Seth & Allison's Kitchen: Real-life Lessons from a Real-life Renovation

Seth & Allison's Kitchen: Real-life Lessons from a Real-life Renovation

May 7, 2013

Name: Seth & Allison (and a baby on the way!)
Type of Project: Kitchen/Family Room renovation 
Location: Ventura, California 
Type of building: Mid-Century, multi-level, single family home

Seth and Allison's renovation is complete! And it is very lovely. You've been there every step of the way, from the original kitchen to the big reveal and everything in between. Now it's time for a few parting words of wisdom from Seth and Allison. After all the dust has settled, what have they learned?

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?

  1. Having done a previous kitchen renovation at our last property, I can say that it was definitely a luxury to be able to not live on-site during this current renovation process. But one lesson we remember from the last renovation is that if you are living there, try to keep the space as clean as possible: hang plastic between rooms, clean up at end of day; basically do anything you can to cut down on the dust that will inevitably make its way into the parts of your home that aren’t even being worked on.

  2. Make sure to check on lead times for all major items, whether tile, flooring or windows. Most installers recommend the flooring to be on-site for a certain amount of time to let it acclimate to the local climate. We were definitely surprised by the eight-week lead time for the windows we ordered, though luckily we still got them in time.

  3. When working with a professional — whatever trade it may be — don’t be afraid to make sure you get the results you want. Or, don’t be swayed into doing things their way, because you’re the one who has to live there, not them. For instance, we had several potential drywallers come out who wanted to spray texture all the walls because it’s easier and less time-consuming, or they were only willing to do otherwise for a huge cost. But we finally found someone who understood our style (the rest of the walls in the house were smooth and we wanted a cohesive look) and was willing to skim coat at a decent price. Looking back, we’re really glad that we didn’t settle.

  4. Find the parts of the project that you can do yourself and hire out the rest. Because we both work full time and we wanted to complete the house before moving in, we didn’t have the time to do the whole project ourselves, but it was definitely worth it to take care of some of it on our own, like all of the demolition and putting together the kitchen cabinets.

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

Right now we feel pretty happy with the space because we made it a point to invest in the design and elements we knew we really wanted, since we plan to live here for a long time. Of course there will inevitably be things down the road that we might decide we would have done differently, but we hope to always just be grateful that we get to live in a place that we were able to make our own. 

Did your schedule go as planned? What took more time than you thought it would? What took less time?

Again, since this project was part of an overall gut house renovation, it’s kind of hard to isolate the kitchen/family room timeline from the rest, but all-in-all we ended up only being about a week behind our estimated schedule for the project. 
We were surprised that we got the permits sooner than we thought. On the other hand, the drywall took longer than expected to dry because we were having some cold (for Southern California) weather during those weeks. 
What is your next project going to be?

We’ve already started a second phase to the house renovation, which entails adding an additional 300+ square feet for a master closet and bathroom as well as a third bedroom on the main floor. Some people may think we’re crazy for tackling so much in a row with this house right off the bat (at least one of us has had that thought many times since the crew has been showing up with their jackhammers at 6:30am every day these past few weeks), but with the impending arrival of our first child in July, we know that we want to get the renovation projects behind us in order to just enjoy our new house and growing family moving forward.
Any final thoughts?

Thank you to everyone in the Apartment Therapy community who provided support and constructive feedback throughout this Reno Diary series! As long (long, long)-time readers of Apartment Therapy, we really hope our experiences can help or encourage any other homeowners who are considering embarking on a large scale renovation project. It was definitely valuable to us to read accounts of others’ projects on Apartment Therapy or elsewhere before starting our own. Thanks, again!
Thanks, Seth and Allison! And congrats on your new kitchen!

This concludes Seth and Allison'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: Allison Gibson)

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