It’s been 432 days since I eased into rehabbing my kitchen by gingerly and carefully removing one of the paint-over-contact paper-over-MDF big-box cabinets that used to grace the space.
I admit, the “before” shot from when I had it on the market in 2013 doesn’t look that heinous. I’ve sure seen a heck of a lot worse. (It was worse when I moved in – I painted over the “wood” look and changed out the grotty “brass” hardware.)
What you can’t really see, however, are the crooked doors, cracked tile, dented and rust-spotted sink, sway-backed peeling laminate counters, black rubber mop board…
Plus, the squat stock cabinets were too short for the space (and didn’t align to one another – ACK!), and inside, the shelves were all bubbly with lifting paint – MDF zits, if you will. (They were like that when I bought the place, though I likely added to the problem).
After looking at hundreds of kitchen pictures online, I stole ideas and looks, then drew a SketchUp model of what I’d decided on. I took that and a materials list to a couple of kitchen rehab pros, and was quoted $28,000 and $28,700.
Um, no. I work in publishing.
S0 432 days and about $4,000 later (I’m not counting my time, obviously, nor the cost of the many expensive tools, etc. I used in the process) I have a new kitchen. And I am tired. But I am done.
At least $150 of that $4,000? Ibuprofen and a tetanus shot. (Broken and rusty floor underlayment staples are minions of the devil.)
I now understand those professional quotes. In retrospect, they seem perfectly reasonable. Plus I’m guessing it wouldn’t have taken a professional kitchen remodeler more than a year to get done. Still, I (mostly) had fun, and I learned a great deal.
The finished kitchen is pretty close to what I envisioned. I ended up not taking cabinets all the way up to the ceiling as I’d initially planned, yet there’s about 40 percent more storage than before. And I didn’t do a full tile backsplash behind the sink; the century-old plaster walls are simply too out of flat. (Plus, because I decided to eschew cabinets over the sink, I couldn’t find a stopping point for tile.)
So now that I’ve created almost exactly what I wanted and am – not gonna lie – proud of it, it’s time to sell and buy a new old house. (I should seek mental help.)
My plan is to buy another inexpensive house with good bones (but poor stewardship and curious design decisions) and fix it up. Again. (I sure wish I’d taken before and after pictures of the other five rooms, two baths and concrete back yard I’ve torn out and rehabbed over the last 13 years here. The kelly-green carpet in three rooms and the manila and brown-tiled 70s bath were quite a sight.)
At 46, I think I have one more old house fix-up in me. And because I now have more skill (and tools) than I did 13 years ago, perhaps the next one will take only five years to get done.
But at the moment, as long as it has space for a woodshop, “move-in ready” is looking mighty fine.