Friday, March 29, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: Cabinet Toekicks

The toekicks of the kitchen cabinets had originally been covered with blue cove base. (Cove base is the vinyl "baseboard" typically found in office buildings and pubic restrooms.) Removing it shredded the toekicks and left tons of adhesive.

To hide the damage, I made new facades for the toekicks. I cut pieces of MDF to size and covered them with beadboard wallpaper painted black like the cabinets. I attached the facades with a little construction adhesive.

I wanted to dress the cabinets up further by adding feet. While poking around the architectural salvage yard one day, I came across these nine balusters. I saw the nice carved shape and thought, "I can make feet from these!"
Very dirty balusters from an outdoor staircase. Gonna need the Krud Kutter cleaner!

Sure enough, by cutting them into five pieces...
I chopity chop chopped on the chop saw.

I created feet! One section (number 4 above) gave me nine feet for the cabinets. I also got four feet for another project from section 2.
Lots of feet! The nine on the right are for the cabinets.

After thoroughly cleaning the feet, I painted them black. Then I attached them to the cabinets with a drop of construction adhesive.

Total cost of this project was $4.50. I paid 50 cents each for the balusters. The MDF, wallpaper and paint were all leftovers from previous projects.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: Wall Cabinets

The kitchen originally had a bank of ceiling-mounted cabinets over the peninsula.

I removed those cabinets a while back, which opened up the kitchen but left me with a view of the ugly wall cabinets on the other side. What to do with those? I considered the same beadboard-and-paint treatment I gave the base cabinets, but that would make the wall o' cabinets even darker and more oppressive. And no aesthetic changes would help the cabinets function better - they were off-center, the shelves were warped, and the corner cabinet was hard to reach into.

Ultimately, I decided to just get rid of the darn things. :P

Of course, this left significant damage on the wall.

Including three series of nail holes the installer had created when trying to find the wall studs.

By the way, light switches and wall outlets can help you locate studs. Switches and outlets are attached to studs, so you know that the stud will be just to the left or right of the switch/outlet. This was especially helpful to find the studs in my kitchen wall, where (for reasons unknown) the studs are 24" apart, not the usual 16".
studs will be to the left or right of switches/outlets (along the red lines)

The walls are textured, so holes can't be spackled and sanded like you'd do with smooth walls. There's no way to repair the damage without the repairs being as obvious as the damage. The only real solution is to refinish or cover the whole wall. I decided on the latter, choosing a "tin ceiling" style textured wallpaper. I painted it white to help brighten the space. Then I installed some swirly black wrought iron shelf brackets... 

topped with black wooden shelves. I used 11" deep shelves on the left and 7" deep on the right.

Total cost of this project was $76.50, fairly expensive by my frugal standards. This included
  • one roll of textured wallpaper at $19 (Lowe's)
  • two 11" deep shelves at $7 each (IKEA)
  • two 7" deep shelves at $3 each (IKEA)
  • four wrought iron brackets at $4 each (Hobby Lobby)
  • four smaller wrought iron brackets at $3.50 each (Hobby Lobby)
  • one package of screws with anchors for drywall $7.50 (The Home Depot)

But I think the end result will be worth it. With both banks of wall cabinets gone, the kitchen feels MUCH more open. :) Now it's time to pursue that "gothic cottage" look by putting stuff on the shelves!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: DIY Refrigerator Cabinet

Most kitchen appliances and cabinets are standardized to fit with each other. Standard base cabinets are 34.5" high and 24" deep, and appliances such as dishwashers, ovens and ranges are sized appropriately so that they fit under or even with the counters and sit flush with the cabinets. Refrigerators, however, have been excluded from this standardization. In most kitchens, the fridge is like a Ford Expedition parked in a "compact car only" space.

Recently, cabinet-depth refrigerators have become available. These are great for two reasons - they sit flush with the cabinets, and they're not so deep that you need a search and rescue team to get to the leftovers that got pushed to the back. Alas, they are expensive - easily twice or three times the price of a regular fridge.

So most of us are left with an ill-fitting refrigerator. The fridge sticks out 8" or 10" past the cabinet fronts, but leaves a gap on the top and sides unless you buy a huge model. To add insult to injury, the fridge is topped with a little cabinet that could be useful... if only we could get to it. A 12" deep cabinet on top of a 32" deep refrigerator is not easy to reach.

Such was my situation. And while the gap provided a convenient place to store my Swiffer WetJet (an awesome invention, by the way), I wanted better access to the cabinet.

Building a cabinet around the fridge seemed like the best solution. I would just need a sheet of plywood to make the side of the cabinet; the hurdle was that the plywood would be too big to fit in my car. Brainstorming ideas in the shower one day, I suddenly remembered I had two doors sitting unused in my basement. I'd removed them while doing some demolition. Yay! There was my solution!

I brought one of the doors up, removed the doorknob, and attached it to the end of the counter. I covered it with beadboard wallpaper painted black to match the cabinets.

To support the trim on the other side, I attached a simple 1" x 2" board to the wall.

I pushed the fridge back in place and placed the cabinet on top.

