January 18, 2011


Our house was built in the mid-80's. When we bought it a few years ago, we bought it from the original owner who took amazingly good care of it. The work he did on it was, for the most part, pretty good. He finished the basement himself, building all the cabinetry in the basement office from trees he cut down in the backyard. He installed storage in the attic, built a nice deck out back and kept the place amazingly landscaped. But the house isn't without its faults. On the main floor, for example, it appears as if every outlet and major appliance is tied to the same circuit. The tile floor in the kitchen is massively uneven (a blind monkey on acid could have done a better job) and the grout disappears with each sweep. A pantry cabinet was installed directly over an air vent. As a result, anything in the lower part of the cabinets melts when the heat is on during the winter. And now our appliances have begun a slow mutiny. Our buttonless microwave is operating fine but it's buttonless and, therefore, a tremendous pain in the ass. Our fridge has a death rattle. For some strange reason, our oven randomly turns itself off. And our dishwasher won't turn itself off at all.

Though we've discussed it before, we've arrived at the conclusion that the only appropriate course of action is gutting the kitchen. Because we are all about completely disproportionate responses around here.

We have an idea of what we want. It looks something like the old House Of The Future cartoons from the 50s in which an elegantly dressed housewife pushes a button and miraculously a fully prepared meal and a completely set table pops out of the floor while a robotic hand appears from the ceiling and lights a candelabra. Unfortunately we've learned that that technology hasn't yet been invented and if it had our future kitchen would cost about a billion dollars. We don't have that kind of money.

We have a contractor, a slight idea of what we want to happen and an understanding that we will be ordering takeout or eating anything that can be cooked in the dining room for about two months. But I'm sure we're missing something.

Got any tales of remodeling horror to share? Are you itching to redo part of your home?

Posted by Chris at January 18, 2011 7:13 AM

I don't have any stories to share, but I respectfully submit my wish to see before and after photos. :)

Posted by: Alison at January 18, 2011 8:21 AM

Just an understanding to add two months and a lot of money to whatever his quote is. And it most be in the water, b/c we just replaced our range and dishwasher and our fridge needed a new starter. All last week. :).

Posted by: jodifur at January 18, 2011 8:25 AM

We gutted the entire main floor of our house when we moved in. All our belongings were stored in the garage for two months (except our furniture but even that didn't arrive for 3 weeks so we were on air mattresses in our bedrooms upstairs for that time. We ate in the garage or out on the patio in the back yard (luckily it was still nice enough outside for that - wouldn't have worked in winter). A lot of takeout and luckily we had some dear friends who had us over for supper many times. It felt like a huge vctory the first day we could sit at our table and eat a home-cooked meal. Worth it in the end. You will be glad you did it!

Posted by: Shannon at January 18, 2011 8:35 AM

Oh I am SOOOO jealous! I want to redo my kitchen so badly. Good luck and I hope it goes well. I second the wish for before and after shots.

Posted by: Elizabeth at January 18, 2011 8:43 AM

I've only had a small bathroom professionally redone, but one word of advice: if you're planning on have any electrical work done as part of the remodel, you may want to verify that the person the contractor has doing the work is a licensed electrician. I've run into cases where a contractor, though licensed/bonded/etc., will have a member of the crew who is the 'electrical guy', and not necessarily an actual electrician. Not always the case; just a good question to ask.

Posted by: J at January 18, 2011 8:50 AM

Have in your house as many parts of the project as you can before you let them start demolition. You don't want to find out half way thru that the sink you really like, and were assured is in stock, is suddenly not available for three more weeks. In my opinion, it is better to wait the three weeks before they tear your house apart.

It is a pain to have a garage full of cabinets and a living room full of flooring, but it minimizes downtime.

Posted by: KarenT at January 18, 2011 8:56 AM

Always tack on time to what the contractor estimates it will take.

And honestly, give SERIOUS thought to the contractor you've chosen. That person and his/her team will be in your home and around you and your family A LOT. I loved our contractor and his team was respectful and kind and I wasn't concerned with having them around my family.

(And I loved the end results of the remodel)

Posted by: sarah at January 18, 2011 9:41 AM

The crockpot is the best thing to use when your kitchen is out of order.

Posted by: k8 at January 18, 2011 10:18 AM

I had 2 bathrooms gutted and rebuilt. The contractor had a great rep. But that said, you gotta keep an eye on him/them. One of the workers putting in a medicine cabinet knocked a hole through the wall (and into my kitchen). It happened to be behind a kitchen picture. If I had not walked into the kitchen when he was "rehanging the picture" I probably would have never known until I moved the picture 10 years later! He had no intention of repairing it until I said something. Also, they put in a totally different bath surround than we picked out (this was where I learned to watch them ahead of time instead of looking in after the fact). Instead of making them rip it out (and costing us more lost time) we forced a credit for the less expensive surround.

