Considering a Kitchen Re-model

We’ve been living in this house for eighteen years. It existed for seven years before we moved in. This means that the kitchen is twenty-five years old, and it is showing its age. A lot. The age shows in little things like the silverware drawer that was held together with duct tape for several years before we finally used wood staples and glue, or the three other drawers which have lost their fronts. Then there is that one cabinet which doesn’t close right because young children used to swing on it and bent the hinges out of shape. Also there are some layout things which cause minor annoyance on a regular basis. So we’re contemplating giving the whole thing an overhaul.

But we have a problem, several actually. Our house is also our office. Both Howard and I work here. We work in careers that require focus without interruption. Re-modelling is made up of loud noises, frequent questions, small decisions, and power outages. Another problem is that having our kitchen disrupted is going to seriously impact schedules and poke various anxiety and mental health buttons. We have an abundance of mental health buttons. Some of us shut down if regular patterns are disrupted. Others melt down a bit if the kitchen is messy, I can only imagine the meltdowns when the kitchen is dismantled. I still remember how disorganized and stressed I was when we took apart my office for a re-model, and that one only lasted about a week. Kitchen re-modelling is notorious for lasting a long time.

The good news is that I have a seven month lead time. I have no intention of letting construction begin until November or December at the earliest. We have too many events and deadlines between now and then. We have promises to keep. November – January is the slow time for work. That means it is the best time to have work potentially disrupted. I have time to plan. I intend to use it to front load some of the decision making and purchasing. I would much rather live with tile sitting in my garage for a month than have my kitchen messed up for an extra week because we’re waiting for tile to arrive. I’m certain there are many things I can do to smooth and prepare the way, but I need to know what they are. This is where all of you come in, or at least those of you who have been party to a kitchen re-model. I have some questions so I can learn how this process works.

1. How significant was your re-model? Are we talking new counters and appliances or knocking out walls?
2. What was the most stressful part?
3. What caused the most delays?
4. If you had it to do over again what about the process would you change?

I’d also like to understand kitchen re-models from the contractors side, so if you are one or know one…

1. What causes the most delays for contractors?
2. How can I make my contractor’s job easier?
3. What are common ways that clients make problems for contractors?

This is the information gathering stage of the project. We’re turning over options, learning how this works, deciding on the scope of what we intend to do. On the far side of this is our house being much nicer than it is now. I just want to get from here to there as smoothly as possible.

(And yes, I’m aware that this whole exercise in information gathering is a manifestation of anxiety over spending money and having the kitchen torn apart. The buttons are already getting pressed.)

11 thoughts on “Considering a Kitchen Re-model”

  1. My dad (a contractor) says having a plan ahead of time is the most important and makes their job easiest. Trouble clients cause is changing midstream.

    Delays come when things don’t fit as expected. Straight countertops are easy, but if you have an L, it takes more time and everything has to fix perfectly.

    If your contractor has subs, scheduling those can add time. If he does it all himself, it’s easier.

    He says for ordering stuff like your flooring and tiles ahead of time, if you know exactly what you need you’re good. If you don’t, you run the risk of buying sub quality materials. He says if a contractor knows he’s going to get the job this winter, he’d spend the time to help you pick that out ahead of time.

    He adds a two week vacation wouldn’t hurt in the middle of the process. 🙂

  2. I bought and remodeled The Gamecave 4 years ago, including a complete kitchen makeover. Ways to disconnect buttons:

    1. The good thing is that you to pick everything. The bad thing is that You Have To Pick Everything. The good thing is that most of those choices will be wonderful and plenty good enough. The temptation is that you will convince yourself you could have done better. Kill that temptation with fire.

    2. I absolutely agree that picking a contractor now and making your choices will save you much time and likely moderate money. Getting out of the house for a week or two will also speed completion.

    3. Do not invest ANY self-esteem on how accurate the estimated completion date is. Nobody on the planet has the skill to predict that.

    4. One-quarter of the project time will be in agonizingly slow finish and cleanup work. This Is Inevitable. This is Not Your Fault.

    I will cheer from the sidelines, as always. I look forward to finally meeting you at GenCon.

    God Bless,
    Ken Franklin

    1. “Kill that temptation with fire” – Right idea, but personally I’d recommend multiple nukes from orbit.

