We had very ambitious plans for our new kitchen. In hindsight, hilariously ambitious. We bought our house on June 30th, and wanted to finish the kitchen before we had to move in on August 1st. On DIY shows, they renovate an entire room in 3 days (allegedly). We could do it in a whole month, right? While working full-time, doing everything ourselves, and moving, right? RIGHT??
In short, no. No we could not. The (somewhat) good news is that a lot of the delay was out of our control.
On August 24th, we started laying tile. You might be thinking, “wait, I thought they had to move in on August 1st?” You would be correct. Let me give you a run-down of the first few days in the house. First, all of our furniture was located in the garage and on the back patio, stacked on top of each other. Second, we had guys coming in to texture the ceiling, which is a very messy endeavor, and one of the few things we did not attempt ourselves. (I am still high-fiving myself for that decision). So for several mornings, The Boy and I had to wake up early, take a shower, climb over obstacles in the garage (wearing only a towel, which has a mind of its own) trying to find my undies, get dressed, move the bed and a few boxes to the center of the room, cover it with plastic, and leave for the day. I have never been more happy to go to work. Oh, and one morning the workers arrived “early” (5:00 a.m. is not early to me – it is illegal), because the house looked so uninhabitable that they did not realize we were living there. Good times. I will stop the complain train there.
Back to August 24th. We laid tile in the kitchen in a hopscotch pattern:
Most people would start in the corner and work their way out, but The Boy thought ahead a little bit (which is very similar to his Controlled Demo strategizing). Base cabinets would be around the wall’s perimeter, therefore the noticeable tiles would be where they would transition with whatever floor went in the rest of the house, therefore we wanted to start with full tiles there. Here are the floors finished and grouted:
This was our very first adventure in tiling. We took a how-to class at our local Floor & Decor, which was very helpful, but you can really only learn this task by doing it. The mistake we made was mixing too much thinset at one time and being under the impression that it would dry much faster than it actually does. We worked like maniacs at warp speed, and as a result, there are many tiles that are not perfectly level. The lesson learned is to take your time, and do what it takes to get them all level. I have made peace with it. The Boy sits on the couch staring into the kitchen and growls on occasion. He will get over it eventually.
We ordered cabinets, which were supposed to arrive in two weeks. After FOUR weeks of calling and emailing (they were “held up” in customs at the Port of Miami – uh huh), they finally arrived:
If that looks like fun, you are a sadist and need help. We started assembling these babies in early September, and soon had this:
I put sticky notes on each cabinet as we assembled them so I could keep track of where they went. It is much easier to hang the upper cabinets first, so that you aren’t leaning over the lower cabinets trying to screw in the uppers. Eventually we had this:
We actually took this photo as evidence of the fact that we had items in the cabinets, in case they fell off of the walls while we slept. The Boy and I were both legitimately concerned about this, and made a pact to stay in bed if we heard a large crash in the middle of the night. True story.
On September 26th, we placed our granite order, which was supposed to arrive in – you guessed it – 2 weeks. As we waited, we replaced the wobbly ceiling fan with a hanging light over the island (that’s right – we added an island!), and had the bracket for the microwave up. At this point, the granite was several weeks late. Shocking!
While we waited for the countertops to arrive, The Boy showed off his amateur electrician skills, and installed four recessed lights:
While we continued to wait for the countertops to arrive, we built a fence in one day, with the incredible help and instruction from one of my closest friends, Jessica:
November 29th was the countertop installation day (estimated time: 2 weeks; actual time: 2 MONTHS). FYI, granite installers do not take kindly to death threats. Here is the magic:
On December 1st, we were able to plumb the sink. It was the worst game of Legos imaginable, and including the dishwasher, garbage disposal, and water line to the fridge, it was quite a challenge:
It is beautiful, and only leaks if you fill the right side with water. (Update: The Boy fixed it!)
We also finally tackled replacing that beautiful Monet-esque stained glass window. Really, it was beautiful, it just did not fit with our decor (sarcasm font). Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of that day, which is probably for the best. The Boy does not like to hear the words, “I told you so,” but sometimes they simply must be said. I will leave it at that.
Finally, miraculously, and with not one materialman, Boy, or Girl harmed, we were able to begin the finishing touches: a much-debated, pinned, and mulled-over backsplash. I almost contacted the Gallop people to launch a nationwide poll. It was a tough call, with infinite options, but I am very happy with the results. Here is prep work, to protect our new baby granite from getting hurt:
We used mastic, which is much easier to work with, comes pre-mixed, and is perfect for tiling on walls. You simply spread that on with a trowel, and use the notched side at a 45 degree angle to scrape it, and then press the tile on. Here is a progression:
The backsplash was finally grouted, and on February 5th (of the following YEAR), we had our “ta-dah!” moment:
Here is the before/after for comparison (CLICK TO ENLARGE!):
I love it. Absolutely LOVE it. I was so happy to have The Boy cook again (that’s right, ladies, The Boy also cooks!). I’d like to give an honorable mention to the grill, propane tanks, The Boy, and the utility sink in the garage for their hard work during this long ordeal. It was all worth it. For those keeping score at home, our one month project actually took over 5 months to complete, from laying floors to Ta Dah. However, if you count from our original goal, to actual completion, it took us 6 months, which is 5 months longer than expected. I honestly went into it thinking we would come pretty close to our goal. So I guess the lesson is, when renovating on your own and working full-time, don’t think.
You know what I mean.
(Psst – you can check out the budget breakdown for this renovation here!)
I also entered this project in a DIY contest at Not Just a Housewife – check it out!