Home Renovations: Part 5 – Cabinets

And now for the “Big Impact” item – cabinets.

And yes – there will be pictures at the end of my rant.

Actually, our renovation project really begins here with the cabinets. Back in 2019 when we first started thinking about renovating the kitchen, we attended the Seattle Home Expo (before the lockdown and the year that wasn’t). We saw many interesting things, like giant “swim in place” lap pools, but the main thing we came away with was a reference for some high-quality cabinets, made locally in Woodinville.

We were astounded of the quality of the cabinets, and that they were inclusive of any inserts or accessories and were made locally to order. Of course, the pandemic struck next, and we soon forgot about them.

After going through the design/build ranks in Seattle, and even a store front kitchen design place, we had a general idea of what we wanted, but none of those places would satisfy us of the quality and customizability of their cabinets like the first place. After almost 2 years of trying to plan, design, and find a contractor/builder, we returned to the first cabinet company.

What a night and day experience. The first designers we worked with took some loose measurements and went away for a few weeks. They came back with drawings that were maybe 80% of what we wanted, but nothing looked quite right to us, and we made them tweak it several times – then, after COVID hit and things got crazy, we had to back off. We came back to them later, and they were so busy that they could not accommodate us for anywhere near the same budget. Everything got more expensive.

So, we went to that storefront place I mentioned earlier. Fortunately, they required no money up-front, and would design and estimate the layout in just a few days of working with us. They came up with the better plan after seeing what the first company did, and even found some outside-the-box ideas which helped us find our final layout. But they were WAY over budget also and would not let us choose better cabinets. They had a specific vendor that they used and would cost much more to get the cabinets we wanted in the colors we chose.

Fast forward through much frustration and emotional meltdowns, we eventually remembered the first cabinet vendor. After brining our sketchy plans and ideas, their designer/technician calmly began entering all the data and dimensions into AutoCAD (or some such architectural program) and began to lay out the entire plan. He came up with a cost estimate that very day, and even found a contractor to do the install of the cabinets and the remainder of the construction work to very close within our budget.

Now, that was a year ago that we signed our contract with them. There were some speedbumps on the way (I hate speedbumps, by the way – they are indeed evil). These speedbumps were us tweaking the final details, putting the finishing touches on all the accessories that we needed, and finally getting enough design time with the cabinet designer to make sure everything was covered. We finally finished it up and signed the contracts in November.

They said it would take 6 to 8 weeks for cabinet construction, but I think the order was expedited because we had cabinets delivered to us early in the second week of December – closer to 4 weeks production time. We thought they would fill one of our garage bays and that one of us would have to park in the driveway or on the street – that was a gross underestimation on everyone’s part. The cabinets alone filled one and half bays, so we were both out in the cold.

We arranged the main cooking wall in a line to make sure everything was there.

There were a few issues that we had, such as a miscalculation on where the rangetop and hood would be in the layout, but those issues were corrected expeditiously. In fact, see those two cabinets above without doors? Those were produced within 24 hours in order to correct the layout issues. There are a couple of chips in the finish, but we are supposed to be getting some touchup paint for those things.

Fast forward (past two or three other blog posts and one ice storm) to this past week where the cabinet install began. First, was to get all the cabinets inside. That took longer than I think the installers were prepared for.

A snapshot from our “construction cam” showing the cabinets being staged for install.

One of the installers levelling and installing the main cooking wall cabinets.

The lowers for the “buffet wall” in what is now our new dining room.

The new cabinet where the oven will be installed. The oven was previously in the section just to the right of where it is now, just next to the pantry door.

Complete lowers for cooking wall (minus drawers and a couple of doors).

The new cabinet for the fridge – we went with an upgraded size (48″ instead of the usual 36″). Not only will it help resale value, but we can get so much more stuff in it!

Uppers for the “buffet wall”.

Final install state after getting as much done as could be at this time.

You’ve probably noticed that not everything is quite finished yet, but that’s okay – some of it we intentionally delayed in order to figure out what to do with the floor, and the crown moulding on the fridge wall is missing because the lights are actually in the wrong place and blocking the install. That will be fixed later.

While we had some issues with the install of the cabinets, I understand that it was par for the course of how these things go. Overall, they did a good job getting everything in place and correcting some install mistakes that our contractor caught and held them to task.

As you can see, it’s getting real now.

Home Renovations: Part 4 – The Floor (Update)

Remember how I said that we weren’t happy with the floor color? Well, the floor guy has risen to the occasion and offered to help us make it right. We mulled things over and decided the best/easiest way to make things match would be to refinish the living room to match the hallway/kitchen floor.

Now, in the picture from last post, you cannot see it, but the floor difference from the landing to the sunken living room is significant. The difference from the hallway to the master bedroom is less so. In fact, we are confident that we could ignore it and even eventually “forget” about it. So, the only logical way forward is to refinish the smaller living room and make sure that it matches the rest.

We are confident that the floor guy can make it right.

He’s not only a good and solid person, but also very skilled at what he does.

Since the change will be small, we will not leave the house and go to a hotel (I’m out of Hilton points anyway). This should be done by the weekend, and the rest of the renovations can continue apace.

Soon to be done!

Home Renovations: Part 4 – The Floor

What can I say? Everything in the house rests on the floor – it’s the foundational element in any remodel. In fact, when we renovated our master bedroom, it started with the changing of our closet. It was too small and there was a section that was cut out and set aside for a vanity and chest of drawers. However, we didn’t need that and had the wall removed. That meant that there were gaps in the flooring: and lo-and-behold a whole room renovation was now required just from changing a small part of a closet.

That project took almost six months to complete in small stages in Spring of 2021.

Why are we talking about the master bedroom when the kitchen is all the rage right now? Well, they are closely connected. Quite literally, connected by the flooring.

