Living Through A Kitchen Remodel
You’ve decided to remodel your kitchen – congratulations! In a few months you will be rewarded with your new culinary oasis. But, until the big reveal, you’ll be living through a kitchen remodel and you’ll need some strategies and tips for getting through it unscathed.
Renovating your kitchen is like having a baby, the labor can be long and painful, but in the end you have a wonderful new addition in your life that brings you joy – and the negatives quickly fade into the background. I had my kitchen remodeled in 2012 and when asked recently by a friend who was in the thick of it whether I had had any major problems, none came immediately to mind. But after thinking about it for awhile, the problems and issues came pouring back. I had glossed over and forgotten them as inconsequential in the face of the glow of my shiny, new kitchen. And you will too.
But while you are living through a kitchen remodel, it can be dirty, inconvenient and downright stressful. And with the typical remodel lasting between two and six months, you want to know what you’re in for. So, to help you keep your eyes on the prize and get through the tough parts, we’ve talked to five women (all with kids and jobs) who have lived to tell about their kitchen remodels. And here’s what they’re saying:
Take Your Time Planning
I think this was one of the biggest eye openers for me when we remodeled our kitchen in 2012. It’s fun to dream about a new beautiful Pinterest-worthy kitchen and imagine how you’ll entertain in the space. But the truth is a kitchen remodel is a long and detailed process that requires a lot of decision making. Some choices impact others and need to be made sequentially to keep the ship moving. The cardinal rule is to have your plan locked down and the majority of decisions made prior to any demo or construction on your house. You want to make sure you minimize the construction time (i.e. the amount of time your kitchen is unusable) by having everything arrive when needed. And you don’t want to feel rushed into making decisions because you’ve got pros lined up that you don’t want to lose.
Taking your time also means avoiding mistakes. The old construction adage “measure twice, cut once” is perhaps most important in the kitchen. Check and re-check your design and floor plan to make sure everything fits and is where you want it. You can move things around on paper until you are satisfied with no or minimal cost, but once you order cabinets or other materials, the stakes are higher.
Finally, kitchens are expensive. Most likely you’ve been planning and saving for this for awhile. The last thing you want to do is have major regrets when its done because you didn’t really think about how you use the space or what was important for you to have in your kitchen.
“Measure several times. Our designer was 3/4 inch off which wreaked havoc with installation.” – Donna
“Take enough time doing your plan up front. Live with the kitchen for awhile so you can really know what your needs and wants are. Don’t rush into it.” – Amy
“Re-measure everything, and put tape down on the floor when you finalize layout.”
“Plan cabinet layout carefully. We spent a lot of time on this and as a result everything in my kitchen has a home in a logical, useful place.” – Donna
“I wish we’d spent more time reviewing stove top controls. We chose based on look and burner layout but controls are a bit awkward …” – Marianne
“Really think about what you need, want, and what might be nice. Kitchens are expensive. Make sure you plan for and install structural things, quality of product and things you cannot live without. Most other things can be upgraded or changed at a later time as finances allow.” – Donna
Design decisions go beyond the aesthetics and what is trendy at the time. Think functionality and think long term.
One of the best decisions I made in my kitchen design was to nix the lazy susan corner cabinet that I loathed. It was dark and things would fall off the cheap plastic shelving and disappear into the unreachable back corner. I didn’t want to put anything I regularly used in there and certainly no food items, so it just became wasted real estate. My kitchen designer introduced me to the magic corner and the corner of my kitchen was changed forever.
“Utilize every inch of space. There is always something useful that can be used instead of dead space. We had a 3 inch space and my designer found a pull out spice rack that fit perfectly. It holds all of my spices and only takes up 3 inches of room in my kitchen.” – Donna
“Try to stay away from trendy designs or features that may look dated in 5 years.”
“Be willing to entertain styles and colors that aren’t what you initially planned. The counter we chose was very different from what we had thought we wanted. And we love it!” – Donna
Create A Makeshift Kitchen
One of the biggest hassles of a kitchen remodel is losing your cooking space for weeks or months. Creating a makeshift kitchen is key because unless you are independently wealthy, going out to eat every night with a family is not a rational solution to the problem. Life will move on beyond your house; the kids will still have tests and you and your spouse will still have work responsibilities, and all of you will need to be fed on a daily basis, kitchen remodel be damned. Figuring out how you will keep your family sated during the reno is essential and was a topic the women had a lot to say about.
