Christine & Pierre's Kitchen: Real-life Lessons from a Real-life Renovation

Renovation Diary

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Now that the project is all over, Christine and Pierre have a chance to lean back and enjoy their new kitchen — and their new baby! But before they sign off, here's one more post from them, detailing the valuable lessons they learned during their renovation, and wish to impart to you.

Now that the project is over and you're looking back on it, what are the most important lessons you learned through the remodeling process?

Oh my goodness, we learned a lot. Some of the biggest takeaways for us were:

1. Ask for help from your friends. Especially if you're pregnant! In retrospect, we were crazy for not getting help with things like demolition, which would have gone way faster with a group (and have been a lot more enjoyable). Make it a social experience with beers and pizza.

2. When planning the project, be sure to do some research on wait-times for key items, and plan for them in advance. By leaving our countertops until the last minute we almost had to halt construction for 6 weeks.

3. You will NOT be the exception to this rule that it will take MORE MONEY AND MORE TIME. You just won't. Plan for it.

4. Get some professional advice to help you out, but also don't be afraid to trust your instincts about how you'd like to use the space.

5. Hire cleaners once the worst is over. If you are demolishing plaster walls, maybe hire them a couple times throughout the project. Because the dust will be really unbearable and EVERYWHERE.

6. If you're doing a kitchen reno, it's worth it to spend a little time setting up your temporary kitchen. We had a good setup with a toaster oven and a sink in the basement, and it meant that we could cook some things and maintain some semblance of normalcy.

7. Keep an area of the house clean and tidy as your "safe zone". The living room happily faced away from the kitchen, so we could watch a movie in a clean tidy space without a visual reminder of all the work we still had to do. It helped us stay sane.

8. Keep an "I'm sick of it" fund to hire out the final details at the very end. We did them ourselves, as a result it took forever, and they aren't as well done as they could be because we just wanted to be done. Nothing we can't live with, but for next time I would plan for this end-of-project burnout.

9. Radiant heating is so totally worth it.

10. It's hard to be finicky about insulation when you're renovating in the summer and it's 30 degrees, but when winter comes, if there is even a small crack you will feel it. (Sigh!)

If you were to do this again, what would you choose to do differently?

Honestly, there's not a lot we would change with this particular renovation. However, I don't think I would do a renovation like this one again. I would try and aim for either a cheaper, mostly DIY reno, OR a larger budget one where we entrusted most of the project to the pros. The particularities of our apartment meant this wasn't possible, but doing DIY bits in the context of such a large budget project was very stressful and complicated.

So, I wouldn't change anything, but if we ever move I will look for apartments with renovation projects that fit into one of these two categories.

Oh, and I wouldn't pay to have the radiator refinished. I would spray paint it in the backyard and call it a day. It was very expensive and probably overkill.
Did your schedule go as planned? What took more time than you thought it would? What took less time?

We were sort of on schedule until it was time to find the countertops, and then the schedule went out the window. Also, once our daughter was born we lost all motivation to finish the last details. Pretty much nothing took less time.

What is your next project going to be?

We have a stair railing leading to our basement that is a baby death-trap! So we'll need to replace that before our little one starts crawling. We also have a vestibule project to finish that I abandoned when we started the kitchen.

Anything else you'd like to share with us or with the readers?

It was a long and tough process but it was so worth it (and the renovation is already seeming like a distant memory!). Thanks for your nice comments throughout the project. It was fun to have you all following along!

Thanks, Christine and Pierre! And congrats on your new kitchen!

This concludes Christine and Pierre's renovation diary. You can check out the full series to see the whole renovation process, step-by-step, or you can explore all of our Renovation Diaries.

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

(Images and diary text: Christine Zoltok)

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Renovation Diary: Christine & Pierre's Kitchen

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