You’ve made the decision to remodel your kitchen, chosen an excellent contractor, and have spec’d out all the essential details of what’s going in: cabinets, appliances, new plumbing, new electrical, and flooring. Before the workers arrive, however, it’s important that you take some steps of your own. These steps will make the work go easier, as well as ensuring that your family life won’t be unduly disrupted by the work.

Before you do anything, prepare a plan
Your contract with your remodeler will provide key data points about what’s going to happen and will govern what your own plan will include. When is the start date of work? On what days of the week will the work occur? At what times? When is the time window for receiving appliances and cabinets? When will electrical and/or plumbing work take place?

All of these important details should be readily available for inspection in any well-written contract, but only you are in a position to be aware of essential details, needs, and necessities at your end. For example, are there pets in your home who’ll need to be kept away from the work area? How about children? How will the family eat during the work period?

Get a large calendar and start to map out a timeline-based plan. Will you need to rent a dumpster to handle construction debris? How soon must you reserve it? Will your pets need to be boarded? Should the kids get a vacation with a willing relative? Planning in this way will give you the answers.

Now on to the three main things you must do:

  1. Start early. Kitchen remodeling projects can be made less stressful by beginning the pre-work preparation tasks as early as possible. Don’t wait until the day of work to clear out your kitchen drawers, cabinets, and refrigerator. Instead, go through your cabinets and drawers early on, and separate their contents into two groups: items you’ll need to prepare food in a temporary kitchen (see Step 2), and items you likely won’t need until your new kitchen is completely ready.

You’ll also need to remove any hanging objects, e.g. artwork, from the walls, to ensure that any vibration doesn’t cause them to fall and break. Pack these items in a safe place away from the kitchen.

Finally, as early as possible, make anyone likely to be affected by your remodeling projects, for example neighbors or tenants, aware that work will be happening. It’s always best to broach this subject early – not on the day before the work actually begins. Bring a token of thanks (perhaps a pie or cake) over to serve as advance compensation for any annoyance to come.

  1. Prepare a temporary kitchen. Like it or not, you’ll be “camping indoors” for the duration of your kitchen remodeling project, so you’ll need to set up a temporary kitchen to tide your family over. A temp kitchen is often set up in the dining room; if so, make sure you can dust-proof this room by hanging clear plastic sheeting over the connecting doorway. If it’s possible to move your refrigerator into this room, do it (or use a small unit if you happen to own one).

In your temp kitchen, hotplates, microwaves, and toaster ovens will have to shoulder the cooking chores, but before using any of these appliances, make sure that the electricity in the room can handle the load (a visit to the circuit breaker box will allow you to inspect how many amps are being fed into each room of your house or apartment). Stock your temp kitchen with bottled water and easily prepared foods.  Because it will be difficult or impossible for you to use your kitchen sink or dishwasher to clean anything, make use of plastic plates, cups, and utensils.

  1. Prepare for access
    Labor is, of course, a large component in the overall cost of every kitchen remodeling project, so every hour saved is an hour earned. The more you can streamline the movement of materials in and out of the work area, the better off you’ll be. Map an access route for workers to enter and leave your home, and protect the floor so that heavy boots don’t mark up the carpet or scuff up the floor.You’ll also need to prepare a “staging” room, or perhaps garage space, if this is available, to handle the arrival of incoming materials, e.g. new appliances, cabinets, and flooring materials. Make sure that items can be easily moved from this area into the kitchen itself, without too many twists and turns along the way.Also, decide where outgoing materials – for example, demolition debris, old cabinets, and other waste material should reside. This area should be outside (but not in a place where it can be seen and present an eyesore), preferably in a rentable dumpster.

You’ll also need to clear an access route to two other key areas of your home: the basement, and, if this area is used for electrical runs, the attic. These areas may need to be accessed in an efficient way by workers doing plumbing and electrical work.

If you take these three steps, you’ll be better prepared than many to smoothly navigate your odyssey to a beautiful new kitchen. While no project is completely free of the influence of Murphy’s Law, by planning carefully setting up a temp kitchen, and arranging for efficient access, you’ll be as close as you can get to being “Murphy-proof.”