March 29, 2021

Our DIY Kitchen Renovation

Happy 2021, friends! It took a full quarter of the year for me to write something in this space but here we are, and it's an exciting post! Today, nearly 6 months after starting our DIY kitchen renovation, I'm finally sharing the big reveal!

I am so excited to share this with you all! If you follow me on Instagram, you've likely followed the renovations along on my stories, from Demo Day to the day the wind blew one of my cabinet doors over while it was drying, putting a hole through it, to the 2-month wait for my backsplash tiles to come in, it was certainly a journey - and an emotional one, at times, but it was so worth it!

I am so in love with our kitchen and every time I walk into it, I'm amazed that we were able to completely transform it ourselves!

When we bought our house, I knew I wanted to remodel the kitchen from the start. It was horribly lit, with nearly every inch of working counter space in shadow. The dishwasher was repulsive - it was covered in mold, smelled awful, and couldn't drain. We actually replaced that shortly after we moved in. The stove and oven were two separate pieces and I hated the way it looked, not to mention, two of the burners didn't work and it would take close to an hour just to preheat the oven to 350.

We never set a timeline for when we would redo the kitchen and never planned for it to be the first big project we would tackle! To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure how or when we decided to just do it. When the pandemic started and I was home alone with Aurora working, she got into the habit of opening the freezer drawer while I was taking Zoom calls from the dining room table and emptying out the I'd get off a call, put her down for a nap, and have to refill the freezer. That bottom freezer drawer had to go. The fridge was pretty old as it was so I didn't mind replacing it.

So, in June, we bought a new refrigerator. A few months later, we decided to get an estimate for the kitchen, just to see what we were looking at, thinking that we might want to renovate the kitchen in 2021. The estimate? $22,000...and that didn't include materials like cabinets, countertops, the sink, or was just labor. 

We laughed off the estimate but got to thinking...this didn't seem like something totally unreasonable for us to tackle ourselves. After all, it was just pulling down some cabinets and painting them, right? It was actually really helpful to have a contractor come through and talk everything through with us - it made us realize how much more potential the kitchen had than we originally thought. So, we decided to do it ourselves.

We hired a contractor to replace our ceiling fan with recessed lighting - instant upgrade. This was definitely one of the more expensive parts of the project but the most important. The way the stove was positioned meant that I was blocking the only light source every time I was standing at the stove. I can't tell you how many times I burned food because I literally couldn't see it cooking.

We also hired someone to do the countertops, replacing our dark corian counters with quartz and that bright white instantly brightened up the kitchen. 

We were always going to pull down the corner cabinets to the left of the sink. We don't own a microwave and that corner shelf without a door plus the microwave cabinet were just wasted space, so we pulled them down and replaced them with open shelving - something I never thought I would like, but it more than doubled how much storage space we had and really opened up the kitchen. The shelves are also very easy to keep organized.

Once they were down though, I loved how much they opened the space and decided to take down and replace the other upper cabinets to get rid of the corner cabinet and give us more space. This added to our project budget since we hadn't been planning to buy cabinets but it turns out, unfinished cabinets are relatively inexpensive and, since we were already painting the lower cabinets, it wasn't a ton of extra work.

We chose to spray paint our cabinets, which was messy but worth it. The paint went on seamlessly and resulted in so much smoother a finish than a brush or roller would have. We had primed them with a brush and you could see brush strokes and no matter what kind of roller we used, the surface of the cabinets (even sanded down) was just too smooth for a roller. We had a few hiccups with the spray painting (namely losing the nozzle and not realizing it, causing the sprayer to splatter the paint on our 2nd coat, requiring us to sand everything down again and apply a third coat - something we didn't think we would need - and had a few weather-related delays since we were spraying all of the cabinet doors and drawer faces outside. Painting was the heaviest lift of the project but it also had the biggest impact.

I read dozens of articles about painting kitchen cabinets and this one from The Ktchn was by far the most comprehensive. With the exception of using a sprayer, we followed this to a tee. Some tips I have? Definitely sand and sand well (no matter what some blogs might say about no-sand paint jobs), both before you start painting and after every coat. When you're priming any knicks or spots after you start painting, use a spray primer NOT a brush if you're spraying your cabinets, to maintain an even coat.

The biggest delays in our project were caused by waiting for materials (we're on month 3 of waiting for our soft close drawers - for now, we just put the old ones up). Since a lot of this project kind of happened on a whim, that really set us back. It took over a month for shelves to come in, another month for the upper cabinets to come in, and almost two months for the blue and white backsplash tiles to come in and I didn't order some of those things until we were ready for them, so that set us back a bit but all in all, this was a remarkably fast renovation. We started at the end of October and were finished with everything except the stove backsplash at the beginning of December. We were working one person at a time with a toddler at home, hustling during nap time, but we were really only without a kitchen for about 3 days from the time we disconnected and pulled out the old stove to the time the new one was installed. 

Would I do it again? Without a doubt. Now, remember that $22,000 estimate? We redid our entire kitchen for $6,400 - just $400 over budget. As I mentioned, the upper cabinets weren't something we had budgeted for and we did spend more on the sink and garbage disposal than I had planned. The biggest expenses were the contracted work  - the countertops and recessed lighting. But that $6,400 beats $22k by a long shot.

So that's our kitchen remodel! What do you think? Have you tackled a major project like this? What was it? How did it go? Would you do it again?

Up next for us? Renovating our basement! Wish us luck!

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