The prospect of a newly remodeled home, while certainly tempting, often ignores the requisite headaches that come with the territory. Take, for instance, the kitchen, one of the most frequently remodeled rooms by virtue of its functionality and the amount of time families spend there.
Homeowners rarely stop to consider the imminent chaos that will befall them when they decide to remodel their kitchens. For starters, you’ll be asked to remove everything in your cabinets and drawers. That means all silverware, plates, cups, pots and pans, cookbooks, and depending upon whether or not you’re a pack rat, possibly other items, as well. Before long, your kitchen is draped in plastic, your forks are sitting on your living room coffee table, your spices are in the bathroom cabinet, and now the contractors are moving your refrigerator to the dining room so that they can reach the wall behind it. Need to microwave your breakfast? You’ll have to head to the spare bedroom. That’s where the microwave is now. It’s balanced precariously on a bar-stool by the computer desk. And you’ll need to figure out where to wash your breakfast dishes, because your kitchen sink is either filled with construction dust and tools, or it’s not there altogether. Your dishwasher is sitting in the foyer, so you won’t be able to use that, either. Garden hose, anyone?
No, it’s not a pretty picture. The chaos can be exacerbated by the time of year. For families with school-aged children, it’s probably best to begin remodeling jobs during the school year. Otherwise, you’ve got the kids underfoot, and it’s a matter of time before your patience is wearing thin. If you’ve never lived through a remodeling job, and you’re about to begin the process in your own home, you’re undoubtedly experiencing some trepidation. Aside from the obvious money-induced butterflies, you may be asking yourself to what extent your home life will be turned upside down during the remodeling process, which — depending upon the project — could last anywhere from several weeks to several months.
How on earth are you going to retain your sanity during this messy period? You could go with the obvious answer, of course, and find yourself a motel room with a kitchen or even a reasonably priced corporate apartment if you’re looking at several weeks’ worth of chaos. But that’s assuming you have disposable income left, and that’s a big if with most of us who are embarking on what could very well be one of the biggest investments of our lives. If it’s within your means to stay at a motel for even a short period of time (you may want to wait until the messiest phase of construction begins if you’re on a limited budget), just make sure that you find yourself some accommodations near your home so you’ll be able to make frequent and unannounced visits to monitor progress. If you’re lucky, you might have family or friends in the area who will either volunteer a spare bedroom or two, a sofa, or at least an occasional respite from the sawing, hammering, drilling and dust.
No, you’re going to stay and tough it out, you say, and so will the kids. It’ll be a character-building experience for everyone involved. Yes, it will, but you can make it easier on everyone by attempting to carve some semblance of organization into an otherwise haphazard household. If you have a spare bedroom, convert it into your temporary living quarters. Move the furniture against the wall, and set up your microwave and a card table and chairs. If you don’t already own inexpensive shelving, purchase some temporary shelves to store your plates, cups and silverware. You may want to seriously consider using paper plates, cups and utensils for the time being, because the question of where to wash your dishes can be a hassle to solve. If you own a dorm-sized refrigerator, move it into the bedroom. Purchase bottled water. Resign yourself to eating out as much as possible within the constraints of your budget, electing to spend breakfast in your makeshift kitchen, giving the kids lunch money for school, and then heading to an inexpensive restaurant for dinner.
It’s important to note, however, that if you decide to stick around during the remodeling process, you’re going to reach a point at which your absence is required. Many paints, glues and other materials commonly used in the construction process contain fumes that could be harmful to your family if inhaled. Ask your contractors up front when they plan to use materials that emanate potentially hazardous fumes. Plan to clear the house at those times — overnight, if necessary. This may, indeed, be the occasion during which you head to a motel for the sake of your family’s safety. Make sure that before you leave, you speak to your contractors about keeping your home properly ventilated before, during and after the application process.
Another reason you should keep a close eye on your contractors — regardless of whether or not you’re going to be remaining in your home during construction — is that you’re going to have to take steps to protect your home from damage. Even the best contractors have been known to scratch or cause other damage to a wood, tile or linoleum floor or track mud onto the carpet. Cover as many of these sensitive surfaces as possible before construction begins, and check to make sure they remain covered throughout the project’s duration. In addition, your breakables and other valuables — including fine China, vases, artwork and even your television, stereo and other electronics — should be removed from the immediate area and stored until the project is completed.
While these measures won’t inoculate you from the temporary inconvenience inherent in the remodeling process, they’ll help you keep your lifestyle as normal as possible until the dust has cleared and the plastic is lifted on your brand-new kitchen. And regardless of how long you have to wait for that moment, it’s nearly always worth the headaches required to get there.