Last year, my husband and I made the harrowing decision to remodel our kitchen. When we purchased our home, we loved the layout, the park-like backyard, and the school system. Six years later, the popcorn ceilings, oak details, and original 1986 tile floor made me cringe every time we had guests over.
I nagged my husband (the sensible, financially conscious one) about upgrading. I was told to “check the money tree.”
Then our next-door neighbor remodeled her kitchen and invited us over. I had major kitchen envy. But most importantly, so did my husband! He’d broken down and agreed to remodel! Here are my four key take-aways from our process.
1. Things will not go as planned.
The first call was to our lender to take advantage of our increased home value, refinance for a better interest rate, and then take out cash to pay for it. The second call was to contractors to get quotes on how much this was going to run us. We learned very quickly that this was “going to run us” more than we’d originally thought. Then, it was back to the lender with a more accurate idea of how much money we’d need.
“No problem,” she said.
They’d just send out an appraiser to verify the value of our home. The appraiser came, saw, and appraised our house for significantly less than neighborhood comps and estimates we believed accurate. We pulled new comps and contested the appraisal. She didn’t budge. We were angry and offended (I cried). I feared we’d have to abandon our plans. Luckily, we found lending elsewhere and continued our plan. The appraisal debacle set us back a month.
2. You will be overwhelmed.
The next task was to choose materials. Cabinets, flooring, appliances, a sink, counters, backsplash, paint color, lights, drawer pulls… the list goes on. I made spreadsheets. I read consumer reports and lived on Pinterest. Luckily, my husband didn’t interfere in my decision-making, yet allowed me to drag him from showroom to showroom to confirm my choices.
By the end of the remodel, I was done making decisions in any area of my life. During one of many nights eating out, I asked a waiter to bring me “whatever.” I couldn’t make another decision.
The condition of our house was also overwhelming. During construction, we vacuumed and dusted daily — not the most desirable task after you get home from a long day of work and still have hockey and swim lessons to get to. We washed dishes in the bathtub and we ate dinner in our bed. We also got a 6-month-old puppy during the process. It was chaos.
3. Patience is key.
Later in the remodel, our floor tile didn’t ship on time. That set us back ten days. The tile needed to be in before the cabinets, which set back the countertop install. It was a domino effect. Our original plan was to have the kitchen done by the end of October. That date passed. Then another. And another. A six-week project became a six-month project!
There were nights that contractors worked until after 6 pm, making finishing homework and dinner together a challenge. There were weekends when they showed up to work at 8 am and we needed to find something to do all day. As time went on, the kids were cranky and so were we.
4. A sense of humor is necessary.
When things didn’t go as planned, it was important for us to find humor in the small things. Like the time when our puppy was so excited to see our contactor that he peed on the floor – and on our contractor. I may have found this more amusing then he did.
Then there was the day that our gas line was installed, which also happened to be on the coldest day of the year. That evening my husband and I noticed that our house was very cold and even joked about needing heated floors and new windows. The next morning I suspected that something was wrong with our furnace. Sure enough the pilot light wasn’t relit and it was 43 degrees inside. While I didn’t find the temperature and the cold shower amusing that day, I can look back and laugh now.
In the end, we are so happy with our upgraded kitchen. It’s beautiful, elegant, and fits our style. I’m not cringing every time I walk in and I can envision years of family and friends gathering together. I’d suspect our mindset, a great contractor, and realistic expectations kept us sane. While it was expensive, stressful, and a longer process than we thought, it’s been well worth it.