“Find an area in your house that you can block off and use as your make-shift kitchen. You can use a toaster over, microwave and fridge in this space. Get ready to invest in paper products! Consider doing the project in the warmer weather months so you can grill outside.” – Amy
“A critical problem during a kitchen remodeling project is how you’re going to cook when you have no kitchen. Try to set up a mini-kitchen somewhere in your home with a refrigerator, microwave, hot plate and toaster oven. Eating out is fine a few times a week but not every day, especially if you have children. Just before our project began, my husband grilled several chicken breasts and pork chops and we froze them individually. We would take them out to make quesadillas or fajitas or to add to salads, pasta or rice. If your family likes foods that freeze well — pasta sauce, chili, meatloaf — consider making big batches of food ahead of time and freezing them in meal-size containers. Meals that required only reheating or 1 pot worked well for us.” – Andrea
“If you can, move as much of the furniture you plan to keep for your new space out of your home. Space becomes a huge issue when you take usable rooms out of the equation, so if you can store stuff in a POD, storage unit or basement, you will have more space for your new temporary kitchen and just more space to move around.”
“If you have double sinks somewhere – maybe in a bathroom – set aside an area to use to wash dishes. We even used the jacuzzi tub in our master bathroom to wash dishes. While we used a lot of paper plates, there were still some miscellaneous dishes or pots that needed to be washed.” – Andrea
“Carefully plan your temporary kitchen. Also, plan your menus in advance so you can be sure you can prepare meals using limited space and appliances. Also forgo conservation for a few weeks. Paper plates, cups, silverware etc are a must when you have no sink. We had no sink, dishwasher, stove, or oven for almost 6 weeks and only ate out a couple of times. It was a pain, but eating out with 6 people gets really expensive and with a little advance planning we managed nicely.” – Donna
The temptation to get the kitchen finished and get your life back can be really strong starting about three-quarters of the way through the project. Everyone has remodel fatigue. Your house is dirty, you are sick of take out or reheated food from your microwave and everyone in the family is cranky. It’s at this time when your nerves are frayed that you are in danger of making rash decisions in the name of just. being. done. We get it. But take a moment, back it up and keep in mind the end game. You are spending a lot of money on your kitchen and you want it done right. You don’t want to make a last minute decision that you will come to regret. Sometimes its OK to live with the kitchen without the backsplash for a few weeks so you can better visualize what will look good in the space and make the right selection.
“I was glad that we waited to select backsplash and paint. We were rushing through so many designs at the end and were pulling together so many colors patterns and textures. I wanted to see everything else done before selecting final touches.”
“I wish we had not rushed through some of the final details. One thing we would have chosen differently is trim but we were just done with decisions. Need stamina to last through the whole design process.” – Marianne
The kitchen remains one of the most expensive rooms to remodel in your home because of the nature of the space – there is a lot going on in your kitchen from a construction standpoint. Almost every system in the house is touched (electrical, plumbing, structural) and multiple trades are involved (contractor, kitchen designer, electrician, plumber, tiler, counter top installer and flooring specialist) so the potential for problems to crop up – especially in older homes – is huge. Most professionals suggest you plan on having an additional 25% of your budget available for unforeseen issues. It’s not fun and no one likes to pay for things they didn’t plan on or to fix an issue behind the walls, but it’s the nature of the beast. The more you can internalize and accept that up front, the easier the process will be.
“Be prepared to have your entire house impacted, even if the remodel involves just your kitchen. Try to pack away as much of your stuff, as dust will surely get into every room of your house and the less stuff exposed, the more space you will have and the less cleaning you will have to do after.” – Laura
“Be patient. There will be delays, bumps in the road, and unforeseen situations. If you have a good relationship with your contractor, these should be addressed together. The end-product will be well worth it!” – Amy
“Things will come up. Make sure to buffer the budget by at least 25%.” – Laura
“Try to let go of the fact that your house will get messy, dusty and dirty!” – Laura
“Have patience and a sense of humor. It is stressful and time consuming. Laugh or you will cry.” -Donna
There’s no need to be scared about the remodeling process, but a healthy dose of respect is a requirement. Listening to the sage advice of those who have come before you is also a good idea. Armed with this knowledge, a little patience and some humor, you will do fine. And when it’s done, wait six months and ask yourself if it was worth it. Chances are the answer will be a resounding “yes!”.
Best of luck!
Don’t miss the other posts in our Kitchen Remodel series: