On Monday the fabricators came to measure for the countertops. The plumber also came back to keep troubleshooting. Unfortunately they exhausted all the less-invasive options they could think of and decided a hole really would need to be cut into the ceiling to find a place to tie the sink vent into to.
…which meant on Tuesday we had a hole cut into our ceiling.
Good news: that’s the extent of the damage to the kitchen ceiling. Bad news: they’ll need to cut into the upstairs bathroom wall instead. Good news: it’s an excuse to start removing the awful vinyl from the bathroom walls. Bad news: $$$
Turns out the pipe they were trying to connect to for venting is downright decaying near the top. It’s also full of vermiculite which is what has foiled any attempts to trace the path from the kitchen to the exterior. In order to replace the damaged pipe they need to cut open the wall behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom… just as Matt’s sister is coming to visit us. Awesome timing.
On Tuesday they also sealed the mudroom tile and started re-attaching trim. Honestly, I’ll probably re-do the baseboards to match the dining room at some point (which is much closer to the house’s original trim) but it’s easy enough to DIY and given the extra unexpected expenses that have popped up during this, I don’t want to pay a premium for professionals to do it.
They also demoed the bathroom the bathroom wall.
On Thursday the plumbing FINALLY got sorted out. Matt’s sister arrived that morning and nothing says “Welcome Guest!” quite like being down to one (mini) bathroom and having your water turned off for a chunk of the day.
There’s also new PVC pipe in our basement and attic since they replaced pretty much everything that they could access. I suppose it could have been worse. My aunt and uncle used to have a 1850’s-ish farmhouse and a lot of the plumbing was put in just as plumbing fixtures were getting standardized. Whoever did the work chose to use the discount fixtures which meant that they weren’t compatible with today’s fixtures.
And on Friday we rested. And by “rested” I mean “waited for the contractors to schedule the inspector since the walls can’t be put back together until then.”
This week was mostly putzy finishing work on the walls–Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were devoted to mudding and sanding the drywall joints. It takes an annoyingly long time since you have to wait for each layer of mud to dry before moving on.
On Tuesday the mudroom tile got installed!
…and then on Wednesday it got strategically pried up. Turns out the mosaic squares aren’t perfectly square. That combined with our non-level, not-square floor meant some of the spacing would be wonky and really obvious once black grout was added. This meant the tile guy and our project manager spent a chunk of the day popping out certain tiles and then re-laying them to even out the spacing. While not a fun time, this was apparently the easiest option (and I greatly appreciate their attention to detail).
See all those whiter/hazier spots where the mastic has oozed up and is showing? Yeah…those are all the spots they had to fix tile by tile. (The weird dark line across the middle of the floor is just a shadow)
Wednesday also brought a little inspection drama. We’ve been going back and forth about how to get the sink properly vented and the last plumber who looked at it thought he had a solution that wouldn’t involve ripping out the walls and ceiling. Then he talked to the inspector about it and the inspector wasn’t on board. So then our project manager brought the inspector over to show him what we’re working with…which is a hot mess. Now they have to figure out a way to vent the sink that will make everyone happy.
On Thursday the mudroom tile got grouted! I am ridiculously excited about this fairly simple floor. So excited I apparently missed getting a picture in time for this post…whoops! We also continued the plumbing drama and hauled the plumber back in to brainstorm. He says he hasn’t been stumped yet… which is all fine and dandy, but there’s a big difference between “this can’t be done” and “this will cost several thousand more than you expected to get done.”
Despite the plumbing complications, the cabinets were (mostly) installed on Friday! They didn’t permanently secure some of the base cabinets or hang the cabinet above the sink since parts of that may need to be demoed (again).
Basically this week was one giant effing headache for a lot of people.
I got a call last Thursday from our contractor asking if they could start working on the window on Friday. While this may be rather short notice for most people, I had already told them our schedule was very flexible since Matt and I are both sitting at home with a newborn for 3 months. I was actually thrilled to hear to they could get working on it!
So here it is, one last look at our current kitchen. (Ok, these pics are actually a little old but I didn’t have a chance to take new ones and it looks more-or-less the same, we just upgraded the appliances since then).
Time to say buh-bye to the old window and helloooo window that will allow for cabinetry!
Isn’t it lovely? Very industrial-chic. Not to worry though, there will (obviously) be more finishing work happening.
