How to Survive & Plan a Kitchen Remodel

how to remodel your kitchen

In a kitchen remodel, or any remodel, the more planning and design you do before starting, the better chance of staying on track and on budget. Spend the most time in the planning stage. It’s much easier and more affordable to make changes on paper or a 3D render now then it is when you’re in the middle of the renovation.

It’s just as important to remember that you can do all the planning in the world and there will still be unforeseen hiccups and delays due to weather, illness, surprises found during demolition, and so on. So DON’T STRESS when they happen. After less than 2 years in our fixer upper, we’ve had our share of delays and surprises such as our 6-week master bedroom renovation that turned into 3 months and car putty on original wood floors. Just acknowledge here and now that they will happen, and learn to be creative and have Plan B and C and D, be patient, and don’t lose focus of your end-goal: a beautiful and functional kitchen.

The Donatelli kitchen remodel website has a list with some great questions to ask yourself when figuring out not only what is and isn’t working for you in your current kitchen, but some things you may have never even thought to consider; if you need to store vitamins or table linens, are you taller or shorter than most people, right or left-handed, and so on.

The 10 stages of a complete kitchen remodel (that you’ll need to plan for):

demo/gut

electrical

plumbing

drywall/mudding

prime/paint

flooring

cabinets and hardware

countertops

backsplash

appliances/plumbing fixtures/light fixtures

 

If you already feel overwhelmed by the 10 stages of the remodel, it may be in your best interest to hire a contractor and designer team, which brings us to…

 

Finding Contractors for a Kitchen Remodel:

It is prudent to hire and schedule your contractors at least 3 months in advance of the remodel. Contractors can have clients lined up months in advance, so if you wait until a month or two before you want to start your remodel to find a contractor, you may not be able to hire your first choice because they are already booked.

Tip: Be sure to ask them when they’d be able to schedule you in, as you don’t want to find out that they are booked out for the next 6 months when you want to begin in 3 months.

Not sure if you need any contractors? My advice would be that electrical and plumbing are two that most people should leave to the experts.

When looking for contractors to hire, ask around with friends/family for people they not only have used, but sing the praises of for how wonderful they were. Narrow your choices down to at least three contractors, then ask them to come see your kitchen and the plans to help them give a more informed quote to you. (Tip: follow these steps when finding suppliers as well).

Once you receive all quotes, and this is important, DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY PICK THE LOWEST QUOTE. Be especially wary if one of the quotes comes in significantly lower than your other quotes. Some contractors will cut corners with the quality of supplies, experience, and/or workmanship. It’s very important to also find out if the contractor them-self will be working on or overseeing the job, or if they are subcontacting others to do it who aren’t even from their company (yes, this does happen, and it’s not always good).

 

What Supplies to Order Early:

Cabinets: If you’re not using basic in-stock builder grade cabinets that can be found at Home Depot or a lucky score from Habitat for Humanity, kitchen cabinets should be ordered in advance. Custom and even semi-custom cabinets can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months to be built and shipped. Delays can also occur with both contractors and suppliers. I’d highly recommend having your cabinets ordered at least 6 weeks before you plan to start demo in your kitchen to ensure a more efficient turn-around time for getting you and your family back into a usable kitchen.

A good (and free) place to start when planning your kitchen’s cabinet layout and to know if everything will fit would be to work with Home Depot or Lowes kitchen designers. They will sit down with you, take your kitchen’s layout and measurements, and then proceed to render your kitchen in 3D. They’ll also help you to become familiar with available products on the market for counter tops and what style of cabinets you like. Overall a great service to get your feet wet. I would caution though to not use their cabinets, as I have heard from multiple people that their quality is lacking, the installers predominately leave much to be desired in their skill and care (scratched finishes, uneven cabinets, etc), and the prices are crazy-high. We can speak to the prices being high as well when we were quoted $2,500 for FIVE BASIC BASE CABINETS. FIVE! Just the bases! Since that little shocker we moved on to recommended small quality cabinetry stores, woodworking yards, and Amish woodworkers who have given much more favorable quotes.

