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Remodeling the Perlow Kitchen


Jason Perlow
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Tomorrow we are having our kitchen demolished, in a remodeling project that will take 2 months. Here are the before shots -- Rachel will provide the ongoing narrative and we'll document its construction over the next few weeks.

The Perlow Kitchen, prior to remodelling (click)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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It will cost twice what you thought and take longer than 2 months. Where will you eat?

Actually we have an exact bill... we paid for it in advance. And I hope it doesnt take longer than that. We're eating in the basement, we plan to cook with the outdoor grill a lot, and eat out.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason Perlow Posted on June 11 2002,21:55

Actually we have an exact bill... we paid for it in advance.

Jason, Didn't anyone counsel you that, when doing any kind of renovation work, you should never pay the entire amount up front?  The acceptable method -- the one we used when we did a major kitchen/bath enlargement/renovation a few years back -- is to pay in thirds: a third when the contract is signed, a third about half-way through the project, and a third upon completion.  There are always things that have to be changed and/or adjusted during this type of renovation.  I certainly do hope you have contracted with someone who is utterly reliable.  Otherwise, you could end up being screwed.  

During our renovation, which took about 4 months (that did not include interior decorating), there were only 3 days when I was unable to use my kitchen.  That's because my contractor made every possible effort to inconvenience us as little as possible.  He was the best!!!  And we are totally thrilled with how everything turned out.   :smile:  :smile:

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Wow, Jason put up all the photos I took. I was going to put them in some semblance of order, but I guess that option is out. When we first saw this house in October of 2000, we loved the contemporary feel of the split-level design. But the owner before the previous owner remodeled the kitchen in a very 80's formica/plastic cheap-crap way. We knew we were going to need to re-do the kitchen. We started planning, using an Expo designer, even before we closed on the house the following March (2001), finalizing the plans last summer. Everything was in the warehouse last fall, but we delayed construction for personal reasons. We were ready to begin again last February (2002), but then the contractor was busy. Now we are finally about to really begin.

Everything for the new kitchen was supposed to be delivered last Wednesday. The only thing that arrived was the tile. And part of that order is missing and has to be re-ordered. On Sunday, June 9th, I packed up the kitchen with some help :wink: now most everything is in boxes in the garage. On Monday, all the rest of the stuff was supposed to be delivered, just the cabinets came. About 20% of the doors had some defect (scratches, poorly matched wood) and are being replaced. The sink base didn't come. It's been re-ordered. The appliances are now scheduled to arrive next Monday. Expo has a thing about everything for the project being onsite before they begin. However, demolition is scheduled to begin tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath! :wink:

{Edit: On 7/1/02 I edited the above link, deleted some photos and added captions.}

Here's some more information about the pictures at the link above. Obviously these are the "before" shots. I took a lot of pictures, I hadn't intended for them all to be online, so I won't bore you with details of every shot. The entire kitchen is 12' x 21', including the Dining Area which is open to the Living Room.

PIC00001-2 show the Dining Area. The vertical blinds are in front of sliding glass doors to the back yard. #19-20 show the cheap crap lighting fixture. #10 is a pretty good shot of the working area of the kitchen, and Truffle coming upstairs to see what the heck I'm doing taking all these pictures. #15 show all the scratches on the front of the stove. It doesn't show the rustiness on the storage drawer. #26 shows the PITA over-the-fridge cabinets. The future cabinets should be flush to the front of the fridge. I didn't bother taking pictures of the fridge interior. Suffice it to say, no ice maker, broken door shelves, noisy, etc. #12 & 13 show the desk/peninsula area. This will be replaced with a narrower peninsula and pantry. There will be no seating over-hang to the peninsula (giving another 1/2 foot of space in the work area) and the corner cabinet will have back doors that open into the dining area so I can actually make use of the currently dead corner. #22-24 show the broken state of the desk. #16 & 21 document how uneven the cabinet doors are, we couldn't get them to hang level. Oh, and notice the lovely plastic door handles. :raz: #25 shows the sink area, looks nice enough, but the sprayer is broken and the enamel sink is chipped inside. Can't show this in a picture, but to close the dishwasher, I have to kind of shove the door to the side while I close it.