The outside looks a little less classy at the moment. Because we have asbestos siding, the contractor had to do a little bit of a hack fix to avoid disturbing it. We’re going to paint the filler panel to match the window trim for now, but I’m thinking about adding window boxes to help hide the panel and visually balance both windows.
They also demo-ed the mudroom tile while they were here! It’s hard to see in the Before pictures, but it was an unfortunate pinky-beige and I am VERY glad to have it gone.
Apparently this was some very stubborn tile and they had to pretty much pulverize it in order to remove it. Bad news: there is a coating of dust that permeated most of the house. Good news: this is probably the worst (read: dirtiest) part of the demo work.
“Week” One was really only one day since they started on Friday, but I’m already happy with the progress!
We’re getting close to work starting on the kitchen! We don’t have an exact start date, but it should be early-to-mid February. Finalizing the countertop is last big decision and we’re just waiting on some quotes there. The contractors have hauled off our beast of a sink (cast iron) to check the fit in the cabinet and the tile we ordered has arrived (190lbs to–thankfully–be picked up by the contractors). One of the cabinet guys dropped by yesterday to double check some measurements and I was able to sign off on cabinet colors at the same time.* I’ve also got the last few (non-structural) details finalized.
Choosing a light fixture was a struggle–our kitchen shape is basically a wide galley but track lighting doesn’t suit the look I’m going for. I was originally looking at semi-flush mounts with diffuse shades and multiple bulbs, but I wasn’t finding anything that was really jumping out at me. Eventually I started looking at island lighting to try and find something a little more elongated (and since we have pretty high ceilings we’re able to accommodate a fixture with more of a drop). That’s when I found this beauty.
Next up we had to finalize cabinet hardware. I actually had a vision in mind, it was just a matter of finding something that actually matched it. This can often be easier said than done, but I actually didn’t have too much difficulty.
Cabinets will be getting glass knobs with oil rubbed bronze bases… except I couldn’t find glass with ORB so I had to settle for acrylic. I’m hoping I still like them when I see them in person! The drawers will be getting oil rubbed bronze cup pulls with a more squared off shape. Because we have a few longer drawers in the layout, they’ll get two pulls each instead of one centered pull for balance and scale.
Paint & Paper
I’m not planning on changing the paint color at all–Benjamin Moore Paper White is perhaps my favorite cool neutral. The dark blue base cabinets will have enough color that I don’t want the walls to compete with it. I’m also going to be bringing in some accent wallpaper for the back of the glass cabinets and one of the mudroom walls. The backdoor will also be getting a paint makeover. I need to get the wallpaper before finalizing the color, but am currently eyeing Benjamin Moore: Tranquil Blue. Thankfully there’s no rush on this part since I’ll be DIYing it once the contractors are done with their bit.
*They got the base cabinet color perfect on the first try, but when they tried to color match BM’s Simply White it was more Simply Cream. Luckily they brought some other white samples with them and one of them was a near perfect match to our trim so I didn’t need to go back and forth trying to perfect a custom color.
Now that baby Elsie has finally joined us, we’re back to picking up steam on the kitchen remodel. We’ve finalized the sink and light fixture so now we’re moving on to counters and tile!
For counters, I knew I wanted something that resembled marble, but wasn’t marble. Some people are cool with the maintenance and inevitable staining that comes with a true marble countertop, but I am not one of those people. This meant my options were a quartz composite or solid surface (ok, there are lots of marble-patterned laminates too, but we didn’t really want to do with a laminate).
Silestone’s Et Satuario is pretty close to the look I’m going for as is MSI’s Calacatta Bontanica. We wanted to make sure we considered Cambria as well since they’re a Minnesota company, but unfortunately I wasn’t really feeling any of their options.
The way our remodeling company works if that they estimated a certain amount for the countertops in our initial quote. Countertop prices depend on the fabricators so these were the options I sent to them for quotes and hopefully at least one of them falls within our budget!
Today we also got ourselves out of the house to make a final decision on tile. The mudroom tile was an easy choice–I knew I wanted a white, penny hex tile because it’s pretty traditional for houses of this era. Added bonus: it’s also really cheap!
