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  • Daring Greatly

    When I look at the finished kitchen renovation, I think of the quote above. I put my blood, sweat, and tears into this thing and I am beyond proud of it. It was a lot of work. SO. MUCH. WORK. Almost everything did NOT go according to plan. There were many, many times I did not want to continue with the project. There were times when I was OVER IT. But continuing to live in a construction zone was not an option. So I pressed on and can say that it is ALL D-O-N———-E! Would I do it again? Probably not. I equate a kitchen reno to running a marathon. I did it once; I checked it off my bucket list. I am forever changed from the experience, but I have no desire to do it again. Now that everything is all done with the kitchen, I am in awe of the transformation and that I DID IT!

    You may be wondering why I didn’t take the opportunity to blog about the ENTIRE kitchen reno process, step by step? It was so painful to live through the renovation experience that I didn’t have the time and energy to blog about it along the way. I also felt like everything was in “ugly duckling” stage for so long that it wasn’t pretty enough to post about. So I saved everything until the end to write this monster of a post!

    Before we get into all of the details of the project, I have so many people to thank for their help along the way. I wouldn’t have gotten through this without the help from my Dad. His knowledge and skills helped me bring my vision to life. I learned so much from him along the way and couldn’t have done it without him. My Mom help with site clean-up. I think one of the worst things of DIY is having to clean everything up after a long day. My friends Anne and Allan helped with demo throughout various stages and Anne helped put my reno reconfiguration into design plans. I am thankful for the people who listened to me go on and on about my kitchen saga for almost the last year.

    So now that I have lived through it, and I’m on the other side of it, I’m ready to share all the details. Let’s take a look at the “before” photos of the kitchen. In the first photo you can see the kitchen originally had an eat-in space and a narrow opening to the adjacent room behind the wall oven. In the second photo you can see that the fridge was originally by the back entry door. There was also a lot of dead space in the middle of the kitchen that wasn’t being used.

    1960s Kitchen Reno Before

    1960s Kitchen Reno Before

    The first step in the renovation was to relocate the fridge. The fridge was originally located at the entrance door from the garage, and it was across from the doors to the laundry closet. This made the entrance really narrow and closed off. The plan was to relocate the fridge to the old “eat-in kitchen” corner and build a fridge cubby and a pantry next to it. A plumber relocated the ice maker line. This took 2 visits because the first visit we determined we could not put the line in the wall, due to the structural beam underneath. I couldn’t make up my mind on what I wanted to do instead, so I had the plumbers come back for a second trip to run the line through the floor, behind the fridge.

    Second step was to cut out the cabinets under the old cooktop, so that I could replace the cooktop with a range, and remove the wall oven. Once the cabinets were configured for the range, an electrician installed a range outlet on the wall.

    In November of 2018, all of the paneling in the kitchen was removed and replaced with drywall. During the drywall process I installed a metal grate/vent above the laundry closet for ventilation. I planned on replacing the louver doors with solid doors to absorb the noise, and the grate would allow for ventilation for the washer and dryer.

    After the drywall was mudded and sanded. The cabinets that formally housed the wall oven were demo’d. This opened up the kitchen to the den and you could actual do the dishes and see the TV. The plan was to relocate the wall oven cabinet and make it into the new pantry, but that didn’t work out. So I bought wood to create the pantry cabinet from scratch. It was super difficult to put together, because there were 2 pieces of plywood 8 feet long and we had to put it together inside versus building it outside and installing it.

    Demo-ing the floor was also a not so fun experience. There were 3 layers of linoleum total AND an extra sheet of quarter inch plywood. I would love to meet the person who put down that extra sheet of plywood and their BILLION staples they decided to secure it with. After the floor was demo’d the island cabinets were installed. I made three cabinets for the island: One to house the pull-out trashcan, one for the microwave, and one to balance out the other two. If you’re wondering how I built my cabinets I used a Kreg Jig (love this thing, it is so amazing!!!!!!) and some Ana White plans you can find, here. I added some shiplap detail to the outside of the island to make it look different than the other base cabinets. I found some inspiration on Pinterest, for the island shiplap here and here. Adding the trim to the island was actually one of the more easier steps to the kitchen reno.

