Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kitchen Renovation, Part 1

There is a fun show on DIY Network called “I Hate My Kitchen.”  I can relate.  My kitchen is absolutely dreadful.  It needs to be completely gutted and renovated – new layout, new plumbing, new electrical, new cabinets, new countertops, new sink… new everything.  Other than replacing the grungy appliances before moving in, I have done very little to the room.  I guess I haven't had the nerve to face it. 

I hate the oppressively low ceiling and the upper cabinets, which make the kitchen feel cramped. 
this is what I see when I enter from the garage
from the living room, the window is blocked by the cabinets
Then there is the utterly useless range hood.  Because of the low ceiling, the hood is absurdly low -- at just the right height to vent the recirculated air directly into my eyes.  I would have pulled the cursed thing down long ago, but the electric hood is hardwired up through the middle cabinet. After my recent success in replacing light switches, I began to wonder if removing the range hood might be within my meager electrical skill set after all.  I investigated the options and found that the wiring could simply be capped off.  Sweet!

While removing the upper cabinets would open up the space, there would be a drawback – more of the ugly kitchen would be visible.  I came up with some cosmetic fixes which will hopefully be relatively inexpensive and easy (and which I hope to feature in future posts as success stories) and decided to go ahead with removing the cabinets.

I began by emptying the cabinets and removing the doors.

Using one of my favorite and most useful tools, the miniature pry bar, I easily removed the paneling and trim from the back of the cabinets.  Then it was simply a matter of removing a few screws, and the side cabinets practically fell off the ceiling.
one side cabinet down
I shut off the electricity at the breaker box before removing the range hood and middle cabinet.  A horrifying quantity of mouse droppings on top of the middle cabinet proved that at some point in the past, the wire from the range hood hadn’t been the only thing coming through the hole in the ceiling.  I've never seen any mice, though; perhaps they were electrocuted while chewing on the wire.
yikes! disgusting!
mice had chewed through to the bare wire  :o

cabinets are gone!

I cut the wire short, peeled back the sheathing to expose the three individual wires, and capped each one separately.

Before poking live wires into my ceiling, I decided to double-check with an informed person.  I snapped a photo and drove to my friendly neighborhood Home Depot.  I showed the photo to the electrical specialist; he confirmed I’d capped the wires properly and suggested I add some electrical tape for extra security.  Reassured that I wouldn’t electrocute myself or burn down my house, I headed home to finish the job.

It’s difficult to properly patch textured walls and ceiling, but luckily, little damage was done when the cabinets came down.  I did my best to fill in the holes and sand the high spots.  I covered the capped wiring with a metal plate and began to paint the ceiling... and hit my first snag.  When wet, the new white paint was exactly the same color as the existing ceiling, so I couldn't tell where I'd painted and where I hadn't.  Not good.  I'd heard of ceiling paint that goes on pink, making it easy to see where you've painted, and decided to give it a try.  My preferred brand, Behr, does not make such a paint (get with the program, Behr!) so I purchased Glidden "EZ Track" ceiling paint.  It didn't cover quite as well as Behr, but overall I was pleased.  Rolling pink paint over white was MUCH easier than white on white.
I never expected to use pink paint anywhere in my house

With a fresh coat of paint, it's hard to tell the cabinets were ever there.

from the living room, I can see out the window now
There is still a lot of ugly to be addressed -- the back of the stove, the cabinets, the countertops -- but I think I'm off to a decent start.  :)


  1. Wow, what a job youv'e done! The kitchen look far more better now.I got a little worried when I saw the chewed cable. Are you able to check that there isn't no chewed cables under the roof (attic), they can cause severe fires.
    If this kitchen were mine, I would put up a new wall between the living room and kitchen and put in a huge antique window in it to draw a border between the rooms and yet still let the light pass.

  2. Great job, your kitchen looks so much more open now!

    But I have a question: DOn't you miss the space that the upper head cabinets offered? I need every nook and cranny in my kitchen for sure!

  3. It has really opened up the space and improved the look. Well done!

    You deserve credit for having the vision to imagine the end result to carry you past the horrible feeling of "making it look worse before it looks better". Demolition for purely aesthetic reasons even though there's nothing basically wrong, is one of the reasons certain things just don't get done.

