It’s Electrifying: The 12-Year Kitchen

Roseann Henry 12 Year Kitchen Remodel lighting bob vila

When we bought our house in 1999 (right), one of the things we did before we even moved in was to upgrade the electrical wiring. Overhead fixtures that operated on pull-chains got wall switches (and many were replaced!); outlets fed by old cloth-covered wires were abandoned; every room got more outlets.

But it wasn’t enough, which we didn’t discover until we’d moved in and grown from being the two of us to the four of us. We probably should have added twice as many outlets as we did, since so many of our rooms now have not only lamps but also computers, phone chargers, CD players, pencil sharpeners, Light-Brites, and TVs (each of those with DVD players, DVRs and cable boxes, plus a game system or two). I knew when we redid the kitchen, we’d want to be careful to plan for enough outlets!

We also took a lesson from the kitchen remodel Margaret’s brother and sister-in-law did some years back. That was a major project, all done with top-notch professional advice. But their one mistake, they said, was not planning for enough light. (They actually went back into the ceiling a year later and added two recessed fixtures over the sink.) Their advice to us: You can’t have enough light in your kitchen.

So I was adamant when we did our electrical plan that we had to have plenty of everything – lights, outlets, and switches.  Our kitchen will not only have to power all our major appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, range, and range hood), it will also be home to all those smaller ones (microwave, blender, food processor, toaster), as well as some amenities (maybe a small TV, a radio?).  It will be a place for work-at-home tasks for grown-ups as well as homework for the kids (laptops) and the center of our family communications (phones and chargers).  We need to clean it (vacuum, Dust Buster).  And everyone in there will need some light – ambient, accent, and task.

We spent a long time poring over the floor plan talking about what we needed, and where. We started with lights. We’d originally planned on two rows of recessed cans along the galley, ending with a pendant over a small table. Then during the roofing part of the job we decided to add a skylight over the table, so now we needed a way to get light there when we didn’t have sunshine coming in. That in turn made us rethink the recessed cans – couldn’t we do something with a bit more character for our old house? And the afternoon sun coming through that new skylight made the extension pretty warm—should we consider a ceiling fan?

Notes for the electricianWe decided to replace the high-hats in the galley with two schoolhouse pendants – one for the room’s center and a smaller version for over the sink. We decided to frame the new skylight with eyebrow-style fixtures in small ceiling cans. Finally, we chose a small ceiling fan for our “mud space” near the side door – with the door open and the fan going, we should get a nice breeze.

Our electrician probably thought we’d lost our minds – we have enough outlets in our plan to power our whole town! But I was serious about having enough, and I don’t find it excessive. There are four sections of counter that will be work surfaces, so each section has an outlet in the backsplash. (That’s required by code anyway, so nobody is tempted to run an extension cord across the range!) We’re considering a wall-mounted ironing board in the entryway, so there’s an outlet at the baseboard there. We’ll want to vacuum the mud area (often!) so there’s a baseboard outlet there, too. We added an extra outlet on the wall where the pantry cabinet will go, so we’ll have the option of leaving small appliances on a pull-out shelf and operating them in place. And since it makes sense to be able to turn on only the lights we need, there are separate light switches for the pendants, cans, fan, and undercabinet lights.

Electrical wiringBefore the electrician came in to do the wiring, we did one last walk-through with the contractor, placing notecards exactly where we wanted everything. That gave us one last chance to think about what we wanted and where we wanted it before the wiring began, and it let us walk around the room pretending to plug things in and turn lights on and off.  Then we crossed our fingers and said Go!

Next time: Timing is everything

For more on kitchen remodeling, consider:

Planning Your Dream Kitchen
Kitchen Flooring: 8 Popular Options
Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Cabinets