My partner and I just wrapped up renovating our kitchen and it was such a good experience. I wanted to take some time and reflect on what I learned throughout in the process in case it might be of use to others who do something similar. 

To give some context, our kitchen renovation included:

  • Removing old cabinets and countertops and replacing them
  • Removing an old sink and replacing it 
  • Removing old tile flooring and extended wood flooring from our living room into our kitchen (we actually extended it into the entire downstairs floor of our house, which involved refinishing the old flooring)
  • Adding a tile backsplash and open shelving
  • Repainting all kitchen walls
  • Replacing an aging dishwasher and garbage disposal
  • Replacing a couple bathroom vanities and sinks (we added this in since it made sense to do it at the same time as everything else)

It looks like a lot of work, right? 

One thing I should be clear about from the beginning is that my partner and I are not DIY kind of people. We decided to outsource all of this work to more skilled professionals, which meant that we project managed a lot, but didn’t do any actual labor.

Here are some of my key lessons learned:

  1. Know your limits. From the start, we knew that doing any of this work ourselves would just result in a lot of extra time and frustration, so we chose to save our pennies to make sure the project could be done more quickly and effectively than we could do ourselves. Although I know a lot of people who would prefer to DIY a kitchen renovation, we are not those people. Accepting, and planning around, our limitations was one of the best things we did in this process.
  2. Prepare for disruption. I talked about the disruption of the kitchen renovation in this podcast episode and it was probably the most challenging part of the whole process for me. A lot of my routines were changed (for example, when I left the house in the morning depending on when workers arrived, we ate a lot more takeout, etc.) and even though I thought I was prepared for it, there’s only so much you can prepare for. I relaxed my expectations as much as possible so that I could be kind to myself about these changes in routine.
  3. Be patient. We all know that these kinds of projects can take way longer than they are initially forecasted. Our project took about 4 weeks from start to finish and, in the larger scheme of things, that’s pretty fast. However, not all the work of a renovation is obvious, so there were days when important things happened, but it was hard to see them. Practicing patience was an important part of this process for me.
  4. Trust the experts. We hired out for this renovation for a reason: we needed experts to do the work that we didn’t know how to do ourselves. This included some electrical work, plumbing, tiling, construction, and a range of other things that I did not want to learn myself. Outsourcing to experts also means giving up some control of the process because you need to trust that others know better than you do (and they really did in this case).
  5. Communicate frequently. One of the most helpful parts of this process for me was communicating with out contractor each day about what was happening to move the project forward. Because we had to work with a different company for the flooring installation, communication was really key to making sure that we were scheduling everything efficiently and so other work wouldn’t be disrupted.
  6. Have all supplies ready. A really smart choice by the company we chose for our renovation is that they don’t start any project until all the supplies are sourced, ordered, and ready to go. This was genius. We never had to delay a part of the renovation because we were waiting on something to arrive, and the contractor always had what he needed (everything was stored in our garage during the renovation).
  7. Plan to be out of the house more. After a couple of weeks, our house was kind of a disaster. There was dust everywhere, we had to remove all of our downstairs furniture to complete the flooring install, and our kitchen was completely not functional. Getting out of the house and away from the chaos was a lifesaver. We ate out for dinner, took short day-trips on the weekends, and ran errands on weekday evenings so that we could escape the disorganization of our house.
  8. Be grateful. Throughout this entire process, I was so thankful that we chose to do this renovation in the way that we did. Even with disrupted routines, the process was a lot less stressful than if we had tried to figure it out ourselves. I continue to be thankful that we were able to afford this kind of help and that we had a great local company that offered the services to assist us with this project. I also was super grateful to my partner who took on tasks like color matching paint and answering day-to-day questions when I was at work.

There are probably so many other lessons that I could impart from this process, but I’ll stop there. I’m so glad that we chose to do this — and I’m even more glad that it’s now done!

To think on:

  • What renovations would you most like to start?
  • What have you learned from past renovation or DIY projects?