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A Family Survival Guide to Kitchen Remodeling

By Susan A. Merkner


 


The short answer is: Yes, it was worth it. The question is: Were months of being torn up for a kitchen remodeling project worth the dust, cost and upheaval to family life?


 


Our family survived a four-month renovation last year that included the family room, kitchen, powder room and laundry – about one-fourth of the entire house. In between pulling out our hair and writing checks to the contractor, we fretted that our children would suffer nutritionally and that we were turning them into permanent eco-slobs with our daily use of paper plates and plastic utensils. But with the benefit of hindsight, neither of those negative scenarios transpired.


 


The road from old, dark, outdated, ugly rooms to gleaming, colorful and functional spaces was not an easy one. Our major complaint was that the project took much longer than predicted. Instead of the six to eight weeks we had been promised, it was more than four months from start to finish. During those months, we celebrated four family birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The overall reason for the delay, as our contractor admitted, could be laid at the feet of subcontractors who didn’t show up to work when they said they would. As a result, days would go by when nothing happened at our house – except an increase in our frustration levels.


 




pt; font-family: Verdana;">Just before demolition, we set up a temporary kitchen in our formal living-dining room, which had enough floor space to handle two dining tables and the refrigerator, which we moved from the adjacent kitchen. One table was set up strictly for storage and preparation; the other table was kept clear as a place to eat. About a dozen large, clear plastic storage boxes held our kitchen necessities, including non-perishable food, dishes, towels and cooking items. We based much of our storage strategy on tricks we have learned from years of family camping.


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pt; font-family: Verdana;">Breakfast and lunch weren’t too difficult, but dinner was more problematic. Our basic categories were canned (soups and other simple dishes cooked in the microwave), frozen (entrees and side dishes similarly zapped), sandwiches (no cooking involved) and takeout (the easiest but most expensive option).


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pt; font-family: Verdana;">Whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring a professional, here are some additional suggestions for setting up a temporary kitchen:


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Appliances:


pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Find a convenient place for the refrigerator. If you’re able to attach it to a water line, the  ice cube and water dispensers will continue to function. If not and freezer space is available, make ice cubes ahead of time and store for future use.


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pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Set up a microwave oven and a toaster or toaster oven. Those two appliances will be able to handle about 90 percent of your cooking needs.


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pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- If a coffee pot is an essential item for the adults, keep it readily accessible. Coffee purists also will want to keep out some ceramic mugs, rather than using foam cups.


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pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- One-coil burners or hot plates  can be useful, as well as small, specialty appliances, such as a no-fat grill, blender, slow cooker and electric skillet.




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erdana;">-- Try to keep all the kitchen-related appliances in one room, preferably in the same room as the refrigerator, to avoid too much running from room to room to gather supplies.


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Cleanliness


erdana;">-- Dust will get into everything, so keep as many items as possible inside airtight boxes and plan to cover work surfaces with a plastic tablecloth or tarp during the day while work is going on. If you use a sheet of clear plastic to cover up, mark one side: “This side up.”


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erdana;">-- Washing dishes can be a major hassle. The best solution is to relocate the dishwasher elsewhere in the house so that it can be used. Barring that, set up a dish-washing station in the bathroom, but realize that trying to fit large items into a bathroom sink and figuring out a way to rinse dishes thoroughly can be extremely stressful. The bathtub will work, but your back may pay a price.


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erdana;">-- If you have room elsewhere in the house, buy a portable laundry or utility sink and hook it up to your home water supply. The deep sink will enable you to wash and rinse dishes fairly easily. Include some counter space nearby for a dish rack.


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erdana;">-- Use plastic tubs to tote dirty dishes to the washing station and back into storage.


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erdana;">-- The lack of a garbage disposal creates problems. Plan to use a small garbage can with a plastic bag in it to put food scraps in, and  dispose of the plastic liner daily.




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Meal Preparations


e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- If you’re really organized, cook extra meals before the renovation begins and freeze them for use during the remodeling period. Chili, meatloaf and soup freeze well. Brown ground meat ahead of time and store in the freezer.


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e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Grill outdoors whenever possible.


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e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Plan to shop for food more often than usual. Take the kids along occasionally so they can pick out some convenience meals for themselves – it’s still cheaper than dining out.


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e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Set up an easily accessible shelf or box for healthy snacks so that the kids can help themselves to a between-meals treat, such as fresh or dried fruit, crackers and granola bars.


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e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Many precooked meats are available and require only simple heating. Fajitas, burgers, chicken strips, pot roast and many other main dishes can be heated in the microwave, toaster oven or indoor grill.


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e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Be willing to experiment with new recipes, especially those designed for the small appliances you will be using regularly. If you haven’t looked at your microwave cookbook recently, this may be the time to read it.


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e: 10pt; font-family: Verdana;">-- Give yourself permission to use disposable plates and utensils at least occasionally if you find it difficult to wash dishes.




 


-- Hint broadly to relatives, neighbors and friends that your family is available to dine at their house occasionally! Offer to reciprocate once your new kitchen is completed. You’ll want to show if off anyway.


 


-- Treat yourself to a special meal out periodically. It will boost your spirits, if not your wallet.


 


Safety


-- Keep children and pets out of the work area.


 


-- Watch children carefully in the temporary kitchen. The novelty of appliances being used in new locations can attract a child’s attention.


 


-- Do not use propane-powered stoves indoors.


 


-- Store cleaners and chemicals safely locked away during the remodeling project.


 


-- Set up trash and recycling bins in childproof zones.


 


 




Remodeling professionals and those who have been through it say it’s best to plan on your project taking longer than anticipated – sometimes much longer.  Expect the unexpected, remain flexible, and go with the flow. Try to find the humor in the situation whenever possible and realize that the kids will probably view the entire process as a fun adventure. When all else fails, borrow a line from children’s musician Joe Scruggs: “I’m a willow; I can bend!”


 


Resources


Gardenweb.com – Public forums where visitors can post messages and learn more about a wide range of home- and garden-related matters.


 


Kitchens.com – Helpful information on working with designers, comparative costs of various materials, new product information and numerous design ideas.


 


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