Kitchen Renovation: Moving the water heater

Today is cabinet install day! I’m so giddy! But first, the water heater. Sorry to be behind here, but there was no time for blogging during demo! Not the most thrilling topic, but it is a key element in our kitchen plan (and there’s not much to see yet, so, patience). Previously, our water heater was located in this closet that opened into our living room.

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The pantry is on the opposite side, and the fridge is in the alcove behind the shelf. Here’s our floor plan for reference.

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Water heaters do give off some heat, so our coconut oil was always melted, chocolate was soft, and our potatoes sprouted and rotted too quickly. So much for the pantry being a cool, dry place.

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When we started planning our kitchen, we had two different options.

Option 1: Leave the fridge/pantry/water heater as is, and modify the drawer next to the fridge so it doesn’t hit the fridge (you can read about that here). With custom cabinets that meant a shorter drawer. If we went with Kraft Maid it meant either a smaller drawer/cabinet base and then about a 6 inch filler piece next to the wall (talk about wasted space!), or no drawer and let the cabinet still bump the fridge. Sad.

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Option 2: Move the water heater somewhere in the master bathroom/closet, rip out the pantry and move the fridge to the end of that area, and put a built-in cabinet pantry where the fridge was. This was only an option if we went with custom cabinets because Kraft Maid’s pantry cabinets are $$$.

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After much hemming and hawing (and maybe some tears…gosh Andrew, stop crying so much!) we finally settled on option 2. Then we actually had to decide on a future layout for our master bathroom/closet (which clearly hasn’t been renovated yet). We had to nail this down now so we knew where to put the water heater. As if planning a kitchen wasn’t enough stress…

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We spoke to an electrician about switching to an electric water heater (they aren’t too expensive, and we thought moving it might be easier than a gas line). But turns out our electrical panel is straight up FULL. Upgrading to a new one would be multiple thousands of dollars, and very likely more if the electrician had to bring things up to code (code has changed a bit since our house was built!) So…no thank you.

We didn’t want to mess with moving the gas lines ourselves (house blowing up = bad), so we got quotes from 3 different plumbers ranging from $900 up to $2300, and naturally, went with the cheapest. We scheduled it weeks in advance to be done the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. But when Andrew asked if he was licensed and bonded the week before, he stopped responding. So, I guess that’s a no? Hm… Monday comes (as in the day before he’s supposed to show up) and he’s still not responding. We sucked it up and called one of the others who was twice as expensive, but licensed and bonded (WOO!) and miraculously able to come the very next day to do the work! So, $1800 later, and our water heater is now here.

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In our bathroom. Woo. But this room is next on the list, and then that sucker will be enclosed in a closet! For now, though, it’s just a little creepy to stare at this as I brush my teeth.

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The very next day we started our demo and for about a week, used the previous water heater closet as the entrance to our kitchen since the doorway was covered in plastic.

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While it ended up being a bit more than we expected, we’re pretty convinced it’s the right choice and is going to increase the functionality of our kitchen. Our living room might be a bit quieter without the water heater noise, I’ll get a small broom closet so I don’t have to wrestle it out from the side of the washer, the fridge will be moved further away from the stove creating a better working triangle, and we’ll get a much deeper pantry cabinet. Win, win, win…win.

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Kitchen renovation: The “why”

First, let me address my severe lack of posting during most of 2016 for my loyal readers (here’s looking at you, mom and grandma). We’ve been busy. Ok, enough said.

After living here for over 5 years and dreaming of the day we might be able to redo our kitchen, that day (or really, months of work) has finally arrived!! We’ve actually already done most of the demo, and the checkered floors are no more!

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I know what you’re probably thinking, around the holidays? Are you nuts? Yes. But in all fairness, we didn’t plan to start in December. We started getting quotes in late August. August, y’all. Let that sink in. That’s over 3 full months of planning, looking at samples of everything under the sun, going to every kitchen and bath showroom and granite fabricator in Northwest Arkansas, and getting quotes. We needed a plumber for the first part of this project (moving a gas water heater) and it took over a month to get quotes for it, and then a few weeks to get on the schedule (and yet we already had a major snafu with that, but we’ll get to that later.) So here we are, beginning of December, starting a MAJOR renovation.

Now on to the “why.” We’ve had a lot of people over the years ask us if we planned to completely gut the kitchen or just work with existing cabinets, layout, etc. We also had a lot of people ask if we installed these floors. No joke. Granted, we have made a few changes over the years, so maybe people get confused. Here’s what it looked like when we moved in:

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Since then we took out the bulkhead/pendant lights over the peninsula, scraped the ceilings and repainted the walls, replaced the faucet, light fixtures, and appliances, replaced the sliding door, etc.

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And many of those things will still aid in our remodel. We’re keeping the lights (we think) and appliances, the ceilings are already scraped and there’s less bulkhead to remove, and we plan to repaint the walls that need repainting the same color.