Now, I'm not complaining, I just want to document the reasons why we are doing the renovation (other than we just want to). We are looking forward to having all of our shiny new appliances, stone countertop and tile backsplash, etc. These will be discussed in future installments.

PS - I will answer questions, as I've noticed them accumulating already as I preview my post, but I will probably react negatively to other people second guessing our decisions. I don't know how the process may turn out, but frankly I'm not too anxious about the process (this is unusual for me), and am being optimistic.

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It will cost twice what you thought and take longer than 2 months.
Is this your first time doing this? I hate to agree, but you always hold back money. I am sitting here sighing

As Jason mentioned, Expo outlines the cost of every little thing in advance. We made a small down payment when we began the design process. Paid for the various orders (tile, then appliances, then cabinets, with all parts & accessories) as they were ordered. But all orders were put on a Home Depot credit card. Six months, no payments or interest. Approximately half the project was paid off last March. We put the other half of the project on the card last week (had to be paid before delivery of goods). This includes all construction costs. However, we have six months to pay this amount. And if this project isn't finished by the time I actually have to put out the cash in December, someone will suffer! :wink: So, no we're not as naive as Jason made us sound. :smile:

Where will you eat?

We set up a temporary kitchen in the den area of the basement. Keep in mind this is a split-level house, so the basement is just six steps down from the kitchen (see the stairs to the left of the fridge). Our offices are off of this room. I set up some plain shelves from Ikea and have the microwave, toaster oven, blender and ice cream maker (all the essentials!) on that, along with mixing bowls, a big pot, 1 saucepan, a non-stick and a cast-iron skillet. We have two sinks, in the bathroom and laundry area. The dish drain board is on top of the dryer, overhanging the laundry sink. The fridge will be moved down there before demolition. We also have a Poland Spring water cooler. Outside is our Weber Grill with Side Burner (we spurged for the side burner last year in anticipation for the project).

We will also probably eat out a lot. :raz:

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I certainly do hope you have contracted with someone who is utterly reliable.  Otherwise, you could end up being screwed.

Part of the reason we chose to do this through Home Depot Expo is their lifetime warranty on the construction. As this is the very first time we are doing such a major project I was leery of using some local contractor who could be out of the business the next year. Also, our designer and project supervisor really seem to trust the contractor doing the actual work. When we were ready to begin the project again after our requested delay, they were insistant on using this particular contractor, saying he was the best one they'd worked with. My supervisor is actually on vacation this week, so he sent a co-worker (another Expo project super) to examine my cabinet delivery. He was very thorough in checking each cabinet & finish and wrote down anything that wasn't perfect for replacement. When he asked who was my contractor, he also said that that one does very good work. I've also met him several times and he's a real straight shooter. I feel I am in good hands.

During our renovation, which took about 4 months (that did not include interior decorating), there were only 3 days when I was unable to use my kitchen.  That's because my contractor made every possible effort to inconvenience us as little as possible.  He was the best!!!  And we are totally thrilled with how everything turned out.

Did you remodel more than your kitchen? In there, were you having your floors redone too? What kind of counter top do you have? How could you use your kitchen after they removed your cabinetry? floors?

We are also reversing the positioning of the stove and refridgerator, this will require some plumbing/gas line work in the basement crawl space. After this and the electrical work in the ceiling and walls the town has to do inspections, which incurs some down time, where they can't install the new stuff until the inspection is approved.

Also, we are saying 2 months, but know that is an approximation. It should take 8-10 weeks, a lot depends on the amount of down time because of inspections. The towns around here are really a PITA when it comes to these things. Some inspectors only go out for inspections once a week. If you miss that day, you may have to wait until the following week for the inspection. Did you have any downtime due to these types of inspections?

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Good Luck.  We did this 1 1/2 years ago, and we were without a kitchen for 3 1/2 months.   We had a fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker.  We ate out, ate microwave tv dinners (great way to lose weight) and got takeout.  

