Surviving a Kitchen Remodel

Get tips on minimizing stress while your kitchen is under construction
Two men and a woman looking a a blueprint.

Contractor Goes Over Plans

Contractor goes over plans for kitchen renovations with homeowners.

Photo by: Jupiterimages


By: Kristen Hampshire

You’ve made all of the big decisions and settled on a budget. Now, it’s demolition time and you’ve got to function in a home under construction. You’ll realize the kitchen truly is the epicenter of the home when you have to live without this space, or at least work around the mess. But living in dust for a while is worth the reward of a new kitchen.

Makeshift Kitchen

You’ll be relying more heavily on take-out food and restaurant fare during your home renovation, but if you set up a makeshift kitchen, you can make basic meals for your family and save on eating out.

  • Designate a dust-free space as the temporary kitchen. Equip it with a microwave, coffeemaker, conventional toaster oven and refrigerator (mini or full-size.)
  • You’ll need a little bit of counter space to work—this could mean a table.
  • Use paper plates and cups so you won't have to wash dishes.
  • Ask the contractor about setting up temporary plumbing and a utility sink on legs.
  • Cook meals on a grill outdoors if weather allows.

Real-World Renovation

Wouldn't it be great if you could start and finish a complete kitchen renovation in a weekend? Even if that’s what seems to happen on T.V. (and, we promise, there are resources and lots of elapsed time viewers don’t see), don’t expect to stage a dramatic weekend makeover in your kitchen.

Sure, you can repaint and change the entire look in a few days. Or you can switch out the hardware on a Sunday and update tired cabinets. But you cannot redesign, demolish and install a fabulous new kitchen in 48 hours.

“What really slows us down is countertops,” says Brad Burgin, Burgin Construction Inc. in North Tustin, Calif. Often, measurements for countertops are not made until cabinets are installed to ensure a fit, he says. Then, the countertops are produced. That can take 10 days—or longer.

Cabinets can take 8 to 10 weeks depending on what you choose. Special plumbing may take weeks for delivery. Also, if the construction crew discovers any surprises in the form of structural deficiencies, your project will be delayed.

If you really want the project to run smoothly, don’t allow the construction crew to tear apart your kitchen until all materials (except the countertop) are on site, says Ellen Rady, Ellen Rady Designs, Cleveland, Ohio. “You could begin installing tile, get to the last box and find out it’s not the right product,” she says, pointing to a common mishap. Before demo, be sure the cabinets, sink, faucet, lighting, hardware, everything is sitting in your home, ready for installation.

Get firm schedules from contractors and commitments for the delivery of cabinets and other materials.

If all materials are ready and available on the worksite, Rady says, a kitchen can be installed in as little as three weeks, from tear-out to the time countertops are templated. More intricate work that requires coordinating the schedules of specialty trades will take longer—perhaps several months.

Even with careful planning, the project will always take longer than you expect so be flexible. Don’t plan a party for the night after the expected finish date. (You might be eating out of your lap.) Do envision what the final result will look like and consider this under-construction period to be an adventure. After all, you probably won’t embark on a major kitchen remodel again in the same house, and most kitchens last 20 years.

During construction, be sure to let contractors know you want to save cabinets, plumbing fixtures and other materials being removed from your kitchen. You can donate these to a local charity or find uses for them in other areas of your home. For example, cabinets can provide extra storage in the garage, or you can even create another kitchen in another area of the house like a finished basement or rec room.

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