Backsplash was a bit of a dilemma. I had originally found an amazing starburst pattern at Lowes. Buuuut when we actually got to a point where I would consider ordering it it was listed as “no longer available.” I even chatted with a sales associate to see if there was any chance of it coming back in stock before January, but they didn’t have any information on it. Googling the brand and pattern didn’t get me anywhere either. SO BUMMED! It was such a nice combination of visually interesting without being over-powering.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything with a similar feel so I had to re-think my plan. I knew I wanted a ceramic or porcelain for the same reason I don’t want a natural marble counter. Glass tiles are cool too, but just not the look I’m going for. I also wanted a solid white so it won’t compete with the counter pattern. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that an arabesque or subway tile would probably be the best fit for the house and we ended up going with a handmade-looking subway tile. It’s a classic shape with a little bit of texture and organic-ness so I think it will work out very nicely.
Last week we had our pre-construction meeting with our contractor. It was actually a little more chaotic than I had imagined. The meeting was at our house and involved the sales manager and designer we had already been working with, plus our project manager, plumber, and electrician. I went over material selection planning with the designer while everyone else poked around the house trying to figure out exactly what would be involved for the minor plumbing and electrical work being done.
Shockingly the electrician thought everything looked straightforward on his end. He was even pretty un-phased by this hot mess concealed behind an innocuous wood panel in our kitchen wall.
Because this is an old house, of course something had to be jacked up…in our case it was the venting for the kitchen sink (which no one had actually expected to be an issue). Turns out that our sink is not properly vented, BUT if you take a quick look at the plumbing in the basement it looks like it should be vented…the second pipe just doesn’t actually vent.
Now, to fix the venting issue, they’re going to need to rip out a chunk of the wall and section of the ceiling. Yay…. It’s going to add to our cost, but because it’s a code issue it can’t be skipped. The upside (?) to this is that we know the toilet in our upstairs bathroom has some plumbing issues that can only be fixed by ripping a hole in our kitchen ceiling…the same part of our ceiling that will already be getting a hole ripped in it. So we’re going to see if it’s possible for the plumber to fix that issue while the area is accessible. This will of course add even more $$$, but it would be less than if we had to rip a second hole into our ceiling later on.
The other fun thing we learned is that based on their current timeline, demo is estimated to start in mid January. For those of you not following along, baby #2 is due in mid January. My sister just also started her own kitchen renovation less than a month before Christmas so clearly this kind of planning is a family trait.
Thankfully nothing else is standing out as a glaring problem. In the next week or so I need to meet with the designer to sign off on the final cabinet plan, door styles, and cabinet colors. I’ve already got our sink ordered so next up is deciding on a countertop since that will require time to be fabricated.
Whelp, we did it! Last week we signed the contract for our kitchen remodel! It’s a little scary since it’s quite a big investment, but I think it’s going to be awesome and MUCH more functional once everything is done. Right now we’re waiting on the contractors to get the necessary permits from the city before anything else goes forward, so in the meantime I’ll be sharing more of the planning process.
Phase 1: Pre-Planning
Before we even started getting quotes from contractors we had figure out a general idea of what we were planning. Even if you plan on DIYing, this is still a good starting point. I started out by putting together a mood board of my general design plan.
Then, based on the design ideas, we put together lists of Need to Have and Nice to Have and established our ideal budget and max budget. You can also start with your lists and come up with a design second, I just happen to be more visual (and we also had a general idea of our goals).
Need To Have:
Replace all existing cabinets
Add base cabinets along window wall
Add cabinets to the left of the sink
Update ceiling light
Some solution to the too-low window
Move/cleanup existing outlets
Nice to Have
Extend existing wall of cabinets to the ceiling
Glass doors on upper cabinets
Replace window with shorter window to clear countertops
Replace mudroom tile and add insulation under the floor
Add a proper (exterior venting) range hood
Add exterior light above the back door
I had a fairly detailed design plan from the get go, but even if you don’t, it’s good to have a general idea of what you’re looking for before you start getting quotes. Are there any appliances you want moved? Anything you want to add or remove (versus just replace)? Any existing fixtures you plan on keeping? Do you have any material preferences?
Who’s excited? I’m excited! I feel like I’ve been agonizing over the living room design forever!
One of my big struggles with this room was the chairs. I scored some pretty comfy (and dirt cheap) slipper chairs off of Craigslist a while back and had planned to reupholster them. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a fabric that was really speaking to me. I did, however, find some really awesome looking chairs at World Market!
Chairs that were no longer actually available anywhere. Whomp whomp.
