Is it supposed to take this long? Tell me your horror stories.

byzantineFebruary 1, 2014

We contracted an architect in June 2013 to draft up plans for our new kitchen. Between his schedule, ours and our many contractors, we have only been able to complete the structural work and place an order for cabinets. Based on estimates, we should be finishing up right around the end of April, provided we start on 2/17 (GC is on vacation). This means nearly a year has elapsed from start to (hypothetical) finish.

Is this normal? I want to hear your horror stories so that I can lower my expectations even further.


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Started in August 2012, just about finished now Feb 2014. Nearly continuous work and expense that entire time.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 2:59PM
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I looked at some of the other threads you've posted pictures in, katy-lou. I think those cabinets are going to last a lifetime. Do you have a gallery page somewhere?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 3:11PM
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Many people don't use architects - that sounds like it added quite a bit of time to your remodel.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 4:15PM
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In our case, it was necessary because structural amendments were required, as we are taking out a big section of a load-bearing wall. There's a new steel beam and column in our basement and new foundation in the corner of the room where the previous owners enclosed a porch but didn't bring the building up to village code. There were obvious signs that this corner was sinking, albeit -very- slowly.

We are also removing our existing chimney and replacing our HVAC system, adding a window, moving a wall and the back door, and building a new deck. It seemed prudent to have detailed drawings to guide the contractors through all of this. I can't say enough good things about the architect, even though that part of the process was... well, a process.

If it takes a year, it takes a year. That's really what I was hoping to hear, anyway. Thanks for reading/responding!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 4:28PM
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Sorry no gallery page yet or final revel yet although we could probably do that now. The last drawers went in this past week, so minor things outstanding now. Another coat of poly on the floor, shoe installed, dividers built and installed for the cabinet over the fridge, and a few other odds and ends.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 5:19PM
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A year including design process is not overly long with the extent of your project.
I advise people to allow 6 months from when they start with me to design to final completion. If extensive changes are being considered, they have limited availability of time to invest are slow with decisions, can take longer. I will not consider taking a job when the target date is only 3 months out and consider 4 months to be "in a hurry " requiring special attention on my part and good availability on the clients.

Design is a process, it can't be grabbed off the shelf and dropped in an overnight box.

My own- was a three and a half year DIY saga. There were lapses in the work due to unforeseen structural damage, seasons, weddings and funerals, additions to the scope of the project, the labor force getting disabled for six months (me).

If I were to include the deck, that started it all : removed ant infested deck in '96 to protect the house, designed new deck in '99 when we thought we'd have $$, oops changed careers, oops lay-off, first floor design and reno-spring '02- fall '05, '09 another lay-off, start a new business, '11 oops Dad sick- rebuild his house, finally had deck built this summer. Someplace in there was a furnace a roof and rebuild the cathedral clip on another floor, AND I still need to make 2 runs of custom baseboard and install (mid project change so ran out).

It takes what it takes and sometimes life happens. A year ain't so bad.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 5:38PM
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I've wanted to come in here and cry/whine/groan especially this past six months that my kitchen has actually been torn out. Sorry for the length of this post, but thank you for an opportunity to vent -- I needed that! (:

I am embarrassed to say that I surely must have some sort of record here for the longest project, probably posting here since 2009. We spent years struggling with possible layouts but never found anything that was a "good" fit in our odd space available. We brought layouts to this forum which were shredded in short form. The critiques pretty much ending any remaining energy or confidence I had for this process.

We thought hiring professionals would make things easier. We got bids and design proposals from three companies. None seemed to listen to what we wanted and the layouts were lacked much thought. The bids were ridiculous and no company wanted to deal with having permits pulled despite major electrical and plumbing changes. One bid boldly asked $12,500 (yes more than twelve thousand dollars) for taking down ten linear feet of wall between the kichen and family room (NOT load-bearing, standard drywall, 8’ tall, no plumbing inside only some outlets). That didn’t include drywall repair or painting -- just the demo. Well, forget that.

By last summer I simply gave up on the remodel -- too much time getting nowhere. Then, while I was out of town at a class, hubby decided to tear out the entire kitchen including taking down that ($12K) wall. He said that “expensive” wall project took him a few hours. What a cute surprise when I got home, but probably a bad idea. We still had no layout, no idea where we would get cabinets, etc. That was last August!

