10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Kitchen Renovation

Now that I can officially say I survived my first kitchen renovation, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the past 4 (!!) months of progress. In some ways, I feel like the whole experience went by in a snap and in other ways, I feel like it was a grueling process that I don’t want to live through again for… a while! Funny how construction works, isn’t it?!

These past 4 months have been chock full of learning experiences. I’m excited that if I ever do live through a kitchen renovation again, which seems pretty probable considering our passion for all things home, I have a lot more tools and knowledge under my belt to do a few things differently (and some things the same!).

Today I’m sharing a list of the top 10 things I wish I knew before renovating my kitchen. My hope is that these lessons will help others avoid some of the same mistakes I made.

What I Wish I Knew Before My Kitchen Renovation10 things I learned from my kitchen renovation

So here goes, a deep dive of real talk into what I wish I knew before our kitchen renovation. And yes, a few of these tips I learned the hard way.

Go Overboard On “Mess Prevention”

Prepping our house for the demo was one of the most important things we did throughout the entire process of our kitchen makeover. At the time, it seemed boring and annoying… especially because all I wanted to do was get to the fun part — the demo! BUT, the prep work proved the be a lifesaver in the long run.

I would recommend going “overboard” on taking every precaution you can to secure the rest of your house from dust. This meant covering vents, tarping off rooms, and using this amazing invention for doorways. I would also recommend protecting any the floors in your home that you think may be impacted by the “construction traffic”.

For us, this meant our kitchen/dining room (obviously), but it also meant our mudroom, because it was the passageway into the kitchen and into the garage.

protecting the rest of the house from dustThis also meant protecting the carpet going down the stairs and the walkway to our slop sink, electrical box, and access to all of the pipes (all located in different locations downstairs). Our contractors were down there quite often, so proactively protecting the carpet would have been nice. We eventually made that happen, but doing it in advance when we were protecting the rest of the house would have been more efficient and effective.

Have EVERYTHING On Hand Before Work Starts getting materials ready for a kitchen demo

I followed this rule pretty well, but I wish I held myself to this a bit more. I can’t even tell you how many times we needed a piece of material to test size, color, or reference information on the box well before it was time to actually install it.

If you can, I would highly recommend ordering everything in advance and having it on hand before you start demo! I know it’s close to impossible to have everything but try your best and I promise you won’t be sorry!

But also note, that this strategy can come with storage challenges. Where are you going to put the demo material if the entire garage is filled with the “new stuff”?! The struggle is real!

The Work Probably Won’t Be Continous

scheduling contractors for a kitchen makeoverUgh, this is a hard one! In a perfect world, you would demo everything and your kitchen would be filled with professionals every day until the job is complete. Unfortunately, the schedule typically isn’t that seamless, which is one of the main reasons why kitchen renovations take longer than expected.

kitchen renovation tips and tricksOf course, if you hire a general contractor, this won’t be a problem but that comes with a larger price tag. Do your best to schedule the different professionals as close as possible, but realize that the schedule probably won’t work that perfectly. Jobs run over, other jobs stop short, materials aren’t ready… so many variables that impact the schedule and make the process slow down a bit.

You Need To OVER Communicate

I emphasized the importance of communicating in this post about working with contractors, but I have to highlight it here too because it’s SO important. Don’t assume you’re on the same page for anything!

kitchen renovation survival guideI know that sounds annoying but communicate every single detail, especially if you are going to be out of the house while the professionals work. You don’t want to come home to the handles mounted on the cabinets in the wrong spot, an outlet wired in a very different location than you imagined, or the grout lines in the tile all the wrong size. Communicate, communicate, and over communicate to ensure you are both on the same page and you’ll avoid so many headaches!

If Something Is Not Right, Speak Up!

But when something slips through the cracks of that strong communication and it’s not perfect, speak up…. immediately! It’ll be much easier for your contractors to fix a problem if you tell them sooner rather than later.

what I wish I knew before kitchen renovationI came home from work one day to find that the light above our kitchen sink was wired to hang from the ceiling instead of the wall above the window (like I had planned). Not that big of a deal, I get it. But I knew I would kick myself forever if it stayed like that. I hated to be a pain and after a short internal battle, I told them my thoughts. My contractors were very gracious and glad I said something that day because the walls were still open and changing the location of the light took them about 15 minutes. If I had waited a few days to speak up, the walls would have been closed back up and the whole process would have been a lot more tedious and time-consuming.

