DIY Kitchen Reno: Before & After

Monday, Sep 1, 2014

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

I generally enjoy the responsibility of feeding our growing family, but the kitchen itself was not very motivating-- it was dark, dated and always seemed a bit dingy. 

As we updated other areas of the house, the kitchen felt neglected. I dreamed of making it light and bright, but a full overhaul wasn't in the budget. Functionally, there were no major issues: the layout was okay, the appliances worked fine, and the 80's Euro-style cabinets were custom-fitted and well-organized, though ugly. 

We scoured kijiji and the ReStore for months looking for replacement doors, but nothing fit. We checked out Ikea cabinetry, but would lose some of the functionality of the custom fit we already had. We resigned ourselves to save up for a complete redo.

But then, we came across the window.

One day, we saw a window on kijiji that exactly fit the space above the sink. It was too good a deal to pass up, so that very night a hole appeared in the wall, and we were committed.

After the window was installed, we knew we had to make a decision on the cabinets. When I mentioned to Josh that I liked Shaker doors, he realized that we might be able to fix up the existing doors ourselves with minimal waste and very little cost. After a little experimentation, he was able to remove the weird wood trim on the edges, replace them with a strip of MDF, fill the seams, and attach new trim panels for Shaker-style doors that looked brand new. They were primed and ready for paint.

Ah, paint. Here's where we ran into trouble.

Josh had been hooked on the finish of a pre-catalyzed lacquer, which is durable with an unparalleled professional finish. Because it’s volatile, though, it needs some extra preparation: a sealed-off spray booth, special fan, carbon-filter masks, and an HVLP sprayer. Fortunately, Josh’s dad is a contractor and had most of these materials. Unfortunately, after several hours of setting up, sealing everything off and getting ready to spray, the HVLP sprayer we thought he had was nowhere to be found. We either had to tear everything off until we could find another one, or come up with another solution.

We made a quick run to Home Depot and settled for normal lacquer in spray cans. 14 cans later, it still looked a bit like a hack job. Some parts were more glossy; others were more flat. Touching it up seemed to make things worse. But we weren't sure how to fix it, and it was better than the original, so we went on ahead with the rest of the construction.

I love the warmth of wood, and had my heart set on butcher block countertops. We went with solid wood Ikea Numerar slabs in beech. We are so happy with them!  I knew that I didn't want to risk water damage, especially around the sink, so we sealed the wood with food-safe Waterlox, which was easy to apply, though it took five coats with drying time in between.

We added door and drawer handles, a classic subway tile backsplash, a pot light above the window, and a new stainless steel sink and pull-down faucet that we got for a steal. And then we had breakthrough! A good friend who did set construction had an HVLP sprayer that he was happy to lend us! Josh painstakingly removed all the hardware, uninstalled the cabinet doors, sanded each one down (since the lacquer reacted with the spray paint), converted the garage into a spray booth, and re-sprayed the doors. Once they were dry, they were installed again. All that remained was a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and 6 weeks after the hole was chopped in the wall, the kitchen was complete!

We came in far under the budget that we originally anticipated, at only $1215 total (plus another $125 for the 14 cans of spray paint that were later sanded off). That doesn't include the many evening and weekend hours Josh spent hard at work, the invaluable expertise of Josh's dad, and Josh's heroic patience throughout the spray paint debacle! He says he's learned his lesson: don't take shortcuts- do it right the first time!

Budget breakdown:

$56 - window (purchased on kijiji, wood trim mostly had on hand)

$222 - cabinets (MDF panels, filler, adhesive, primer, lacquer, spray-booth supplies)

$113 - hardware (door pulls, screws)

$50 - pot light

$328 - countertop (butcher block, Waterlox, silicone seal for edges)

$340 - faucet & sink

$68 - tile & grout

$38 - wall paint & rollers

$1215 TOTAL

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