I could probably give about 1000 reasons why we’re gutting EVERYTHING, but I’ll try to sum it up with 15. So without further ado:

#1. (Main reason, and most boring.) We want to stay in this house because it’s so dang cheap to live here. Our 15 year mortgage is cheaper than rent and we have no PMI (you can read about our house purchase and refinance). Moving would cost so much more than redoing the kitchen if you consider the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, higher mortgage/utilities/taxes/insurance, furnishings, and let’s face it, we’re picky, so probably a few renovations. Plus, it’s more to clean and maintain. So we want to make this house something we enjoy and want to stay in for a while. Not to mention we haven’t seen any houses we want. And I’m a Realtor, so I see ALL the houses. 😉

#2. THIS. Needs no explanation.

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But I’ll give you some anyway. That picture above is the best it’s ever looked (after sweeping, mopping with ammonia, and applying a liquid gloss coating.) We’ve had to super glue multiple broken pieces of this floor back down because it’s so brittle and cracking. And normally it looks like this:

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#3. This drawer doesn’t open all the way because it hits the fridge. Super annoying.

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#4. And these drawers hit the handles. Doh.

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#5. This. Again, no explanation needed.

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#6. I want my dishwasher next to my sink, not behind it. Too much to ask?

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#7. Our trash can is just, ugh. I can’t even. There is nowhere for it to go, except slightly outside of the kitchen. Really inconvenient, and also unsightly.

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#8. Our floor is super squishy. You can’t see that in pictures, but it is.

#9. Our cabinets…well, they just suck. Look how crooked the shelves are.

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And warped.

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And…panel-y? Literally, the bottom of that drawer is wood paneling. Can’t make this stuff up.

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#10. I’m like a cat – emotionally affected by my surroundings. And this kitchen makes me sad.

#11. These counters. They have these weird glue stains? And the gloss finish is gone (if there ever was one) so any time we spill anything, they stain immediately. I keep a bottle of bleach/water solution to spray on stains.

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#12. The world’s shallowest pantry. Like you couldn’t even put a ruler in there depth-wise. Now, I’m not ungrateful to have had a pantry, but a deeper one would be nice.

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#13. This backsplash. Not terrible, but not at all my style.

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#14. Terrible overall flow. While we like the counter space of the peninsula, it totally cuts off the kitchen, and, if we’re honest, mostly serves as a place to collect mail. If the pantry door is open, it’s hard to get in the kitchen at all. It’s hard to get into the fridge/freezer when someone is at the stove. When emptying the dishwasher, pretty much all of our dishes go in the corner left of the sink, so if someone is trying to use the stove and sink to cook, you’re completely in each others’ way. And yet I always tried to empty it while Andrew was cooking. Guess I never learned.

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#15. Because even if we did a minor remodel, it would still cost us thousands of dollars, so we figured we’d spend a little more and [hopefully] get something we love!

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There you have it. Maybe part of us just likes gutting rooms, too. I’ll post more updates as soon as I get the chance detailing the plans for the new kitchen and selections we’ve made thus far (which is most of them). In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.

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We just really hate this kitchen.

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Our office reveal

Seriously, it is CRAZY how long this office project took us. It’s embarrassing. But not only did I add a diy wood plank wall to the project, we have also just been busy. So thank goodness, it’s done!! Besides the new furniture/decorating part…but as usual, that happens over time. Here’s what our office looked like a few short long months ago.

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And here’s what it looks like after months of laziness + a few days and some random hours of hard work (small room = hard to get pictures of one whole wall):

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Yaaaaaasssssss! So cute. 🙂

When we last left off, we had finished installing the planks. After that, we filled the holes, sanded lightly, and brushed on a coat of Valspar pva primer and two coats of Valspar’s Ocean Storm (we did all the horizontal cracks with a small craft brush in between the two coats). We decided to use a brush instead of a roller to give it a more soft, wood-grain appearance. We didn’t want to ruin our smooth wood with roller texture!

Here’s what it looked like in process…notice the edges.

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We did our best to cut the planks exactly the right length, but we knew they wouldn’t line up perfectly, which is why we bought plain lattice pieces (sold by the foot in lengths up to 12 feet, I believe) to install along the edges.

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Andrew measured carefully and mitered the corners, and then I used a 2″ roller to give them 2 coats of paint. Once they were dry, we used a pneumatic pin nailer to tack them up. The pin nails are even smaller than finish nails (what we use for trim and for the planks), so there are no visible holes to fill and touch up. Seriously, best thing ever!!)

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That finishing touch made a HUGE difference. The edges are so crisp and straight. Makes this perfectionist very happy.

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We did have a few hiccups along the way, though, one being this light fixture. It was under $100, and I thought it was cute enough. But once it was installed, the corners of the room especially still felt dark since it only allows for 2 lights. I just didn’t love it. Sadpants.