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Thankfully, we're not knocking down any walls or anything. The only thing we are really deprived of during the project is our garage and a convenient kitchen layout; the fridge to sink to grill/burner triangle is non-existant! I have used my Weber for more than grilling. The book goes into detail about baking for example, and I've cooked a whole turkey on it before. And we have a pretty big driveway. :raz:

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Rachel & Jason -

good luck on the project. I can't wait to hear how the twin 600 cfm fan ducts work.

I've heard very good things about the EXPO in Union. HD tends to keep its contractors on tight leashes.

Paul

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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...I will probably react negatively to other people second guessing our decisions.

Rachel, A totally understandable reaction since most of us don't like to be second-guessed by others when we think we have made the right decision.  Just remember that the comments we have made are only because we care.

Part of the reason we chose to do this through Home Depot Expo is their lifetime warranty on the construction. As this is the very first time we are doing such a major project I was leery of using some local contractor who could be out of the business the next year.

When we chose our contractor, we certainly did not pick him out of the Yellow Pages.  In fact, he does absolutely no advertising at all.  He has been in business for many years, and he gets all his jobs through word of mouth, that is, satisfied customers -- of which there are many.  The person who gave me his name is someone whose opinion I could trust totally.  She and her husband are extremely fussy, and all the work that was done for them was done to a "T".   Also, we did make financial comparisons with other contractors, and ours was far from the least expensive.  But he was not out of sight either.  You never want to do these kinds of renovations on the cheap.  By making comparisons, we were able to get a good idea of what was realistic.  And his estimate was.  

And if this project isn't finished by the time I actually have to put out the cash in December, someone will suffer!

This worries me a little bit.  One should never have to pay a balance until the entire job is done.  And it sounds as though a Home Depot credit card doesn't work like Visa, MC, and the like, where if something is not done or you are dissatisfied, you can hold back payment.  But looking on the bright side, your renovation does not sound very extreme -- no knocking down walls or building new ones.  It's basically a total re-do within the existing space which, if things proceed without any hitches, should be finished well before December.  

Did you remodel more than your kitchen? In there, were you having your floors redone too? What kind of counter top do you have? How could you use your kitchen after they removed your cabinetry? floors?

Our job was more than a simple remodel.  We extended the kitchen out 8 feet and built a new master bath above the extended section.  So, the new kitchen area became 20'x18' and the new bath 8'x18'.  Work upstairs also included the re-configuration of the master bedroom closet area.  I worked with a kitchen/bath designer who did layouts for both and through whom I purchased my cabinets and countertops.  All my kitchen appliances came from a single source -- a dealer in West Windsor.  All bathroom items came from a place in Red Bank my contractor does business with so that we got a discount.  

The framing of the extension came first, of course.  It was enclosed and a breakthrough into the existing kitchen was accomplished before any dismantling of the kitchen took place.  And then, that was done in phases.  The first to go were the ceiling cabinets directly adjacent to the new extension.  And what happened here was quite amazing.  My husband and I had gone off on a week's vacation at which time the old kitchen was still totally intact.  When we got home, we discovered that those cabinets were gone.  I had not emptied them before we left.  They contained dishes, glasses and assorted other stuff.  It was the construction guys who had taken everything out and carefully placed them on my diningroom table, first covering the table to protect it.  That's an example of the kind of guys that worked on the project.  I liked every one of them, we became quite friendly, and I got to know a lot about their lives and their families.  And they certainly got to know quite a bit about us.  But I digress....  

As I said, it wasn't until the very end, when we were basically ready to install the new cabinets that the last of the old were removed.  So, I always had a counter to work on, I had running water just about all the time -- except for when it had to be shut briefly to reconfigure some piping -- and I even had my cooktop and oven until the very end.  I think the reason for this is that a lot of the necessary work, i.e, electrical and plumbing, was done in the new section of the kitchen, and it wasn't absolutely necessary to dismantle everything to get the job done.  The only time I could not use the kitchen was when the new cabinets, counters and appliances were being installed.  But with a lot of great coordination, that took only a couple of days.  

Actually, my contractor was not responsible in any way for my cabinets -- as I said, I purchased them through my kitchen designer -- or for their installation.  He did, however, recommend a carpenter who did an excellent job.  (The carpenter also built the vanity for the new bath.  It is covered with mirror panels, done by the same glazier who installed the glass around the new shower.)  Though we ordered all the kitchen appliances at the beginning of the job, we made only a down payment, we did not pay the balance until we took delivery, and they were not delivered until we were ready to install them.  

