As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I am right in the middle of a major kitchen remodel on my new house, which is both wonderful and scary. As a designer, I know better than most what can go right and wrong during a renovation, so I thought I would share my best tips for how to start, and survive, a kitchen remodel.
First, you have to have the right contractor. This is going to be a person that you’ll be with through thick and thin for days on end, so it better be someone you trust, and that you like. Ask for referrals if you don’t know someone, particularly from people who have kitchens that have been renovated recently. And yes, it’s okay to interview any contractor! You need to feel that you have a good rapport with this person. To me, that’s as important as the cost of their estimate. In fact, my contractor is a good friend of mine, but we are able to maintain a professional relationship which is the best of both worlds!
You also have to budget wisely. Most renovations cost more than you think they will, and there are often things that come up that you weren’t expecting. I always know exactly where I need to splurge and where I need to save, and I made sure there was a cushion in my budget for any contingencies. In general, it’s smart to put your money where you’ll get the most for it, and some of those important areas are definitely appliances, cabinets, and flooring.
A good rule of thumb is that a budget around $5,000 will get you some small cosmetic changes; $15,000-25,000 will let you pull out old appliances (or a few of them) and maybe slightly change your floor plan, but it won’t let you move plumbing or electrical. At $25,000-45,000, you’re able to take out a wall and to upgrade to better fixtures and cabinets if your kitchen isn’t too large. And at $50,000 or more, you’re probably going to get closer to your dream kitchen, with custom cabinetry and professional-grade appliances. But keep in mind, many people would need $65,000-$100,000 to really get the kitchen of their dreams. Be honest with your contractor about what you can and cannot afford so you can set priorities for what you want and need now and what you may be able to phase in later.
My priority? Definitely the appliances! I am a cook and baker at heart, so I definitely need to have the right tools for my new kitchen. In fact, the most fun I’ve had in this whole process is dreaming over my Thermador catalog! The fabulous range above is just about the one thing I built my whole kitchen around!
Once you have the perfect contractor and your budget in place, then comes a scary decision: to stay or to leave! If you can, it’s better (and faster) if you can move out. I am having more than just my kitchen gutted, so staying in the home just wasn’t an option. If staying in a rental or long-term hotel doesn’t work for you, see if you and your family can bunk with a family member or friend. As hard as that can be, it really will make the kitchen remodel go faster at least during some of the messiest and most dangerous (electrical upgrades) and smelliest parts (think paint fumes). Plus, it’s just safer if you have kids and pets!
(my kitchen with the sheetrock up!)
If you just can’t swing that, consider where you can set up a “kitchen outpost,” as I like to call it. It’s where you can at least have some dishes, a microwave, your coffee pot, a slow cooker, and any other small appliances you might need like a toaster or a can opener. Be sure the outpost is away from the dust and clutter that’s going to come out of your kitchen. You’re going to want to use this station mostly in the morning as you get everyone out the door. And then you’re going to want to get the number of every takeout joint near you! That’s just the name of surviving this remodeling game, so figure that into your budget, too.
If you’re remodeling during the right time of year, unlike me, you could also set up an outdoor kitchen around your grill and have plenty of fabulous dinners al fresco. Another great idea is to have snacks like microwave popcorn, trail mix, cereal bars, and raisins. If you have kids, you know they’re going to be hungry at inopportune times, so be ready. And also consider a dorm-sized fridge for drinks and water. You also want to only use disposable plates and utensils, because who wants to do dishes in the bathroom sink or the tub? Yuck!
Realistically, it can take months to complete a kitchen remodel. Often, the cabinetry alone will take at least 8 weeks for cabinets to be built and be installed, so think carefully about how long you can live without your kitchen. I am so excited because my cabinets are going in this week!
Now is also a great time to consider what you can live without so you can organize as a bonus to moving out. Those scarred baking pans you keep meaning to throw out need to hit the road. Don’t let junky stuff go back into your gorgeous new kitchen!
Finally, the best thing you can do to keep your sanity is put up a pinboard somewhere in the middle of your house where you can’t miss it. And pin up every single gorgeous kitchen inspiration photo you’ve ever torn out of a magazine. Then you can stare longingly at it to remind you of why you started this project in the first place. It’s all worth it!
PS – Want a fabulous guide to get you through your kitchen remodel? Check out my friend Kathleen DiPaolo’s amazing Return on Interiors system, with tools, tips, and worksheets that will help you finish your project on time and on budget!