      From watching makeover shows, the thing that really slows completion, is clients changing the their minds. OTOH, be prepared to change your mind if necessary. It *will* slow completion, but that doesn’t mean the benefit is never worth it.

      Get personal recommendations on contractors. Look to book them *now* (if they haven’t got three to six months of work booked in already, they are probably no good). You might want to consider what happens if your preferred contractor can’t do Nov/Dec – move to 2017? Aside: my experience is UK based – it may be different in Utah.

      Good luck!

  3. Stifle your natural niceness for the duration of the project. Get schedules, plans, timetables, official deadlines, and above all COSTS agreed on, written out and before you start ANYTHING. Trust no one. Do not accept handshakes, verbal agreements, sacred vows, or promises of first-born children–it has to be in WRITING and SIGNED and ideally should have PENALTY CLAUSES.

  4. David Scvhierholz

    The only thing I don’t see addressed already is indecision. There are things that will only occur after things are out of the way. For instance we had a bump out in the wall that turned out to be an abandoned chimney. (1920 build, 2010ish work). Disrupted the contractor’s schedule, although I did pay him for it. But part of my discount was from listening to the contractor whine.

    Chief whine (not really a whine, but. . .): everything is going to be absolutely filthy. He didn’t blame the wimmin- but dirty boots, dust.

    Oh- and I had to put my foot down. They were waiting for a cabinet to get off the boat from China to install the kitchen. This was after getting into the walls and re-locating plumbing. Everything was sitting in town, otherwise ready. I had to scream at the cabinet supplier to get them to deliver the rest, then whne for another month before I could get the one missing one.

  5. Well – I do not know how extensive a remodel you are thinking about.

    I had a new kitchen installed some years back.
    before the remodel, the room had one door and an assembled College-student kind of second-hnad-kitchen. Some assembled secon-hand conters, a washing machine upon which the fridge was stacked, a single standing oven ect.

    I planned to cut one wall to make the kitchen accessible from another room – so my roommates would not have to cross the living room and mine to get to it. And then have a regular ktchen installed ba a contractor.

    So – first all the kitchen furniture had to be emptied and disassembled, a task my girlfriend and me got done in a day.
    We also erected an kind of makeshift kitchen in the living room on that day.
    A pasting table, upon which a mobile one-plate cooker, the crockery and some food was stored. The surplus freezer stood humming below it, as well as the boxes with all the kitchen stuff not necessary everyday.
    This was my moms Idea and a good one – we had to use this interim solution for about three weeks and where extremely happy to have set it up. Ill strongly recommend that, given that u will need a freezer, a countertop hot water ect every day.

    Then came the parts not really necessary, if you just want do replace a kitchen in an unchanged room.

    After the old kitchen was out, we had the second doorhole cut in.
    That was done by a specialized firm in one day. The guys came, drilled a lot of holes through the wall, installed some kind of rail system vertically, and then cut out the wall pice by piece with a circular saw attached to those rails.
    It was loud, it was dirty, because the wet sawing of conrete ist kind of sloppy and splashy, but the guys of that firm took care of masking the rest of the room with foil ect.

    The next part was getting out the plastic floor, then tiling said floor and some of the wall correspondent to the new kitchen layout, repainting and installing the new door frame and door.
    That one I did on my own while working, so it took nearly three weeks.
    I do not know how long professional tradesmen would have taken.

    The installation of the new kitchen was again done by a contractor. We had planned and ordered that kitchen quite a while before, so he had everything in store once the rom was set up.

    I was surprised that this step only took about two days. The newly set up room was there, in the morning one guy with the materiel showed up. He hammered and cut and screwed quite a bit.
    And in the evening everything was already standing, respectively hanging in place. It already looked finished.
    On the second day two workmen and an electrician showed up and insert, connect and test all the appliances.

    Presto – the new kitchen was there to be filled with life.

    another two to thre days whre necessary to get all the equipment back and install a working system of where everything had to be, but that was it.

    Sadly I moved out one and a half year later and stimm pine for that kitchen ;-(

  6. I can’t help with most of that.
    But I can advise on the “power outage” bit.
    And it probably applies to general use, and electronics survival as well, though NOT cheap.

