Kitchen remodeling. It's a doozy. I'd heard of people remodeling their kitchens amidst much stress and life disruption before, but until I'd experienced it myself, these stories remained in the realm of other people's problems.
Well, other people's problems officially became my problems when I decided to remodel my kitchen about four months ago.
The process was at times frustrating, stressful, and even infuriating, but at a certain point in the journey, I decided to let go, truly just going with the flow. I took moments to close my eyes and say, "Ok, breathe, Stephanie, seriously, it's not that big of a deal..." You already know that when you need to take a moment to remind yourself of Bruce Lee "Be like water, my friend" quotes, shit has officially hit the fan.
Nevertheless, once I did that, the process began to happen with greater ease and each thing came together, one piece at a time. (Thank you, Bruce! You're a wellspring of knowledge and inspiration!)
So I've compiled some what-I-think-to-be-useful information for others who are in the L.A. area (and perhaps beyond) considering updating their own little culinary corner. Here are tips about kitchen remodeling and how to have the most headache-less experience possible with it that I can think of. Because while I generally recommend meditation and maintaining zen as an overarching part of the experience, one also needs practical tips about how to kitchen remodel like a boss.
1.) Think about your kitchen remodel in its totality, then plan.
What do you want to do to your kitchen? Make a list that includes everything you're considering doing, including all structural changes. Even if some of the items on your list are long-term goals that you don't think you want to pursue right now, still put them on your list. For example, if you're considering taking out a wall in your kitchen within the next five years but not right now, make sure to put that on your list along with changing floors, backsplash, and cabinetry. Why? Because there are certain things that would be much more difficult to execute down the road if you've already done your kitchen renovation. Structural changes should happen before aesthetic changes, so you'd want to take out that wall you're considering taking out later first, then make the kitchen pretty. It's a bit like buying a bunch of new clothes before you plan on getting gastric bypass surgery. You've gotta sew up your stomach first, then spruce up your wardrobe. Ya feel me?
Making a list will inform the order of all non-structural changes to your kitchen, as well. You don't want to demo anything after something new has been laid in. That'll just create a mess on your new materials. So try to finish all demo first, then begin new installations. In my case, I changed out my countertops, backsplash, floors, and appliances. So I demo'ed countertops and backsplash first, then had the appliances installed, then installed new countertops and my backsplash. From there, I laid in my floor which required no demo. Because I didn't want any of the other changes happening on top of my brand new floors, floors were dealt with last.
If that sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to you, just note this: first demo, then install. Simple.
The list-making process is about gaining perspective on the scope of your project and the work order.
2.) Decide if you want to be completely involved, partially involved, or hardly involved. Then make your decision on how to proceed.
Do you want to orchestrate the whole kitchen remodel yourself? Like do you want to be the person finding all contractors, then calling, scheduling, and organizing the work flow? For some, this sounds great! It gives them strong control over the process, allows them to cut out middlemen, and save on cost. For some, this sounds like a terrible idea! They don't want to deal with that much work and be responsible for that level of organization.
In that case, you might be better off going to a Lowe's, where the company will find the contractors for you and organize your work flow. They even have in-house designers if you're planning to do enough of a gut job to your kitchen.
Maybe you don't even want to be that involved, and you just straight up want to hire an interior designer to take over for you. Your time is more valuable to you than the money required for a designer.
Gauge how you feel and decide accordingly. If you're a control freak, feel free to be a control freak. If you're not a control freak, pass it off to someone else who'll get that ish done for you!
3.) Talk to friends, family, and neighbors about the kitchen remodel process.
Word of mouth. Word of mouth. Word of mouth. Should I say it one more time? Word of mouth. People in your network will be able to give you a lot of useful information. Find out what some of them have experienced, especially from your neighbors. They might've battled through the very same battles you might encounter in your own kitchen. Yes, that's right. I'm calling them battles because sometimes that's what it feels like they are. Friends, family, and neighbors also may be aware of anything from industry hazards to super reliable vendors, so their knowledge is your knowledge. USE IT.
4.) Know what you're getting mixed up with when hiring Home Depot.
On that note, be aware that when getting Home Depot involved in your process, complications could occur. This was my experience. I found Home Depot to be very disorganized, not only because they get their corporate offices involved in billing and workflow, but also because their workers don't take any level of individual accountability for making sure your kitchen remodel goes smoothly. And can you blame them? No.
On any given day, you may receive phone calls from a James in Home Depot's call center in Michigan to tell you the same thing about flooring you just heard from Bill at your local Home Depot. They may call you multiple times throughout the day, in fact, looping you into an insane three-to-four-phone-calls-a-day phone tag game in which almost no information of relevance is communicated. Do you want this in your life? I don't think so. Skip the Home Depot.
5.) Don't plan to do the remodel around the holidays.
'Nuff said. Avoid the mania. Everyone's trying to get that Thanksgiving turkey baked in their brand new oven and in the mouths of 25 family members on the day of gratitude. People are pissed, on edge, and on a mission to make this happen. Don't be one of them!
6.) Go with the flow. Stress and b.s. is going to happen. Flow with it.
In the words of Bruce Lee, "Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
This is your mantra. Read this daily. Know this. Be this.
7.) Know that there are hazards with the plumbing industry.
And since we're on the subject of water, water can not only became a cup, bottle, or teapot, it can also become a big pain in the ass when it comes to a kitchen remodel.
You're going to have to shut it off in your own place, find a way to cook, eat, and live without it, potentially do water shut-offs in the building you live in temporarily while things get changed out, and maybe even pipe up some new plumbing.
The more you can be relaxed about this process the better. The more frantic you are, the more plumbers will try to getcha for your money.
I had two or three different plumbers cycle in and out of my place because of different schemes they were trying to pull. One was even entertaining enough to make the creative suggestion that I wash my dishes in my bathtub since I couldn't use my kitchen sink. In fact, he informed me that numerous people he'd encountered did this as a serious alternative measure to using the kitchen sink.
Interesting, but I didn't regard this as an acceptable solution. I didn't wash any dishes in my bathtub. And I found a new plumber.
8.) Know that contractors are doing the best they can.
Especially if you're going through a company like Home Depot, your contractors might be operating with the same level of misinformation or lack of information that you are. Don't blame them for what they don't know. Communicate with them a lot. Find out what they know and get on the same page as them before you begin working.
Marcian, the gentleman who did my backsplash, told me there were endless tales of woe he carried in his heart because of being yelled at by clients who thought he was trying to pull schemes on them. In fact, the middlemen between him and the client, in this case Home Depot, simply hadn't explained what service he would provide. So it was assumed he was trying to upsell for additional services like a backsplash border.
He wasn't. Don't come out of a bag at Marcian. Communicate. And eat papaya with him while jamming out to cumbia.
9.) Speak Spanish.
This is such a no-brainer in California. The ability to speak Spanish was my saving grace.
10.) Hire an interior designer if you can.
I don't just say this to boost up those in my profession. I say it because if you can get an interior designer, you should. It's their job to manage this process and bring you as much comfort and ease as possible through this journey if they're good.
Always remember, kitchen remodeling is like life. Your attitude can greatly affect how you experience it and how it'll turn out, but some pointers along the way never hurt anyone.
And when in doubt, go back to Bruce Lee.