Tag Archives: cabinets

3 Weeks to Go!

Well we have about 3 weeks to go till our wedding, and I’m pretty sure we have more than 3 weekends of work to do on the kitchen before then…so we’ll see how far we get, and our guests will just have to accept the slow reality of DIY renovation!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and since then I’m happy to say our backsplash is installed and about 2/3 of the way done with being grouted. Here’s some pictures of the backsplash pre-grout:

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And the cutouts Nik made around the window frame:IMG_1048

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And also the new cabinet in the corner:

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We had a minor set back Saturday, when we turned on the tile saw and smoke erupted out of it. We figured out it was the capacitor which had fried…and of course Skil is not opened on the weekend to help us deal with it being covered under the 1 year warranty. So we went to Lowe’s and just bought a new one for $90 so we wouldn’t be slowed down. Once we get the part to fix the old one…is there anyone who wants a tile saw?

After giving all the tiles time to dry out, we applied grout yesterday. We wanted a light gray, and tested out a few ratios of dark gray grout with white grout. We settled on mixing 1 part gray grout with 2 parts white grout:

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And then the fun (read: stress) began:

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Even though I’ve grouted twice before, and should know by now that IT’S GOING TO LOOK LIKE CRAP WHEN YOU DO THE INITIAL APPLICATION BUT IT’S GOING TO BE OK IN THE END, I still freak out when applying it. Grout is stressful because you have to apply it heavily to make sure you get it in all the cracks adequately which takes a while, then 20 minutes after application you wipe it down with a slightly wet sponge, then wait anther 30 minutes to buff it. But it takes longer than 20 minutes to do a few feet of wall, and then you want to keep going with the grout in the bowl to not waste it before it hardens…but it’s time to start sponging, and two people can’t be in the same place at the same time…and you see where this is going.

But after several near-nervous-breakdowns and several hours of time we managed to finish about 2/3 of the kitchen, and sure enough it looks wonderful:

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In retrospect, subway tile was a challenge – not because of the tiling part, which went very well, but because of how time consuming the grouting was. With larger tiles, it’s less work, but with these small tiles there are so many edges and you really have to ensure every edge of every tile gets good grout coverage. But I love the look, and I love the subtle gray grout color we made.

Our cabinets have made substantial progress (although not yet done). The doors all have 2 coats on the front, so just a coat of sealer and the fronts will be done. Then the backs need another coat or 2, and a coat of sealer. And the cabinet frames (in the kitchen) need their sealer.

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So what’s the plan for the next 3.5 weeks? Our goals are to finish the grout and caulk around the tiles, hopefully finish painting/sealing cabinets, drilling and adding hardware and re-mounting the doors, cleaning up the quarter round floor trim with some paint-touchups, putting our pantry door back on, and hopefully making and mounting the shelves for next to our sink. We bought these cool rustic brackets off of Etsy¬† for the shelves:

DIY Rustic Shelf Bracket Hangers Lip Metal Shelve Mounting Angle Industrial HANDMADE 2

And we’re actually planning to use 1″ thick oak stair treads for the shelf – which will be stained and sealed. But we’ll see how far we get – there’s lots of wedding-to-do-list items for the next few weeks too, and getting successfully married might have to take priority over the kitchen!

 

Reclaimed Wood Bench

We finally finished the front porch bench we’ve been working on – I’ll call it our reclaimed wood bench. Things made out of “reclaimed wood” are all the rage now, and usually come with some story about the hundred year old barn the wood came from and how this rationalizes the $3000 price tag. Well, our bench is indeed made from reclaimed wood but it came from the jungle gym that used to dominate our back yard, and it cost $0. Well, I suppose $15 since we did have to buy special exterior spar urethane to seal it since it will stay outside on our front porch. But we only used a tiny amount from that can, so I’m ok saying $0.

Here’s how the bench started:

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And here’s our final product:

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To build this bench, Nik started off by cutting the top slats. Then we troubleshooted different ways to build the braces between the slats, and he finally decided to use a solid piece of wood with cuts in it to make “teeth”. The circular saw was set to a particular height and he used it to make these cuts.

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Next, the pieces were put together to make sure they fit in the teeth:

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And a base was built to hold up the seat. Nik made a practice trapezoid first to make sure all the angles worked, since we didn’t want 90 degree legs to keep it feeling mid-century.

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Next came staining and sealing with the spar urethane. We decided to do a shade darker on the legs (dark walnut) and special walnut on the seat to add some contrast.

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Then we started a partial assembly to make the legs easier to seal. We used mostly wood screws to attach everything:

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And finally, the finished product:

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We decided this was a good wedding present for each other, to give us a place to sit together on our porch for years to come.

The kitchen cabinets are coming along as well, and to clear out our living room a little we hung the upper cabinets that were done being painted (they still need sealer but I wanted to do this once they were hung in case any paint touch ups were needed first). The hanging height was a bit of an ordeal – apparently they were hung at a pretty normal 18″ previously, but we always felt like they were a little low, plus we wanted to have adequate room over our stove for the microwave. We tried 19.5″ and that felt way too high, so we tried 19″ and that still felt a little high but doable, so that’s where they sit now. The doors are still in the process of being painted, and then we’ll buy some top molding to make them look a little nicer, which will also have to be painted.