A decision on layout no longer an option, we came up with something but decided to forego the forum critiques. Most of the time has been chewed up trying to make decisions, prevent problems, making sure things fit and work together, and finding resources.

We were literally filling in our order with Barker Cabinets when someone on this forum had problems dealing with them. That conflict had me push the Pause Button, waiting to see how it would be handled. It was eventually was resolved, but not painlessly. In the meantime I realized that the grade of cherry they use on their doors and drawer fronts has more movement than I want. The hunt for a new frameless cabinet maker took even more time but we did finally find a good shop, close to home where I can get vertical grain fir, solid-wood doors that I had wanted.

I have no idea when this remodel “horror story” will be finished. In August, we fantasized that most of it would be done by Thanksgiving. LOL, now I am hoping for Thanksgiving 2014, but who knows. As jakuvall suggests, life keeps on happening, especially when you DIY. For us that included the highs of our daughter’s engagement to the sorrow of my best friend, a single mom being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Life’s events require time. DIY can save a lot of money if you’ve got some skills, but comes at a price.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:07PM
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I spent about a year planning on my own here. I learned about layouts, flooring, counters, hardware, lighting design and types, etc, etc, etc. Took about 6 months of that time to get the layout nailed down and make peace with the compromises. Then while i struggled with the rest I worked with the cabinet guy for about six months on a very relaxed schedule as I had a firm install date in May I was targeting. I wanted to order in January so we had time to reorder anything that came in damaged.

So 1 year planning, about 8-10 weeks waiting for cabinets, about 2 months living with everything in my great room (I wanted it all on site before we started), then 3-4 months of actual construction. It's a bit of a blur now, though I chronicled my journey in a thread here for anyone wanting a real time view of things.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 10:22PM
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We started tearing out the kitchen in, uh late spring this year? Nope, July.

But, I've been planning it since July of 2011 when we bought the place. And it's a darn good thing that I had so much time as I would have ended up with the wrong kitchen if it had gone faster. But, we're oh, more than halfway to a finished kitchen now with no obvious end in sight. :)

Just remember, if it takes a little longer, it gives you more time to catch things that you might want to tweak.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 10:34PM
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I did an addition as well as a kitchen remodel including integrated laundry in the new space. Worked with a designer over the summer and signed a contract by September. Broke ground on 9/26 and am essentially finished on 1/31. Yay! I think I'm heading to post project let down!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 11:07PM
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Wow I'm feeling a lot better about our DIY kitchen + family room rebuild. We replaced everything from all the joists (rotten), addressed crawlspace moisture issues, rewired four rooms, removed two load bearing walls to get 6 and 24 foot wide openings, modified both central a/c systems, did the design (with help from here, a family member who's a designer, and houzz), and are about at the point where flooring is ready to go in. Design work started around mid-May, demo in June and we hope to wrap up in 8-10 weeks.

I may start up a thread about it if people actually read this sort of thing. There are tons of pictures. Which forum would that even go in?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 9:03AM
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We have serious-jokingly thanked this architect for saving marriages. He serious-jokingly responded that it's no the first time. We learned long ago that doing DIY projects together isn't conducive to marital harmony. Heck, we can't even assemble flat-pack furniture together.

I've been daydreaming about this kitchen remodel for 8 years. In the lag time between start to now, I was forced to really think about how we work in the kitchen. This lead to some thoughtful design changes. That was a silver lining. Thanks for reminding me!

Of the "life events" that have slowed us down so far? Someone was shot in the alley behind our house (he survived). Deciding whether to proceed with remodeling or move cost us 2 months, I think? But otherwise, most of the delay has been getting bids, negotiating contracts and poking the village for permits. Since this house is creeping up on 100 years old, I'm fully expecting to find all sorts of weird business once the walls come down.

Thanks, all of you, for taking the time to respond. I am fortified.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 10:01AM
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We're on two years and counting.

We hired our architect in October 2011 for a job that is close to a gut of one floor of the house (within the existing footprint, we wanted to expand and re-design the kitchen and relocate a bathroom, plus upgrade wiring and HVAC, put down new floors, and open up the back wall of the house for larger windows. In addition to a header for the back wall, we wanted to remove a load-supporting interior wall, with necessary structural reinforcement). We assumed 9-12 months time for planning and city plan approval; we didn't count on me getting totally discouraged toward the end of that period when the collective knowledge and imagination of four of us (architect, his architect/interior designer wife, self and DH) couldn't get a kitchen plan I could live with. DH and I then put the job on hold for several months for me to get some distance from the stress and frustration, then took more time to research and eventually hire a great KD to solve some of the layout issues and get us/me re-motivated. The architect re-initiated the process in summer 2013 with the KD's input, we had a bid set by September 2013, and took a couple of months to research, interview and get GC bids. We broke ground early December 2013 and, fingers crossed, will be done sometime in May 2014.

