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/ Chris Sperry

Kitchen remodeling preparation checklist

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Played Quarters, stuffed a turkey, planned a wedding. All that and more has been done while standing around the island in the kitchen of our Vancouver home.

This doesn’t make my family special in any way. On the contrary, we are as common as the word “liar” volleying between CNN and Fox News broadcasts. The fact is, in spite of wonderful indoor and outdoor living spaces created by builders and remodelers around the country, most of America prefers to gather in the kitchen. It’s the place where friends and family eat and drink, share their biggest dreams, and most punishing failures.

Indeed, the kitchen is where we live our lives.

If your kitchen is looking its age or simply doesn’t function as you’d like it to, perhaps it’s time to consider a major remodel. As you chew on that cud, be sure to check off the items below.

Is the space increasing?

One of the first things you’ll want to determine is if the kitchen is going to get bigger. This happens when the exterior footprint expands — into the backyard, for example — or when interior walls are removed. Technically, an interior wall removal may not increase the size of the kitchen as much as it opens up space to adjacent living areas, but you get the idea.

Plans and engineering:

Structural changes that alter the load to your home typically require engineering. The engineer’s calculations and callouts will inform the foundation team, framer, and lumber supplier. Before that is done, your builder or design professional can put together “as-built” or existing plans, as well as a proposed plan that reflects the desired changes. Those drawings are then shared with an engineer who calculates the new loads and specifies the required structural elements to support the new structure.

Engineering will also be required if you want to remove load-bearing interior walls or widen any door or window openings. On the other hand, removing a non-load-bearing interior wall is much simpler and usually doesn’t even require a permit. Always a good thing, unless you like the gubmint up in your cheese.

Permits:

A good builder can help you understand if your kitchen remodel will require a building permit. Generally speaking, new additions, new or enlarged window/door openings, and the removal of load-bearing walls will require a building permit. In our neck of the woods, plumbing permits are required only when supply or waste lines are moving. And electrical permits are required for just about everything. If you’re working with Fazzolari Construction, we can take care of these for you. Be prepared: depending on your jurisdiction, permitting a new structure can be a lengthy process.

Cabinet layout:

Determining your cabinet layout sets the tone for your kitchen remodel. It also informs how much countertop material and backsplash you will need. You ought to knock this one out of the way first, like the small kid in a middle school dodgeball game.

Product and material selections

Since we already covered this in a previous blog post, I’ll shut my yap and simply point you to it.

Ready, set, hold on!

Construction is dirty, noisy, often dangerous work. Before we enter your home on Demo Day, prepare the following:

Staging area:

At Fazzolari Construction, we prefer to have nearly all products and materials on-site before we need them. That said, we’re going to need a place to stage things like your cabinets, sink, and disposal. Any builder will appreciate you making space in the garage or an adjacent room where your new stuff is dry and secure.

Job access:

We will have a number of our employees, trade partners, and inspectors visiting and working at your home. Leaving them a clear path to the worksite improves safety and minimizes damage to your home.

Strip the walls:

If you don’t want Nana’s picture to shatter, take it off the wall before we show up.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re as careful as can be. It’s just that removing old building materials — and attaching new ones — can rock the house like Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka sailing off the top turnbuckle. Best to clear the work area and shared walls of anything you don’t want damaged, like artwork, photographs, and Cabbage Patch Dolls.

While I’m thinking about it, be sure to clean out your cabinets, too. Anything left behind will either get thrown away or slow down the demo crew.

Consider donating:

Charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity might be able to repurpose your old cabinets and fixtures. Let us know if you’re interested and we can arrange the pickup for you. You’ll even get a tax receipt.

Pets and shorties:

Construction sites can be pretty tempting places for kids and pets. Please talk to your little ones — at least the ones that aren’t furry — and keep all two- and four-legged critters away from where the sausage gets made.

Let the experts handle it.

Before getting into the fun-filled world of residential construction, I decided to take on my own kitchen remodel to save money and lighten the load on the contractor remodeling my kitchen. Here’s what the experience taught me:

First, what took me four days to complete could have been done in four hours by a team of guys who had the time, tools, and experience to dismantle my kitchen. The money I saved was hardly worth the frustration and achy muscles.

Second, if you’re crazy enough to take on your own demolition, don’t do it without knowing when your contractor plans to begin. That’s what I did, and our kitchen — bare to the drywall and subfloor — sat needlessly unusable for six additional weeks. You can only eat out for so long, and washing dishes in the laundry sink gets old real fast. Thought I might need a divorce attorney after that decision, but alas, my charm won the day.

Food, glorious food.

At Fazzolari Construction, we complete most kitchen remodels in about four to five weeks. That’s more than twenty-eight days you’ll be without a stove, oven, and kitchen sink. Unless you want to eat all your meals out — ka-ching! — moving the old fridge to the garage or the back porch gives you a place to keep food cold while a countertop microwave oven on the workbench can get it hot. Dishes might need to be scraped and hand-washed in the bathtub or a laundry sink during construction. Forcing your family to endure this chore any longer than necessary will land you in — ahem — hot water, so be sure to reread the last section and don’t make the same mistake I did. Mama was not pleased.

Finally…

Yes, a kitchen remodel is a challenge to live through, even when everything goes smoothly. But if you hire a reputable contractor, in a relatively short period of time you’ll have a kitchen where you, too, are proud to host family and friends.

Go ahead, play Quarters and stuff the turkey. But as the father of three daughters, I must advise you to run to the garage if there’s talk of a wedding.