Saturday, February 25, 2017

Living through Kitchen renovations

Last fall we decided to renovate our 30-year-old kitchen to bring it up to modern standards. The idea is that in another 5 or 10 years, we will not be able to live in the house and will have to sell. When we examined which renovations will add the most value to a home we discovered that remoulding the kitchen was the best idea.

So, we found a good designer and told her what we wanted, and her company became our contractor for the project. It was a worthwhile investment. We wanted to finish the work on the kitchen before my daughter and her extended family from Australia came to visit, so our time frame was short.

I know many of you have lived through the chaos of a renovation but it was the first (and last) time for us. The first step was to remove everything from the cupboards and as we did this we realised that we had many items that we did not use, so they were given to Value Village and to family members who needed them. However, even after culling our cupboards we had boxes of food and utensils that filled the family room to the brim. For the first two weeks, as they dismantled the old cupboards it was not so bad. 

The plumbing was an interesting adventure; when our house was built in the late 80's they used Poly B for the plumbing. While we found out that with Poly pipe leaks are unforeseeable and there are no signs to warn of an upcoming leakage. Some things that influence polybutylene piping detrimentally consist of:
·        Poor instalment by the plumbers.
·        Water quality.
·        Age of the pipe and fittings.
·        Devices used during the instalment were calibrated for correct tolerances.
·        Chlorine and mineral levels.
·        Degeneration of pipe fittings.
When polybutylene pipe reacts with the oxidants in tap water, it becomes fragile, occasionally scaling or flaking. This results in the fracturing of the indoor surface area of the pipe, which permits, even more, degeneration. Ultimately the pipe will start to leak, causing water damage.

As luck, would have it, the day before the demolition of our kitchen was to begin, we found a leak in our plumbing system. So, after discussions with the contractor and the plumber we made the decision to replace all of the plumbing in the house, which added time to the renovations.

We had been operating with a sink, a stove and the fridge, while waiting for the cabinets, once the cabinets arrived, we lost the sink and the stove, but kept the fridge for a few days. Eventually, our new appliances arrived and we had a new sink, which was put in when the countertops arrived (two weeks after the installation of the cabinets.  

The new cabinets arrived at the end  of two weeks and then the clutter became almost unbearable. To make room for the cabinets we had to move the kitchen boxes from the family room to the living room. So the family room became the place for the new kitchen cabinets to sit while waiting to be installed.

I did find some online advice on how to survive a kitchen renovation from  Kitchen Workbook at, We did #2, #3 and #4, but we could have done more. If you are doing renovations, the advice in #8 is what you have to hold onto, to keep your sanity through the adventure:

1.Designate a kitchen stand-in. Eating out all the time gets tiresome, not to mention the strain it can put on your budget. And no matter how much takeout you bring home, you'll still need a spot to make school lunches, pour a bowl of cereal or brew coffee. Set up a temporary kitchen somewhere that's out of the way of construction. If you're lucky enough to have a morning kitchen or a guesthouse, you can turn that into food-prep central. Or outfit a corner of the basement, garage or workroom with a few portable tables, standalone shelves, storage crates and folding chairs.
2.Winnow down your kitchen gear. During a remodel, your cooking and eating routine will be disrupted, and no matter how much you love to cook, ambitious meals will be a challenge. 
3.Keep things simple and pare down to the kitchen tools you really, truly can't live without. Be merciless — how often are you going to use your food processor or waffle iron? Stash the essentials close at hand and store the rest.
4.Plan meals around small appliances. Portable workhorses such as slow cookers, microwaves, toaster ovens, electric griddles and skillets, hot plates and coffee makers can get you over the mealtime hump.
Move your fridge to your temporary kitchen, if possible; if not, invest in a minifridge and a chest freezer (check Craigslist or Free cycle), or borrow them from a friend.
Stock the pantry with disposables. Without your usual spot to wash dishes, you'll be getting creative (the bathtub, an outdoor hose, a cooler full of sudsy water). 
Make life easier by stocking up on recyclable or biodegradable plates, napkins, cups and utensils. You'll streamline cleanup and cut down on the stress of your temporary displacement.
5.If the weather cooperates, put your grill to work. Here's a secret: Your grill can do almost anything your oven can. Need to roast meat or vegetables, or bake pizza? Look at the grill. You can even channel your Scout days and use it for foil packet meals, pans of biscuits and rolls, skillet pies and cobblers and, of course, s'mores.
6.Keep a stash of non-perishable snacks. When you're starving, but can't face putting together a full meal in your makeshift digs, snacks can save your stomach
7.Leave town for a short time, if you can. If you're considering a vacation or need to schedule a business trip, now might be a good time, assuming you're comfortable with the remodelling work continuing in your absence. Bonus points if you're visiting relatives — you might score a home-cooked meal or two.

8.Remember the big picture. In the grand scheme of homeownership, this is but a short period of inconvenience amid years of kitchen bliss. Keep the process in perspective and treat it as an adventure. When you're hard at work in your sparkling new kitchen, the temporary hassles will fade from memory.

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