Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hints for Living Through a Kitchen Renovation

Getting Closer!

Pick a great contractor. Word of mouth is the best. My friend Michele said her kitchen renovation experience was "DELIGHTFUL!" What? Believe me, that got my attention and helped me narrow down many excellent choices and eventually pick her contractor. He works with 2-3 guys he has known for over 30 years, so I always know who is in my house at a given time. When I found out months after we first met that I was pregnant, he made sure he could devote his resources to getting the job done on a faster timeline than originally planned.

Set up an auxiliary kitchen. Ours is in my office, 3 steps down from the main level of our house. I purged duplicate items, then packed away things I didn't think we would need and moved them to the basement. I kept out basic spices, dishes, mugs, and small appliances: blender for smoothies, microwave, rice cooker, panini maker/griddle, coffee and teapot, and toaster. The only thing we needed to buy was a stand alone burner. We got this one off of Amazon because it was cheap, and it has worked great. We used an old armoire as a pantry to keep the food away from the dogs. A dresser would also work well for this. A folding table also comes in handy for prep-work, and a bookshelf is great for storage.

We are a cloth napkin family, but I decided that for these 8 weeks it would be fine to use paper towels as well as some disposable cups, bowls, plates, and utensils. This was a godsend to me because I have been sick for most of the renovation, and getting a new Solo cup every few days has made me feel a lot less germy. Tim uses the same Solo cup every day, because he is either far more virtuous than I am, or he doesn't understand the concept of disposable. Side-note: I miss having a dishwasher. My husband hasn't commented on it yet, but I have left more than a few things in the laundry room sink "to soak" hoping that he'll break down and wash them before I do. It usually works. Do you have a water source you can use during  your renovation? We have a small laundry sink close by. Otherwise, you may be doing your dishes in the bathroom sink or the bathtub.

Plan some meals in advance. It's winter, and we are a soup family, so I made double batches of  White Chicken Chili, Bean and Bacon soup, Turkey Chili, crock pot potato soup, and Lentil soup to freeze in advance. Tim grills year round, so he marinated pork chops, chicken breasts, and flank steak and froze them in Ziplock bags. He could have frozen the meat, thawed it, and marinated it the night before grilling, and I could have cooked most of the soups in the crock pot during the renovation, but it was SO MUCH EASIER doing all of this in advance, as opposed to having meat juices sloshing around the office auxiliary kitchen. Also, side dishes are a thing of the past for right now. Tim will whip up a lovely salad when he cooks, but if I say I'm serving Lentils, well, you're going to get just that. Lentils.

Make a list of food options. In the best of circumstances, it's easy to get in a food rut, and it's even more so in the chaos of renovation. I made a list of ideas and put them on the fridge, along with an inventory of the food we froze in advance. Some ideas are: black beans and rice, breakfast for dinner, paninis, beer can chicken on the grill, pasta, cous cous, and stir-fry. One of the items is, of course, ORDER PIZZA.

Speaking of pizza, we have had great luck buying small pre-made pizza crusts, topping them, and grilling them outside. Yum!

Dogs. I was pretty worried about how the dogs would do during the renovation. Except for the one morning when they were exposed to varnish fumes and I had to get them out of here, they have done great. I'm sure it's annoying to the workers to have them nosing around everything, but it has gone well. We use baby gates to try to keep them with me at all times, and I put Charlie in his crate if I have to leave the house.

Fumes. This was my biggest concern. Okay, fumes and dust, especially since I'm pregnant and work at home! I'm trusting that everything is okay, but I also bought an air purifier that I run 24/7 which seems to help. One thing I would recommend that I have not done, is run a wet mop over the floors every few days, because we are dragging the dust around the house and into our beds, etc. Contractors will seal off part of the house with plastic, but some dust will manage to get through. Ideally, you would be able to get your family out of the house during the smelliest times such as painting and floor refinishing. Even cabinets off-gas fumes when they come out of their boxes. A week away at Grandma's is a good idea.

Let it Go. Learn to live with the chaos for a while, even if it means your table has a shoe, dirty dishes, the newspaper, a Biology book, and a random pair of ski gloves on it. I think it's kind of like decorating for Christmas. It's super messy getting out all the decorations-- all those boxes and tubs. You live that way for a while, before making everything "just so" for the season. Then, when you take it all down in January, it is a huge relief and you feel like you have more room to breathe. I see a "January" on my horizon. When you are in the chaotic stage, hang in there! I'm hoping to have a few weeks of breathing room between the renovation and filling the house full of large plastic baby items.

