Making do, wwyd? (long,sorry)

crl_October 29, 2012

We are buying a house that needs some work. Master bath comes first due to a leak. So the kitchen will have to wait until our cash reserves are built back up. I am estimating we will end up living in the house for a year and a half or two years before we remodel. We have two kids. The kitchen currently lacks any functioning appliances and has orginal 1920s cabinets (still has the original ice box with a hatch to the outside for ice delivery!).

So, no dishwasher at all. The cabinets are a tiny bit short of standard depth, but I am pretty sure we could fit a Bosch in there. Would need to hire a carpenter to doctor the cabinets.

No refrigerator at all. The spot for a refrigerator is shorter than any refrigerator we would ultimately like to have. We could buy a $400 or so refrigerator and replace it when we remodel or we could again have a carpenter doctor the existing cabinet--likely just take down the whole thing above this spot--and guess a bit on which size refrigerator we want in the end.

The existing range is a very old electric unit with a secondary oven/vent on top. The main oven is not working. We could see about getting this repaired. Or we could replace with an inexpensive electric oven and vent. Or we could have gas brought to the spot (if it isn't already there) and buy a range we would intend to keep. This spot may or may not be where the range ultimately ends up. There is definitely gas very close by though as the hot water heater is on the other side of that wall about two feet away.

I really can't decide how to approach all of this. Part of me wants to lay out the smallest possible amount of money for now and try to preserve as much flexibility as possible for the remodel down the road (so fix the range, skip the dishwasher, buy the cheap frig) and part of me feels like that is being penny wise and pound foolish (so we should go ahead and buy the good appliances and make them fit into the kitchen for now and reuse them when we remodel).

What would you do and why? Thanks for any thoughts!

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I would check Craigslist and freecycle. When our portable dishwasher broke about a year before we expected to renovate, we found a replacement on freecycle that cost us nothing. Last month, when we finally demo-ed the old kitchen, I passed the dishwasher on to someone else for free.

Major appliances don't come up every day on freecycle (depending how active your local list is), but it can be worth the wait. I waited about 2 weeks for the dishwasher show up on our list.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 12:35AM
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I would encourage you to try to look at Craigslist for your appliances. When my 1953 model stove went out, I got on CL, and found a high end unit for less than $400. Four years later, I am still learning to use all the bells and whistles on this stove, and I do love it! When I did the remodel, I was able to use that stove instead of having to buy something new, saving more money.

You'd be amazed at what people dispose of. For my kitchen remodel, I found a Bosch dishwasher that works like a dream, for only $100. The seller had recently replaced their appliances with stainless, and I wanted white. It's actually quite easy to retrofit a DW into those old house cabinets.

My built in fridge, which I highly recommend in old house kitchens due to their space saving size, was also on CL for $400. So, great deals can be found there.

When I bought my old house, the kitchen function was horrible, but I knew I had so many other things to do first before the kitchen (plumbing system, electrical system). I finally got to it, 7 years after buying the house, and have the most amazing kitchen that I love. During that time however, the layout I played with changed at least 5 times. So, do the basics like new-to-you appliances, then live in it and experience what you'd like to see in the space and how you'd like it to function for your family. Then, you can design the kitchen you want that fits into the foot print of your home, when you are financially ready to remodel.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 12:44AM
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I have thought about used appliances, but am a bit concerned about the lack of a warranty. I suppose if they are cheap enough, it make sense even if we have to pay for a repair or two.

But even with CL appliances, we would have to decide whether to stay within the existing constraints or spend the money to have various cabinets altered and have gas brought to the range location. Would you make those alterations?


    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 12:54AM
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"Part of me wants to lay out the smallest possible amount of money for now and try to preserve as much flexibility as possible for the remodel down the road."

Whole heartedly agree with this -- aim for "the least that will do" for now, as you will have a better idea of what you want long term when you get closer to doing the remodel. If the appliances don't work but are fixable, weigh the cost of fixing vs. replacing with a second-hand Craigslist appliance, do whatever is most economical for the short term. Not needing to work around existing appliances when you get to your remodel will make things go more smoothly then, as well.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 1:51AM
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I've been living in my 1930 kitchen for a year now, and I've glad that I've waited before contemplating any renovation because I've learned how we live in the house, what I love about the kitchen, what I've learned to live with, what I haven't (i.e., I still want a dishwasher!). I definitely agree with PPs: spend as little money as possible right now until you know what you want to do long-term. Among other factors, it sounds like you may not understand what it means to do work in an older house: if you have plaster walls, they do not like to be mucked with, and if your cabinets are truly original and built in place, you likely will not be able to mess with just one of them.