    The previous commenter raised the question of the reduced storage space. Although it's always a case of "Your mileage may vary", I do wonder if many of us actually have far too much redundant stuff in our kitchens we don't ever actually use or really like: labour saving gadgets which don't, slightly damaged crockery, more pots and pans then we really need, etc. I remember a TV chef itemising the essential requirements for the preparation and serving of 99% of what we eat, as being a very short list!

    The back of the stove... I've got a couple of ideas of what you might be intending to do about that and I'm looking forward to finding out in Part 2.


  4. Meant to say before...
    Love your black fridge!

  5. linnea-maria - Thanks! The chewed wire is worrisome. I had the house inspected before I purchased it, but the inspector wouldn't have seen the stove wiring because it was closed up in the drop ceiling. I'm somewhat reassured by the fact that there is little overhead wiring - only the fluorescent light and the ceiling fan near the kitchen.
    I have thought about putting stained glass into the side wall (where the wrought iron pieces are currently hung).

    MindLess - Thank you! I thought I might need to add some storage on the side wall, but with some shuffling, everything fit into the remaining cabinets. I don't have much kitchen stuff.

    Orlando - Thanks! It can be hard to justify demolishing "perfectly good" stuff, but in this case, a little demo made a huge difference. Plus, I'll reuse the cabinets for storage in my workroom.

    There is an astounding array of kitchen stuff in stores, and I imagine a foodie or hobbyist cook would find it hard to resist. I, however, rarely cook. I have a grand total of five pots/pans.

    I should have bought a slide-in range which wouldn't show above the countertop, but that type is nearly three times the cost of a freestanding stove (around $1350 vs. $500). I do plan to move the stove to the other side of the kitchen; until then, I'll try to disguise the back of it.

  6. You are making me nostalgic for my Pop ... he was a carpenter and construction guy. I spent many a Saturday with him on the job or sitting in his workshop as he created something utterly beautiful from wood. I think he would be quite impressed and pleased with what you have been doing around the house and what you just did to the kitchen.

    I'm constantly amazed at what you do, always turning the space into something so beautiful and dreamy! I can't wait to see the kitchen done. Hey, what type of ceiling did you pick out for you bedroom?

  7. I think you've done a tremendous job with that. Anything involving electricity or water scares me, so kudos to you. You've opened the enitre room up with removing those cabinets. Great job.

  8. you did a good job :-D you have more plans for some diy in this room right now?

  9. Le Professeur Gothique - Thanks so much! I'm always awed by the skill of true woodworkers. I ordered three sample tiles for my bedroom. Having the actual tiles should help me choose a style.

    Captain Morgan - Thank you. Electricity is scary. Even though I shut off power to the entire house and double-check with a tester, I'm still convinced that I'll be shocked as soon as I touch a wire.

    kakuidori - Thanks! I will be doing more DIY to this room very soon.

    Lady Bethezda - Sweet! Thank you! Now I can feel totally justified in wearing the cape. ;-)

  10. Whoa, the old kitchen made me sad. The missing cabinets make it a lot less unhappy.

    Come do mine next. Mine is 100 kinds of unfortunate. This is to say nothing of my bathrooms. It needs gutting so very, very badly.... alas, I am not the owner, nor do I have remodel-money, DIY or no.

    Going to paint the woodwork?

  11. Tante Fledermaus - A sad kitchen indeed! I will definitely paint the wood. I hate the current finish. I just have to decide on a color.

    VictorianKitty - It was more dramatic than I expected.

    Okay, give me a minute, I'll be okay...
    >glitter wheeze<

  13. Ha ha ha! Hmmmm... glittery cabinets... As long as the glitter isn't composed of little flakes of lead, why not?! ;)

  14. Vastly improved kitchen! And hooray for home improvements being easier than they seem :)

    1. Hooray indeed! Home improvements are almost always harder than you expect, so when one turns out to be easier, it is really worth a celebration. :)

  15. Holy crap, you are definitely not afraid to take on a project!!! It looks much better with those cabinets removed and WTF was with that range hood???? Why was it put in so low? Anyway, I think you've done an awesome job!

  16. Ha ha! In this case, there wasn't much fear because I thought even a hole in the ceiling would be better than those cabinets. ;) There are several WTFs in my house; the range hood was definitely on the list.