Our Affordable Kitchen Remodel: The Demo and the During

Last week, Curbly editor and ManMade blogger Chris Gardner flew up to the Twin Cities to join me for a week and help out with a kitchen remodel we've been telling you about this month. With help from Wilsonart, we're taking an old, grungy kitchen and making into a lighter, brighter space. Read on to see how we tried to cram the whole remodel into one week (eek!). 

Chris arrived Sunday night, and first thing Monday we set about the best/worst part of any remodel project: the demolition. Demolition is the best because it means the project you've thought about, planned for, and delayed for so long is finally happening. It's an exciting feeling. Also: smash fun! Bruno like smash!

But demo is also the worst, because it means there's no turning back. After twenty minutes with a prybar and a sledgehammer, you've turned a functioning (if not very beautiful) room, into a gutted, useless husk. So, you're at the lowest point in the process.

In this case, we started with the floors, which were covered in some not-so-attractive, ancient linoleum. After that, we ripped out the upper cabinets (to make way for open shelving). The disgusting old faux-brick backsplash also had to go. Unfortunately the walls behind the backsplash and cabinets were toast, so we decided to rip out the old, damaged drywall in that section completely. Hello, kitchen studs!

Next to go: the old countertops. We're working with Wilsonart on this project, so we knew from the start we'd be replacing the old countertops with new Wilsonart® HD® Laminates (in Salentina Nero, to be exact). Unlike the old countertops, the new ones will have no-line seams, a beveled edge, and realistic texture and shine. The dark color of the counterops will contrast with the crisp white cabinetry (we'll repaint the remaining cabinets) and pick up the black of our new checkerboard floor.

Along with the countertops, we tore out the old sink and faucet. The new counterops will come pre-built with an integrated Wilsonart® HD® sink (no seam between the countertops and sink means no place for gunk to accumulate).

By the next morning, the demo was done and Chris and I were ready to start working on the floor. We went with black and white self-stick vinyl tiles. This was a good option because it's affordable and easy to install. Plus we thought the checkboard look was in keeping the pseudo-retro vibe we were getting from the kitchen.

The floor went in pretty quickly, and by the lunchtime, we were moving on to other things.

Next came painting. We removed all the cabinet doors and drawers, and took them out to the garage for a long round of hole-filling, sanding, and painting. These things were in pretty rough shape (dents, dings, etc.) from years of abuse, and no amount of work was going to make them pristine, but that wasn't the point. A little attention can make a big difference with old cabinetry, and a fresh coat of white gloss enamel hides a lot of imperfections.

Getting friendly with my orbital sander.

Painting face.

We wanted to flip the location of the fridge (its previous spot didn't make much sense and cut down on the usable space in the kitchen). We had planned on just moving the base cabinet from the left side to the right, and then putting a new countertop on it. But when we tried to do that, we found out it wasn't a cabinet at all, just three sides of plywood built in place. In other words: not movable.

So we ripped it out and made a trip to the home improvement store to pick up a stock base cabinet we could paint to match the rest. While we did that, my friend Marco came over to put in the new sheetrock (if you feel like wasting an hour of your life, ask me why it's better to let a pro do your sheetrock than it is to do it yourself).

With the new cabinet in place, it was time for the Wilsonart countertops to go in. The entire install took less than two hours. Our installer, Pat, was really nice, and didn't mind sharing a bunch of his tips with me (like how to scribe a backsplash to a wall that isn't straight).


The new countertops looked great! And seeing them go on really provided us with a burst of motivation. If demolition is the low point, a moment like this, where you see your remodel really starting to come together, is the high point.

With the countertop installed, we were ready to start putting things back together.  We painted the walls with a fresh coat of bright white, and hung all the cabinet doors back on with new hinges. We also replaced all the old pulls with new ones (the Metrik line from Ikea).

By this point, it was Thursday afternoon, and with Chris's flight leaving the next morning, we could tell we weren't quite going to make it. For our last push, we put up the Ekby open wall shelves that we hope will make the space feel a lot bigger, more open, and inviting. 

After four long days of work, Chris and I had (almost) completely transformed the space. The cabinetry looked clean and white, the walls were smooth and free of plastic-pretending-to-be-brick, and the cool  gray/black countertops were ready for action.

That left a few finishing touches for me to work on (replacing lighting, a new faucet, and some paint details). 

Next time, I'll be back with the full kitchen remodel reveal. In the meantime, let me know what you think so far! Better yet, tell us what you're doing to improve your own kitchen. Planning a remodel? In the middle of one? Giving one element a facelift? Tell us how it's going in the comments.

Note: This post was sponsored by Wilsonart, LLC. All opinions are mine alone. 


Comments

Ooh, ABJones, sounds fun. We considered using the faux stainless stuff but then ran out of time/steam. Let us know how it goes!

I'm considering doing a kitchen reno in my space taking down the cabinets and sanding and painting them. unfortunatly, i'm trying to do this as a surprise to my live in boyfriend and in three days. we'll see how this goes.

also, has anyone had any success in using faul stainless steel roll. i want to cover the ancient hood with it.

@chris - hah hah. The real reason is that I wrote the post!

@chaucea - thanks! I actually also liked that slotted panel, but it had to come out for the countertops. We replaced it with one we made, but didn't cut the slots in ... maybe that's a project for later!

I am SO happy you're keeping the original cabinetry. Its got its very own special charm--especially the really cool slotted lines in the panel just below the sink. :-)

And a remodel like this is important for folks to see--to help people realize that not everything has to be gutted and replaced (and usually with cabinets of lesser quality materials and craftsmanship).

A bit of imagination and creativity goes a long way into making what one already has even better!

In case this doesn't go without saying, the reason that Bruno is in, like, six photos and I'm only in one is because I was the one taking the images. 

Also, he's a harder worker than I.

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