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Kitchen Remodel: 10 survival tips to get you through the process

Kitchen Remodel: 10 survival tips to get you through the process

Here’s the deep dark secret that the kitchen-remodeling websites and magazines don’t want you to know: Between the before and after photos, you live in a house with no kitchen. For weeks, more likely months.

And that’s not a pretty picture.

My own kitchen remodel involved time on a ladder scraping away popcorn, doing my own painting and cabinet assembly and literally herding cats, not to mention all the major and minute decisions I had to make.

Here are the 10 survival tips I learned along the way.

1. Undergo triage

When you pack up, sort your kitchen gear into three categories: storage; temporary kitchen; and toss/donate/recycle. This task can be done over time, with the final items leaving the kitchen the night before demolition begins.

Give the boxes going to storage detailed labels so you can locate things you discover you need later — because in a remodeling process, you never know when “later” might be. Put them somewhere safe, but not the garage (see Tip 8).

2. Set up a temporary kitchen

My fridge moved into the dining room, where it was joined by the toaster oven, electric kettle and countertop microwave. Your small appliances may include an electric grill, skillet or slow cooker.

Prepare essential foods and a small set of dishes and utensils, packed in plastic tubs with lids to keep the dust off. My solution was an under-bed box with a hinged lid that sat on my dining- room table, where we could get at silverware, utensils and small items like coffee cups.

Allocate yourself only the amount of dishes that you are willing to wash by hand in one session.

Which leads us to…

3. Have a dishwashing strategy

The best thing about my brand-new kitchen was the sink. I don’t mean because the new sink was wonderful, though it was. No, it was just the return of any kitchen sink. Having to go outdoors or upstairs to rinse vegetables, dump out cold tea, fill the cats’ water dish, or clean paintbrushes got old very quickly.

Doing dishes in the bathtub meant having to move a rack of dishes whenever my daughter wanted to shower. We ended up using the powder-room/mudroom sink, with the tub of dirties on the commode and the dish-rack on the washing machine.

If you have a utility sink, count yourself lucky, unless it’s in the garage (see Tip 8).

4. Control the dust and chaos

To keep dust down, your contractor should cover carpets and floors and hang plastic sheeting around the demo site, weighted with scrap lumber or taped to the floor. It won’t work very well, but it’s better than nothing. Microfiber cloths or a feather duster do a good job of picking up drywall dust.

Remove anything you don’t want bumped or broken from the route that workers will take between the kitchen and outside and the bathroom.

5. Have a plan for pets

Set up somewhere safe for them, out from underfoot, with food and water and a soft place to sleep. If your dog isn’t crate-trained and/or you don’t own a crate, invest the little bit of time and money necessary in both; there may be times the crate is needed, or that your dog may want to retreat into it.

If your dog or cat normally has free access to the outdoors, and that access involves the kitchen, this will take more planning.

6. Buy some of your own tools

Even if someone is doing all the work for you, you’ll want the following items:

• A decent drill, tape measure and stepladder.

• If you’re building flat-pack cabinets yourself, get a brad nailer for the small nails that secure the backs of your cabinets to the frames. My contractor, Frank Berta of Craftsman Renovators, let me know such a thing existed — right after I had pounded in all those tiny little nails, by hand, with a tack hammer.

• Plastic sheeting and tape.

• Heavy-duty garbage bags (you might see them labeled as “contractor bags”).

• A tub for dirty dishes.

• Lottery tickets, for when you just want to move to Hawaii until it’s all over.

7. Understand the domino theory

For an illustration of “As long as we’re doing X, we might as well do Y,” consider Karen and Brian Larsen of Westminster.

Their built-in microwave stopped working. The new microwave didn’t fit the hole, and if the cabinets had to be replaced, why not remove the soffits — the lowered ceiling above the cabinets in some houses — at the same time?

The appliance store was closing, so they got great deals on all new appliances, and then … the new countertop didn’t match the old tile floor. So the time to put in a bigger patio door was before the new floor went in, and then they found the ant infestation.

Thus does a $300 microwave turn into a completely overhauled kitchen.

But wait, there’s more! “We loved our new kitchen so much,” Karen Larsen said. “And then we turned around and noticed how shabby the rest of the house looked,” and a fresh set of projects ensued.

Karen’s advice: “Don’t turn around.”

8. Kiss your garage goodbye

Mine became a workshop, lumberyard, cabinet assembly line, toolshed, warehouse for new appliances, graveyard for old appliances and place for Frank to take phone calls and eat lunch.

It filled up with sawdust and tile dust, so cover or move all the things you don’t want to get dusty. Relocate stuff you’ll need, or you’ll find yourself climbing over piles of Ikea cabinet doors to get your pruners and garden gloves, like I did. (Yes, that does mean you should probably clean out your garage before the whole process begins.)

9. Lower your food standards

After my attempt at brewed coffee left grounds from one end of the bathtub to the other, I discovered that those Starbucks Via instant coffee packets are pretty good.

Sandwiches, cereal, toast, fruit, yogurt and salads are nourishing and easy. Take-and-bake pizza works great on the grill. Ice cream on a stick doesn’t dirty a bowl. You get the idea.

10. Be excellent to one another

The kitchen is the heart of the home, so it stands to reason that a home without a kitchen can be a tense place.

Add to that tension strange people, noises, smells and interruptions in power, water and even Internet service (yes, Mr. Electrician, I do need that land line) and you can see that inevitably, at some point in the remodeling process, there will be a fight.

Breathe. Forgive.

Whatever you do, don’t forget that remodeling is temporary — but family is forever.

By Lisa Greim


Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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