A kitchen remodel can be one of the most rewarding home improvement projects and also the most frustrating to endure. Family life tends to center around the kitchen and functioning without one disrupts all aspects of life. Tearing out the heart of your home requires a plan of how to survive the weeks to months of construction ahead.
The duration of time for a kitchen renovation depends on the scope of the project. Is it a simple tear out with the same basic footprint or a major redesign? If it is a basic tear-out, plan on four to six weeks without much access to the kitchen. If it’s a significant renovation, expect at least three months of disorder.
You need a plan of how you will deal with the life details as well.
1. Set up a separate, temporary kitchen.
If at all possible, move your current refrigerator to another room in the house, where you can still access it. Otherwise, get a small college fridge to keep the essentials. A spare microwave is also a critical appliance.
Nadia S., a kitchen designer with National Kitchen and Bath Association in Columbus Ohio, says to be creative with small plug-in appliances that can make life easier during contraction, such as a coffee maker or electric skillet.
“You can make anything from pancakes to Hamburger Helper on it,” she said. Another contractor loans out a two-burner hot plate to clients during kitchen projects.
If most of your trash and recycling was collected in the kitchen, move temporary garbage cans to a place you can tolerate them. And be prepared to take out the trash more frequently.
2. Find a place in your home to eat.
Many families eat meals in the kitchen, so think about how alternate living spaces will serve at mealtimes. We ended up eating most of our meals in the family room where our temporary kitchen (a fridge and microwave) were set up, but I wish we had better utilized the dining room.
3. Invest in paper plates and disposable utensils.
You will end up having to wash dishes in a bathroom sink, so it’s best to keep a stockpile of disposable plates and utensil handy. If at all possible, keep a sink hooked up on main level during the construction.
4. Add the cost of eating out into the renovation budget.
Figure out how much your family typically spends on a meal eaten outside the house. Multiply this by the number of meals in a day and weeks the project may last to get an idea of how quickly this expense can add up. It’s best to have a rotation in mind of reliable carry out, prepackage microwavable meals and nearby friends or family who will either invite you over occasionally or allow you to cook a few meals in their kitchen.
5. Prepare for noise and dust.
“It is messy. It is disruptive, and it can get expensive. There is no way around that,” Nadia said.
Leo, store manager at SemBro Designs Kitchen, Bath & Flooring, says to expect day-to-day interruption.
“Plan on there being a mess every day,” he said.
For some, this is much easier to tolerate than others. If you are easily unsettled by disorder and mess in your living space, this is a good opportunity to spend more time outside your home.
6. Hire a general contractor carefully.
Sasha M. a General Contractor and Home Remodeler in Grove City says a good relationship with the generation contractor is crucial.
“You don’t want to call plumber at 8 p.m. and ask why he didn’t show up. You want the general contractor to do that.”
This will be the point person you are spending the most time with, so find out about how often they plan to communicate with you. Will he text or email photos if you are out of town? How quickly will he return phone calls? The worst kitchen nightmares I’ve heard tend to involve a contractor who disappears or won’t return calls.
7. Be prepared for days when you don’t see any progress.
Every decision in a construction project involves a timeline. So, there will be days of waiting — waiting for the countertops to be measured or waiting for the backsplash to arrive.
8. Order as much as possible before the job starts.
Sasha said they won’t start a project until all the decisions are finalized.
Alex S. a general manager at SemBro Designs says as projects wear on, the customer tends to be stressed and doesn’t have the time to pick out details such as hardware quickly, which can slow down the entire job. “Everyone is different about how many decisions they can make at one time,” he said. Some people can feel paralyzed by decision overload or hit a point of decision fatigue in the middle of a big project.
There’s also a risk that making choices as the work progresses might delay the final completion. One homeowner hired a friend, who is a designer, to help her pick out a backsplash. The designer ordered the wrong amount of the custom backsplash, which took months to deliver. The remaining backsplash had to be reordered and picked up, and then she had to wait for an opening in the contractor’s schedule to come back and finish up the work. The one mistake meant the entire job could not be completed fully for six months after it began.
9. Expect some delays and cost overruns.
When you get the estimates, it’s wise to add 20 percent to that number and ask yourself if you could still live with that number. If you don’t have that cushion, think twice about proceeding. Unexpected things come up in renovation projects, so keep track of overruns so there are no major surprises at the end.
“In remodeling, there are probably 50 things that can go wrong, and if you have a good contractor, you may only know about two or three of them,” Tatyana said.
10. Get out of the house altogether.
“The happiest clients I have are the ones who are not trying to live through it,” said Walter S., of Granite Direct in Worthington Ohio. Some will find a short-term, furnished rental for the most intensive part of the construction.
Alex said his company tries to plan remodeling jobs around clients’ vacations, such as summer or winter breaks.
Recruit a second opinion or hire a designer.
Getting a new kitchen can feel like buying a new car that you can’t test drive or see beforehand. There are so many choices in materials and colors that it can be overwhelming to try to visualize how the pieces will come together. Even those most confident in their preferences will second-guess their taste at some point.
This is the time to call in the professional designers.
Alex said designers can be hired by the hour to help guide those choices. Hiring a designer for a few hours can save money and regret down the line.
I called a designer when I was stuck on flooring choices. He looked at our kitchen and the samples I had picked out and accompanied me to a tile shop. We were able to use his discount to purchase the backsplash, which ended up offsetting the cost of his time.
We also recruited a few neighbors to stop by and cast their votes when we were torn on a particular color or design.
It can take a village.