You can be your own contractor. Once you have everything priced out and chosen, make a timetable of when everything will be ordered and is expected to arrive, then think logically about what needs to be done first. Your suppliers can help you figure this out. For example, it was my electrician that told me I needed an electrical outlet under my stove to light my new gas range. I just thought I needed the gas line.
I told all my suppliers I was acting as the general contractor and told them my tentative schedule. They penciled me in, and I told them I would call them if anything changed. My appliances were more than a week late so I called and rescheduled everything for a week and a half later. They were all flexible. It was good most of my suppliers were close by because they could pop by if something needed to be done before another step could take place.
You want your appliances to come in first. They can sit in the garage or basement until you’re ready for everything else.
This is the order I did my work in:
Lights – I had my recessed lighting done first. I wanted to see if I really needed the under-cabinet lights so I wanted to live with my new lighting for a few weeks before the rest of the stuff was put in. (If you choose to do under-cabinet lights then you have to install them while your backsplash is ripped out so the cords don’t show.) I wanted my recessed lights in a line, which is hard to do because you never know what’s in your ceiling. My electrician would poke a small hole that you couldn’t see from below and then twirl a wire in the ceiling to see if he was going to hit any pipes. He did not make a single extraneous hole that had to be patched and my lights are completely parallel. (You will want to be present when they are doing this work. You may have to make decisions about where the lights should go.)
Electrician – The same guy that installed my recessed lights uninstalled my stove top, installed a plug under the stove that I needed for electrical ignition even though I was switching to gas. He tried on that day to install my ovens but even though they were technically the same width they were actually a hair wider. Those couldn’t be installed as planned.
Granite – The next morning the granite company showed up. They took out the countertops and the old backsplash. They put in the undermount sink (for simplicity sake I bought the sink and the drain and the faucet from the granite company. That way I knew it would all fit and be cut right.) The granite company pulled out the stove top and dropped in the new gas range.
Plumber – The next day the plumber came in hooked up the sink, the dishwasher and ran the gas line from the basement. The plumber had a very difficult time getting our old dishwasher out of the hole because the former owner had installed hardwood floors. The floor level was raised up so with the granite already in place it wasn’t enough room to remove the dishwasher. They ended up having to cut the legs off of the dishwasher to get it out. We were lucky the new one fit in OK.
This also could have been solved by having the plumber come early and disconnect the dishwasher and then let the granite guys pull it out while the countertop was off before they installed the granite.
The granite company said that with dishwashers with top-mount buttons they usually cut an indention in the counter so you can see the buttons. Technically, this was a mistake on my part but I actually didn’t want the baby to know the buttons are there. When you’re done loading the dishwasher you set the buttons and close it and then it starts. So it’s not a problem and it hides the buttons. If your kids are older you may want the granite cut back slightly to show the buttons.
The gas line presented its own problems. It needed to be run from the unfinished basement through the finished side of the basement and then up into the cabinet above.
I talked with multiple people about running that gas line and most said they would have to make a giant hole in the finished basement ceiling to run it up into the kitchen. Northlake Plumbing said they thought they could piece it together ahead of time and then run it down avoiding making a big hole. The caveat to this plan was they had to be able to reach each joint enough to test it. Also they had to use a more expensive type of pipe to do this. They were able to reach the joint and avoided making a giant hole in a finished ceiling – which would have cost more to plaster over than buying the slightly more expensive pipe.
The plumbers finished hooking up my stove. So at this point I had a working dishwashwer, working stove and working sink.
On that same day, a friend of my father, who is amazing carpenter, showed up to slice the side of the cabinet so the ovens would fit in. He also had to build up the bottom of the cabinet hole so there wouldn’t be a gap in the cabinet.
(I’m not sure how this problem could have been anticipated.)
Electrician showed back up that day to put in the ovens.
I still had several lights around the house for him to do but we waited until after the painting was done for him to come back.
Tile - The tile guys showed up after a weekend to put in the backsplash. They worked Monday and Tuesday. Carroll Robinson at Atlanta Tile Supply, Inc. listened to what I was looking for in a backsplash and drew out a couple of ideas. We picked one we liked and he drew it more formally and figured out exactly the amount of materials I would need. He ordered the materials and my tiler picked them up from him. Carroll was very patient and helpful!
We went with a rectangular tile laid out in a subway pattern – meaning the tiles don’t line up on top of each other. The tile was about $3 a square foot – so very inexpensive, extremely durable and easy to care for. We added some glass tiles in for accents along the walls and behind the stove. Those were $27 a square foot, but we ordered only three square feet. It gave color and a fancy touch without busting the budget or looking too busy.
The tiler ended up adjusting the pattern slightly on the wall. They were very exacting and re-laid the start of the pattern several times until they had it just right. My only complaint was that he didn’t seal the grout. You have to wait for the grout to completely dry before you seal it, which takes several days. It was actually easy to seal but I just didn’t know that was my responsibility.
Painters – The painting was stressful to me because I had five men working in five rooms almost all at one time. They were very good about protecting our furniture and our carpet but that meant we had plastic and tarp everywhere! They were very skilled and meticulous! They didn’t take any shortcuts and were fine around the kids. They were in the house for four days!
The electrician came back after the painters were done to install a bathroom light and an over-the-sink light. He also swapped out all my electrical boxes in my dining rooms, bathrooms and kitchen to match the correct new trim color.
I hope this helps you get a feel for the order that work could be done in and might encourage you to take on your own job. With careful planning and lots of investigating you can do renovations for much less than you think.
Feel free to ask questions about your project. I’ll try to answer or another reader may know the answer too! What tips do you have for other readers about family-friendly and budget-friendly renovations?