I just truly recommend keeping an eye on them... no matter how much you like or trust them.

Oh, and make sure your quote includes everything... like painting trim and ceilings. Apparently the guy we used, "painting the bathroom" only included the walls. DUH.

Posted by: 3jaysmom at January 18, 2011 10:37 AM

Pick out everything you want and write down model numbers, colors, etc. Make sure this exact information is included in your quote. We didn't do a full remodel, but a partial kitchen upgrade (after all the house is only 10 years old--but I hated the kitchen) and we almost had the wrong faucet installed...right style, wrong color. So having all the model numbers written correctly will save time and trip back to the store for the contractor (billing you for hours). Also, make sure whatever you choose isn't too trendy...you will probably only do this once and you don't want it to look dated in 2 years.

Posted by: Krush at January 18, 2011 10:47 AM

I'm going to say this semi-facetiously, but I'm having trouble deciding whether it was easier when I was a kid and we were homeless or when I was a little older and we had to (in the sense that it was dangerous) redo the kitchen of the house we got.

Either way, I remember my mother being pretty miserable. And when mama ain't happy....

Posted by: alektra at January 18, 2011 10:48 AM

Kitchen make-over is just the best thing ever. We have done every room in the house gradually in the thirteen years we've now lived here but the kitchen was (and still is!) by far the best investment ever. I still sit and gaze at the MATCHING equipment aand wall/floor tiles, but I do echo the above sentiments - have ALL the bits in the house/garage/basement and checked out, before you so much as pull one nail out!

Posted by: Baroness at January 18, 2011 10:51 AM

Double the amount of time and money you are estimating right now.
Be prepared for your entire house to be filthy and dusty. Double check every move the contractor makes. No matter how reputable, they will try to cut corners. Make sure your contractor is not a friend or family member. You want them to be your EMPLOYEE. They are working for you.
You will be more miserable than you have ever been in your life and question your decision, but when all is said and done you will be happier than you've ever been.

Posted by: Lisa at January 18, 2011 11:34 AM

I'm itching to redo everything, but can't afford it. So.....this year, 2011 is the year that I will paint. I'll be starting in our bathroom, and going from there.

Posted by: Maribeth at January 18, 2011 11:44 AM

I don't have any remodeling *horror* stories, but we remodeled not only the kitchen, but our WHOLE EFFING HOUSE while I was pregnant. Yeah, and we're still married. We had our fridge and microwave plugged into the garage outlets, so we grilled or microwaved everthing for SIX MONTHS. I will never eat another Stouffer's lasagna again. The spare room was our dining room/living room. The only livable parts of the house were the bedrooms and two bathrooms, which we remodeled ealier that year. It can be done. Our contractors worked 6 days a week and only took off a few days for Christmas because we told them to leave us alone for a while. They finished on time and on budget and we are really happy with the results. Did I mention that I was pregnant that whole time? And also, we had no washer and dryer for 6 months either. Good times, good times.

On an unrelated note, you should (if you haven't already) check out Pirate Radio (100.3 Los Angeles). It is not currently on the air, except online. You can get it through iTunes, and you'll love it. 80's and early 90's rock. Currently they are spinning "I'm Not Lookin' For An Angel" by Kane Roberts. Earlier they played Asia, the Outfield, Stage Dolls. Love this station. I was devastated when I moved down here for college and found it had been reprogrammed for adult contemporary. Bitter.

Have a good one.

Posted by: Brooke at January 18, 2011 12:08 PM

Two months? Ha. Double that. From my own horror story. And yes, yes, YES, make sure you purchase every item you will need as quickly as you can, and have it delivered. The crock pot was made for this kind of thing, and although not green, at all, stock up on paper plates and plastic forks and cups. Because seriously, doing dishes by hand in the the bathroom sink is not cool. Good suggestions already about the electrician aspect of it - and make sure - if they are moving water/disposal lines - they are hiring a licensed plummer, as well. Hard price quotes on EVERYTHING. It's worth it when it's done. Until then, over and over again, you will say to yourselves "what were we thinking? It was JUST FINE before!"

Posted by: Mindy at January 18, 2011 12:20 PM

Well, when we did the bathroom, the potty had to be pulled out, overnite. Needless to say, as soon as my feet hit the floor the next morning, I was out the door and to Burger King for my morning you-know-what. When we did the kitchen, the fridge was in the living room for a few weeks, not too bad.....good luck, and I wanna see pics!!!!

Posted by: Dawn at January 18, 2011 12:56 PM

We remodeled a mid-80s kitchen in VA in 2004 and one in CA in 2008. The end results were very much worth the pain of the process. The first one we were able to vacate the premises to a condo we owned but stayed in the home for the second.