There was down time when waiting for inspectors, but very little.  There was a hassle with one of the inspectors who kept insisting we should not have kitchen water pipes on an outside wall.  No matter that my kitchen sink has been on an outside wall since the house was built more than 30 years ago, and no pipe has ever frozen.  The man was a total ditz!  But we had to deal with him to get the necessary o.k.'s.  So, my builder agreed to put extra insulation around the pipes, my husband and I signed a letter saying we understood the risks, and the work continued  

You asked about the floors.  Before the renovation, we had the same floor throughout the downstairs area with the exception of the family room.  Breaking up the kitchen meant replacing all that flooring.  The downstairs level is on a slab and when we orginally decorated, I had wanted planking, but that wasn't possible then, so we installed wood tiles which, in those days, were cemented down.  Our contractor told us that it was now possible for us to have the planking I had always wanted.  They stapled huge sheets of plywood directly into the concrete slab throughout the downstairs, and the unfinished planking was then installed on top of the plywood.  The only time we actually had to leave the house entirely and sleep somewhere else overnight (a local hotel) was when the floors were being finished.  

As for the kitchen counters, we have granite.  They are gorgeous and easy to care for.  And you can put piping hot pots and pans directly on them.  I love them!  (In the bathroom, we have green marble atop the vanity and around the soaking tub -- no jacuzzi -- and plain white tile in the shower.)

Once the kitchen and bath were completed, I worked with the interior designer I have worked with over the years to finish things off.  The entire project also included repainting, repapering and refurnishing other rooms and areas of the house.  And we were not totally finished with everything for about another year.  

I don't want to make it seem as though this 4-month construction project was a walk in the park.  It wasn't.  There were glitches and some aggravations.  And my house was one big dust bowl for a long, long time.  But, in the end, it was all worth it.  We have gotten so many compliments on our kitchen, people telling us that it's the nicest kitchen they have ever been in.  But we certainly didn't do it for that reason.  We did it strictly for ourselves, to make real the vision of what we wanted our new kitchen -- and master bath -- to be.  And thanks to all the wonderful folks who worked on the project, it turned out perfectly.

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Wow! Your remodel sounds fantastic. I wish we had the room for an expansion, but the configuration of the house and property really don't allow for it (we have a pretty small back yard). I suppose if we were moving our plumbing & major appliances to a new location that area could have been set up before demolition, but it isn't feasible with our layout.

You really should post your location (or at least your state) so if someone else is in your area they can contact you for referrals.

When we started our planning, we really didn't have anyone to turn to for recommendations. Also, I really liked the designer we had through Expo. She also helped with an update to the master bath (just painting and replacing the sink/mirror, lighting), and that was without charge (for her services). And we had a local electrician/handyman do that work.

It looks like there will probably be a delay in the start of our construction due to the missing sink base. I don't completely get why, but at least they didn't dismantle the kitchen and then realize they had to wait. I'll keep you all posted.

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Best of luck to you!  I'm the president of my co-op, and we have to approve everyone's renovation plans -- so I know some of the headaches although fortunately not first-hand.  We just finished a 2-year battle with a shareholder who had his range hood duct going ... nowhere.  Into a space between his apt and the one next door.  OMG.  But that does raise the issue: make sure you can easily get to the outside vent of the exhaust, since you'll have to clean it periodically (otherwise you'll have grease dripping down the wall of your house).   :sad:

BTW: did I miss something?  What appliances are you getting?

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did I miss something?  What appliances are you getting?

Whew.  Now we're REALLY gonna get it.  Floor plans, glossy photos of deluxe ranges, the REAL reason why the fridge and the oven are being switched, etc.!  :biggrin:

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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RPerlow Posted on June 12 2002,14:55

You really should post your location (or at least your state) so if someone else is in your area they can contact you for referrals.

Our house is located in NJ.  I would be most happy to give referrals.