Expect Budget “Add-ons”

I’m all about saving money and sticking to a budget, but when it comes to a kitchen renovation, be ready for “add-ons” to that budget. The only thing you can expect when it comes to add-ons is the unexpected. Things magically pop up after demo that aren’t expect. These issues, whether minor or major, usually come with an additional cost.

expecting for unexpected expensesIt’s hard to give any concrete advice on this frustrating topic that is so different for everyone, but I would urge you to stay under your bottom line budget while planning the renovation so that you have funds available for the uncertain expenses that are bound to be added.

Add on a Few Smaller Projects

Speaking of “add-ons”, these are planned expenses that I actually encourage you to add-on to your kitchen renovation if you have the funds available.

lowes-shiplap-tools-suppliesDuring a kitchen renovation, your house is going to be a HOT MESS and you will have access to contractors every single day for a while. While you have them in your house and while your house is a disaster anyways, why not add on any other “odd jobs” that may need to be done?

Of course, you’ll have to negotiate this with your contractor in advance, but I highly recommend it. They may even be able to give you a package deal!

adding on other jobs during a kitchen renovationFor example, the contractors were already working in my attic to add a can light in our kitchen. I asked them if while they were up there, they could add a light in our stairwell since this is something that’s been on our to-do list for a while. They charged me a few bucks and were happy to do it! It literally took them an extra 20 minutes while they were up in the attic and we were so happy to pay the extra few bucks to finally check it off the to-do list. If you have any other small jobs around the house, this may be the time to get them done!

The Mess Is Temporary

I said it once but I will say it again. Your house is going to be a HOT MESS during the kitchen renovation. You can read my tips for surviving a kitchen makeover here, but expect all the dust, an overwhelmingly amount of disorganization, and a general feeling of chaos… everywhere.

protecting your house from a messBut also know that the mess is temporary. In a few months, life will be back to normal, which I know is very hard to believe when you’re in the thick of it! But I promise you’ll get through it and slowly but surely the dust goes away. So as overwhelming as it feels during the mess, remind yourself that there’s light at the end of the tunnel! Hang in there, it’ll be worth it!

Document The Process

I was lucky that it was part of my job to document the entire process on the blog and on social media. But I realize most people undergoing a kitchen renovation are not bloggers and are not intentionally documenting the process.

Honestly, though, I encourage you to document the process. Take before pics, make a point to snap as many photos throughout the process as you can, and don’t forget to document the gorgeous new kitchen too.

You’ll love your new kitchen, but seeing how far you’ve come from the old kitchen makes you appreciate the new look so. much. more. TRUST ME!


saving paperwork during a kitchen renoSo document, document, document!!  And speaking of documenting, be sure to save all of your paperwork and receipts from this journey. Figure out an organization system before you start so that you can keep these important docs and manuals safe and together. Remember when I said your house is chaos? If nothing else, keep this system safe from the chaos.

You’re Going to Have Regrets…That’s Okay!

I hate to end on a negative note, but it’s true, you’re going to have regrets. BUT that’s okay! This post is already so long so I will save my few regrets for a different day, but know that everyone has them, especially if this is your first kitchen renovation. You live and you learn, right?

I know regrets are hard to swallow, especially after spending a ton of money on a new kitchen, but realize that they’re bound to happen regardless of how much you plan ahead. But even amidst these tiny regrets, you will still LOVE your new kitchen. Heck, my kitchen is one million times better than I ever expected. I’m obsessed with it, even though I have a few regrets. Focus on the positives and take those regrets as a lesson learned for next time.

Good Luck!what I wish I knew before starting my kitchen renovation

I’m confident that if we survived a kitchen makeover, you can too! These are the 10 things I wish I knew before renovating my kitchen. Hopefully, these tips will make your kitchen renovation process a bit less stressful and make the final product one you are in love with for decades to come!! Good luck, you totally got this!


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The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.