There will be dust and dirt everywhere, no matter how much plastic sheeting is put up to contain the mess. There will be delays, compromises, and unexpected additional expenses. Both of our projects has some scope creep because once the walls are open and/or the new stuff starts being installed, the spaces around your renovation start looking a little less nice. And it's cheaper to get stuff done "while the contractor is already here".

You will look forward to the days that workmen are not showing up at 7 am.

Looking forward to hearing about your project. And I second the motion for before and after pictures.

Posted by: Debbie P at January 18, 2011 2:58 PM

Two months my ass!

Posted by: sw at January 18, 2011 3:13 PM

My ex does this for a living. So this is what I know. Put your microwave, toaster and fridge in an area where you can get to them. Even if it's your garage. I promise you, you won't find eating out fun after week two. Go to Costco and buy paper plates and bowels and plastic utensils. The environment can handle a few months of it. Washing dishes in a bathtub will make you both hate everyone and everything. Your marriage will thank you.

Plan on 3 months. Whatever they say, add a month. It just is. Especially when adding a whole new electrical system.

Get the self closing drawers. You push them in half-way and they close themselves. You'll thank me. Promise.

Oh and photos please. I love this process. I can't wait to be able to do mine one day.

Posted by: Issa at January 18, 2011 6:38 PM

I think this is grand, but I imagine it will be a pain. Have had enough contractors in my home to know that despite how lovely the end product often is--it is hard giving up your space, where and how you live during the process.

Have never had a kitchen done. We are currently debating getting estimates to remove an entire wall in our living room to expose amazing mountain views. But, that would mean moving a gas line and likely, a massive budget.

Plan everything out and have Beth keep tabs on them. I have had deliveries in my home where they have unpacked and started to install the wrong fridge or dishwasher. Good luck.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at January 18, 2011 7:21 PM

Watch a few episodes of Holmes on Homes. He explains a lot of mistakes contractors make. Well worth the time. Home Depot has instruction books that will help you understand the process. The more you know, the less a contracter can fool you. Also, and most important, is to insist on permits. That is the best ass cover a home owner can have. And another vote for before and after pics.

Posted by: jossisboss at January 18, 2011 8:39 PM

Oy! As the wife of a contractor (and his partner), I'll take alot of these comments with a grain of salt.

Kitchen's will take 6-8 weeks. Everything will go quicky quick until they template for the countertops. It takes about 2 weeks after that before the tops are ready for installation and then usually after that is the tile backsplash if you're going that route. Sometimes they can put plywood on the cabinet top so you can sort of function while waiting for the tops.

Purchase the fixtures and lights other than recessed yourself. In fact, that's the only way we do kitchens and bathrooms. Homeowner buys fixtures and makes sure they're on site before we start - or have delivery scheduled in day 1 or 2. That was no sudden change in product, no confusion etc. For tile - pick it out, get the style #, color etc., give it to the contractor and his tile sub. can give a hard price for material and installation.

Make sure the contractor looks at your electrical panel before he prices the job! You might need a sister panel or an upgrade - better to know the ca-CHING now than after.

We did our kitchen (I've gone through it 2x in the same house) and it SUCKSSSSSSSS. Sorry, you'll be so happy when it's done!

Seriously - if you want any thoughts on what to ask/prepare for, email me....our company is known for our "hand holding".

Posted by: NancyJ at January 18, 2011 9:07 PM

I just love the idea of renovating, but I know it'd be a lot less fun IRL. That said, I totally want to see before and afters ;-)

Posted by: Heather at January 18, 2011 11:19 PM

I don't have any remodel horror stories for you (just that it ALWAYS costs more than you are quoted or plan for!), but I'm super jealous of you. We NEED to redo our kitchen, too, but the funds just aren't there yet, and I don't have much inspiration as to what we would do anyway, other than to just fix a few problems. Good luck with your remodel (and, of course, you should totally post some pictures for those of us needing inspiration once you are finished!)

Posted by: Angela at January 19, 2011 4:09 PM

I have some not-so-fond memories of making all of our meals on a camp stove in the living room while my dad's kitchen was gutted and then renovated. It ended up being worth it in the end!

Posted by: Hope at January 19, 2011 5:03 PM

We redid our kitchen four years ago and while it was a pain in the arse at times (mostly having to do with electical) the experience overall wasn't as bad as I'd feared and it was so so worth it.

I second everything Issa had to say. We moved our kitchen down into our basement during the remodel and got by well enough with the microwave and a mini-fridge (ours was being replaced.) Dinners at friends and cooking with friends helped save money on takeout.

I'd also recommend doing the job during a season when you can use an outdoor grill to make meals.

I look forward to following progress on your project here. Good luck. It will be rough at times but you'll be so happy you did it.

Posted by: Kathryn at January 23, 2011 12:44 PM