Wednesday, 15 February 2012

HOW To Renovate A Kitchen Yourself - OR - WTF - Completely Destroy

It was suggested to me that I might write a Blurb on renovating a kitchen and since my man and I have completed this undertaking many times, I agreed that it might be a good idea.
We always dive right in with lots of spontaneous enthusiasm, never do we spend too much time the way I’ve seen some people do, humming and ahhing over colours or countertops, what’s the point in that?  All we know is that,  the old is Yuck/Ghastly and has to go.
And so with quite alot of swearing by my man, the transition happens fairly quickly.  I myself am not big on swearing but since the invention of texting etc., I love that I can now say “What The F?” whenever I like and so does my 84 year old mother.
The renovation in question, is taking place within our new (old ) house in Stratford that is 135 years old, however, as I explained in my Stripping the Stairs blog, the previous owners had rather peculiar tastes in their décor which mainly, probably took place in the fifties and again in the seventies.
So this particular kitchen overhaul is basically a RIP-Out and RE-Place kind of operation.  Lots of DIRT, DUST and Greasy old plumbing.  This How To is not necessarily how most people would go about their kitchen reno especially those who are ardent fans of  Décor Divas, such as Martha Stewart or Debbie whats her name?  I don’t have anything against these women but they obviously have too much time & money on their hands and too many state of the art tools at their fingertips that no real person could possibly acquire on a normal paycheque.  Anyways, our way certainly won't be for everybody.
First of all of course, you need a really, ugly old kitchen.  
For example:  Like this one:

Have you ever seen such a horrid kitchen?  Complete with grey linoleum tile, acid yellow walls while sporting a delightful ducky border on one side, shells and snails on the other.  I also love how the previous owner was being ever so careful to protect his kitchen table with a plastic sheet. Oh and please take note of the lava lamp in front of the ironing board cupboard.  Now when I see these photos, I wonder what were we thinking?  How did we see the potential?  The great asset in this upstairs kitchen are the three large windows, which you can’t see properly due to the hideous window coverings, but they are in fact of course, painted in a gooey off white, which by the way, is not even a colour.  
Second of all, you need a rare breed of a HandyMan. (sorry girls, I’m sure one of you out there will prove me wrong, but I've yet to see a female one.) Yes, A man with Brute Force, lots of proper savvy and experienced know-how. They are almost extinct I know, but Luckily I happen to have one of them. (Mine is Exceptional) And fortunately I don’t pay him either, he’s also very agreeable when not swearing. But, if you don't have one of these, then it's going to cost you rather a lot of cash as you'll probably have to hire about four or five of them to do the job of my one man.
Third, Make sure you have a camera. To document the entire transition.  In the past I made the mistake of believing these kinds of photos were rather dull, but then realized their value in the Before and After process.  Because as time went by, I couldn’t remember the Before stage.  How was it possible that we’d forgotten, I mean we’d spent so much time on the transformation?  When you (argh) of an age, even when it’s oh so slightly, the brain gets rickety and needs solid reinforcements, like photographs to give it a bit of boost, and you say, “Oh yes, now I remember!”  It’s like pressure treated wood, a bit of resistance to corrosion. (does that make sense?)
I have two cameras, I wish I had two brains (cause mine is so tiny, also another set of teeth would be good too)
One camera is my friendly Nikon, which I use all the time for documenting time going by, it’s my very first digital camera, my transition from the dark ages of the darkroom, to the enlightened digital world.  Happily these digital cameras, so far seem to outlive their cousins, the computers.  Now the Nikon is over ten years old with eight megapixels and it continues to take excellent photos.
My second more expensive camera, I generally use only for creative portrait work.  However, when I forget to charge the Nikon battery, I’ll use the Canon 50D, which has way too many mechanical mysteries to it’s inner workings that I’ll never master or even need or want to.  The quality is perfect, better than real life and I’m very happy with it.

So, back to our Checklist.

1. Ugly Kitchen 
2. HandyMan with Real  Tools 
3. Camera

Because the first basic plan is that you just want rid of what’s in place, right now it does not matter what you want after,  Just GO Ahead - Destroy and Enjoy! Because this phase doesn't actually cost too much money.

So, like this!
Walls come down to open up to the hallway

Having worked with a Structural Engineer for the past 15yrs, My Handyman was able to work out and locate the Beam size and Load Points necessary to remove the wall.  He also installed a new overhead beam.  Sorry, you may have to have an Engineer take a look if there is no Amazing HandyMan in your life.