Don't forget that the appliances that you can buy on craigslist, you can sell on craigslist in a year, often for as much as you paid for it. Try Habitat ReStore as well. Good luck - and come join us on the Old Home Forum!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 2:40AM
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As far as what alterations to make, I would buy a CL fridge to fit the space you already have (unless you absolutely can't make do with a smaller fridge or don't have room for a garage/basement fridge to supplement kitchen fridge). I wouldn't pay to alter cabs.

I run my DW about 10-12 times a week so I would pay to have a DW space made. Search for a decent CL or scratch/dent model. Sears outlet is a good place to find scratch/dent appliances. Who cares if DW has a scratch on the side that will never be seen?

For the range, I wouldn't do gas yet. If you really hate the one you have, search the places I and others have mentioned for an electric replacement and wait to run the gas line when you are doing the full reno. I love my gas rangetop, but could make do, and did for many years, with electric.

So, I would only have cabs altered for a DW as having one would make a ginormous difference to my everyday life that a bigger fridge and gas range would not.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 2:41AM
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If it were me, I'd skip the dishwasher until later. If your kids are old enough, they can discover the joys of dishwashing. It builds character, even if it's your character.

For the stove, it depends. When you remodel, are you thinking that you want a standard 30" stove or are you thinking a 6-burner type that's 36" or more? If you're thinking 30", then I'd consider going with a gas version of one you want to keep to replace the non-functioning oven. Piping the gas through the wall isn't particularly expensive. Moving the gas line over a bit later isn't a big thing UNLESS your stove may eventually end up on a different wall altogether, in which case, find an inexpensive temporary unit. We had a whacky oven for a couple of years - preheat for at least 45 min. and set temp 45 degrees higher than called for - and I don't recommend it. Possibly you could get by with a toaster oven for the duration - not if you're doing Thanksgiving turkey or birthday cakes, but if you don't need to do those things, then maybe that would work for you. If you have your heart set on a 6-burner deluxe model, then definitely try Craig's List or similar for a temp. unit.

Refrigerator, that's the hard one. It's kind of a toss-up between getting a shorty for now or finding some other location for a new/used full sized one for the short term - back porch? Garage? We had ours in the living room for about 2 months while we worked on the kitchen. It was interesting. Neither solution is particularly convenient, but better than having a carpenter in to mess around with cabinetry whose life is nearly at an end. If you just need an overhead cupboard out, you could probably do it yourself. The problem with refrigerators is that they come in a zillion widths. When you work out the new layout for your remodeled kitchen, you'll make a decision on how much width you can/want to give to a fridge. Or maybe you already know that you want a 36" model, or two full size units, one for the fridge and the other for the freezer or whatever. For a fridge, I just don't think it's safe to "know" what you plan to do, which makes a shorty or an inexpensive out-of-the-kitchen model attractive. Just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 2:42AM
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We moved into a house with non-working appliances, including a cooktop and wall oven. We bought a not-expensive electric range, took out the saws-all and cut the cabinets away where the cooktop used to live and set it in. We didn't remodel for a few years, so waited on the dw and used the broken wall oven as cereal and chip storage! ;-)

Time flies. Make do without spending more than you need to, so you save as much as you can for later. (My kids who learned to hand wash REALLY appreciated the dishwasher when we got it and knew not to complain about loading or unloading it!... ANd will still lecture their younger siblings when they hear such complaints.)

My sister bought all her appliances and stuck them into the kitchen she intended to remodel, but when it came time to design a new plan, fitting those was really tough and limited our options. Unless you're SURE you can use it in your new kitchen, and that you'll be fine with the color and style, get what you can for the least that you can for now.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 3:13AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Buy a fridge. Buy a range. Used. You don't need a DW. Really, you don't. And buy some tools. New or used.

And get handy. You now own a house that will suck you dry if you don't develop some DIY abilities. You should be able to modify/remove any cabinets yourself with a multi tool, a straight edge, level, and some muscle.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 7:53AM
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We definitely understand old houses, having previously owned two. And having done a kitchen remodel in each--DIY the first time. Oh and finishing a basement DIY the first time as well.

My husband has plenty of DIY skills, having previously done construction and micro miniature electrical work, but works 80 or more hours a week so he is not going to be spending the small amount of free time he has on house repairs. And whether I can do this stuff myself or not is irrelevant because we have a two year old. I am not going to using power tools or even hand saws with her around.

So those comments aren't particularly helpful and are not what I asked.