Prepare to lose your mind over one thing. For me it was the counter tops. For you it might be the drawer pulls or a light fixture. You will likely fixate on some aspect of the renovation as if it is the most important thing in the world. Try not to beat yourself up for totally losing your perspective over this first world problem. Just power through. I took weeks deciding on a counter top before turning the decision over to my husband! On the flip side, I chose cabinets, drawer pulls, and fixtures in under five minutes each. You will have your one thing, so don't be surprised.

No Turning Back. There will be times in your renovation, as you write the big checks and let the workmen see you in your junky bathrobe and mouth guard for the 22nd time, that you will wonder why you are doing this. You will berate yourself for being so picky and selfish that you didn't want to live with your old kitchen any longer. You will convince yourself that you will never recoup the cost of the renovation, and that this one bad decision will put you on the streets. But when you are in the middle of it, tell yourself, "There's no turning back." Your contractor has set aside time for your job. His workers are counting on this employment. Besides, your cabinets and appliances are gone and there's a gaping hole in your floor. So, suck it up, and forge ahead.

Unless, that is, you want to be eating off PB&J off of paper plates for the foreseeable future.

You've got this!

Looking forward to showing you AFTER photos very soon!


Kelly said...

Hi! I have never commented on here before, but I love your blog. I just wanted to throw out a recommendation for post-remodel. It is totally worth it to get your duct work cleaned out. We did this after a major home reno, and I can't tell you how much it helped with the dust aftermath. You think when the project is over, and your house is cleaned, that the dust is gone. It is not; it just keeps blowing out of your duct work. UGH. An air duct cleaning company will blow all that garbage out once and for all. Highly recommend! Good luck!

Michele said...

You're almost there! We are 95% done with a reno of our master bath and I am SO READY for "January." My one big thing was the shower tiles, and even then, I got them wrong. But then we just changed things around them and they were right again! Now if we could just get the shower glass so we could actually USE said shower....

It looks gorgeous already - can't wait to see the "afters"!

nanadarla said...

Great post, Anna and very helpful to those who are remodeling. We went through a whole house renovation 6 years ago of our early 70's split foyer home. It was a major undertaking ,but well worth the effort, time and money. I love my open kitchen and new bathrooms and we actually use our living room and dining room now. I'm also glad because the house will hopefully sell more quickly when we retire and move to NC, since it's been updated. The best part is we're getting to enjoy the updates. Many of our friends do their updates in order to sell their homes and never get to enjoy the work that has been done. We have the best of both worlds. Sounds like you're getting close to the end of your remodel and I can't wait to see the after photos!
Best, Darla

Anonymous said...

We are just finishing a lengthy bathroom gut/remodel, and managed to hemorrhage more money than we thought possible. How can a tiny bathroom take six weeks?? This little renno has made me swear off any other major jobs because it's more stressful than it needs to be. All. The. Decisions. And that one thing you hate? Yep. So true. For me it's the countertop. But it is what it is and like you said… no turning back. Thanks for the great advice, and should I ever lose my mind and decide our kitchen needs to crawl out of 1965 and join the new millennium, I'll take them to heart. For now, we're going to go sell a kidney so we can afford to buy Ramen for the next six months.

Shannon said...

Good advice all the way around. I admire how you put yourself in the contractor's perspective. Who does that? VERY FEW.

It will be beautiful and functional. Looking forward to seeing it done!

julie gardner said...

As someone who's been through multiple renovations, I stand in awe that you even considered using cloth napkins.
(I know that seems random but it's true.) Ultimate respect from me (and the environment) to you forever.

Hang in there. The end results will be worth it!

Anonymous said...

We are starting a renovation and I checked back here to get your insights. And, the thing for me that I am obsessing over is the backsplash! Countertop chosen quickly, but I am driving all over the place (and spending hours on Pinterest) trying to find the right one. It helped to hear your perspective and know I'm normal for having that ONE thing. Now I need to go freeze some soup!

Custom Outdoor Living Blog said...

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