Kitchen Renovation: Roadblocks + A New Plan

We moved into a new house this summer, a cozy little ranch with an equally tiny kitchen:

A couple of months ago I told you all about our plans to gut the room and start over, including pretty new cabinets and appliances, but most importantly a new layout that would give us more storage AND a wider doorway into the dining room:

kitchen floor plan.jpg

WELL. Things were moving along nicely at first. I had a contractor give us an estimate for the work we didn’t want to DIY (mainly framing the new doorway and some rewiring), and I sent the paperwork to the city to start the permit process. Then I got a call from one of the inspectors, saying he needed more information about the doorway before he could give me a green light. He wanted to know if the wall was load-bearing and what size of header the contractor would install above the opening.

I was like, “No problem! Let me ask.” And this is where things took a nose-dive.

It turns out the contractor didn’t actually check to see whether the wall was load-bearing, provided the quote assuming it wasn’t, and planned to confirm once work began. (WHAT?!?! Obviously, I did not hire them.) So I crawled into the attic and looked myself, which you do by noting the direction of the ceiling joists. If the joists are running perpendicular to the wall in question, congratulations, it’s load-bearing!

Can you guess where I’m going with this?

Because we’re going to use this house as a rental property and not our forever home, I don’t want to sink extra cash into the engineered beam that would be required to support the ceiling if we widened the doorway. It’s not THAT important. If we planned to stay here then, yeah, I’d do it, but we want this house to start turning a profit as soon as possible, and that means watching how much we spend on updates.

So! I had to hop back onto the computer and reconfigure the cabinets again. Let’s go back and look at the existing layout. (This project has taken so long that I had time to switch to new software!)



As nice as it would’ve been to have a more open feeling, look at all of those cabinets!! This layout gives us even more storage than my original plan, which will probably end up being more useful in a wee house like this one.

Bonus: my new software lets me make AWESOME 3D renderings:

As for the work itself, we’re going to wait until the new year. I finished the layout a couple of weeks ago and COULD start tearing things out, but do we really want to be kitchen-free during the holidays? Nope.

In the meantime, let’s discuss how to deal with a project hiccup:

1. Accept it. Someone, somewhere along the line, will make a mistake. A measurement will be wrong, an item you ordered online will look totally different in person, a contractor won’t give you an accurate quote–there WILL be a problem. It might not be as annoying and time-consuming as ours, but it will happen. Mentally prepare yourself for a gaffe before you start.

2. Adjust the budget. I tell all of my clients to set aside 10% of their budget for goofs. Mistakes are part of life, but not all of them will be free to fix. Leave yourself a little wiggle room, just in case. And hey, if you’re one of those rare unicorns who gets through a project without an error, then you’ll have money left. You can always spend it later.

3. Switch gears. Depending on the kind of roadblock you hit, you may not be able to get everything in your initial plan. And that’s fine! As we discovered in our kitchen, we’re actually getting more cabinet space with the new configuration. It’s not the original perk we wanted, but it’s still a major upgrade and we’ll definitely use it.

So, that’s where we are with the kitchen! A lot of you have been asking about it, and I’m bummed this wasn’t a more exciting update, but setbacks are normal for a project this big. Have you ever had a remodeling snafu? Or a decorating oopsie? How did you fix it? 

1 thought on “Kitchen Renovation: Roadblocks + A New Plan”

  1. Interesting about how to tell if a wall is load bearing! We obviously can’t change anything in our rental apartment, but we were talking about the possibility of changing things around in a place we’re thinking of buying elsewhere but I was concerned about whether or not the wall is load bearing. Now I know that’s something I can check for myself!

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