Then I simply trimmed it with door casing and crown molding.

The top cabinet now sits only a few inches back from the front of the refrigerator, just enough to clear the fridge door hinge. I can access the cabinet contents easily. :)

And I think it looks nicer, too.

Total cost of this project was about $22, which was spent on the trim. I had the paint and wallpaper on hand. (If you didn't happen to have an unused door sitting in your basement, you'd probably pay about $35-40 for a sheet of 3/4" plywood.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: Base Cabinets

In any kitchen, cabinets can make or break the look. Mine certainly weren't making anything except me unhappy. :P They were a medium-toned wood with a very obvious grain. Bleh. To reduce the ugly, I decided on two different tactics, one for the base cabinets and one for the wall cabinets. I went after the base cabinets with the standard tool of the goth arsenal - black paint. ;)
base cabinets - photo taken with flash
base cabinets - photo taken under the ghastly fluorescent light

The task was difficult from the very beginning. The cabinets were varnished with some kind of oil-based clear coat evil-based yellowed coat. This stuff was a nightmare. Latex paint wouldn't stick to it, and it bled yellow-brown through even a stain-blocking primer. This left me with three options: try oil-based primer and paint, chemically strip off the finish, or sand off the finish. The first two options require opening windows and thus were not feasible mid-winter when the temperature was 15F. I really hate using harsh chemicals anyway. So I opted for sanding even though it's one of my least favorite DIY activities.

First I removed all the drawers, doors, and hinges. I sanded the fronts of the cabinet boxes by hand, using damp sanding sponges to minimize dust. All the doors and drawers went with me to the basement, where we spent about four hours of quality time with the electric sander. I used 80 grit sandpaper to remove the finish, then 150 grit followed by 220 grit to smooth the surface.
attendees of Bane's sanding party

The 220 was probably overkill because no amount of sanding would eliminate the obvious grain. I used wood filler to help level the largest crevices on the cabinet boxes, and primer helped smooth the door and drawer surfaces a bit. But the panels in the center of the doors were beyond help. I would have sanded completely through them before they'd look anything like smooth. The solution was to cover them with a more pleasing texture. I chose beadboard.

Yeah, I know beadboard is typically associated with that palest of decorating themes, cottage style. I have no shame in admitting that I like the look of cottage style even though its white furniture, floral fabrics and soft colors are not at all like my usual decorating style of black velvet, wrought iron and dark colors. But hey, it's my house, and if I want to combine two clashing decorating styles, no one can stop me. Muahahaha! I think "gothic cottage" sounds lovely. ;)

Anyway... I chose beadboard.  Instead of purchasing real wood beadboard, I opted for less expensive and easier-to-install beadboard textured wallpaper. I cut the wallpaper to size and glued it to the center panels with wallpaper paste.
sanded doors with beadboard wallpaper added

The next step was to prime the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers. To help smooth the surfaces, I applied two coats of primer, sanding lightly between coats. I used grey Glidden Gripper. It has the consistency of glue and dries almost instantaneously, which makes it somewhat difficult to use because you have almost no working time. If you pause for three seconds, the brush practically gets stuck to whatever you're painting. :P But with a heavy dose of Floetrol paint conditioner added, it turns into an excellent primer.

I had just enough primer on hand for one coat. When I went to purchase more, I happened across a can of Gripper in the "oops" paint section for $2 (normal price is $12). Better yet, it had been tinted a dark grey (presumably too dark for the intended purchaser, making it an "oops"), perfect for me to use under black paint. Sweet!
primer coat one

After hours of prep work, finally it was time to paint! I used Behr latex paint in Beluga (black) that I had on hand. The first coat went on fine. But the next weekend when I started to apply the second coat, the paint had a gazillion tiny air bubbles. I can only guess that I must not have sealed the can tightly enough. I tried everything I could think of - stirring more carefully; using more Floetrol, less Floetrol, no Floetrol; using a different type of roller - but the air bubbles remained. Finally, I resorted to rolling on the paint and then immediately blasting it with a hair dryer, which burst most of the bubbles to leave a smoother finish. I had the paint roller in one hand and the hair dryer in the other. If I hadn't been painting the doors and drawers to match other items in the kitchen, I would have chucked the bad paint and bought new. This experience was immensely frustrating. At long last, after much blood, sweat and tears Floetrol, hot air and cursing, I finished painting the cabinets black.

Now it was down to the hinges and screws. Their dull goldish color would not look good on the black doors. Out came the black spray paint - magic in a can. There were about 100 tiny screws, and it was quite tedious holding each individual screw so I could spray paint it. Okay, I'm kidding. I did not paint each screw individually. I used a small screwdriver to punch holes in a box and popped the screws into the holes. :)
screws standing up so I could paint their wee little heads

I laid the box out with the hinges...
I wasn't exaggerating when I said there were 100 screws

And sprayed on the magic.
later I flipped the hinges so I could spray their backsides

Then it was time to put it all back together. I added little felt pads to the inside corners of the doors so they will close softly without banging against the cabinet. Still to come: addressing the toekicks, which were shredded when I removed the blue vinyl cove base, and adding hardware.
Total cost of this project was about $16. I paid $2 for primer, used about half the $25 roll of beadboard wallpaper, and paid $1.50 for adhesive felt pads. (If you didn't have paint on hand, you'd probably pay about $12 for primer, $12-14 for paint, and $4 for spray paint, for a total additional cost of about $28-30.)