Even if we'd gone straight through, it would have been a year of planning and six months of work, so 18 months total.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Someone got shot in your alley? Jeepers. Was it someone working on your house? I'm hoping not to sound flippant, rather just trying to figure how that slowed down the process... I have all kinds of scenarios going on now. Glad whomever it was lived to tell about it whatever the scenario.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 3:13PM
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I think it slowed down the process because the poster was deciding whether to stay in the house or move.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 3:21PM
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I started seriously investigating cabinets and thinking about this remodel in late 2011 -- I think my first post to GW was January of 2012, asking about cabinet brands. It took all of 2012 and into spring of 2013 to settle on my design, choose cabinets, and hire the GC. I was also interrupted by a death, another family crisis, and unexpected expenditures that reduced my available cash. I changed my mind on cabinets, GC, counter and flooring (usually more than once!) before finally starting demo just after Memorial Day of 2013.

Things would have progressed much faster over the summer but I had issues waiting on the floor refinishing (the first person to start on it couldn't finish the job), then being ill, and then dithering over the counter choice again, then waiting for the counters to be installed. We were able to start using the kitchen again 2 days before Thanksgiving!

The final delay came from me needing to get the painting done, which I did finally finish after Christmas, and getting the seam on the granite re-done which happened 2 weeks ago.

So, start to finish, just about 2 years! and this didn't involve any wall moving, or major structural repairs -- just adding wiring, moving the gas line, and adding a window.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 7:26PM
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4+ years planning, 2 months with a completely unusable kitchen. 8 months to finish most of the major components (and some considerable hounding of my GC by me to Coming up on a year and still working on the finishing details. Our exterior work will be done this summer, so a good 1.5 years. I'd say your timeline is pretty normal.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 8:02AM
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We took the wall down between the kitchen and dining room in August 2007 to kick off our DIY project. We finally laid carpet down the stairwell as the final act of the kitchen reno in January. Yes, January 2014.

Bob, tell her what she's won!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 7:22PM
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deedles: we're right up against a bad part of Chicago, and from what I was given to understand, some wannabe gang members were trying to boost their reputations by trying to get a foothold in the village. We've lived here for 8 years, in which time 4 people have been shot (two fatally) within a 5 minute walking radius of our home. So we put the project on hold in consideration of moving. After the local police overreacted, we felt secure with proceeding.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:50AM
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We started in March of 2012. Gutted the first floor, part of the second, converted a three season porch to a half bath laundry, brand new kitchen, added new bath in old attic/closet space, new insulation, new wiring electrical threw out, took down 3 walls one structural, took down 3 ceilings and raised them in the bedrooms, replaced all the windows, new moldings, new plaster skim coat and new hardwood floors. We moved in June of 2012, and the work was completed in July! Just about 4 months. My hubby then painted every wall that summer. It was crazy, but really with out too many problems.

This post was edited by ratrem on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 12:11

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:08PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Reading some of the stories of the obstacles and delays of projects, I'm dreading doing any remodeling here. We have a bath project that has needed doing for a long time, but after a year to do our kitchen about 15 years ago, I have not been eager to do anything again.

I can see how 'life events' get in the way and cause the delays, but I wonder if anyone has any hard earned lessons of anything different you would do to avoid some unanticipated problems? In choosing your contractor, or planning differently, ordering materials, anything?

I always try to anticipate every little problem and be pro active, but a lot of things that I did my best just didn't work out. I hired a contractor who a close friend had used, who I knew to be reputable and ethical, but he ordered my custom window incorrectly and of course we didn't know it until it was partially installed and the whole project came to a stop for 8 weeks. We ran into a pipe that had to be relocated that we didn't know about. A lot of that year, was just me making slow decisions and trying to dot and cross. It took me two months and four trips to the wallpaper store to keep taking out the same pattern to look at in my DR before ordering it. We weren't a year without a kitchen, but that window mistake adding another 8 weeks of no kitchen was pretty frustrating.