    Get a BIG UPS. I got one like this “resealed” at auction for < $300.
    It can run my phones, fibre modem, 1 PC and printers for 6+ hours (though that depends on what you use and what you get)

    Plug your office into it, and it doesn't matter nearly as much of the power goes out.

    As a side note. If you NEED your electrics to work, getting one of these in your switchboard is an excellent idea:

    It's like putting a surge protector multi-plug on your entire house.

    And if you use one of those multi-plugs as well, the effects a multiplicative, not additive. (according to my electrician anyway)

  7. When I settled into my new home there was this wall down the middle of whats now the kitchen. So I had a tiny kitchen with a window straight onto the shed and no daylight (also it was [painted red and black) & this tiny dinning room with the back door and widow and loads of light.

    I didn’t make any plans at all I just got cross about the light thing. So the most stressful part was looking at the remains of a partition wall (plaster in several rubbish bags) and thinking ‘hubby will be home in like 5 min how am I going to explain this one?’ He took one look & the crowbar off me: said he’d finish and tidy if i’d make dinner. 🙂

    It took us a few weeks to find all the cupboards we needed at the right prices but frankly fitting them was fun. As this was self done all the delays were waiting to get paid before buying stuff.

    We did things in stages; never ripping something out until we had a replacement but the oven was a problem. Do not do your own gas piping.
    I cooked on a camping oven and hob for over a month. Its absolutely not a problem if that what you planned to do. As you have more people I would suggest you set up a camp kitchen in the garage. My hubby was creative enough to plumb a dishwasher in out there the week we changed the sink. We both work so we were doing this in the evenings with big gaps of no energy.

    I know I made problems with a lack of communication about plans. Biggest issue came up where I had an idea I really liked but hadn’t measured to see if it would fit before getting attached to the idea.

    The hardest job was the floor; it was two different ones and had a big trippy bit in the middle. I stripped it down by hand which I do not recommend. Also I did this in the middle instead of at the beginning of the job a contractor will know better.

    I found some online kitchen planning resources helpful but I found them halfway through installing cupboards. It was really helpful to have before pictures (from when we were house viewing) to compare with what we’d already achieved. I can recommend accurate measurements of everything. Several accurate plans of your current layout so that different family members can annotate them; we found that event he two of us had different ideas about the best and worst bits of the old kitchen & of the middle stages. A blank plan with current utilities and lighting ect marked so you know in advance if pipes or wires need changing. (we used to have a light switch and plugs on that wall I took down) Get someone to check what you have against current regs; we found out part way through that we needed to replace the ring main as it had been badly bodged.

    When you do your new kitchen plan future proof it.
    My favourite things include never running out of plugs because we installed twice as many as I thought I would need. Having all the plumbing for dishwasher and washing machine separate so when one broke there was less disaster.
    And top of the bill is replacing the light switch with a motion sensor so when we come home the light comes on as cat comes to greet us. It makes me smile every time.

    Good Luck

  8. A couple of my family members have ripped up their kitchens recently.
    Both were mostly happy with the results, but after training their brains to see the kitchen as a work in progress, it may be impossibe to stop thinking that way. Both had remodels go more than a month over.

    – Really good tradesmen may be nearly busy enough with referrals that they don’t have to spend money on advertisements or websites. The 20 year old business listed on the better business bureau website or recommended by the local hardware store is well worth calling. The business owner who quotes jobs himself is more likely to agree if offered a cash discount. Busy people may not work steadily on one job, their income stream is more stable if they jump between 2-3 jobs at a time.

    – This old house episodes and other youtube tradesmen are well worth watching. It’s easier to feel confident discussing a project after learning what most of the key parts are, and seeing them go together a few times. (Most tradesman do not have a talent for doing good work while being watched, so videos are a really helpful alternative.)

    – Budget for what you need too – If you write up a list of problems you’ll have without a functional kitchen, you can go back down the list writing a shopping list.

  9. My dad is a contractor, so I’ve done these a few times with him.

    One thing that he finds useful to have is the make and model of all the new appliances ahead of time, so he can make sure that all the gas/water/electrical connections line up in the right spot. For example, if the stove has the connection on the left, and the gas connection comes out of the wall on the right, it’s going to be a pain to get it all to fit.

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