    After the island was installed, I could get the electrical items done. The kitchen originally had a florescent light, and it was terrible. I got rid of that thing and added 6 recessed lights. I also added 2 pendants over the island and changed out the light over the sink. Additionally, I added electrical to the island, which is required by code and I added an outlet inside the cabinet to plug the microwave into. I found my pendant lights at New York Lighting, here and the over the sink light at Birch Lane, here. Lights are SO EXPENSIVE! I was looking for something that was under $100 per fixture, which is really hard, but both of these fit my budget.

    After the electrical was done, I started getting quotes to reface the cabinets. The plan was to make the old cabinet boxes and new ones look the same and get all new doors. I wanted white cabinet with shaker style doors for the perimeter cabinets and a custom blue island with shaker doors. I got three quotes to for refacing or painting the cabinet boxes and new doors. The quotes were way more than I expected them to be. I did some research at the beginning and felt like I had an idea of how much refacing would cost, but none of the quotes were close to what I thought they would be. One quote was from HomeDepot and it was almost 4 times what I expected it to be. Another vendor came to provide a quote to paint my cabinet boxes but said that there was no way he could paint my cabinets because the fridge cabinet wouldn’t be smooth. I didn’t use “paint grade” plywood and he swore I’d never get it smooth enough and that “he too had to learn things the hard way when he was my age.” Well Tim from Kitchen Tune Up, I got that panel smooth with some drywall mud and a little sanding. That probably was the easiest problem to tackle in this whole reno. It kills me how some vendors tried to treat me differently and that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

    After getting all my over-priced quotes, I decided that I would continue the reno as a DIY project and I would order my doors and install them myself. I selected Barker door in Oregon to order my doors from. I did a trial run and order only the doors and drawers for the island, to make sure I could measure correctly. The doors and drawers were unfinished so I could paint them a custom color.

    I painted the island Moscow Midnight by Sherwin Williams. I used the Emerald Urethane Enamel Paint from Sherwin Williams. This paint has a very hard and durable finish and is perfect for cabinets and trim. It is kinda pricey, but it great at self-leveling and has a great finish.

    Over the next couple of weeks I worked on installing the new drawers with self-closing drawer slides. This was one of the worst parts of the reno. The drawer slides needed to be installed perfectly level and square so that the drawer would close evenly. I spent an entire weekend working on all 10 drawers and I wasn’t a very pleasant person when I went to work the following week. In the end, the drawers all close and are fine, but installing the drawers was not a good experience.

    Another one of my least favorite parts of this reno was demoing the original backsplash. This was THE worst part of the reno. It was very difficult to remove the backsplash because I’m kinda short and it was hard to reach the backsplash. I spent several weekends with a chisel and a hammer trying to get all of the tiles off.

    Once the backsplash was removed counter tops could be installed. I went with a quartz countertop since they are low maintenance. I didn’t want to worry about sealing granite on an annual basis in the future. I looked at several brands during my countertop search, Silestone, Cambria, and Ceasarstone. I went with the Calcutta Gold from Silestone. It is a pure white counter top with a gray colored vein with some gold highlights. (It’s hard to see the veining in the pictures with the reflection of the lights).

    I added new crown molding to the entire kitchen, including the cabinets. The original crown molding was kinda small. I got much bigger crown molding that looked more substantial and covered more space on the cabinets.

    After getting the counter tops and new crown molding was installed, I started looking at flooring options and started painting the lower cabinet boxes. I went with Sherwin Williams “Pure White” for the cabinets and used the same Emerald Urethane Enamel Paint. (The cabinet doors I planned to order can be painted by the vendor with this same color). The cabinet boxes were time consuming to paint. It took 4 coats of paint total, 2 coats of oil based stain blocking primer and 2 coats of the Enamel Paint.

    I upgraded the laundry room doors from the stained louver doors to solid doors. The solid core doors were not that much more than the hollow core doors. It was well worth the extra money to block out the noise of the washing machine with the solid core doors.

    I added a small bench with a shoe cubby in the space where the fridge was located. This area right by the entry door was going to be converted to a drop zone with coat hooks.