I appreciate all the feedback on my questions.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 8:32AM
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I'm sure you know this then but you need to know your electrical panel limits even for your temporary appliances. That is probably an important to upgrade even with the temporary appliances, if it is not adequate.

I would go the craigslist route and live with the kitchen for a while before starting anew.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 9:08AM
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Does the upper oven work? At least 2 of the burners? If so I'd leave it be for now. Use the lower oven for storage.

I'd scour craigslist for a portable dishwasher to wheel around the kitchen as needed. And even this depends on how necessary you feel a dishwasher is. If it was just me and dh I'd probably skip it. But we have 3 kids and run our DW probably 12 times a week and both of us work full time, therefore we feel a DW to be necessary.

The fridge - i'd probably remove whatever is above the current fridge location and get whatever fridge you will want in your remodeled space. But again, there's 5 of us living here so a shorty fridge just wouldn't work for us.

I wouldn't spend money to fix the lower oven nor would I pay someone to make a DW fit in the cabinets I have now.

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 9:16AM
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Thanks everyone! Electrical panel is being upgraded ASAP so we should be good on that.

Upper oven does work and all burners do work. But I use our full sized oven pretty much everyday. I don't think I can go two years without one. Not with the kids.

I am good with the amount of space in a small refrigerator. We had a 10 cubic foot one once when there were three of us and it was not a problem at all.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 9:41AM
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Wow...this is EXACTLY where we are, although we don't close on our house for another couple of weeks. There is a place in my city that sells used appliances and includes a 13-month warranty. We're going to get their cheapest range and hook it up in the existing spot. We'll also get a fridge, which will go wherever it fits (definitely not where the original was, because the cabinets are too low, like yours). No dishwasher. I don't want to be limited by appliances when I finally get to renovate the kitchen. Plus, I figure this will give me motivation to save!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Dh has been back in the house since I have and says there is definitely gas already in place for the range.

I think we are going with cheap frig, good range and wait and see on the dishwasher.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Good luck. I would go with the new range if gas is already in place, but then I am a gas person and HATE electric of any kind. I was also going to suggest that you could look at the counter microwaves that are also convection which could resolve your oven problem and can be placed even on a table if necessary. I have one of the first, a kenmore that I bought over 25 years ago and is still going strong, with only some fan bearings replaced about 3 years ago.

If dishwashing is a big one, we lived for a number of years in a rental house with a portable (one on wheels which we moved into place, connected to the sink faucet and hooked the outlet to the sink edge, then moved back into a corner when done). It was a lifesaver when we were both working, and a friend from Peru was so enthused that she bought one to take back.

have fun and enjoy your discoveries!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 10:20AM
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We did this years ago, when we first moved to our 1930's house. We had the refrigerator cabinet removed and just placed our refrigerator there with no cabinet.

We had a cabinet cut for the dishwasher. We did no fancy work on that, just removed the inner shelving and doors and cut the frame to accommodate the dishwasher.
We removed the oven and range and used a free standing electric that was used, but in good shape. I bought a little butcher block island for the center of the room, and used some furniture pieces for extra cabinets.

I knew at the time, I would someday put in the kitchen of my dreams, and I did not want to have anything expensive enough to limit my choices for the remodel.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 10:58AM
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We have had the same problems in our 1908 house as far as the dishwasher goes. We cannot fit one in because our counters are not tall enough, which is common in old houses, especially when there are multiple layers of flooring. So for the last 6 years, we have not had a dishwasher and I don't really miss it. We are currently planning out our new kitchen. I am keeping all of the original flat-panel, inset cabinets - the uppers are 50" tall- I love them. We probably will put in a dishwasher because my husband wants one. After a year of planning the new kitchen, I finally have a plan that meets all of my needs and most of my desires, without removing any of the original features of the house. I am so glad that I went through the process of living in the house and using the kitchen as is. Now I really know what needs to be done, and how to manage it.

Your plan sounds like a good one. It will give you time to live in the house and come up with a long term solution to the kitchen issues.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 11:47AM
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I have thought about used appliances, but am a bit concerned about the lack of a warranty.

I have bought many, many used appliances (used to be a slumlord) and have had almost zero problems with them.

If you buy from a used appliance dealer, they usually have a 30 to 90-day warranty.

My current electric stove and OTR microwave/vent was used, and about 30% the cost of new ... I'm quite happy with it.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 12:52PM
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Thank you all for your feedback! We have a plan. We are going to try it without the dishwasher for a couple of months and then re-evaluate. We are going to buy a cheap refrigerator that fits in the existing space. And we are going to buy a decent gas range, planning to continue to use it after the remodel.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 8:15PM
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