing and venting the range hood and installing a new heat vent cover.

This is a half day job but keep in mind, if you’re kitchen is small, it can only fit so many people. Each trade needs space to work so jamming more than one subcontractor in a small space is more likely to lead to added headache and not time saved.

Trimwork (1 day)

In most scenarios, it’s easier to do the baseboards and casings after cabinets are in. Most of the time will be setting up the equipment and tools outside of the house or kitchen if it's a small space. The work itself doesn't take up the most time in this subtask.

Countertop install (½ day)

This will be a half a day job at most if you have a small kitchen.

Plumbing finish (½ day)

Once again, this is a half day job for a simple kitchen renovation. Most likely it’s hooking up a sink and faucet and a dishwasher.

Appliance install (½ day)

For a simple kitchen renovation, it’s more than likely you don’t need a contractor or installer to push the fridge and stove into place and plug them in. So roll up your sleeves and get to work.

One recommendation we do make is to make sure the appliances are not in the way of the work you need doing if it’s a small kitchen. It’s better not to schedule your appliances to arrive too early if possible so they are not impeding construction and are not at risk of being damaged.

Wrap up

When you add up the numbers, a kitchen cabinet and countertop swap would take between three and five weeks depending on your scope of work.

In some cases there may be very little drywall work which will have a big impact in shortening the project length.

Choosing between tile and an alternative flooring option can also change how long your renovation will take as well.

As always, the more organized a project is the smoother it will go.

All that’s left now, is to enjoy the new kitchen.

For more information on a variety of renovation topics check out our blog at or have a listen to the SRC Toolbox Podcast which can be found on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and a variety of other podcast platforms.

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