We have reached the promised land at long, long last. Our kitchen renovation is complete (see where we started in week 1). As we close this unnecessarily lengthy chapter of our lives, I feel an unexpected flood of emotions. Relief, disappointment, happiness, satisfaction. Some, like the relief and happiness, are easy to understand. Others, like the twinge of disappointment, are more complicated. We’ve made our kitchen the best version of itself that it could be; given the limitations of our house, budget, and skill. But, my kitchen will never be the kitchens I ogled in my inspiration rooms. It is small, it is simple. My brushstrokes are visible on the cabinet fronts if you look closely. Faint roller markers dot the walls. But, while the kitchen may not be the glamorous image of magazine perfection, it is our kitchen. We designed it and built it and poured into it a not-inconsequential amount of blood (yes), sweat (double yes), beers (triple yes), and tears (oh my, yes).
Forgive the poor quality of the photos and the imperfections (see: reflected flip flops above!) therein. Like our renovation, this blog post is flawed but not any worse because of it. ; )
For months after most of the work in the kitchen had been completed, I left the project “open” – unwilling to declare it finished. I postponed doing a few small tasks – necessary painting touchups, some caulking – thrilling stuff. There are a lot of legitimate reasons for this, the biggest one being that with the kitchen in fully functioning order, there was really no need to sacrifice a weekend to these chores. Now, I realize part of my motivation for keeping that chapter open was an unwillingness to part with my fantasies; to give up the future kitchen and admit this version of the kitchen was it. This huge project was over, and I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the possibilities that were wrapped inside it.
During February, Tyler went out of town for the weekend and I spent those two days finishing the dangling kitchen projects. As I dabbed paint onto overlooked corners and patched trim already showing signs of being “lived in” (two big dogs leave their mark… everywhere) I also said farewell to the imagined future of our kitchen, so we can enjoy it in the present.
While every renovation is different, this is what our kitchen process looked like. Bear in mind that all of these projects were undertaken while also working on the rest of the main floor and without taking any vacation. So, if you were renovating one room and working on it more intensively, I have no doubt you could complete the project more quickly. Still, at any pace, what we have now is a huge improvement over what we had before! (below)
We’re also obnoxious perfectionists and had to learn as we went, so our pace is slow. Finally, these estimates are approximate given the fact that I’ve tried to block most of this mind-numbingly tedious work from my brain. There is also a lot missing – all the cleaning, all the prep work, the taping and removing of tape and the endless drudgery that accompanies a project like this. At times, 3-4 of us were working at a time, when my sister would help paint or my father would help with construction, tiling, and electrical work. The numbers below represent the time period of work, not the actual man-hours behind it. Take these time estimates with a grain of salt.
- Planning, researching, purchasing: 11 months
- Emptying kitchen: 6 hours
- Removing old flooring: 2 days
- Demo of existing kitchen (hired contractors): 1.5 days
- Building of new peninsula and refrigerator surround (hired contractors): 1 day
- Hanging new cabinets (hired contractors): .5 day
- Removed cabinet door and drawer fronts (for painting), labeled hardware: 4 hours
- Removing cabinets, removing refrigerator surround, rebuilding refrigerator surround, rehanging cabinets, assorted construction: 40+ hours
- Flooring installation (by professionals): 2 hours
- Build column, trim out the back of the bar, assorted construction: 45+ hours
- Cut and install crown molding: 16-20 hours
- Fill crown molding and back of bar: 10 hours
- Cleaning, patching, sanding, de-glossing cabinet door/drawer fronts and bases: 10-14 hours
- Priming and painting cabinet door/drawer fronts and bases: 40+ hours
- Demo tile backsplash, replace drywall: 8 hours
- Electrical projects (moving outlets, installing new outlets): 4 hours
- Install new recessed light, convert pendant lights to can lights: 2 hours
- Patch, prime, paint ceiling: 3 hours
- Patch, prime, paint walls: 5 hours
- Install new light switch covers / electrical outlet covers: 1 hour
- Cut new baseboards and shoe molding & install: 2 hours
- Prime and paint trim: 12+ hours
- Countertop installation (by professionals): 4+ hours
- Countertop removal (to fix crack): 1 hour
- Countertop re-installation (by professionals): 2 hours
- Sink and faucet installation (by professionals): 1 hour
- Cut tile and tile backsplash: 7 hours
- Grout backsplash: 3 hours
- Re-installing cabinet doors and drawers: 2 hours
- Install cabinet hardware: 1 hour
- Re-installing appliances: 2-4 hours
- Installing microwave: 2 hours
- Unpacking kitchen: 6 hours
- Installing spice racks, etc.: 2 hours
- Installing under-cabinet lighting: 4 hours
- Paint touchups, caulking, etc.: 6 hours
Professionals: 4 days
Homeowners: 250+ hours (of 1-3 people working at a time, over a period of 6 months)
Best and Worst
The worst planned project was painting the cabinets. It was a horrifyingly boring project that has permanently scarred me. I spent so much of my life last year painting those damn cabinets. Note: I did all the painting. Anything with paint on it? That’s all me. You can actually date our house now by the quality of painting on a surface. The beginning was flawless as I worked feverishly toward a goal we’d devoted thousands of dollars toward. By the end, I hated every moment of the renovation process and the painting quality reflected this dip in mood. I’ll show you sometime if you visit. That nightmare ranked up there with the unplanned building projects Tyler and my dad did – most of which was necessitated by shoddy work on the part of the contractors. Those two elements reflect the bulk of our time.
Some of my favorite elements of the kitchen are simple things; the wall color, the faucet, the slim counter-depth refrigerator. The backsplash was one of the highlights – a relatively simple project with a big payout. The lighting changes are also dear to my heart – a few simple swaps like adding filters for the existing recessed lights and switching pendant lights to recessed lights complement bigger changes like the under-cabinet lighting to give us bright, adequate lighting and mood lighting for the entire space. The new electrical outlet + USB port has been super convenient for charging our devices. I love, love, LOVE our sink and adore our countertops – worth every penny (and there were a lot of pennies involved). The new, more open layout has been delightful and our gamble of eliminating storage space and counter space paid off with more usable space.
I’ll be sharing more about sources for materials and a cost breakdown, but I wanted to give an honest evaluation of the process before my memory fades completely for any of you homeowners out there with the itch to renovate.
If I had this to do over, I’d probably do more research to find reliable help and I’d either hire out the painting of the cabinet doors or use a paint sprayer. At the time, the thought of prepping our garage as a painting station seemed overwhelming, but afterward I regretted going manual. Knowing what I know now, I’d also save more money for a future project so I could hire more labor – or I’d find a way to take off of work.
Despite the huge undertaking that I am sooo very glad to leave in the past, we love our new space. We cook regularly and I enjoy every aspect of the kitchen. We eat at least one meal a day at the bar and the low countertop is the perfect place to roll out cookies. It’s hard to determine if something is “worth it” but all the changes we have made have definitely been for the better.
If my experience can help you in any way with your own remodel, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can find me in our new kitchen, learning to make peace with my unfulfilled aspirations and enjoy the truth of our success.