DEAR TIM: A major kitchen remodeling job is about to start at my house. The needle on my anxiety meter is pegged causing me to lose sleep. Is a kitchen remodel supposed to be this stressful? How am I going to survive for five weeks without a kitchen? Is there a way to minimize the pain and suffering I am about to endure? What did you used to do to keep your customers happy each day? Nancy A., Seal Beach, CA
DEAR NANCY: My internal radar is picking up all sorts of serious negativity from you. We need to turn your bad feelings into excitement, joy and bliss about this amazing transformation that is about to happen. If you don't, you will undoubtedly come totally unglued before you are halfway through this traumatic event. Worse yet, if your anxiety transfers to the workers, all sorts of bad jujumagumbo will happen.
I have lost count of the kitchen remodel jobs I have done over the years, but the visions of what happens are crystal clear right now as four days ago a crew started to completely gut my own kitchen. If you go upstairs right now, my kitchen looks like a bomb exploded. Don't ever underestimate the convenience of going to a kitchen sink to get a simple glass of water.
I think your dreadful feelings can be traced to poor communications between you and the remodeling company. Anxiety is often created when a person is unable to predict the outcome of an event or series of events. If you had a series of questions about the entire process, including what you are going to do about cooking, refrigeration and dishwashing during your project and the answers you got still have you worried, something is seriously wrong.
You minimize, and possibly eliminate, all pain and suffering related to a kitchen remodeling project with excellent planning, scheduling and timing. A little pinch of luck is also a great ingredient if you can conjure it up.
I was by no means the perfect remodeler, but I knew that kitchen remodeling jobs had to run like the passenger trains of old. My jobs were almost always on time, I constantly strived for first class service and I knew the job had to keep moving forward everyday. Even when unforeseen problems popped up, most customers saw that we were working as hard as possible to solve the issue and complete the job.
Your remodeling contractor should have produced a schedule that shows what will happen each day. On that schedule, you should be able to see when all of the materials, appliances, cabinets, countertops, etc. must be onsite so there is progress each day.
You don't want surprises as the cabinets are being installed. If utilities are in the wrong place or not sized correctly, delays are inevitable. Kitchen appliances can be very persnickety as to where electrical and plumbing connections are located. It is vitally important that you or your remodeling contractor ensure that all utilities are sized correctly and they are in the right location before the plaster or drywall is installed.
I am astonished that your remodeling contractor has left you in the dark with respect to a temporary kitchen. On each of my jobs I was able to setup a temporary kitchen, albeit small and cramped. If need be, we took out some of the existing cabinets and used them to make a temporary kitchen in a basement or a garage if the weather was nice. To expect a family to eat out for the entire duration of a kitchen remodeling project is completely unreasonable.
All sorts of modern appliances allow you to create a miniature kitchen that allows you to do 90 percent of what you are now doing in your existing kitchen. My wife just bought an amazing electric appliance that allows us to fry eggs, bacon, cook meat, brown sandwiches, etc. This briefcase-sized appliance coupled with our microwave and two smaller refrigerators placed around our basement wet bar will allow us to survive our kitchen remodeling job. I am sure you can have a workable temporary kitchen fabricated in some part of your home.
Be sure to take many photographs or a video with an audio description of the entire process. Each night after the workers leave, document every surface that was worked on. The photos or videos could come in handy in the future if you need to see what is behind a finished surface.
Make sure your remodeling contractor does not fidget with any utilities on a Friday. You do not want to have a plumbing or gas leak pop up after the workers leave for the weekend. Be sure you know how to shut off all utilities in your home in the event a leak develops or you sense something is wrong with the electricity. Mimic an experienced boy scout - be prepared.
Do not make the final payment on the job until all work is complete and you are 100 percent satisfied. Never work from verbal promises. Your money is the only leverage you have and you must always have enough money in your possession to complete the job in the event your contractor disappears or you decide to kick him to the curb.