Going Paperless: 10 Ways I Used Evernote to Plan and Track Our Kitchen Remodel

We know from the time we bought our house that we’d eventually want to remodel our kitchen. This spring, we finally got around to doing it. And as you might imagine, Evernote has played an integral role in planning and tracking our kitchen remodel. Our remodel is scheduled to wrap up at the end of this week, and so I thought I’d list out some of the ways we’ve used Evernote throughout the process.

One thing I did from the start was to create a Kitchen Remodel notebook into which everything related to the remodel would go. And like everything else in Evernote, that notebook would also serve as a timeline for the project.

1. Sketching out ideas

We weren’t going to do a major remodel. We know that from the start. We weren’t planning on stripping everything down to the studs and starting from scratch. But we did want to replace cabinets, countertops, and floors, and maybe squeeze in a few other things along the way. Early on I sketched out some of those changes, which was one of the first notes I captured in Evernote.

Kitchen Plan

I also took photos of the existing kitchen and used Skitch to annotate them with some other ideas. This proved useful when meeting with potential contractors because it was easy to show them what we wanted.

Kitchen Changes

2. Clipping possible contractors

Kelly signed up for Angie’s List and began searching for contractors. We also had some recommendations from friends. She would identify interesting possibilities and I would clip those into Evernote directly from the Angie’s List website. As we discussed things, I would add notes to the clippings to indicate what we’d talked about.

We narrowed things down to two possibilities and had each contractor come out to give us quotes.

Still, I kept all of the clippings from Angie’s List because it made for a complete record. We could see all of the contractors that looked interesting, and the ones that made the cut to the next round.

3. Capturing quotes

When the contractors came out, they each gave us quotes. Usually, they emailed these quotes and I simply forwarded these emails to my Evernote account, and filed them away in the Kitchen Remodel folder.

4. Scanning contracts

Once we selected the contractor we wanted to use, and signed the contracts, that got scanned into Evernote as well. I made sure to keep all revisions to the contract over time in Evernote so that I could easily refer to any of them whenever I needed to.

5. Reminders for time-sensitive items

Occasionally, there were some time-sensitive things that we needed to remember. For instance, we were given dates on which we needed to make certain decisions (paint color for the walls, hardware for the cabinets, etc.).

I made a simple text note for each of these so that they showed up as reminders. Of course, Evernote also sent me reminders about these events so that I would not forget. I also used this to remind me when each payment was due to the contractor during each phase of the process. Those reminder notes included the amount of the payment so that I didn’t have to look it up elsewhere later.

Kitchen Reminder


6. Capturing product selections

When we went to the showroom to select the counters, cabinets, backsplash and flooring, I took pictures of our final selections and captured those in Evernote as well. I jotted down the product codes in the notes in case you couldn’t tell from looking at the picture what the product was.

Product Selection

We also did this for wall paint color. Each time we saw a sample color we liked as a potential candidate, I captured it in Evernote so that we could compare and narrow things down. We eventually narrowed to 2 very similar shades, and had the crew come out and put samples of each on the wall so that we could see which one looked best.

7. Photographing daily progress

The day before the work started, I took a set of high resolution baseline photos using our Nikon D5100 SLR. I captured the images in RAW format so that I had the best possible quality. Each day of the job, thereafter, I captured photos, always from the same angles, if that was possible (sometimes the construction didn’t allow the exact same angles). These photos went into Evernote each day so that they had the date stamp of the day on which they were taken. This allows us to visually see the progress, and see the day-to-day changes. Here is one of the baseline photos, from May 18, the day before the work started.

Baseline West

And here’s the same angle from May 29, about 11 days into the construction.

May 29 West

This kind of daily record is useful for all kinds of things, but had proven particularly helpful in developing our punch list.

8. Keeping email correspondence

There is, of course, a lot of email that goes back and forth with the contractor and project manager. I send any email directly related to the remodel to Evernote. Even though I still have it accessible in Gmail, I like having it all in one place. This comes in especially handy if Kelly needs the information. She can go into the Kitchen Remodel notebook in Evernote and see everything there. She doesn’t have to worry about an email sitting in my Gmail inbox that she might not be able to access.

9. Maintaining a punch list

I mentioned earlier that the photos have helped us maintain our punch list. I’ve taken to annotating some of the photos to indicate things that will need fixing before I consider the job finished. For example, I noticed yesterday that a light did not seem to be working. I circled the light on the image for that note on that day, and then added a “punch list” tag to the note.

Punch List

I created a saved search in Evernote that allows me to quickly pull up any notes in the Kitchen Remodel notebook tagged as “punch list.” The search string looks like this:

notebook:"Kitchen Remodel" tag:"punch list"

I moved the saved search, along with the Kitchen Remodel notebook to the shortcut area for quick access during the project.

Kitchen Shortcuts

10. Easily sharing information

I’ve shared the Kitchen Remodel notebook with Kelly, so that she can access and update it anytime she needs to. This is one of the most useful reasons for having all of this in Evernote. It provides a single authoritative source repository for the project information. When Kelly needs some information about it, she’s getting the most recent versions of everything.

This is also useful for sharing with our contractor. I can easily click on a note and share it with our contractor, or email the contents of the note directly from Evernote. No jumping around to different applications, which is nice.

Using Evernote to plan and track our kitchen remodel has eliminated a large part of the stress of such a project: the part where you worry about keeping everything together. It has also made the project easier, and run more smoothly because we don’t have to go hunting for information, or remember when something is due. It’s a few seconds away in Evernote, and Evernote’s reminders will let us know when we need to do something.

The project should be completed by the end of the week, right on schedule. I’ll post a follow up when it is all done so that those curious to see what the final kitchen looks like can take a peek.

And anyway has more tips for using Evernote in remodeling projects, drop them in the comments below.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Whiteboards, Webmeetings, Evernote, and Skitch.

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  1. some great ideas here! I especially like the punch list idea. I’ve got a bathroom remodel coming up and I’ll use a lot of these techniques. Except I’ll probably be content with mid-res photos taken from my iPhone.

  2. Loving your articles, Jamie, thanks!

    When you say “I filed them away in the Kitchen Remodel Folder”, what exactly do you do? From what I’ve read in your previous articles, you’re not a tagger. So you’d probably name each note.

    What if you, say, wanted to see all the contractor’s quotes? Wouldn’t it be easier and more organized to tag all the quotes with “quotes” so you can see all of them at once? Similar to putting them all under KitchenRemodel>Quotes>”abcxyz” (folder metaphor).


    1. Sahil, I’m not much of a tagger. I do use tags, but I’m pretty conservative in their use. For something like the quotes in the example you gave, there are so few notes with quotes that it isn’t worth tagging them. They just go into the notebooks. If there were lots of them, I might consider tags. But my process has been evolving over time, and I have made some changes. Stay tuned for this week’s Going Paperless post for more on how my organization of notebooks and tags has evolved.

  3. Another question – about saving email correspondence to evernote – email conversations wouldn’t get updated in your evernote note when the conversation proceeds, correct? How do you go about this?

    Thanks so much, again!

    1. Sahil, generally speaking, if I send an email to Evernote, it is a thread that isn’t likely to be updated, like a receipt for something I bought, or a confirmation message, or a license code for software or something like that. If the conversation is updated after the fact, well, I can just go to Gmail to see the conversation.


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