BTW, we also did a total kitchen renovation in our co-op in NYC.  When we bought the place, the kitchen was a horror.  We took it down to the walls.  In this case, it didn't matter that there was not a functional kitchen for several weeks because we didn't have to live there, and our daughter, who is our permanent tenant, was out of the country and didn't return until after the job was completed.

Suzanne F Posted on June 12 2002,18:22

I'm the president of my co-op, and we have to approve everyone's renovation plans

Our co-op board did not have to approve our renovation plans.  We were only required to follow the standing rule that any work done in apartments can take place only Monday through Friday, between 9 and 5.

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did I miss something?  What appliances are you getting?

No, I didn't outline that here. I think that Paul heard about the appliances at one of the eGullet dinners. To spare Jon I'll simply list stuff here: Garland range, Kitchen Aid fridge, Miele dishwasher. I've heard the Miele is so quiet that new owners frequently open it during a cycle to make sure it is actually running!

Actually, I could use some advice on Garbage Disposals, we haven't bought one yet.

Our house is located in NJ.  I would be most happy to give referrals.

I wish we had started eGullet before we designed the kitchen and I could have gotten advice here during the planning stage!

I'd leave remodelling to professionals and reduce your ulcers

I agree. See my previous post for reasons we chose Expo.

the REAL reason why the fridge and the oven are being switched

As you can tell from the pictures, the oven is opposite the end of the peninsula. As many of you know, Jason and I are big people and I felt it was unsafe to have the oven by the limited pass through area. Also, it is more convenient to have the fridge closer to the dinning area (to get more drinks, condiments, whatever).

It didn't matter that there was not a functional kitchen for several weeks because we didn't have to live there, and our daughter, who is our permanent tenant, was out of the country and didn't return until after the job was completed.

That would be the ideal situation indeed!

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Wow.

I have to echo anil - your kitchen in HUGE. I'm dying with jealousy over here. When you're walking around feeling displaced during the remodel, just remember: I do all my cooking in a room that's only 6ft by 5ft. And that how big it is BEFORE you take into account the floorspace consumed by cabinets.  :wow:

Miss J

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It sounds big, but this is a house not an apartment. Also, the dining area of the kitchen is the only dining area. There is no separate Dining Room. I empathize with you about your kitchen size, we've lived in much smaller places before we bought our house.

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Rachel, I'm still insanely jealous. Living in London, where they're starting to talk about 50-year mortgages to help first-time buyers get into the market, houses seem like incredible luxury items. Whenever I go back to Canada, I'm always struck by just how much SPACE everyone seems to have.  :smile:

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Rachel, I'm still insanely jealous. Living in London, where they're starting to talk about 50-year mortgages to help first-time buyers get into the market, houses seem like incredible luxury items. Whenever I go back to Canada, I'm always struck by just how much SPACE everyone seems to have.  :smile:

the perlow's house would be, like, 2 million dollars in london.  that's one 'spensive city you got over there!  and 50 yr mortgages?  yikes.

rachel, my aunt has a house similar to yours, but they have the traditional dining room separated from the kitchen by a wall.  i love the way yours is all open.  way better for entertaining.  you may have gone over this, but, are you keeping the island/breakfast bar?  any other plans?

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Actually it will remain in a very similar layout. We tried many different configurations, but that is really what worked best. I really wanted a range top (gas) and separate wall oven (electric), and/or an island, but they just didn't work. However, the new peninsula will not have the breakfast bar over hang. We never used it that way. Our table & chairs just fit in the dining area and there's no room for the stools or whatever to actually sit there. It is much more used as a prep area, wrap & microwave center. So, the peninsula will be about 10 inches narrower (26" vs current 36"). This space will increase the working area of the kitchen. In addition, the back of the peninsula, facing the dining room, will open for easier access into the corner base cabinet.

Living in London, where they're starting to talk about 50-year mortgages to help first-time buyers get into the market, houses seem like incredible luxury items.

the perlow's house would be, like, 2 million dollars in london.

Or in NYC. But frankly there aren't any real houses with property in either city, are there? Just Brownstones and row houses with a postage stamp garden? Not that we have a lot of propery, our property is about 85 x 100' and most of that is front yard, our back garden is pretty small.

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