Upgrading our kitchen and undergoing some minor building work, was our most stressful project in this house to date. Although most of the issues we faced would have been avoidable with more money and better builders, we did make life easier with a bit of planning and learning along the way. Aside from the builders causing us a lot of grief, we also had to spend a lot of time at home, which meant keeping the kids out the way, trying to stop our dog from escaping, having no access to the garden and working out how to function without anywhere to prepare food, wash clothes or send the kids for a snack - nightmare!
With this in mind, I thought I'd share some tips on surviving your kitchen build, however small. Living without a kitchen for any amount of time is so much harder than you think, but there are tricks to make the process smoother and easier while you upgrade your family kitchen. Read on for a few ideas on making your kitchen makeover smooth sailing...
Start with a big old clear out
Yep as always with any home related post - de-clutter! It's amazing just how much rubbish we have stashed away deep in those drawers and cupboards and it's likely that the things you use most are used, washed and used again, with everything else sat there collecting dust fossilising in the darkest parts of your kitchen. Before you even plan your new kitchen, I'd have a clear out so you know realistically how much storage space you will need. You may feel lacking in space now, but how much of it is taken up by things you don't need? Have a box for things you 100% need, a box for maybes and a box for the charity shop and get stuck in. You can always leave the maybe box until later, but you're bound to have a big stash to give away, so the sooner the better.
Make a temporary kitchen space
It's amazing how creative you can get with cooking when you only have a kettle and a microwave to hand, and these will now be your best friends getting you through your kitchen refit. If you can move your fridge freezer into another room close by, then this will save HEAPS of trouble, and with that clear a surface somewhere for a cutlery tray, minimal crockery and glasses, kitchen roll and condiments. Your washing up will now have to take place in the bathroom, so keep that space squeaky clean and wash straight away after things are used so you don't get overwhelmed with mess. Even if your builders/fitters give you a time frame, you can bet it will be longer than that so make sure you're prepared for the long haul as there's so many issues that can pop up along the way.
Bottle some water
In the run up, start collecting containers to use for fresh tap water during the process. Having water on hand for juices and cooking can be really handy. You could even consider having some mixed squashes all ready to go in a dispenser so the kids can help themselves. Invest in a few baskets or boxes to re home snacks too.
Add a stair gate
To keep kids and pets at a safe distance, bring out an old stair gate or borrow one for a few weeks to clearly mark off the no go areas to your family. Our dog escaped three times during our build (thanks builders for letting her out...) and luckily she was OK but things could have been worse. At times we had electrics being installed or chemicals being used and the kids had to stay away, so keeping the boundaries clear means you can breathe a little easier knowing the work can get done while your family are safe in their areas.
Keep the kids Out the way - but let them see the progress
Although it's best to keep the kids out the way for the most part, it is a nice idea to keep them involved. Even though a new kitchen is a lovely addition to any family home, change can be unsettling for kids, so keeping them in the loop along the way can ease them into it and they may even find all the building parts pretty interesting. Although they can't help hands on (can you imagine??), they can be involved in making suggestions and choosing fittings, even if it's not something you'll be going with. My kids love talking to builders and work people when we have things being done around the house and usually they are quite happy to talk to them and demonstrate tools etc. You'll soon get a feel for the atmosphere and how child friendly the whole thing will be.
Prepare for the dust
No matter how big your house, the dust will be immense and wide spread. Limit the dust as much as you can, buy keeping doors closed where possible, covering areas close to the kitchen with sheets and leaving any new work in the kitchen to settle before heading in for a peak. Ask your builders to keep the kitchen doors closed and if possible pop a sheet or old towel against any internal door gaps to stop dust escaping.
Get batch cooking/meal prepping
Although takeaways and meals out can be a godsend during a kitchen makeover, a little preparation before hand making up some batches of home cooked food will go down a treat and stop the panic setting in when the kids flick on their hunger switch. Pre-prepare some meals that you can warm up in the microwave and serve with easy microwaved vegetables or salads. There's loads of ideas online for batch cook meals, but think in terms of baked lasagnas that can be divided up and frozen in portions, as well as things like casseroles served with microwaved rice and chill served on a micro spud. It may be worth popping a few quid aside in the months leading up to your build for a few extra meals out or takeaways to take the edge off the whole thing.
Clear the washing baskets
Living without a washing machine I think was harder for us than anything. Although we had willing friends and family on hand a couple of times, it soon piled up without the daily wash. Clearing the washing baskets before hand at least means that you can feel less overwhelmed by the washing piling up all ready for your new kitchen.
Make sure everything you want or expect is on paper
In terms of the actual building and fitting work being done, make sure before any work takes place that everything you want to see at the end is on paper with the builders. Although they may nod and agree in the planning stages, they can be pretty bad for taking notes and can soon forget things. Even the most minor error can make a big difference to the end look of your kitchen, so check regularly what is being done and make sure you stick to your guns. Although you may need to compromise in some areas, don't if you don't have to and never be afraid to delay things while things get sorted. This is something you will most likely only do once in your current home, so it needs to be right for you and your family.
Keep kids busy
Even though it's nice to involve the kids and have them interested in what's going on, there are times where they need to keep away for their own safety or for your own head space. Invest in a few new games and toys to keep them busy and plan for the following day so you can entertain them as much as possible or suggest play dates at friends houses.
There's no doubt that a new kitchen is a mammoth task, especially with kids running around, but it's still your home and still needs to function, so hopefully these tips will help you through.