Speaking of the closet, let’s throw a few pictures of the end results of the master bedroom & closet remodeling project:

New closet layout

Back wall of master bedroom – shiplap on rear wall, new baseboards and window casements, and new floor. Not just a new stain, but an entirely new floor. The old floor was a hideously blonde bamboo from one of the previous owners.

Old blonde bamboo flooring – now since burned with the fires of heaven. Well maybe not burned, but we wanted it as far away from us as we could get it.

Back to our current renovation, we are now connected by the floor in the master bedroom to the floor in the hallway, entry way, dining room and kitchen – they are all the same:

Here is the join – notice the different color. On the right, new flooring in the master is red oak (which we though the flooring on the main level was).

On the left, is actually white oak – not what we were originally told and had we known, we would have gone with white oak all the way through for a consistent stain color.

We knew this was a sticking point and wanted to be careful about getting the color right.

Fast forward a bit to the last couple of weeks.

Since we are changing the kitchen layout, there are parts of the floor which have never seen the light of day in 35 years, and some which have degraded or been cut for some nefarious purpose (and by that I mean some shoddy duct work and water line rerouting). There was a great deal of patching and repairs to be done.

The floor team was actually quite skilled at the repairs and finishing techniques and many holes and gaps were repaired and filled in.

Before repairs

Repairs being done.

Repairs and flooring sanded.

At this point, we are in a hotel – the sanding and staining are not pleasant to be around. The dust just makes me cough, and the stains and topcoats are somewhat toxic. We used a few free hotel points to stay at a nearby hotel for a few days.

Here is the result.

View from the back of the kitchen.

And ooops. The flooring does not match – it’s even worse at the steps into the living room.

While the rest of the floor looks wonderful, and the quality of the finish is great, the color is not what we wanted and looks strangely green in the area of the steps at the top of the last picture. We are not happy with it, but we are hopeful that our floor guy will be able to come up with a fix.

We’re not letting it delay us, though – cabinets are next for this week. Once those are in, we will start putting the appliances back and template for the counter tops.

We have the faucets on order to arrive soon, as well as the cabinet pulls and knobs. So many details to get done!

But we are close. Very close.

Home Renovations: Part 3 – Walls & Wires

Part of any renovation will include electrical work – and that also means removing some sheetrock as well. In our case, the electrical work was more extensive than planned – over three times as much effort and cost.

See, the house was built back in the 80s: 1987 it was completed. What that means, in the most significant sense, is that codes have changed quite a bit since then, as well as kitchen life. There are many more new, high-power appliances that are in use today; many more countertop devices, like toaster ovens, air fryers, rice cookers, etc. than there were in the 80s. This means a considerably larger current draw on existing circuits.

Of course, when your 80s house isn’t even up to 80s code, that makes it all the more work to bring it up to modern specs.

It seems that our kitchen circuit for small appliances (which should have been at least 2 circuits in a house this size) was not only the kitchen outlets, but the dining room, front room, crawl space, and some hallway outlets also. That is almost half the main floor on one circuit. We tried putting two heaters in the room early on to keep it warm for construction. That tripped the breaker even though they were plugged into different rooms.

So, several days of electrical later, we have several new circuits in the kitchen, dining, and other parts of the house which needed it. I don’t have pictures of the new wires and circuits, but I do have pictures of what came next:

Drywall. Lots of it.

We had to have a lot of new dry wall added in the places where we removed the window and door and the extra closet and decorative wall. Those are all gone now, and sheetrock has been replaced and repaired.

Following the sheetrock and mudding, new texture and primer were applied.

The door here is the new pantry pocket door primed and ready for install.

Some good benefits from the renovation here in addition to the new circuits, I now have sound dampening insulation in the kitchen ceiling – which helps not only with noise coming from my office when I roll around in my chair, but from the kitchen to my office. Sounds are now very muffled, and my office is much quieter than it was before.

In addition to primer and texture, we have the new vent hood installed above the space where the new range top will be installed.

Close up

Wide shot

I got to help install this – we needed three people to mount it properly and I helped hold up my end.

Now, all I need is a new range top and I can fry me up some bacon!

Good thing I already have it ready to go.

Home Renovations: Part 2 – Demolition

Now that the project is underway, our house is in a bit of a state. Shambles, really. Or at least the ground floor is.

When we first envisioned this project, we had grand dreams of doing things like a “Demo Day” party – inviting the neighbors over for some good old-fashioned destruction while sipping mojitos or some such frilly drink in hand. Of course, originally, we were planning to start this project a couple of years ago.

Now, we were SO ready for it to start, that all those plans and images (mostly fed by HGTV renovation shows of course) have been thrown by the wayside in the name of speed. No champagne toasts for us and the sledge-hammer-swinging neighbors – just a flurry of contractors ripping stuff out and throwing into a dumpster.

We did have a tiny toast with sparkling apple juice for the demo team, however:

A toast to the demolition team

The removal of all cabinets was very quick, followed by the removal of the extra closet and wall – which was purely decorative.

Closet and wall removed

One bad thing was uncovered during demo. As part of our plan, we removed a door and window from the side wall of the house. This was to both increase the counter space by moving it further into the main room and to remove the extraneous door – we had 5 doors on the house. On door removal, we discovered rot around the base of the door which had to be repaired:

Rotten wood

This meant removing all the rotten wood and replacing it and doing quite a bit more siding than was planned. We also used this as an excuse to remove the narrow part of the deck, which was wobbly and unstable.

Repairs

This was then walled-in and repaired. This was an additional cost, of course, but our contractor gave us some discounted labor costs since it was unexpected.

With this, our kitchen renovation was fully underway.

Dust and all.