A full kitchen renovation is the kind of project that requires a lot of commitment on your part; and that means in terms of time, finances, improvisation, and stress management. You will have workers in your house for weeks at a time, you will run into unexpected problems, you will get tired of microwaving meals in your living room, and you will come out the other side of this project knowing some things that you didn’t know before.
In fact, that’s precisely the point of this article. We’ve chosen some of our favorite stories about lessons learned from kitchen remodeling. Each story comes from a homeowner who finally took the plunge, and can now relay some important things they’ve learned as a result.
1. Make Your Decor Timeless
Kate Reilly over at Centsational Girl offers a fantastic piece of advice that is often overlooked in the excitement-filled planning stages: when choosing the overall look of your kitchen, be careful not to “date” yourself.
You know how you can sometimes walk into a home and immediately identify a “70s kitchen?” There’s a reason for that. Kitchen trends certainly change over the years, but leaning in to an ultra modern look isn’t always advised. After all, the hopelessly outdated 90s kitchen you’re staring at right now was probably considered ultramodern in its time.
In Kate’s case, she made great decisions by sticking with a predominantly white and ivory color palette. She chose stainless steel appliances and fixtures, creating an unobtrusive and uniform look to the room. This way, her kitchen can be “updated” in the future by simply swapping out decorative items, or perhaps changing the paint color.
2. Prepare to Live Without a Kitchen
Apartment therapy interviewed a couple named Rebekah and Graeme about their experience in maximizing the available space and utility of their relatively small kitchen. Yet even though their job wasn’t “big” in terms of overall square footage, it was still pretty huge in terms on impact.
Their biggest lesson was that they should have come up with a better solution for a temporary kitchen. In their case, the renovation lasted twice as long as they had anticipated. They feel that if they had a better temporary kitchen solution, the extended renovation would not have been quite as stressful or inconvenient.
Before beginning any renovation, take food storage and food preparation into consideration. Stack the deck in your favor, and try to make your temporary setup sustainable.
3. Budget More Than You Think You Need
The website The Kitchn held a kitchen renovation contest, and after the final results came in, they interviewed their contestants about what they had learned in the process. One of the often repeated tips boiled down to “It will cost more than you think.” In nearly every case, this is true.
There are a number of reasons why the costs might go higher than anticipated. For starters, ripping out old cabinetry and appliances is the perfect way to discover underlying issues like old water pipes, termite damage, mold, or structural issues. These will need to be addressed before work can proceed, and they will definitely add cost.
Their best advice is to allow for these overages both to lessen stress, and to prepare yourself financially. On average, anywhere from 10% to 25% extra should be on hand.
4. Hire a Kitchen Designer
Kara Morrison wrote a piece on AZCentral about updating her 35-year-old kitchen, and she speaks about the value of hiring a professional kitchen designer.
Many homeowners aren’t sure about whether to splurge on this added expense, but nearly every homeowner who has opted to use a designer is happy they did. While there are many free online programs available which will help you set your own kitchen layout, remember that professional designers are specifically trained to have an eye for detail. Karen talks about how a bookshelf and wine rack were added to her kitchen on the suggestion of a designer, and now she can’t imagine her kitchen without them.
For the relatively small expense of hiring a professional, you can maximize your efficiency while also adding personal touches.
5. Invest in Good Appliances
Penelope Boettiger spoke to HGTV about her experience with renovating her kitchen. With a family of five, Penelope knew that she wanted appliances that could handle the high demands of frequent use. In her case, this meant going for appliances with “all the bells and whistles.”
She chose a high-capacity refrigerator which can run efficiently despite kids and teenagers continually opening and closing the doors on the quest for snacks. For her, she felt the extra upfront expense would be offset by the appliances ability to run efficiently over the years.
In your case, the high-capacity refrigerator might not be necessary, but perhaps you would be more interested in a chef quality oven, or an ultra efficient dishwasher. Each person’s needs will be unique, but if you need a specific appliance (or two) to be a real workhorse, your renovation is the perfect opportunity to invest in something that can meet your demands.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
Janine at Peace of Mind Organizing brings up an important point. The value of having clear and open communication with your contractors is immeasurable.
In her case, both she and her husband work from home, so they were able to keep a pretty close eye on the renovations as they progressed. However, this is not always the case. She encourages her readers to be the “squeaky wheel.” If something in your kitchen project doesn’t look right, speak up. Make sure you have some way to get in touch with your contractor that won’t involve you missing work. Whether this is texts, emails, or phone calls can be sorted out on an individual basis.
She also urges you to be proactive in checking on orders, and keeping track of your timeline. Remember, this is your home where the work is taking place, and you should be kept in the loop at all times.
7. Make Color Choices In Your Home
Kelly writes over at View Along the Way about all the things she feels she did wrong during her kitchen renovation. One of the more interesting things she brings up is a point that is very easy to overlook. When you are making color choices, make sure you bring the samples into your home, and more specifically, into the room where they will be used.
The lovely blue that you picked out under the harsh florescent lights of the hardware store may become a more somber gray in natural light. Likewise, the neutral eggshell color that you picked out of a catalog might look strikingly yellow once it’s on your walls.
Remember, most people only renovate the kitchen once, so you really want to take these few extra steps to make sure you get it right the first time.
8. Plan Around the Things (and People!) You Have
Samantha wrote a piece for Houzz so she could reflect on her kitchen project, and she offered a great piece of advice: plan your space around you.
It can be tempting to mimic the styles of cabinetry and countertops that you see in showrooms or catalogs. The only problem with taking that approach is that those kitchen layouts were not designed with you in mind. Rather than trying to fit your lifestyle into a kitchen, make the kitchen fit around your lifestyle.
For instance, if you know you have lots of small appliances which you need easy access to, look for ways in which to make that easier. If you are the type of cook who relies more on your microwave than your range, there’s no need to invest too much money in a high-capacity oven. Likewise, if you need seating for eight, that needs to be addressed in the planning stages.
9. Be Prepared for a REAL Mess
Wanda at Minnesota Farm Living, told a great story about renovating her kitchen that was originally built in the 1900s.
She hit upon a fact of life that some homeowners are woefully unprepared for: the mess. Conceptually, you may understand that there will be some disarray and some construction dust, but you may not have the full picture in mind.
Despite your contractors best efforts, construction dust is very fine, and can make its way through plastic barriers and ventilation systems, and it loves to cling to clothes and shoes. If you are the type of person who cannot abide any sort of dust in your home, you may have to do a bit of soul-searching before embarking on a project this big. Also, imagine emptying every single cabinet and cupboard you have into your living room or dining room. “Clutter” doesn’t quite do it justice.
10. Use Practical Materials (That Happen to Look Good)
The Washingtonian interviewed some of their readers asking them about recent kitchen updates. One of the best pieces of advice was from a woman named Kathleen, who advised readers to choose practical materials when building.
This is extremely important. For example, a sliced lemon left on a marble countertop for too long could cause irreparable damage. An overly hot pan placed on laminate could scorch it. A tile floor might be rough on your joints (not to mention any glassware that slips through your hands.)
The point is, there are many beautiful materials out there which you can use to update your kitchen, but not all of them will be right for you. If you are not the type of person who will dutifully keep up with re-sealing countertops or carefully oil soaping floors, you may want to look into materials that will fit your lifestyle better.
Hopefully we can all learn from the lessons these homeowners have shared with us. If you found this list helpful be sure to share on social media, especially if you know a friend who is considering a kitchen update in the near future.
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