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We’re taking an overnight trip this weekend to a bed and breakfast in Seagrove (the pottery capital of NC) to get away for a bit and tour some pottery studios. So other than that, our only task this weekend is to remove the old counters/plumbing and buy a faucet since the new counters are coming on Tuesday and the sink on Wednesday. Hopefully by my next post the kitchen transformation will be looking a little more complete!

 

 

On to the Next Project

Now that the bathroom is wrapped up, we’re moving on to our next big project: the kitchen. Literally anything we do in this room will be an improvement, not that I want to set the bar low, or anything. But, we will be on a tight budget – probably even tighter than before, because we had a major blow to our “house budget” this past week with an epic fail of our 17 year old HVAC system. Our lovely gas pack (contains a gas furnace and AC all in one unit) was spewing gas and high carbon monoxide into our yard due to a very perforated heat exchanger, and based on the age, we’re deciding to replace. It’ll be about $5000, and with our plans to not sink more than $15,000 into fixing up this house based on what we believe we can sell it for in our neighborhood, that’s a big chunk of the budget.

But, it makes it kind of fun to have to cut our budget and see what an amazing transformation we know we can make with even LESS money. So, kitchen. This is what it looked like when we moved in:

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Obviously, since then we’ve sunk $2000 into upgrading the appliances and we’ve painted the ceiling, but that’s about all we’ve done in here. We’ve also stuck makeshift metal shelving into the middle of the room to serve as an island to increase the almost-non-existant counter space. As ugly as this shelving is, it’s proved to us that an island is critical to make this kitchen functional.

Our plan for the rest of the improvements will be adding cabinets or storage shelving above the fridge, adding a base cabinet and wall cabinets on the far wall (to the left of the garage door which is seen in the above picture), adding a small banquette seating area with bench storage to the rest of that wall, painting all the existing cabinets and moving them ~1-2″ up on the wall and adding top molding, adding a mounted microwave, upgrading to granite counters and a new undermount sink and faucet, adding a backsplash, adding an island, painting the whole room, and adding our hardwood floors (same floors, already purchased) to this room.

What’s a reasonable budget for this project? We’ve priced out some of the additional cabinets we’ll need and estimate this will be ~$300, plus another $100 for cabinet top molding and new floor shoe trim. Paint for cabinets and walls and trim ~$100. Microwave $250 and electrician to move outlet $200. Granite and sink priced out around $1900. Backsplash ~$100. Floors (~$400) and appliances ($2000) are already purchased. Wood/hardware for banquette and island $100. Faucet/drain system $150. Cabinet hardware $100?

That brings us to about $5600, minus the $2400 we’ve already purchased in appliances and flooring means we have about another $3200 we need to spend on this room. I’d be happy if we keep it under $3000 so we’ll see what money-saving ideas we come up with as we go along.

So for some fun pictures to show you, we spent this rainy weekend looking at paint and granite options. We decided to go with a light light gray cabinet paint, and when Lowes was having a 1 day 30% off sale on Valspar Reserve paint on Saturday, we made a snap decision and got one called Polar Star (I say “snap decision” even though I’ve been stressing about minutely-different shades of light gray for over a week now, including multiple trips to Lowes and a trip to Ace Hardware with some sample colors I brought home, but when we showed up at Lowes on Saturday, we hadn’t known about the paint sale until we walked in the store, and we couldn’t pass it up so I had to finally make a decision under pressure!).

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We ordered a cool air compressor paint sprayer which came in the mail last week, so I quickly sanded a door from our old bathroom vanity in the garage (same cabinets as the kitchen), and Nik gave the sprayer a test drive. We primed first, then got a single coat of gray paint on before the rain started. The gun worked nicely. We had to strain the paint first, then thin it with some water and Floetrol (latex paint additive for smoother paint). I’m definitely still seeing some oak grain on the cabinets, so we might also experiment with priming with a hand brush to put it on thick, then spraying just the color paint on. The cabinet frames may all have to be done by hand inside, especially the base cabinets which aren’t moving, but we’ll deal with that when we get to it.

And here’s one of the granite options we like (our final paint ended up being right in-between those two options on the board, so I think it will match! The white is our trim color).

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I’m excited to see how this project evolves over the next couple months. This is the last major upgrade downstairs, so once it’s done we can really start enjoying our living space.

In the rain on Sunday, we also installed a new ceiling fan in the living room. Nik discovered that we had some very questionable and unsafe wiring going to the old fan- basically whoever installed it (cough*awful previous landlord*cough) wanted a separate switch for the fan and the light, and didn’t have enough proper wires to do this, and decided to use the uninsulated grounding wire as the hot wire, which could definitely cause a fire. Luckily, Nik picked up on this problem after we tried to install the new fan with the properly colored wires and it didn’t work, and he then consulted with his dad and they figured out what was going on. To make it safe we’ll have to put the fan and light on one switch, and use the pull cords to operate the fan, which is less convenient but if it’s safe I’ll take it. Thankfully Nik knows things about electricity to keep our house from being on fire =)

Here’s Nik dismantling the old fan:

And here’s the new one – best $69 I’ve spent in a while! Also, please don’t judge the general state of chaos in our living room. I wish I could say it doesn’t normally look like that, but Nik and I have determined, with application of our geeky science minds, that this room has abnormally high levels of entropy. For non-scientists, entropy is a measurement of the level of disorder in an isolated system, and in our living room’s defense, nature tends towards maximum entropy. So there you have it!

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