Grand Forks families tackle kitchen remodel

They knocked down two walls, tore out the floor and ripped out the cupboards. Then, they called in the professionals. Living in the construction zone that took up one-third of their home for three months, they watched and waited as their new kitc...

Janelle Evert in the newly remodeld kicthen
Janelle Evert in the newly remodeld kicthen of her Belmont Road home in Grand Forks, N.D.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

They knocked down two walls, tore out the floor and ripped out the cupboards. Then, they called in the professionals. Living in the construction zone that took up one-third of their home for three months, they watched and waited as their new kitchen slowly came together.

Blake and Janelle Evert bought their 1957 house on South Belmont Road in Grand Forks in June 2012 because they wanted to down-size after their sons, Jon and Ben, moved out for college.

"We loved the location, loved the vaulted ceiling but didn't like that it was stuck in the 1950s," Janelle said.

The kitchen had limited lighting, outdated wallpaper, and it was closed-off with just enough room for one person to get through.

Like many homeowners looking to remodel, the couple wanted to create a kitchen with an open-concept, so they could not only cook but also host and entertain friends and family.


Open floor plan

"I had visions of just opening it all up and making it one big, great room for entertaining and family time," Janelle said.

The couple didn't waste any time. They began demolition for their project in August 2012, knocking down two walls to make three rooms -- a dining room, kitchen and laundry room -- into one big space.

Lynn Vreeland, founder and co-owner of Vreeland Remodeling, said the open-concept is one of the main things people are looking for in their kitchens today.

It allows homeowners to host holiday gatherings and entertain their friends and family members without feeling crowded in a small, closed-off kitchen. It also helps create an easier flow throughout the room.

Vreeland recently helped Don and Bobbie Shields of Grand Forks open and remodel the kitchen in their 1960s home.

"The way it was arranged before, pretty much it was a one-person kitchen," Don said. "It was hard to get anyone else in there to help."

When Don and Bobbie decided to remodel, they knew they wanted an open concept, which would make it easier to communicate with people throughout the rest of the house and allow more than one person to be in the kitchen at a time.


Now, the kitchen flows better than it used to, Don said. "We're not waiting for someone to leave the kitchen area to walk in."

'I had to have ... '

Each couple had a list of other things they wanted to include in their kitchen.

A double oven and major cupboard space were on the Everts' list, as well as higher-than-average counters. Their new counters are an inch and a half higher than the standard counter height to accommodate their tall family.

"I'm 5 feet 10 inches (tall), so the height of the counters makes it so much easier," Janelle said. She isn't the only tall one in the family -- Blake is 6 feet 2 inches, Jon is 6 feet 4 inches and Ben is 6 feet 6 inches.

Don and Bobbie were also particular about their counters but not the height.

"I had to have a granite countertop," Bobbie said.

They checked out a couple of granite sellers and decided to use Hatton Granite Company.


"They have this huge lot, and they just have you walk through and say which ones you like. And we came around a corner, and we saw this one, and we both really liked it," Bobbie said. "We both went, 'Wow!' It just had a little bit different coloring and grain to it."

The island with the granite counter top is their favorite part of the remodeled kitchen.

"You can just sit there, read the newspaper, read the mail," Don said. "It's really kind of nice and comfortable to have conversations."

Saved time, hassle

Although both couples were excited to have a new kitchen, they didn't jump the gun on their remodeling projects. They took time to plan, which Vreeland said is crucial.

"The better you plan the kitchen, the less chances of having to make changes," he said.

Don and Bobbie started looking at their options last summer. After checking cabinet makers, granite companies and other contractors, they hired Vreeland as a general contractor to help them with the project. They said Vreeland helped them see the full potential of their kitchen and pointed out things that may cause problems.

"They've been doing this for a long time, and they have good ideas," Bobbie said. "They never forced anything on us, but it made sense when they mentioned it."


Although the couple could have done some of the work themselves, they said they knew it would have taken longer than they were willing to wait.

"We're both working, and we thought it would take much longer to do that than have somebody come in and organize it for us," she said.

From the demolition to the electrical, to the cabinets, to the flooring, Vreeland organized everything. If the couple had questions or concerns about the project, they called and he took care of it.

Hiring a contractor may have saved the Shields some time and hassles, but Blake and Janelle saved money by taking the alternative route. They did all of the demolition themselves and hired their own subcontractors to do the work.

"It was just something that we could do," Janelle said. "Blake is very handy."

But they did come across some timing issues that might have been avoided had they hired a contractor.

The Shields' kitchen took about eight weeks to complete with a contractor, while Evert's kitchen took more than three months.

"We started in August of 2012 ... and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I finally got lights and the electricity working, so I could cook," Janelle said. "It was a long three months."


A flexible budget

It all comes down to the homeowners' budget and how much time and money they're willing to spend on their remodel.

"They have to have a budget, but they have to be a little flexible with it too," Vreeland said, adding that the project often grows from the initial plan.

Don and Bobbie's project started out fairly small, as they just planned to update the cabinets, but it grew from there and eventually turned into a full-blown kitchen remodel.

The Shields and the Everts each had a budget plan, but both projects took the couples over that set amount.

Janelle said she and her husband probably spent at least $5,000 more than their budget, maybe even $10,000.

"We needed more light, so our budget was blown because of the lights unfortunately," she said. "It was my oversight because I didn't plan for that."

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