How to Remodel Your Kitchen with Minimal Disruption

After reading the title you’re probably saying remodeling a kitchen and not having a major disruption in your household is impossible!

Surveys have shown that remodeling your kitchen it will add value to your house. In an article Remodeling magazine’s 2002 “Cost vs. Value Report,” the average San Diego homeowner recouped a 108-111 percent return on money spent on renovating a kitchen. While the statistics are different based on the city, housing market and condition of your house it is clear that remodeling your kitchen will likely come close to paying for itself over the long run.

As you might imagine there can be some significant disruption while remodeling your kitchen. The kitchen plays a central role in the day to day activities in nearly every household. Obviously it is an area where meals are prepared and eaten. It is also a natural gathering spot, place where homework is done, bills paid, cards played, etc. When you plan the remodeling of your kitchen you should give significant thought to how the disruption will affect your family and how it can be minimized.

If you are undertaking the kitchen remodeling yourself you will have a fair amount of control over the sequence and amount of time that is used in staging the different areas of the kitchen. If you use a contractor for the remodeling you should insist that they pay attention to your input and desires not only in terms of the features of the kitchen but also the sequence of demolition and replacement. You need to emphasize that you want minimal disruption in your kitchen area. In other words, no matter who does the design and work the best results will be obtained when you have a plan. For purposes of this article the case where you are doing the work yourself will be addressed.

The tips discussed here on remodeling your kitchen are based on my own experiences while working on my kitchen. As a general disclaimer I am not a carpenter, electrician, or plumber by trade but know enough to read books, articles, and code manuals. Since we have no children living at home this gave me more flexibility in how long I could take for the project. Even though you may have to pick and chose some of the tips hopefully they will help make the remodeling experience more pleasant and the disruption liveable.

To help you envision the scope of the work to be done in this case I needed to tear out a closet sized pantry with doors to make room for the refrigerator that was initially on the other side of the kitchen. The range was also going to be moved diagonally across the kitchen from its position next to the former pantry to an area near where the refrigerator was at the start. The kitchen sink was staying in the same location, as was the dishwasher that is just to the right of the sink. This would help minimize the disruption greatly. A new dishwasher was being installed. The wood floor was not being replaced during the remodeling although we did rejuvenate it at the end of the job.

The basic remodeling strategy was to keep the kitchen useable during the project to the greatest extent possible. To do this I wanted to leave the sink functional since it would be the hardest thing to live without and would lead to the greatest disruption. To accomplish this I divided the kitchen into three areas. One area was where the pantry was going to be torn out to make room for the refrigerator. The area diagonally across the kitchen where the electric range was going to be moved, and the sink/dishwasher area.

The first step in this remodeling job was to remove all wall decorations as well as non-essential items from the cupboards. These were put in open topped boxes to be stored in the basement. Having no top made the contents of each box readily visible in case they were needed at some point. The pantry was totally emptied and the shelves and doors removed.

The next remodeling step was to take apart the pantry enclosure removing the stud wall and drywall. I enclosed this area using floor to ceiling plastic sheeting to keep the dust confined. I had previously determined that the short stud wall on the one side of the pantry that I removed was not load bearing. This area was then cleaned up and a few wood tiles patched in on the floor where the wall baseplate was removed.

Next I completely emptied a set of the 48″ wide upper and lower cabinets that were next to the pantry. These were moved to the far wall of the kitchen where there had previously been a moveable decorative cabinet. The doors were taken off the cabinets and a sheet of plywood cut to lay on top of the lower cabinet. The upper cabinet sat on this and the unit became a temporary yet very usable two level open front sideboard. This held a few day-to-day plates, mugs, silverware, etc. that helped keep the kitchen functional during the remodeling project and minimized the disruption.

Since the area where the new refrigerator was being located was accessible I went ahead and installed a wall outlet for it. Fortunately our basement ceiling was accessible which helped greatly in facilitating the electrical wiring that had to be done. I also stripped off the wall paper on the wall adjacent to the new refrigerator location and painted it.

The original range was to the left of the pantry so I emptied then removed the cabinet above that and removed the range. I also removed the 220-volt range power receptacle since it would no longer be used. While doing that I removed the heavy range wiring going to the circuit breaker box and installed a new electric cable going over to the new location of the range. This cable would eventually be pulled up from the basement ceiling and a new range outlet box installed. I removed the dishwasher and another upper cabinet above it at this time. This gave me better access to the area over the sink where I wanted to install two miniature recessed halogen lights. Since the range was no longer installed we used a countertop microwave and toaster oven. The refrigerator was still functional although it had now been wheeled down the wall next to the temporary ‘sideboard’ previously described. Although having the dishwasher disconnected created some disruption we got around that by mainly using paper goods and plastic utensils.

During the next stage of remodeling I moved to the other side of the kitchen where the refrigerator used to be and removed all of the cabinets along that wall. The next step was to cut out the Formica countertop everywhere except right around the kitchen sink. The doors on the sink unit were removed and two 2″x4″ legs used to hold up the small section of countertop holding the still functional sink/disposal. With the countertop removed I could then remove the Formica backsplash above the countertop. Following that all the cabinet mounting screw holes were patched, remaining wallpaper removed and the walls painted. In addition with the cabinets removed I could get to the floor to install the new range outlet. The added access also allowed me to easily get to the various outlets to convert them to two circuits each on a GPI protective receptacle. We previously did not have an over-the-range microwave so I added a dedicated circuit and receptacle for that over the location where the new range would be. I also added the electrical wiring for under the cabinet lights that we previously did not have.

At this point in the remodeling I installed the upper cabinets and all of the lower cabinets except in the vicinity of the sink. We had decided to use a Silestone countertop material and had chosen a contractor to fabricate and install it due to its weight and size. They made a firm commitment on the date they would measure for it and the date they would install roughly two weeks later. At that point we removed the kitchen sink and it’s cabinet and capped the water supply and drainpipe. At this stage we truly entered the ‘camping’ mode where we used the adjacent bathroom sink for necessary washing. Most of this two-week period we had simple meals, ate out or had pizza more then a few times!

True to their commitment the countertop contractor measured for the countertop the next day and two weeks later it was installed. Then it was a matter of installing the kitchen sink, the dishwasher, range, and over-the-range microwave. This went quickly and the kitchen was again available for use and the disruption was history! We fabricated and added a unique tin ceiling backsplash and under cabinet lights. The details of these projects are found in the links accompanying this article. The wood trim on the cabinets was then added along with rejuvenating the wood floor and the remodeling job was done.

With the use of a plan, and the staging of the work we were able to keep the kitchen functional for essentially the entire duration of the remodeling project with minimal disruption. Obviously different situations may be encountered depending on your kitchen layout and plans but many of these steps may be things you’ll want to consider.

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