Flooring: Allow 4 weeks from the time you order before starting your remodel.

Large Appliances: Allow 4 weeks. If you’re wanting to save money here as well, find reputable dent-&-scratch places, Craigslist, and eBay for your fridge, vent hood, dishwasher, oven, and stove. We live relatively close to some rich neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and it is amazing some of the things people are looking to be rid of on Craigslist (and the stuff looks like it was used only two times!).

Countertops: Allow 4 weeks. If you have a small kitchen with not much counter space and/or time to look around, consider remnant or scrap yards and even Craigslist for leftover pieces that you can have cut-to-size for your kitchen. You can find significant savings this way!

 

How to survive without a kitchen during a remodel:

How to wash dishes: I think we’ve all seen or heard too many stories of people resorting to washing their dishes in bathtubs during a renovation. While this may still be necessary at some point in the process, try to plan how you can work around your existing sink for as long as possible while the rest of the construction is going on. An example would be to build temporary supports for your sink when the cabinets get taken away, or maybe leave your sink cabinet in until the new cabinets arrive and can be installed.

If there’s no way to use your existing sink and you don’t have another deep sink to substitute with, an idea is to use something that can hold water for washing your dishes such as a large Coleman cooler or icebox that you set up on your dining table or a table outside. If outside, you can use your garden hose to rinse off the dishes. Collect your dirty dishes into a plastic tub after each meal, then set it alongside your “sink”. Fill your cooler with warm, soapy water from the bathtub, carry it to your table, and then have someone drying your clean dishes or, if you have the room, a dish rack nearby.

Ultimately, the easiest method would be to have disposable plates, cups, and silverware during the course of your remodel to help lessen the amount of dishes.

How to cook during a kitchen remodel: If you’re able to keep your stove hooked up for as long as possible in the same way as your sink, that’s great! If not, consider using your BBQ grill (a kitchen reno in summer would make it so much easier!). In the chance that you have an electric stove, see if you can plug it in and set it up in your dining room, laundry room, or where ever it makes the best sense.

Microwaves, crock pots, and toaster ovens can also be life savers for cooking! When you stop to consider it, these little appliances can be workhorses that can give you an array of delicious meals. Google or search pinterest for recipes for these specific appliances and you’ll find tons of inspiration!

How to keep out the dust: Hang plastic sheets (such as you use for protecting floors when you paint) in all of your kitchen doorways and double them up. Also be mindful of any air vents that could be sucking up dust.

You’ll still get construction dust, but this largely helps to contain the dust mostly to the room being worked on.

How to renovate with young kids: Part of living in a renovation is adapting to temporary adjustments in how you live. Speaking from both our own experience with our baby girl who has lived through several renovations in her short lifetime and from friends with kids in similar situations, kids are amazing at adapting. In fact, many find the whole experience fun, like camping. It can also be a great learning experience for them.

Our lil girl loved watching the work being done in the dining room through the plastic sheeting. I did have to teach her to not lean against the sheeting and would have to keep an eye on her, but that was it.

baby girl watching daddy

When we had people installing our kitchen floor for 2 days, she played in the living room with the fridge sitting in it like it was any other day.

renovation realities

The noises and pounding did spook her a few times during the first day, but by Day 2 she was napping through very loud pounding noises and a table saw! I kept looking at her video monitor waiting to see her wake up from it, but she didn’t!


Good luck to y’all who are doing a kitchen remodel soon! I hope that something here jumped out at ya such as, “Hey, we need to hire an electrician”, or maybe you’re thinking, “Hmm, maybe we should move our renovation start date back a bit until we have these plans hammered down…”, which would be awesome because now you’re already a step ahead of most people who don’t plan but dive straight in and then wonder why their kitchen renovation took 7 months and $5k more than they wanted to spend. ;)

Remember that through it all, in the end you’ll have made some memories and a great new kitchen to-boot!

Be sure to subscribe so you can follow along when we begin our kitchen remodel!

In case you missed it, check out my post all about Maximizing Function & Space in Your Dream Kitchen that also includes a free e-book you can download!

kitchen organization ebook


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