Surviving a Kitchen Remodel: Lessons Learned (Part 2)

In the summer of 2010, we completed a kitchen remodeling. I provided an overview and discussion of what went right in my last post. Here is the conclusion of our lessons learned.

Kitchen "Before" Northwest

Kitchen “Before” Northwest

Kitchen "After" Northwest

Kitchen “After” Northwest

What I would do differently

Here is a summary of things that I would change:

  • One mistake that I made was thinking I could find all of my basic items at Home Depot (et al).   I figured things like cabinets and tile would need ordering, but who thinks that a switch plate or a basic kitchen sink will be hard to find?  Even if you can pull it off at the last minute (which we did), the stress is brutal (“you mean if we can’t find a sink, we’ll need to delay the countertop install by 2 weeks?”).
  • I would also have planned to eat out more near the end of the project.  If budget is an issue, I recommend saving money by cooking in the early weeks when your energy is high then eating out and calling in favors for dinners later.   Our best low cost discovery was splitting two foot long subs for a $12 dinner for four. 
  • I would have borrowed (or set aside) the full contingency.  I planned a 20% contingency on paper, but only borrowed 10%.  Then when I needed the other 10%, it felt like we had gone over budget which was stressful.
  • If you are general contracting the work yourselves, I recommend having one spouse manage the entire project.  I let my husband manage the electrical work and when it looked like it might come in late (it didn’t), I was upset with both the contractor and him. It is generally preferable if one of you can whine to the other for pure sympathy.  My husband and I have even wallpapered together, so I am serious about this.
  • Finally I would have psyched up more for the stress.  I thought the project would be annoying and inconvenient but I HAD NO IDEA.

Now for the psychology…

Based on this experience I also have recommendations for surviving psychologically—which is a challenge during a project like this!  My thoughts:

  • Indulge for breakfast.  Have artisan cheese.  Or Pop Tarts.  Or anything else that is easy and helps you start the day feeling good.
  •  Get away for a couple of weekends.  It was a godsend for us to leave the chaos behind for a few days.  (Hurray, for middle school science camp in La Crosse!)
  • If you are in a CSA be ready to freeze things for winter.  While kitchen remodeling is a project better done outside the CSA season, life doesn’t always work out that way.  Think about how much you’ll enjoy the food in the barren days of winter.
  • Drink tomato juice and eat raw veggies with dip to try to maintain your 5-a-day.  Remodeling is stressful, and long, and it is not a good idea to shirk healthful practices.  Just find healthy food that doesn’t require a stove!
  • Mooch dinners off of friends and family.  You (usually) get good food, delightful conversation and the opportunity to socialize with someone who doesn’t wear paint clothes at midnight.
  • Breathe.  A few trying moments are inevitable.  Open some nice craft beer or a favorite bottle of wine.
  • Remember childbirth and what you got out of that!

Final Words:  We are so happy to have finally done this project!  And to all of my friends, consider this an open invitation to dinner at our place if you do a kitchen remodeling yourself!

Kitchen "Before" Southwest

Kitchen “Before” Southwest

Kitchen "After" Southwest

Kitchen “After” Southwest

12 thoughts on “Surviving a Kitchen Remodel: Lessons Learned (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Surviving a Kitchen Remodel: Lessons Learned (Part I) | Art of Natural LivingArt of Natural Living

  2. Freeda Baker Nichols

    Oh my! Then that was certainly a dream come true! Once in my writing group, the assignment was to write a story about a favorite room. I chose my kitchen, which was not the truth and the story turned out a bit humorous. lol

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      Thanks. I would encourage the project–a bit rough while in progress but great once it’s done! If you do go ahead and have any questions I’d be happy to give you my 2 cents.

  3. Judy & Dave

    Inger & John,

    The photos of the kitchen look amazing! We are so proud of you guys. Can’t wait to see it in person.

    I read your comments and lessons learned. We’ve been seriously talking about re-doing our kitchen for two or three years now. Perhaps there is a reason we haven’t committed to the project yet!

    Judy & Dave

  4. Tammy McLeod

    Your kitchen turned out beautiful and so good that you took time to acknowledge lessons learned. Now, enjoy it and know that value put into kitchens is typically reaped later when you sell a home.

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