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How to Survive a Kitchen Remodel

We asked several homeowners and pros for tips on coping while the heart of the home, the kitchen, is in an uproar.
By Mary Candace Evans |

How to Survive a Kitchen Remodel
We asked several homeowners and pros for tips on coping while the heart of the home, the kitchen, is in an uproar.

Tracey and Brad Evers
Remodeled their kitchen after flooding and mold forced them to start anew
Our during-remodel microwave stand was a piece of plywood in the kitchen area. We made sure it was out of the way of the construction crew but easily accessible from our dining and living rooms. Our only other appliance was the coffee maker, which was crucial! We assembled our meals on one side of the dining room table, and then sat down to eat them on the other. We washed utensils in the sink in our extra bathroom.

Not having a pantry was the bane of my existence until I bought a rolling storage unit from The Container Store. It has five drawers and a cutting board on top. It saved us during the remodel, and it’s still in use in the new pantry.

As far as dishes go, I highly recommend not messing with them. We kept our chef’s knife handy, of course, but beyond that, tried not to use anything that wasn’t disposable. I added a heavy-duty garbage can after a few days to handle all of the extra trash generated by the disposables.

Lynae and Chef Dean Fearing
Endured a remodel of their Dallas kitchen while expecting their second child
We didn’t set up a kitchen during the remodel, so we really got to know our neighborhood dining spots, which was fun. Cafe Express was our favorite because they have lots of healthy food items and veggies, and that was especially important since we were feeding a small child and expectant mother. We wanted to cover the food pyramid and not eat at Mickey D’s every day.

I’m lucky to work where I do; I was able to buy meals at the Mansion and take them home. Or on really dusty days (where does all that dust come from?), Lynae would call me and say, I’d love some BBQ oysters; can we come over and eat in your office? We also have great neighbors who had us over for countless dinners and always let us use their ovens and microwaves.

During the dustiest, smelliest week “when they were doing the wood floors, for example “we checked into the Mansion for a few days. Which was a lifesaver.

John Shore and Jason McDaniel
Thanks to extensive pre-planning, the remodel of their 500-square-foot galley kitchen only displaced them for seven days
Our remodel consisted of ripping out and replacing the cabinets and fixtures and re-texturing the ceiling and walls, but we didn’t change any structural elements, which cut down on the length of the project. We pre-purchased all of our appliances and cabinets, so they were ready and waiting to go.

To keep the mess to the bare minimum, we sealed the two entrances to the kitchen. We didn’t open the plastic covering, didn’t even look, until it was finished. The work crew entered the house through the back door, which leads directly into the kitchen area, so that they didn’t have to tramp through the clean part of the house.

We packed the contents of the entire kitchen, and stacked the boxes in the dining room, which became a makeshift storage room and kitchenette. The refrigerator and water cooler were in there, and we kept fresh fruit on the table for breakfast and snacks. But to escape the stress and mess, we took long dinners out for seven nights.

David and Heidi Edwards
Very nearly finished with their Highland Park kitchen remodel
We bought the new refrigerator early in the process and put it in the garage. You just can’t function without a fridge, especially with a child in the house. It’s really impossible to set up a makeshift kitchen in one spot, so we scattered the functions about a bit. We’re set up in the utility room and the powder room. The hardest part has been cleaning big pots and pans in small sinks.

As for dining, we decided to try all the restaurants we’d never been to before, all around the city. The rule was that we couldn’t go back to the same restaurant twice. We really loved this because we got to try so many different local restaurants and styles of cuisine.

Brenda and Rick Gray
Doubled the size of their original kitchen
We arranged to be away during the worst of the remodel “an extended trip for just the two of us. Our son was already away at boarding school, so we just sent the dogs to camp.

When we were at home, the butler’s pantry became the kitchen. I packed up everything in the kitchen for the duration of the remodel. I only kept out four of everything four plates, four bowls, four mugs, four glasses. And my salad spinner.

The refrigerator and microwave were moved into the dining room and the freezer into the garage. I washed dishes in the utility room. I stocked the butler’s pantry with a hot plate and a George Foreman grill. I used to make fun of my girlfriends for having one, but we love it. It’s the most magnificent thing! You can grill a piece of salmon in 4 minutes. Cooking for two was relatively simple.

I don’t plan on redoing another kitchen anytime soon, but when I do, the tools I couldn’t survive without would be a salad spinner and that George Foreman grill.

Remodeling Tips from the Pros
You’ll save yourself weeks or even months of agony if you heed the advice of these professionals.

 Think about how you use your space. Some of our best kitchens are for people who don’t cook but do entertain, says Michael Munir of Sharif-Munir. Today, kitchens are as important as living rooms and backyards when it comes to spaces for entertaining.

 Look at the project as a whole. Some people lose time and money by not planning the remodel, says Michael Davis of Capital Distributing. Take the time to assess the situation, the building, what you want to do, and how long “realistically” the project will take.

 Consider resale potential. Don’t install a 24-inch oven if the standard in your neighborhood is the 30-inch model. You’re at a disadvantage if everyone else in the neighborhood has something of higher quality, says Larry Campbell of Jarrell Appliance Gallery. 

Put your two cents in. The owner must contribute, says Steve Snider of Steve Snider, Inc. Do your homework. This is your home. Research what you want and communicate that to your designer, architect, and contractor.

 Put your money where it counts. Allocate more of the budget to high-quality kitchen appliances, because you’re going to have that product for a long, long time, says Larry Campbell.

 Don’t go for the low bid. Pick the medium or high bid, says Kristin Mitchell of Ferguson Enterprises. The cheapest bid usually excludes something. You don’t want nasty surprises in the middle of or at the end of your remodel.
“Alisse Wobser

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