After a bunch of searching I was able to find very similar in black leather (instead of the white I had originally found). Whoohoo! I set up an email alert in case the World Market chairs ever come back in stock, but the black is starting to grow on me.
I’m hoping to find a properly vintage cabinet for storage since we have a great store down the street. If not, I have plenty of other options that would work.
The bookcases were another sticking point. We have several IKEA BILLY bookcases right now, but they’re not super attractive and not holding up to my book collection. I’d also like to make use of our tall ceilings in this room. Turns out it’s hard to find affordable bookcases over 6′ tall… In the end I decided to cobble together a ladder bookcase with an IKEA cabinet base. Wish me luck? This should end up going almost to the ceiling, while still being visually light. I’ll still probably be forced to pare down my book collection a little bit..but I’m a book hoarder so it should be good for me.
The living room opens directly into our TV room, so I had to tweak my plan for that room a bit.
The chevron rug I initially picked out was a little overly casual against the living room design. The pin-stripes seem like a nice combo of classic but not overly prissy, but I’m still working on final decision. I’d like to keep the leaf rug to designate the play area since it’s fun without being overly childish (and it’s a practically perfect size for that space). A predominately blue rug will also balance the blue sofa in the living.
I’m also considering switching out our current TV stand. I really like it, but IF we end up painting the paneling the white stand will probably get lost against the white paint. We’re still on the fence about painting the trim/paneling in this room, but leaning towards doing it since the room is very dark. It doesn’t help that our house is only about 5′ from our neighbor’s house so the windows in the room aren’t terribly helpful.
Last year we decided to bite the bullet and get a patio poured in our backyard, plus redo the walkway from the house to the garage, PLUS remove and re-pour the garage floor. By the time we figured out what we wanted it was near the end of the season so our mason wasn’t able to fit us in before winter. This spring was also not so great weather-wise, but a few week ago the demo started.
I didn’t have a chance to get before pictures of…well much of anything really. Shortly after the garage demo started, the backyard demo started as well.*
Because our back landing and steps have seen better days, Matt decided to demo the steps at the same time so the patio slab would get poured underneath them and the new steps would have a more solid foundation. So now there’s a good two-foot drop from the landing to the ground.
Watch your step…
And yes, this pile of wood came from a single step. #overkill
Matt did some additional demo around the base of the landing and (as seems to be usual in this house) found a bunch of random garbage in the process. Including this:
Yes, there was a GIANT CREEPY CLOWN HEAD hiding under our house. This is officially the worst thing we’ve found to date (keep in mind, we also have what looks like a sunken grave in our basement, so that tells you how I feel about clowns).
The new concrete was poured shortly after the demo…and later that day it started pouring. The workers came back to do a little triage where some spill-over from our gutters was causing a harder line of water to hit the concrete, but it general it had set long enough so the rain wasn’t going to be a serious problem.
Let’s just ooh and ahh over our patio that’s no longer a junk heap, shall we?
Due to the grading they had to do for the patio/walkway and the existing level of our yard, the finished product ended up being a couple inches above ground level. Dirt was brought in to even it a bit, but we plan on doing some additional grading of our own. I also plan to demo the raised bed and move it to the side of the patio. It’s currently an awkward space, plus it would get a little more sun and I could bring in a rain barrel and soaker hose for some #lazyGirl garden watering.
The garden bed on the other side of the patio may have to be completely redone and I don’t really have a plan yet. Word of warning if you plan on having concrete work done: your nearby plants may not survive. I get it, they need to be able to access what they’re working on, but I’m still bummed my giant sedum got trampled. Hopefully it will bounce back next year though.
You can see that Matt already built a new step for the back “deck.” We’re also going to replace all the floorboards, rip out the completely useless planter box** and replace it with an actual railing.
*The backyard was very much a surprise since the company had another job they were doing at the same time but it got held up by permits so they had more people to send to our house. Unfortunately a co-worker of mine brought me some plants–for our backyard–the same day our backyard became essentially inaccessible. Luckily I had a spot of them in the front yard.
**It gets zero sun…fake plants *might* survive if I’m lucky,
When I started my closet makeover, I thought it was going to a weekend…maybe a week (factoring in a full-time job and toddler). Well, two and half weeks later, I’m finally able to put my clothes away (although there’s still a little bit of work I’d like to do)
When we last left my closet, I had destroyed everything and finished repairing the walls. After that, I got everything painted and mostly-assembled the shelving unit of the organizer I bought (I’d need it for spacing and such). Then Matt installed a new ceiling light.