This is where the Savvy Handy Man is most Vital  - He's deduced where the hidden electric and plumbing workings are!  So take extra care in the Destruction Phase. 
Cupboards ripped out (revealing more fetching wallpaper and protruding rude plumbing)

Again my HandyMan can accurately assess the potency of the plumbing and calculate costs for upgrades , i.e. In my case, No Plumber required, he alone can do the upgrades.  And we'll install new sink in relatively the same space, so no need to re-route pipes.
Next, the Art of handling a Heat Gun and WTF More Paint Stripping on all the windows. (I was busy stripping the staircase as this point and in between my job was removing the piles shown above and below which is wall rubble)

The Worst was the realization that the electrics were not at all in a good way.  And so, alas, an electrician had to be called in even though in the province of BC, my HandyMan could have re-wired on his own, but here in Ontario it is not legal.  This was the most expensive part of the job and we had the entire 2nd floor re-wired.

All that's left of the kitchen now.  There are new electrics, a few upgrades to the plumbing, linoleum has been stripped, one window's paint removed.  (A Few duckies are still at the far top right.)
A sanding machine was then hired as again to save money we decided to keep the floor that was hidden beneath the linoleum, Lovely old Fir floor boards!
Notice the BLACK Goo left behind by Linoleum Tile - A Bugger to remove, especially in the corners.
Now, comes the fun part!  A trip to IKEA!
(For the Sake of your Sanity, Do Not Visit on a weekend)
Make sure you bring a sketch of your kitchen, with all the measurements!  Including the height of your ceiling and size of windows.  
We strolled through the charming kitchen displays and quickly found one that we both agreed upon and was in our limited price range, so this narrows down the choice tremendously, too much selection is not conducive to finishing the job promptly.  A very efficient girl, set us up on one of their computers, that has an amazing Plan your Kitchen kind of software.  From there you choose the right size cupboards, fridge, stove, dishwasher, sink etc. all to fit the measurements (which you input) of your future kitchen.  You can then view in 3 D or in the original draftsman type plan.  DOUBLE double check the measurements (including height, width of windows) before placing your order.  We decided to go with the cheapest white fridge and dishwater, but spent more on an extra wide gas oven with five burners and we don't regret it.  We also ordered an inexpensive counter-top which does the job and looks great!  I don't see the point on fussing over what kind of outrageously expensive stone counter to buy, when you can admire it's cold glossiness at someone else's house. (in other words, we can't afford)  In total we spent three hours in IKEA.

In Just a Few Weeks - Our Kitchen Arrived!  Looked like this!

Now, again, most people wouldn't have a clue what to do with this neat bundle that doesn't look anything like a Kitchen!  But of course, I have my Live-In HandyMan and he set straight to work like the Real Live HandyMan he is.  (IKEA will send an installer if you need one.)
Because the cupboards were basically floor to ceiling there is no need for drywall (thank God) and so plywood was screwed tight to the walls as the base for the cupboards.

Keeping Him frequently nourished with Coffee, Tea, Loud Rock music and sandwiches he barely even takes a Break!  And at Five O'Clock, he requires his Glass of Wine, so I can squeeze another hour out of him each day.

Because never in my life have I owned anything SO RED! (Plus, they were on Sale) 

And so, after many days of very hard work on my Man's part.  We are very Pleased and Happy with the Finished Product all completed on the strictest Budget.  I LOVE how my Teapots and Teacups appear to be Floating In Mid-Air!!  

RARE SIGHT of daughter washing dishes

Please email me with any questions.   NEXT BLOG - Bathroom Renos!!



  1. Awesome job Suzanne! I bet hubby is really proud of his handy work. Love the red tile backsplash and the glass doors on the white cabinets. My kitchen walls are red - once I learn how to tile (I'm certain I can do it, I've seen daddy do it what hundreds of times) .. well should I say once I get over my fear of cutting tile .. I'll add me a cool backsplash too! Looking for more of your Reno-Redo's

  2. When you’re up for a renovation like this, you shouldn’t forget the third reminder. A camera is important, so you can track the entire process and see each improvement you have made. The pictures will also serve as a remembrance of all the effort, hardships, and fun you had during the renovation process. :)

  3. Nice Blog , This is what I exactly Looking for , Keep sharing more blog .

    Home Renovation | Kitchen Remodelling