Welcome to our first entry in a series of living through a kitchen renovation. Our contractor told us that we have a 5 week renovation, and he might possibly be able to get it done in 4. We thought it’d be nice to focus on specific elements each week of tips we have learned going through this renovation. Obviously we’re not experts, but these are things that are working for us. So, again welcome to week 1 of … hopefully only 4 or 5. If we get much beyond that my tips for living through a renovation will be, “just bulldoze your house what even matters anymore?!”
As I was preparing to write this post, I realized we did a similar post when we renovated our kitchen at the old house. Things are a little different this time around. At our last house, the kitchen was isolated in the back of the house, and it was very easy to just close it off and live life normally (and by “normally” I mean “microwave in the bathroom,” obviously). This house is totally different. We knocked down walls, opening the kitchen to our main living area. That means that basically our entire first floor is a construction zone, and we can’t be in there while work is being done. That’s why we’re learning new things, and sharing them with you.
During this update we’re going to focus on pets. As you may remember, we have a dog, Ruby, and two cats, Trixie and Mocha. When walls come down, and your entire main living area is under construction, one major concern has to be safety. This applies to the whole family but Joey isn’t mobile yet, and two of our pets — Ruby and Mocha — are always very interested in being in the center of everything. So in order to keep them safe, that means locking them up.
Create a safe living zone
Baby gates are your friend here. We are lucky that in our upstairs we have two bathrooms and three bedrooms. We have three baby gates: 1 is at the top of the stairs, locking all the animals up here (which is essentially our small apartment until the reno is done). The second blocks off the guest room, but is set up so that the cats can get through but Ruby can’t. This allows them to get in and out to use the litter box, but doesn’t allow Ruby to get in and eat what is in their litter box … which she does … because she’s gross. The third is blocking Joey’s room, because we don’t want the animals leaving all their grossness all over Joey’s room. This isn’t a huge area, but it’s enough space that the animals could spread out if they wanted to. But of course they all like to hang out within two feet of us at all times.
Keep dogs entertained
If you’ve got a dog that needs exercise (like Ruby does), it is critical that you keep her stimulated. We usually let Ruby run around outside for a while every day, but that is pretty difficult in this situation. So Kerry is being very particular about getting Ruby out for walks when the weather allows. A bored dog will quickly become a bad dog, so finding something to keep her not bored is absolutely necessary. If that means doing some training exercises, or a walk, or if you can get outside with her for fetch, do it. For us, a walk or some quality play time once I get home keeps Ruby well behaved.
Know when you need to make arrangements
One thing I will say in every one of these “survival” posts is make sure you are communicating with your contractor and getting a schedule. If you happen to be doing a renovation on your own, this doesn’t necessarily apply. And by the way, good for you! We’re not there yet for a whole kitchen reno, but maybe one day! So for us, knowing when certain things are happening is very important. For example, on Thursday of this week, the guys working on the drywall will be sanding extensively. It was recommended that we not stay at the house with the baby that night. That means we have to schedule an overnight stay for Ruby. If you’ve got animals that can’t be left alone, make sure you know when you need to make special arrangements.
Rely on the help of friends
On that note: if your friends offer to help, accept it! We were leaving for California last Sunday, and were planning on boarding Ruby. We had actually dropped her off on Friday and planned to pick her up on the following Thursday. On Friday night, our good friends said, “Why didn’t you ask us? We’ll watch Ruby!” They have a huge fenced in yard and a black lab. The idea of Ruby staying at a friend’s house with one other dog was much more appealing to us than boarding her. So we picked Ruby up and drove her over to our friends’ house. Ruby stayed there the whole time, and even an extra few days, and made a new best friend. Actually she loved it there. I’m not convinced she wanted to come home with us.
Your pets are stressed, too
Living out of our bedroom is pretty stressful for us, and it’s easy to forget that it’s really stressful for our pets, too. Ruby doesn’t understand why she’s locked upstairs now. The cats don’t get why they’re forced to spend so much time with Ruby. Their routines are all messed up, and that has an impact on them. It’s important to be aware of that and try to help when you can. If Ruby starts acting up, I’ll play some games with her. If one of the cats feels trapped, I’ll pick her up and take her in another room. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and pet the cats when they’re being good — it calms everyone down. Ruby can’t really play fetch in our small space but she can jump up in the air for a toy, so we’ll do that.
Don’t take your stress out on your pets, and acknowledge that they are freaked out too, and you’ll all get through this difficult time together. And in the end, it’ll all be worth it: because you’ll have an open kitchen and you’ll finally be able to see every time that Ruby tries to get up on the counter and you can say, “Ruby! Get away from that butter, you weirdo!”