Tips For a Smooth Kitchen Remodel

Your dreams of a kitchen remodel were my dreams, too. I’m very familiar with your two biggest anxieties: what to do with all that stuff in your cabinets and how to live without a kitchen for a while.

I’m now on the reality end of a new kitchen in my 1950s ranch home, and I can tell you adapting to the remodeling time really wasn’t bad. Every time I cook in my new kitchen, I know it was totally worth it.

Like most tasks, preparing to live with a kitchen remodel is a lot easier if you plan ahead. A bit of organization will make life easier. There are two main tasks: setting up a temporary kitchen and emptying your existing kitchen.

One of the best tips I got was from my contractor. He told me his rule is not to start a job until all the parts are in place. That inspired us to rent a locking construction trailer. As parts arrived, such as light fixtures or boxes of tile, they could safely be stored until installation. That meant no hold ups waiting on a faucet, backsplash or other items. Since you are living without a kitchen, you’ll want to remodel in as few days as possible. If your contractor starts working with everything in hand, there shouldn’t be many delays.

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Create a Make-Do Kitchen

No matter if your kitchen is getting refinished or completely remodeled, there will be a point where you can’t use it. Plan ahead and create a space that can function as a kitchen for a bit. In our house, there was room for a table in the laundry room. I emptied a cabinet and repurposed it for a temporary pantry and dish cabinet, along with one old kitchen cabinet and a table for extra storage.

Choose a location to set up a table or two. Keep in mind you won’t want to block doors that workers need to access for the kitchen, so using the mudroom might not be ideal. The laundry room, garage or corner of the den will work.

  • If you don’t have a second refrigerator available, have your contractor move your existing fridge to the corner of another room temporarily so you can still use it.
  • Seek out small appliances that make tabletop preparation possible. I moved my coffee maker, toaster, electric skillet, slow cooker and microwave to the temporary kitchen.
  • Add cooking utensils you use often. These might include a cutting board, knives, can opener, spatula, big spoon or ladle.
  • Grab some dishes, flatware and glasses. Even if you intend to use paper plates, having a real plate on hand can be necessary. I tended to balance a heavy paper plate full of food on a real plate.
  • Load a tray with often-used pantry items like sugar, oils, vinegars and spices for easy access.
  • Get paper towels, foil, plastic wrap and plastic bags to use for food storage and leftovers. Don’t forget the kitchen trash can!
  • Select foods from your pantry that you can easily prepare in your temporary kitchen and move them. I knew I could not be baking cake mixes nor boiling pasta. However, I could use cold cereal, canned vegetables and other staples. The rest of the items can be stored until your remodel is finished.
  • A dishpan, dish drainer, dish soap, scouring pads, sponge and dish towels will help keep things clean. Since we have more than one bathroom, we temporarily declared one room for bathing and the other as a kitchen space. After a good scrubbing, the bathtub served as the kitchen sink.

Clearing out the Kitchen

Now that you’ve removed the things you need, it will be simple to box up the rest for storage.

  • Use sturdy boxes for packing heavier kitchen items.
  • Packing like items together makes it much easier to stay organized when unpacking.
  • Purchasing “dish packs” for boxing and storing good dishes is a safe investment. They come with foam sleeves to hold plates as well as boxes with partitions so items don’t break.
  • Be sure to label boxes with the contents. Note any boxes which are especially fragile so a heavy box does not get placed on top.
  • Make sure to tape shut any open food boxes, or slip them into a zippered plastic bag to keep out pests.

Staying Healthy Is Easy with a Temporary Kitchen

Surprisingly enough, there are health advantages to setting up your temporary kitchen. Being able to prepare meals instead of ordering pizza or running through the drive-thru will help you stay healthy. I found it easy to prepare every breakfast food in the temporary kitchen with a coffee pot, oatmeal in the microwave and the electric skillet handling eggs, bacon and sausages.

As for dinners, the slow cooker saw a lot of use for soups and stews. Salads were topped with grilled chicken or boneless chops made on the electric skillet. A lot of stir-fried meals of fresh veggies and seafood or meat went on top of packets of pre-cooked brown rice from the microwave.

Cleanup was simple. It didn’t take much to wash one electric skillet and a spatula, and slow cooker liners kept that appliance clean. It turned out it was pretty easy to get by while the kitchen was remodeled—and it was so worth it.

Don’t Want to Give Up Your Kitchen Just Yet?

Rather than take on a full remodel, go the easy route by updating just one or two aspects of your kitchen. Getting your cabinets refaced, for example, takes about a week at most and lets you continue to use your appliances as normal. Because the cabinets take up so much space in your kitchen, it’s a quick and simple way to completely change the look of the room. Other updates, like painting the walls or swapping out light fixtures, can also make a big design impact without interrupting your cooking time.

Whether you want a full-on remodel or a few small changes, taking the time to prepare beforehand makes for a smooth and beautiful project.

Lea Schneider is a nationally recognized organizational and home storage expert who provides advice on making your life simpler and more organized—even during a kitchen remodel. Lea writes about home storage for The Home Depot. To review information about cabinet refacing options, visit the Home Depot website.

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