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Kitchen Reno Part 2: Preparing for the Renovation

Hey Readers! Thanks for joining me for Part 2 of my kitchen reno series.  As I write this, I am sitting in my completed kitchen and just appreciating how wonderful it is.  It's clean and bright and organized, and I love every part of it.  It wasn't always like this though, as you may have seen in my first post. 

Today I'm going to talk about the steps we took before we started our renovation.  There was a lot more prep work to be done than I had really imagined, and I have to say this was my least favorite part of the entire process.  There were so many big decisions to be made, and I am the most indecisive person ever.  There were also lots of sleazeballs to deal with.  You can't trust anyone these days!

Let's get started with how we prepared for our kitchen renovation.

Step 1: Get a Quote

We were first-time homeowners and were absolutely clueless as to what a kitchen reno would cost.  We have a very small kitchen (about 10 x 10) but it needed to be totally gutted, and needed all new electrical and appliances.  Yikes!

The first thing we did was join Angie's List.  We used it to research local contractors and contact them for quotes.  I honestly thought this would be a pretty easy part of the process, but it ended up being such a nightmare.  So many contractors are unreliable!  They'd either never answer calls or emails, or they would answer and agree to come out but never show up.  Sometimes they would show up, but then they'd never send over the quote and would disappear from the planet.  These were all contractors with great ratings too! 

One of the first companies we had come out to give us a quote was actually Home Depot.  They offer both kitchen remodeling and financing for your project, both of which we were looking for.  I'm going to make a long story short here and give you the bottom line: we do NOT recommend using the Home Depot for your project.  The quote they gave us was astronomical compared to the rest!  This was the very first quote we got, and it was far above what we ever expected to spend on this kitchen.  We almost totally abandoned our project we were so shocked!

One funny side note - we had asked the guy from Home Depot about the possibility of adding a back door on our house from the kitchen, but we weren't sure where it could go.  He said to remove the radiator in the kitchen and put the door there.  We said, "don't wee need the radiator for heat?" and he said no, "because of the oven." ..... uhhhh.... wha???  I don't know how much he thinks I bake, but that oven is definitely not on enough to keep the kitchen warm for the entire winter.

Obviously, we decided to bring in a few more contractors and get second and third opinions.  After tons of misses, we finally found a contractor we liked - Michael Manni from 2nd Generation Remodeling.  He gave us a quote that sounded extremely reasonable, he was so easy to communicate with and was very clear about what needed to be done, how long it would take, and how much it would cost.  He also agreed that the radiator made more sense than keeping the oven on the entire winter season. :)  Step 1, done!

Step 2:  Clear Out the Kitchen

This sounds like it'd be a fairly simple step, but it actually took a lot of planning to do it right.  We knew we'd be without a kitchen for a month, so we wanted to make sure we had what we needed handy to survive those months.  That meant we needed to access the microwave, toaster, fridge and keurig as well as water, plates and silverware. 

We ended up rearranging our dining room into a makeshift kitchen.  You can see at this point we had our new fridge!! I'll talk about that in a little bit.

Everything we didn't need access to during reno (pots, pans, bakeware, etc.) we put in big plastic bins and stored in the basement and dining room. 

Step 3: Pick the Appliances

In order for our contractor to order cabinets and come up with a floor plan, we had to know what appliances we would purchase so we could provide him with the correct measurements.  We signed up for an account with Consumer Reports and did tons of research.  These are the appliances we ended up with:

Fridge - Because our kitchen is so tiny, we knew we wanted a counter-depth fridge.  We also knew we wanted a side-by-side fridge (smaller doors so they take up less space when open) and a built in water dispenser so we could get rid of the brita pitcher and free up some counter space.  We bought the Kenmore 51783 21 cu. ft. Counter-Depth Side-by-Side Refrigerator in Stainless Steel.  2 years later I can definitely say this fridge was a great purchase.  It's given us all the space we need, it's easy to clean, and we've had no problems at all!  The only complaint is that the water does come out a little slow from the water dispenser, but that might just be a problem with our water pressure and not necessarily the fridge's fault.  Also, keep in mind that it's very hard to keep fingerprints off stainless steel appliances.  Even without kids in the house, I have to give all the appliances a good wipe-down at least once a week. (this spray is a lifesaver.)

Dishwasher -We purchased the rest of our appliances from Costco, and they were all top-rated Whirlpool brand appliances.  The dishwasher we chose was the Whirlpool Gold® Series WDT720PADM.  This is the one appliance purchase we aren't totally pleased with.  The dishwasher does an excellent job of cleaning the dishes - they come out streak-free and sparkling.  However, the dishwasher itself requires constant care or it starts to stink.  I have to thoroughly clean out the inside of the dishwasher every few weeks, despite the fact that we run it almost every other day.  I've never experienced a dishwasher that requires this much cleaning in all my life.  We rinse all the dishes before we load the dishwasher, we run it constantly, and I run dishwasher cleaner through it every month or two. It still has mildew build up inside and it just stinks.  I constantly have to get down on the ground and scrub out the inside of this thing because gross stuff builds up around the edges. I don't recommend this dishwasher.

Microwave - The microwave, also from Costco, is the Whirlpool 2.0CuFt Stainless Steel Over-the-Range Microwave with CleanRelease® Non-Stick Interior WMH53520CS.  It works great and does everything a microwave should, but it's HUGE! We definitely weren't expecting the size of it.   That's my fault though, I should have paid closer attention to the dimensions.  This also serves as our range hood, but I don't think it does a great job of pulling the smoke or moisture out of the air from the items on the stove.  It's great to have the microwave up off the counter though, since we have such limited space.

Range - This is my favorite appliance in our kitchen. We purchased the Whirlpool® 6.7CuFt Stainless Steel Double Oven Electric Range and it is GLORIOUS. It's soooooo nice to have the "double" oven feature.   The top oven is a compact oven that preheats super fast, and is so great for the just the two of us on an average weeknight.  It uses way less energy and is so easy to clean because it's so small.  Just below it is the full size oven which is awesome on holidays or anytime we want to roast something big.   You can also use the small top oven for keeping dishes warm if needed.  The glass stove top has 5 burners, though one is really just there to keep dishes warm.  I have nothing bad to say about this appliance.  It's perfect, and I'll totally buy it again in our next house. 

Step 4: Pick the Cabinets

I knew what style cabinets I wanted - I like plain white shaker style cabinets.  They are simple and timeless.  Our contractor buys his supplies through Builders Surplus, so he asked us to head over to our local store to pick out the cabinets we wanted.  He gave us some guidelines as to what would fit in our budget, so it was really easy!  We got to see how the cabinets looked and felt before they ended up in our own kitchen.  These are not top-of-the-line or custom cabinets by any means, but they are just perfect for this house.  They also have the soft-close feature which is magical - we'll never wake each other up late at night or early morning when we have opposite work schedules. 

Once we had the cabinet style and brand picked out, we worked with our contractor to determine the best layout for the kitchen.  I'll talk about the layout more in my next few posts, so stay tuned!


This is all we did prior to the renovation starting.  In the next reno post (in 2 weeks), I'll cover the renovation itself and what that was like.  I'll also talk about the counters we picked!  They are probably my favorite part of the kitchen (but I feel like I keep saying that about everything.)

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