    After the laundry room doors were installed, the flooring was installed. The doors needed to be installed so that the door jams could be cut to fit the flooring. Originally, I planned on installing tile, but decided that tile was too permanent and that I would rather be able to easily update the flooring in the future. I knew that I wanted something that looked intentionally different from the hardwood floors that I have throughout the entire house. This meant that any wood plank vinyl flooring was out of consideration. I still wanted a tile look in a 12” X 24” size but in a vinyl material. LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) is a great option for a kitchen. It is water resistant, scratch resistant, stain proof, and almost indestructible. The installation time, for a room the size of my kitchen, is about ½ day. Tile would have taken 3 days to install, by a professional. Flooring was definitely one of the things I was going to pay someone for!

    It was kinda hard to find and LVT in a tile like look. There are a lot of options to choose from for a wood plank look, but there aren’t many for a tile look. I found Mannington floor had a couple options that could fit my design and took home some samples from a local store. I planned to go with a darker floor, since there was going to be so much white with the cabinets. But EVERY SINGLE PERSON I asked picked the lighter flooring…..so I ended up picking the light floors. I think in the end it has all worked out. I wasn’t too thrilled when they were first installed, but, I think now that everything is done, darker floors would have looked bad.

    After the flooring was installed, the upper cabinets were painted white, just like the lower ones. At this point it was about the beginning of May and I was ready to be done with this project. It was a long week painting until midnight every night after work to get all the uppers painted. There was still a lot to do….backsplash install, grouting, paint the ceiling, paint all the trim, paint the walls, paint the laundry doors, paint he back door……paint all the things.

    I think the most difficult thing that was left to finish, at this stage of the renovation, was the backsplash. I planned for the backsplash to go terribly, but it ended up being okay. It took me 1.5 days to install, which isn’t bad, and 1 day to grout.

    I fell in love with this honeycomb white and gray tile a Lowe’s. ….and it took about 50 sheets to cover all of the area I needed to cover. The one bad thing about the honeycomb pattern was that I had to square off every sheet that was next to a straight edge (like the countertop or a wall). It was very tedious and it is definitely not perfect, but that’s okay.

    My adventure in grouting the backsplash was laughable. I bought grout that you didn’t have to seal, but I didn’t look at the rest of the information on the package. It was also quick drying grout…..and in about 30 minutes my grout bucket was a solid brick and I hadn’t made it very far on the backsplash. I had to throw the bucket away because I couldn’t get it out. So I had to back to Lowe’s and get a new bag of grout (they don’t make self-sealing grout that isn’t quick drying) and start over.

    After the backsplash was finished, all of the painting was completed. I painted the entry door a cute pop of teal with Sherwin Williams “Watery.” The walls were painted a dark gray with Sherwin Williams “Steely Gray.” There isn’t a lot of wall space to paint. I think the dark gray is a good contrast to the bright white and goes well with the gray flooring.

    The very last part of the reno was installing all the drawer fronts and doors. I had some delays getting my doors and drawers. There were some quality issues where parts of my order needed to be remade before they were ever sent to me. And then some of my doors were damaged during shipping. I appreciated that Barker Door didn’t sacrifice quality and ship me doors that had paint drips or other issues. The paint quality on the doors I received was excellent. Having the vendor paint the doors, vs me painting them, was well worth the money. Barker Door also didn’t hesitate to make new doors for the ones that were damaged during shipping. I sent them pictures of the damage and they immediately put them into production.

    It was really thrilling to put up the last doors and be able to say THE KITCHEN IS DONE! I kinda don’t know what to do with all my free time now, lol. But I’m so glad it’s summer because there are so many things I am now able to go and do!

    This has been a crazy long post about all the stages of the kitchen. I truly planned to outsource more stages of the process than I actually did. In the end, the electrical, plumbing, countertops, flooring, and cabinet doors were the only items I paid someone to do. I feel like I am forgetting some things, but for the most part the step by step process is all here. I am so thankful to be on the other side of this reno. I feel like it looks pretty professional and I am so happy with what I accomplished without any professional construction training. Here are some before and after side by side comparisons: