When we bought our house, we (I) had definitely planned on making some changes. It’s a cute little house built in 1956, but it has several flaws of varying degrees:
- None of the outlets were grounded & some don’t even have three prongs.
- The electrical panel is too small for today’s code (and we’ve gotten mixed messages on the safety of this panel)
- The previous owners smoked and heavily-so in the garage, which they also carpeted.
- The living room is totally isolated from the kitchen (hello full-timehousewife, goodbye socializing with husband after work)
- There is no natural light – to the point of where we have to turn the kitchen lights on to eat breakfast. And, the huge living room window doesn’t open…
And the kitchen cabinets weren’t in the best of shape. Yes, some of these are most definitely first-world problems. In fact, it’s probably offensive that we have the resources/time/interest in considering these problems at all.
Ok, so items, 1-2, 4-5. (Item number 3 we will get to in due time, but let it suffice to say that we did that ourselves…) We want a safe house and decided to make the best of some major construction and turn it into someplace awesome. So, as of last Wednesday, our house is officially undergoing a kitchen remodel and living room upgrade. This means that our kitchen used to look like this:
Note the light in the middle of the room (not over the table), the taped over (illegal) dog door to the garage, the wall extending past the entrance to the living room, the off-center window, the awkwardly-placed refrigerator, the giant fluorescent light and oddly-laid-out cabinets. And the awful tile with grout that’s impossible to clean. The cabinet doors are missing in the photo as we donated them to a friend
Now, as of Weds, Jan 22nd, it looks like this:
after 1.5 days of work.
I won’t lie; we have hired a (hopefully very) competent contractor. We will not be having the roof cave in on us this time around nor wiring up an electrical fire-starter. (We will, however, be installing the LED bulbs that my husband makes): Our job is to go to work and stay out during the day. Oh, and a bunch of other jobs I didn’t know we still had to do when hiring someone. So, I will post updates on the progress and discuss what went into it along the way. In the very least, I chronicle the adventure for fun. At the most, maybe my one or two readers is interested in remodeling a kitchen, but it also afraid of burning their house down or dropping it on their heads.
First lesson: a surprising number of contractors, despite this supposedly poor economy, do not return calls. They do not return emails. It is entirely befuddling. We found ours by asking friends and work colleagues; it our case, our contractor is the former neighbor of one of my colleagues. It’s great to have the personal connection if you can find it – you guarantee that the contractor knows that you can find him. Note that the joy of finding a good contractor is that he will chase the sub-contractors around and so you don’t have to worry about that one guy who won’t call you back. Even with large jobs at hand, we had more plumbers, electricians, painters (before we decided to become painters) and contractors not return our calls than get back to us. When we picked, we picked the guy who we had references for and answered the phone! I have been talking to him pretty much everyday through the project and in the last couple days leading up to it.
Second lesson: Angie’s list is annoying. It costs money, causes spam and only promotes contractors who offer coupons. I find yelp to be equally convenient if not more reliable since Angie’s list does not post non-member reviews as obviously and puts the coupon guys at the top. Half the time I wouldn’t get a call back form top-rated angie’s list people, a quarter of the remaining time they would be totally booked (since they are at the top of angie’s list after all). Finally, I feel like smaller, good businesses get easily neglected in this methods. Talk to people you know.
Third: The point of hiring a contractor is that he will find plumbers, electricians, framers, cabinet installers, floor guys etc. And better yet, he and his insurance will cover the whole thing. He will take commission for wrangling all of these people, but in light of the first two lessons, this is beyond convenient. I am in no position to recommend or not recommend a general contractor, but especially since we both work a (greater than) full time job and we are doing a lot of work (ie not just replacing cabinets), I do not think this project would have gone as smoothly for two weeks. If I stayed at home, I think I could do a better job wrangling.
Fourth: The demo is fast. It also requires you to make very few decisions compared to the next parts. However, there is definitely no going back 🙂
Fifth: Remodeling is opening up a bit of a rabbit hole. There are always questions of how far to take any individual project. For example, we are putting a bay window in in the living room, which will require a tiny bit of new siding. Other siding is peeling a little. Do we paint it ourselves, trying to match the color? Do we paint the whole house? Do we wash our hands of the problem (and our money) and tell the contractor to deal with it? Sometimes the decision is easy, as in purely financial, but other times the costs are small “relative to the whole project” and you can afford it…but you just get further down. We are still developing how to deal with this, but one rule has been not to add any time or take down any other rooms
Sixth: Be prepared to make both passionate and impassioned decisions about things you didn’t think you cared about. For example, how much thought have you put into your kitchen sink? I’ll go over some of the purchases we’ve made in future posts and how we’ve gotten to them.
Want to see how this sucker came out? Here it is!