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5 things I’m learning about renovating a kitchen

The room that was once my dining room, but is now a makeshift kitchen and dumping ground.

Right now, we are in the middle of tearing out everything in our dated, awkward kitchen to completely remodel it.

And while I thought I’d prepared myself well by poring over photos of beautiful finished kitchens in magazines, watching lots of HGTV, and scouring the forums at IKEAFans, This Old House and GardenWeb, it turns out I had a lot to learn. (Duh, right?) Since I’m smack-dab in the middle of getting smacked around by all this “education,” I thought I’d share the five things I’m learning about home renovations:

1) Everything always costs more than you thought it would. I know, I know, everybody says this, and yet I somehow really believed I would be one of the lucky ones who sailed through with no surprises lurking under the floorboards. Optimism is a great quality, but as it turns out, it’s out of place when budgeting a kitchen reno. Since we have a small budget without a ton of wiggle room, this is another one of those times I’m glad we have a small kitchen.

Our kitchen yesterday, after opening the entry - a job I am glad we hired out!

2) DIY-ing has its limits. At heart, I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person who has a hard time paying anyone to do a job I could do…or learn to do…or try to learn to do myself. In reality, I’m a busy working mom of five who would be hard-pressed to find the time – not to mention physical strength – needed to pull up two layers of vinyl that are both glued and stapled to the subfloor or the expertise needed to work around electrical and plumbing lines in the walls. Instead of going all-or-nothing with the “DIY or hire it out?” question, we’re doing what we can ourselves while also watching and learning from a few carefully-chosen pros.

One thing that’s surprised me about a kitchen reno is how much work it is simply to pick out the materials, figure out the layout, and plan all the details! andI’ve had to make so many decisions over the last week that my brain is in danger of completely shorting out. Since we’re a couple of home reno newbies with more enthusiasm than time or money for mistakes, I’m very glad we have experts helping us avoid pitfalls and make good decisions. Maybe we’ll be up for doing it all ourselves next time we decide to remodel the kitchen…you know, in thirty years or so.

3) Don’t expect to get anything meaningful done when your house is being worked on. Not only is a reno loud, messy, and disruptive, but there are constant issues to deal with and questions to answer. I’ve already been interrupted three times while writing this post: once to tell me that the hardwood in our kitchen is un-salvageable (bummer), once to discuss with the “wood guy” whether we should rip everything up down to the studs or not (yikes) and then, to discuss what to put back on top of the studs once all the rotten wood is gone (we are thinking Marmoleum Click, which I love…but it sure would have been nice to be able to use the wood that was already there!)

What was that about everything costing more than I expected, again?

"Hey mom, I'm home with all my friends- wait, what happened to our kitchen?"

4) Consider timing. We’re working with an enthusiastic, go-getter contractor. I’m an impulsive, enthusiastic person. When yesterday I said, “Let’s start ripping everything out TOMORROW!” I sort of forgot that my oldest son is having a sleepover party with five boys tonight and that we don’t actually have our cabinets yet. Whoops. Thank goodness for pizza and paper plates.

5) Learn work-arounds. Even if all goes very well, I still won’t have a fully-functioning kitchen for at least a week. In the meanwhile, I’m figuring out how to use my dining room as a makeshift kitchen and scouring the web for ideas on microwave and crock-pot cooking. 

Okay, I’m off to the store to stock up on earplugs and dust masks…and to try to figure out what to feed the family for the rest of the week. Anyone have a great recipe that doesn’t require a stove?

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