Monday, February 13, 2012

Kitchen Remodel - One Step at a Time

My kitchen was due for an update.  It was stuck in the 80's like most of those I’ve seen on HGTV.  However, the price tag they have for the average kitchen remodel was outside my price range.  I couldn’t afford to hire a contractor and have them gut my kitchen and start over.  For one thing, the footprint was not going to change.  And if you’re not rearranging the layout, there is no reason to gut the kitchen.

I decided to do the kitchen my way – one step at a time.  And one expense at a time.  I’d watched a every DIY and home improvement show there was, checking out designs, products and estimated costs.  I  went to home shows and talked to builders and contractors, all of whom wanted to come and gut my kitchen. I wanted to know where to begin.  Why isn't there a manual that says, START HERE!

I talked to people who said start with the appliances.  And others who said start with the cabinets.  The truth is you have to start with a plan.  You have to know everything that is going in the kitchen, where it's going and what the dimensions are.  Even if you're like me and not changing the footprint of the space, you need to know the size of things when you go shopping.

Rough Layout of Kitchen

I knew I did not want to pull my cabinets off the wall and replace them.  The boxes are fine.  The doors are solid wood and could be refinished or painted, but the style of the doors is something I don't like.  So I want to replace them.  More on that later.

I checked out the cost of everything and made myself an Excel spreadsheet with what I estimated I would need in order to do this remodel.  I wanted hardwood floors, granite countertops, a new sink, one of those faucets you touch and the water comes on or goes off, a backsplash to complement everything, stainless steel appliances, and finally replacing or refacing the cabinets and adding new doors.  Everything cost more than I expected, but I'm a bargain hunter and I'll ask if a discount is available.  You'd be amazed at how often they say yes.

I started with the floors.

This is the old linoleum floor

I was actually doing the floors in my family room where all the remodeling had already been done.  Since the kitchen is a natural extension of that room, and it would cost more if I broke the family room and kitchen into two projects, I did the floors first.

This is the new floor

Every home improvement project has surprises, so be prepared for them.  My first surprise was that the appliances died on me.  All of them at once.  They had been dying in that the refrigerator didn't really freeze everything.  The broiler on the stove did not work at all.  Some of the tile on the electric burner had cracked (my fault for letting it get red hot while I was writing).  The microwave worked, but it was a monster and attached as one piece to the stove.  If I replaced one, the both had to be done.  Then the oven conked out.  Thankfully, it was the day after a party I'd held.  When that went, it was time to go shopping.  I lucked out at a sale that coincided with a holiday and appliances came with both a store discount and one from the manufacturer.

All was not going smoothly since a surprise came in the form of additional electrical, plumbing and gas lines that needed to be run.  The old microwave and stove was one of those huge ones.  When I replaced it, we discovered the old one had been hard wired.  The new one had a plug.  So I needed a outlet.  The old microwave was twice the size of the new one, so the cabinet above it, which by law it must be bolted to was so small that I'd be lifting things out of the unit and they would be over my head, not to mention aesthetically it would look awful.  So I bought a new cabinet.  Because I wasn't concerned about the doors, they would be replaced anyway, I got a sturdy cabinet that fit the size needed.  As an aside, I sprang for the convection-microwave and I love it.  It gives me a second convection oven if I need it and we've used it more than once.

Notice the size difference of the cabinet and microwave

Back to the remodel.   Floors are done, appliances are in.  I have a working kitchen.  Everything else is cosmetic.  I started looking for a countertop.  I wanted granite.  I love the look of it and previously I had butcher block or what I thought was butcher block.  It was really Formica as I found out when the installers came and removed it.  And there was another surprise.  I was responsible for removing the debris.  They stacked it outside my garage.  I started getting rid of it a piece at a time, since no person picks up our trash.  The garbage truck has two metal arms that fold together on either side of the plastic bin, lifts it and dumps it.  Luckily the trash guy saw me one day and stopped.  He told me to put it all out and he'd take it away.

Formica Countertop (I thought was Butcher Block)

After a lot of shopping, I finally decided on the countertop, but no backsplash.  I wanted mine to be the same from the counter up.  It took me six months to find something I liked and could afford.  My tastes are very expensive.  And this is my castle, so I'll have what I want.  I don't mind saving to get it.

Granite Countertop

The backsplash is black and white and cracked glass.  It's hard to see the cracked glass in a photo, but it really pops against some of the cabinet doors I've seen.  And this brings me to the doors.  That is where I am now.  I've had several estimates for refacing and replacing the doors.  All of them are outside my price range.  So I have a plan.

Black, white and cracked glass backsplash

I kept the door front of the tiny cabinet that was replaced when I got the new microwave.  It's still winter here, but when spring finally breaks (it's got to be above 50 degrees), I'm going to take that door and divide it in half using a piece of painters tape.  Then I'm going to work on half of it; sand, paint and put three coats of polyurethane over it.  If I like the finished product, I'll paint my cabinets and replace the doors.

And then that room will be complete and I can go on to the next project.


Here's how the cost broke down.  So it's possible to do things without breaking the bank.  I did some negotiating with various contractors and got the price down.  I also shopped to make sure I was getting the quality they promised even though the price was low.

Countertop - $1,900
Upgraded Sink - $100
Faucet - $260 (I found a real bargain)
Floors - $2,600
Appliances - $4,900
Backsplash - $600
Labor for Faucet and Backsplash Installation - $600


  1. Shirley, you did a wonderful job! I like your approach to a remodel. As I am discovering, this can be frightful! Your backsplash is perfect with the granite counters--and I LOVE your floor.

  2. Thanks. I wanted to point out that you can do this on an extended budget. And shopping around, even outside your comfort zone, can bare fruit.

  3. You've gone about your remodel in such a smart way. What you've done looks really wonderful and shows how important it is to have a plan. I enjoyed visiting yoursite and I'll be back often. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

    1. Mary, thank you . I'm new at this and I'm felling really lonely.

  4. I came back to look at your floor. What kind of wood did you pick?

    1. The brand is Bruce. It's 3/4 cherry hardwood.

  5. The quality of your articles and contents is great.look what i found

  6. “ have to start with a plan” – I agree! Planning helps us to be organized to finish the workload, but also do the job with less expenses. You did a good job on your kitchen, and I will not be surprise if you do this often if the budget permits. Wish you luck on your next project. =)

    ==Kip Whitehead

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  9. “ have to start with a plan.”— I'm with you, Shirley. It is true that making a plan can keep you from wasting your precious time in the remodeling process. With this, you can envision the exact picture of what you want to do with your kitchen. and gives you an idea as well on listing those materials that you might need.


  10. The appliances were certainly a setback, but at least you found out about them before you got on with the remodeling. Imagine having to redo it if they’d died off after you’re done with everything. Also, I really like the granite countertops that you got, though I’m not sure about the splashback, only because it’s hard to decide with just the picture.

    IPQ Construction

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