Surviving A Kitchen Remodel

Chances are, if you’ve owned your home for more than a couple of years you’ve undertaken some sort of improvement project.

Maybe it was a new bathroom vanity.

Perhaps you painted the bedrooms.

Or maybe you put in new flooring.

All of these projects bring their own challenges. And yet, there’s probably no home improvement project more stressful than a kitchen renovation.

I’ve seen both sides of the kitchen remodel experience. I’ve lived through it myself, and I’ve seen clients do the same. I also bring a third perspective, because my talented husband Merle worked as a general contractor for 30 years – and he saw more than his fair share of kitchen remodels during that time!

Here are the tips that Merle and I have put together to help you survive your kitchen remodel.


Every successful kitchen remodel starts with a well-thought out plan. That doesn’t mean simple creating a board on idea board on Pinterest (although that’s a great place to start). Your plan should include not only ideas about style and color, but also the quality of finish work you want, whether you’re going to move walls and electrical elements, how much of your project will be DIY (and how much will required skilled professionals), and how you are going to pay for the improvements. In short, everything you can think of should be part of your written renovation plan.


While many homeowners fantasize about DIY projects – and who can blame them when HGTV makes things look so easy? – the reality is this: most kitchen renovations will require skilled professionals such as electricians and plumbers, in addition to a general contractor. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories from friends who “hired some guy off Facebook” who billed the homeowner and never finished the job (or finished it poorly). Your kitchen is one of the biggest value-added rooms in your home, and a place where most of us spend a lot of time. If you’re hiring someone to do work, do your work first and research their skills and reputation.


If you are hiring someone to handle your renovation, they’ll have a good sense of lead times for various products. If the renovation will be a DIY project, be aware that many products have longer-than-expected lead times. If you are waiting on tile that is six months out and you’ve already torn apart the kitchen, you’re going to be kicking yourself every day of those six months. A good rule of thumb is not to begin demolition until everything is on site. The exception to this is countertops, which can’t be measured and ordered until your cabinets are installed. Order materials well in advance of when you’ll need them – and be sure to order a bit more than you think you’ll need. This allows for the inevitable human error factor!


It’s no surprise this can be one of the most challenging parts of a kitchen renovation. That’s because there’s an enormous range of products available, from quite inexpensive to extraordinarily luxurious. As you’re considering costs, keep in mind that your renovation should run no more than 10-15% of your home’s value. Spend more than that, and you’re likely “over-improving” your home. A real estate agent who is knowledgeable about your local market can be a great resource for you.

Don’t forget that your budget should probably include the cost of eating meals out during your kitchen renovation. You’re unlikely to be able to eat as many meals at home cooking out of your laundry room.


I understand – not everyone can create a temporary kitchen. But if you can, you’ll likely feel far less pain during your renovation. Can you find a spot to move the refrigerator to? Do you have rolling racks or carts that can hold plates, glasses, and basic foodstuffs? Some homeowners purchase temporary plastic laundry sinks and install them in the kitchen. (Or just use the laundry room sink), These eliminate the need to wash dishes, pots, and pans in a bathtub, an idea that gives some homeowners the shivers!


Even the most carefully planned renovations can yield big surprises (and not usually good ones!). From discovering a fixture is backordered to contractors who no-show, almost anything can – and will – happen. As frustrating as surprises will be when they pop up, I promise that over time the feeling of aggravation will fade away as you spend time with family and friends in your newly renovated kitchen.

Merle and I love helping homeowners determine what kind of kitchen renovation might work for them. If you’d like us to visit you before you finalize your renovation plans, just reach out. We’d love to help!

Marti Reeder, Realtor, Managing Broker