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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Wendy's experience helpful.

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When our 1950s home needed a new roof because the old one leaked, my husband and I decided to do a total remodel. We added central heat and air and knocked out a wall to create an open-concept kitchen. Little did we know that we were embarking on an adventure that would take us from frustration to elation, thanks to our kitchen renovation.

Because of budget considerations, my husband decided to do the work in the kitchen himself. He was a construction contractor years ago and thought the remodel would be easy, considering his experience. But it was harder than expected. It had been a long time since he’d done construction work.

We were lucky; the wall we wanted to remove was not a load-bearing wall, so removal was relatively easy. But this is something you need to verify before you start work. If you don’t know how to tell whether a particular structure is load-bearing, get a professional contractor in for a consultation. This step is crucial for your safety.

We worked with the roofing and air conditioning contractors to be sure all the electrical systems were set up correctly. One problem was that sometimes the contractors would turn off electricity to certain parts of the house, and this would cut into the time we could work on our kitchen. So the remodel took longer than expected. We learned to check with them before we planned to spend a weekend using electrical tools.

Because we were having other work done on the house, our contractors pulled permits for us. They told us we didn’t need permits for the kitchen remodel, but obviously this is something you’d want to check on in advance. You don’t want to remodel and then find out you can’t claim it on your insurance or that it doesn’t add to the value of your home.

We had to learn to economize. We wanted custom granite countertops, so we went to a specialty store. We were shocked at the prices — we had seriously underestimated the costs. Not to be deterred, we found a special at a local big box hardware store that even included installation.

The same thing occurred with the kitchen cabinets. We looked into a professional cabinet maker, but the prices were high. My husband found an online company that sold cabinet pieces that had to be constructed, but they were very reasonable. He actually enjoyed putting them together, and they look great.

There were two issues that caused us trouble, but one turned out to be minor. First, you don’t know how much you’re going to miss running water until you don’t have it for months. We found ourselves buying cases of bottled water and storing them in the refrigerator, which we had hooked up in the living room.

And my husband was smart. He managed to leave the dishwasher hooked up throughout the entire remodel. So even though we didn’t have drinking water, we did have clean dishes!

Another problem — and this one gave me fits because I was the “clean-up crew” — was disposing of construction debris. I called and asked if construction debris was eligible for home garbage pickup and was told it was. However, the garbage pickup people refused to take the huge piles of debris. They said it needed to be recycled. I ended up driving all over town with vans full of rubble trying to find the proper place to dispose of everything, including a kitchen sink.

So here are some things to consider when planning a kitchen remodel:

• Estimate how long it will take you to do the work — then triple it.

• Check with your local city or county planning office or the equivalent to see if you need special permits.

• Remember, if other contractors will be working on your house at the same time, coordinate your efforts with theirs. You don’t want to spend a weekend doing nothing because the contractors working on your central heat and air unit turned off the electricity for two days.

• While high-end materials are great, they can be extremely expensive. Look for sales. Instead of buying fully assembled cabinets, look for websites that allow you to purchase “knock down units” that are ready to assemble. They can offer a surprising savings.

• If possible, keep your dishwasher hooked up. You'll still have to get water for cooking and drinking from the bathroom, but at least you won’t have to wash that Crockpot in the bathtub!

• Find out where your city or county allows disposal of construction debris before you start dismantling things.

The remodel greatly added to the value of our home. Altogether, it was a grand learning experience, well worth any temporary frustration we may have experienced. And we love the end results.

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