And I got some help with touch-up paint.
Next up was re-doing the baseboards. I had originally planned on just getting 1×8 pine boards…unfortunately the pre-primed 1×8’s at Menards looked suspiciously moldy. Ew. Pre-primed baseboard was only slightly more expensive so I decided to go that route rather than spend the time is priming.
You know Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction? Well, it’s not just for physics anymore… While I saved time by not priming the baseboards, I lost time having to miter all the corners (yes, I had originally planned to take the lazy way out and use butt joints).
I also had to deal with the joy of old houses:
No matter how careful you may be with your cuts, if your walls aren’t square you’ll still end up with a mess (it’s harder to see, but the boards don’t sit completely flush against the wall either). If this was somewhere more visible than inside a closet, the options would be recalculating the angle, or using a coping saw. However, since this was inside a closet, I chose the super-unprofessional method of just filling the gap with caulk.
I also further half-assed things by using quarter round instead of shoe molding…but we had a bunch of (already painted!) quarter round from when I accidentally bought for our dining room so I figured the closet was decent place to use some of it up.*
Along with re-installing baseboards, I also put up 1×4’s to support the curtain rod brackets. The previous closet system had the brackets attached to boards as well and I decided that was probably a good idea. In newer construction this probably unnecessary, but plaster doesn’t play especially nicely with anchors so I want to make sure I had the stability of studs to support the weight of my clothing.
Securing the shelving unit was one of the last things I did. I saved this for the end because I wanted to be able to move it out of the way while I crammed myself into an already tight corner to nail and caulk baseboards (sometime I make good decisions). Because the shelves were reasonably stable on their own and there wasn’t going to be anything pulling away from the wall, I was fine securing it with the anchors that came with the kit.
Once the tower was completely stable, I added the support brackets for the clothing rods. On the left side I used the rods and brackets that came with the kit. With careful measuring and a level…I still managed to eff up the first one. Matt, being the awesomely supportive husband that he is, walked in after I finished up, grabbed a level, and immediately pointed out that it wasn’t straight. Thanks dear…
The area to the right of the shelves was too small to use the rod that came with the kit. I could have cut it down with a hacksaw, but the rod is two pieces, each of which have a notch at one end to lock into the bracket…basically it would have been very annoying to cut everything. Instead I cut my old closet rod down to size** with a pipe cutter and re-used the old brackets.
Once the main components were in place, I decided to add even more shelving over the rods. I bought the upper shelf support brackets designed to work with this system, a couple laminate shelves, and another 1×4. I only needed one package of the brackets since 1×4 the rods connected to on the walls would already be serving as some shelf support. I attached another 1×4 to the back wall to support the back of the shelf.
The laminate shelves only came in 48″ lengths so I had to cut them down to the right sizes (this left me a couple bonus shelves for the tower too!). Cutting laminate is a little intimidating since it’s prone to chipping so I did a a bit of a research first. The common method seems to be scoring the laminate with a utility knife first, then running it through a table saw with the blade height set to only cut through about half of the board, then flip the board over and cut the other side.
Well, I tried this and my board kept getting stuck so I decided to throw caution the wind and just run in through like a normal board…and this actually worked! If your board is going to be pretty visible I don’t know if I’d recommend this (I think I just got lucky), but if your cut edges aren’t really going to show, it might be worth the risk if you’re struggling with the “safe” way.
Now the light is up! The shelves are all up! The rods are up!
And I can put my clothes away at last!!!
I have some t-shirts and jeans folded on shelves and a handful of inexpensive baskets from Target for things like swimwear, belts, tights, and leggings. (I KonMari’ed my leggings BTW and it feels sooo good!)So a weekend project ended up taking around 3 weeks to complete, but I am incredibly happy with the result.
*More so than I had planned because I could not for the life of me get one of the cuts right and effed it at least three times.
**Technically Matt started this part, only first he cut the rod to exactly length between the shelf and the wall and didn’t account for the width of the brackets. Then he tried to re-cut a slightly smaller piece, but the pipe rebelled and he gave up after getting some blisters. I jumped in at this point and finished cutting it in about a minute…because he loosened it for me, right? To his credit, he cut the first piece without issue so it wasn’t like he didn’t know how to use a pipe cutter.