  • Floetrol paint conditioner is awesome. It gives more working time, so I end up with fewer brush marks and a smoother paint job.
  • Latex paint is fairly durable for walls, but for cabinets in high-traffic kitchens, you probably want to add a couple coats of polyurethane. I'm skipping the poly for now only because my kitchen is very lightly used.
  • In humid climates, surfaces painted with latex paint can sometimes stick to each other (the door sticks to the cabinet). Adding little adhesive felt pads to the doors and drawers will prevent this.

And lesson learned:
  • Seal paint cans extra carefully and maybe even weave a little spell to ward off air bubbles.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: Flooring and Appliances

To set the scene for my present-day kitchen makeover saga, we'll go back in time to my first weeks of homeownership. After closing on the house, I immediately addressed the flooring and appliances.

The kitchen and dining room had water-damaged beige and blue vinyl flooring, with the rest of the house carpeted with grungy blue wall-to-wall carpet. I wanted it all out of the house before I moved in.
The old flooring was water-damaged and peeling.

Hardwood would have been the ideal replacement, but I could not afford to buy hardwood flooring for the entire house. I also could not install hardwood without renting or buying tools. The solution I chose was a vinyl plank floor that looks like wood. It was inexpensive, I could easily install it myself with just a utility knife, and because it’s a floating floor, future removal would be very easy. I expected this flooring to be a fairly short-term solution, but I’ve been very pleased with it and have seen no need to rush replacement. My only regret is choosing light oak instead of dark walnut.
The new flooring was easy to install.
The cost of flooring for the kitchen was about $175, or about $330 for kitchen + dining room together.

The kitchen had a refrigerator, range and dishwasher that were old, mismatched and sort of gross. (The inside of the dishwasher was dirty… how is that even possible?) I wanted to replace all of them.
The old fridge functioned fine but the side-by-side style doesn't work well for someone who often orders pizza. ;)
The old range was stained and scratched.
There was a lot of ash in the old stove. But I'm sure they weren't using it as a crematorium. Well, pretty sure...
Kitchen appliances can be outrageously expensive. (I've seen HGTV shows where people spend six grand on a range. No way I'd do that... unless it included a personal chef to cook all my meals for the next decade!) But they don’t have to be; you just have to be aware of your choices. I saved money by:
  • Not overbuying. I don’t need a fridge big enough for a football team. I definitely don’t need a fancy Viking range when I barely do more than boil water twice a week.
  • Buying black instead of stainless steel. Stainless steel may be what “everyone” wants these days, but I prefer black. It doesn't show fingerprints like stainless. And, well, it's black. :)
  • Buying from the “scratch and dent” merchandise at an appliance outlet. An appliance gets a scratch or dent, and they mark it down significantly. It's still a brand-new appliance, it's just not in a box. (Bonus: No pounds of packaging to deal with or dispose of!) The two I bought were scratched on the side, where no one will even see it. Sweet!
  • Buying a freestanding range instead of a slide-in range, which would have cost more than twice as much. I knew that the back of a freestanding range would show above the counters, but I also knew it would be temporary because I planned to reconfigure the kitchen. For a savings of $800 or more, I could live with the back showing for a while (the kitchen was hideous anyway…).

New fridge is plenty wide enough for pizza boxes. :D

New range is shiny!
Still shiny! This photo was taken today, after 3+ years of (obviously very light) use. Julia Child I am not.
I paid $399 for the range (would have been $650 in a box), $468 for the refrigerator (would have been $699 in a box), and $229 for the dishwasher (in a box). I bought a microwave at Target for $65. Total price to replace all the kitchen appliances was $1,161. (Offset by the $250 I got by selling the old appliances on craigslist.)

The flooring and appliances played a role in making my first overnight at the house a memorable event...

After I closed on the house, I continued to live in my apartment while I prepped the house for move-in. Over a couple of weekends, I cleaned and painted all the walls, pulled up all the old carpet, and got rid of the old appliances. On the third weekend, I planned to install the new flooring. Then very early that Friday morning, a sizable snowstorm began moving in and my employer called a snow day. It appeared I was going to be snowed in for a couple of days, and I did not like the idea of sitting idle in the apartment instead of installing the new flooring, which was sitting in boxes at the house. Very quickly, before the roads became snowy, I packed up a few things and jumped in my car for the 30-mile drive to the house.

The house had water and power (and the boxes of flooring), but not much else -- no furniture, no stove, no refrigerator. I'd gotten rid of the old appliances but not bought new ones yet. No problem, I could sleep on an air mattress and eat cereal and sandwiches for three days. Snow works well as a substitute fridge. :D
Mmm, ice-cold snow-cold milk
Snowed in and with little else to do for the long weekend, I had plenty of time to install flooring throughout the entire house. :)