I don't really see what I could have done differently, so I just wondered if anyone else did?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:12PM
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In choosing your contractor, or planning differently, ordering materials, anything?

The main thing I learned from my current remodel is that if you're doing the ordering (sinks, faucets, light fixtures, vanities, cabinet handles, tile......) to have it all ordered and in place before you start. We had a number of holdups/delays because either we had ordered something and it hadn't arrived yet, or worse, was backordered, or we just hadn't made a decision so hadn't even ordered yet. Next time, I want everything to be there before the contractor steps foot in my house!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:34PM
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We probably saved ourselves 6 to 8 weeks by waiting until we had a nearly finalized design before starting our kitchen demo. What really changed things though, were all the while you're in there stuff that popped up along the way. For example, we had the drywall behind the main breaker panel open. We also had the wall behind the formal living room open, and the wiring in there is ungrounded 14ga Romex from 1959. What better time to rewire that circuit... Drywall being open was also the perfect opportunity to move some plumbing lines that will need to be relocated next year anyway.

Basically we took a hit on our kitchen remodel timeline to take advantage of things being open and make next year's projects easier.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:27PM
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Make all your decisions before you start. There will be more you didn't know you had to make, but everything you can think of, decide before.

I realized we needed more room in our panel box for the new kitchen stuff, so we did that well ahead of the kitchen.

I also ordered our cabinets early enough to reorder anything needed before install. I had everything on site either before we started or on route to arrive during demo. We basically lived in a warehouse for a few months, but boy does our great room feel much bigger now!

Not sure that we coud have done anything to make it quicker. None if the delays were from us. It actually progressed ok, just not as quick as I hoped. I even had elevations with all the outlets and switches drawn in and any changes indicated, all the switches labeled with stickie notes, and a color coded lighting plan that I handed our GC along with all the appliance specs and install directions. I had given him model numbers at the final quote, but since it was all in site I pulled out thehardcopies.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Most of what has been posted, definitely agree with. Esp life events. If you are purchasing materials, supplies, have them on site prior.

In previous projects, I went according to others timeline. Being deadline driven, I made decisions because I 'had to' make them by a certain date (be a team player mentality), not because I wanted that particular item. Often I was unhappy before project completed and then the 're-do' thoughts would creep in.

This time, I am forcing myself to take a different approach and have been working hard with myself to get over the 'deadline driven' mentality. Although I've already made some decisions I've already regretted, I just try to focus on the overall big picture...I'll be using the kitchen 10 times longer than the downtime. Nothing is worse than stepping into a space daily and regretting a decision that becomes a financial investment to replace.

The other thing, listen to your gut.

I found out completely by accident that my current heating system (rads) would not play well with toe kick heaters. Listening to my gut, I terminated my relationship with GC I had already given the job to, and had to start that process over. I went out on my own (was never part of project scope since I didn't know) and found a reputable contractor and had the furnace end done prior to demo and will have part 2 done at appropriate time during remodel.

Also consider lots of added time for weather delays. With our bitter temps here (and snow), I have not let them cut a hole in roof until temps above freezing. Although we're due to go up to 39 degrees Friday, it's anticipated we'll get 8-12" of snow on Thursday. (Was 5 degrees this am). We sleep above a currently unheated kitchen (2 rads removed) and the hole coming thru our bedroom to go thru a smaller roof, I couldn't handle. Can't find portable heaters locally anywhere). So it has created a lull, and put plumbing inspection on hold. I keep reminding'll be using kitchen longer than downtime. Meanwhile, tick-tick-tick goes the storage fees. All unanticipated expenses, including the big tick up in heating bill, as heating system overcompensates in other rooms.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:08PM
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We have been working with a designer for about a year and a half with 5 different plans for our kitchen remodelling. We have now chosen our general contractor (the same one that did the bathrooms upstairs) and the starting date is the end of March. I know we hesitated choosing this contractor because of costs and delays in the first renovations upstairs, so I am really nervous this is going to take a long time. And there are still decisions to be made.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:16PM
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We are one piece of paper away from clearing our building permit. One of the subs has to provide proof of insurance to the village building permit office and the GC needs to tell me what size dumpster he'll be ordering so I can pay for that permit as well.

I am not ready for this and it can't happen soon enough. Go figure.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 3:22PM
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I have a building permit in hand and demolition starts 2/24/2014. Yippee!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 3:24PM
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