15 tips on surviving a kitchen renovation
Tearing out the heart of your home requires a plan for how to survive the weeks to months of construction ahead.
If your project is a basic tear out, plan on four to six weeks without much access to the kitchen, but if you're doing a significant renovation, expect at least three months of disorder.
Beyond the decision-making and budget-making are things many people don't prepare for: The overwhelming number of decisions required and eventual decision fatigue, hitting the wall on prepackaged or carryout meals and the emotional upheaval that comes with having the central part of your home upended for weeks.
You need a plan of how you will deal with the life details as well as choosing countertops, paint, cabinets, flooring, tile and so forth.
Here are best tips on how to survive.
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.
Be creative with small plug-in appliances such as a coffee maker or an electric skillet, which can be used to make anything from pancakes to Hamburger Helper on it, said Kim Feld, a kitchen designer with National Kitchen & Bath.
Consider getting a two-burner hot plate.
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.
Consider the family room, where you can set up the fridge and microwave.
3. Realize you'll have to wash dishes in the bathroom.
Try to keep a sink hooked up on your main level during 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. It's best to have a rotation in mind of reliable carryout and prepackaged microwavable meals.
5. Prepare for noise and dust.
"It is messy. It is disruptive, and it can get expensive. There is no way around that," Feld said.
Jon Kay, a manager at Signature Kitchen & Bath, said to expect day-to-day interruption. "Plan on there being a mess every day."
6. Consider your pets.
If you can ask a friend to take them, or have them kenneled, that might be best. If not, give them extra attention, as the off-limits room and noise will disturb them, too.
7. Get a sketch or design plans beforehand.
"Think about how the kitchen is going to work from a function level," Kathy Israel, owner of Accents on Cabinets, said. Also, think about where all your current kitchen items and appliances will fit into the new kitchen.
It's best to include a professional in this sketching stage so they can let you know potential pitfalls.
8. Also consider hiring a designer.
Designers can be hired by the hour to help guide choices. This can save money and regret down the line.
9. Hire a general contractor carefully.
A good relationship with the general contractor is crucial, Mike Beck at Beck/Allen Cabinetry, said.
This will be the point person you are spending the most time with, so find out about how often he plans 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 are those that involve a contractor who disappears or won't return calls.
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.
10. 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.
11. Order as much as possible before the job starts.
Don't start a project until all the decisions are finalized. As projects wear on, people tend to be stressed and don't have time to pick out details such as hardware quickly, which can slow down the entire project.
12. 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.
13. Don't sweat the small stuff.
"Trust the people you've hired," said Jenny Rausch, president of Karr Bick Kitchen & Bath. Ask their opinions. Don't second-guess yourself. Don't agonize over the smallest details like hardware and countertop edges.
Keep a sense of perspective. Homeowners can get hyperfocused and paralyzed by decisions on the smallest details. Can you really remember what the hardware and edges in your friends' kitchens look like?
14. Get out of the house altogether.
If you can afford it, renting a short-term, furnished space is ideal.
15. Keep a sense of humor.
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