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I thought we didn’t have any other good options and figured I’d have to settle (I’m super picky about light fixtures!) Until we found this! UH-MAZING. Meet the Safavieh Great Veil semi-flush mount.

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Problem is, this one was $140 (vs $90 for the first), but Andrew loved it, so we ordered it and now it’s probably our favorite light fixture in the house! No, not probably. Definitely.

It has 3 lights so it’s much brighter, and obviously much better quality, too.

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It looks really cute on and doesn’t leave the corners feeling dark.

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That was definitely a problem before, especially since our light fixture is not centered in the room (the window is, meaning it’s not lined up with that either.) Realized that while installing this one…thanks a lot, builders from 30 some years ago.

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I was also worried that the color we chose for the wall might make the room feel too dark, but it really doesn’t. Thanks to the other 3 very light walls and our super-fantabulous light fixture, it feels very bright!

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And one of my favorite parts of the room…the closet! No, really, not kidding. I painted it a greenish blue and added a gold metallic triangle pattern. (I cut out a triangle shape I liked from cardstock, marked the corners with a pencil, taped the triangles, painted the base color first to prevent bleed thru, and then 3 coats of gold acrylic craft paint.)

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Whoever said closets had to be boring, anyway?

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We also redid the shelving. Before, the shelves were put up with random brackets, so we wanted to make the shelves the same as in our guest room and laundry closet –> with wood cleats painted the same as the wall instead of ugly metal brackets. We also tweeked the location of the shelves a bit to add a third shelf at the top. If this ever needs to be a bedroom, we can add a hanging rod and remove the bottom shelf if needed.

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I am really happy with how this room turned out. Like all projects, there were a lot of frustrations and it took a lot of work, but I really think it’s turned out great! The only other thing I’m considering is buying a grey outlet and switch plates for the plank wall so those don’t stand out so much (you can paint the plates, but I don’t want to paint inside the outlet. I’d prefer one that’s already grey.)

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Though the likelihood of those being visible once we put furniture back probably isn’t very high anyway.

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Office: check! Now to relax for a while before we take on something else…or to catch up on neglected spring yard work.

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DIY Plank wall tutorial

As I’m sure you know, it’s now March. And we’re STILL working on our “January” project. To be fair, in the last 6 weeks, we’ve both been out of town twice, had guests staying with us 2 different weekends, and we were sick for 3 of those weeks. Not exactly conducive to DIYing. But spring weather is coming (Besides today, apparently. Boo, rain!) and we’re starting to feel motivated again!

Here’s where we left off. So glad to say it looks nothing like this now! We taped off the edges of our future plank wall so we wouldn’t get orange peel texture on it that might show through the gaps.

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The window, too. And sprayed some texture along the mudded edge as well as over the random spackled areas on the wall. Pretty much just all over.

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After that dried, we sanded all the walls and then cleaned up the room to get ready for the next step: priming! (I really cannot believe how far behind I am. Most of this has been done for a while!) We primed and painted the ceiling, primed the walls, and then sampled some colors.

Rather than go through the headache of trying to pick two colors that coordinate, I looked up pictures online of plank walls, found one I liked at Jenna Sue Design Co, and used the same colors: Valspar’s Ocean Storm and Montpelier Madison White.

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1. Planning the pattern

I’m very particular, so the first step was to plan what I wanted the pattern to look like. First, I decided on 8″ wide planks. I like the wider look better, but I still wanted a good number of rows on our 8′ walls.

Then we used Excel to map out our planks. Our wall is 10 feet long, so we couldn’t use one long board all the way across. If we did just one 8 foot piece and one 2 foot piece on each row (alternating, of course), we would have to try to get all the vertical seams to line up, and that did not sound fun. So we opted for more random rows: 4, 6 and 2, 8 and 3, 4, 3 etc.

2. Prepping the planks

We decided to use 1/4″ plywood underlayment cut into strips for our planks. At $11.97 each, it’s way cheaper than buying actual wall planking, and allowed us to choose our own width. We bought 3 sheets at Home Depot and had each one cut into six 8 inch (x 8 foot) planks.

One side of each board got pretty torn up by the saw blade and even the good side wasn’t perfect, so we also sanded all the edges as we installed them. (If you cut them again at home, be sure to put the good side facing up since the back will get torn up a little more by the blade. We also found it caused less damage if we brought the blade of the miter saw down slowly.)

Word to the wise, the saw blade takes off a good amount with each cut. We asked him to measure first and cut on the marks so the planks would be the same width. Sadly, he measured each plank as he went, leaving us with a narrower last plank on each piece of plywood. So, measure and mark, then have them cut! (It turned out ok, though. We used them on the bottom row that needed to be a custom size anyway.)

3. Installing the wall

We loosely followed this shiplap wall tutorial by Table & Hearth. We started at the top with our first row. We leveled the planks so that our whole wall wouldn’t end up wonky. (We don’t generally use a level to hang things like pictures because they end up looking crooked!)

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We also had one plank that seemed a bit wider than the others, so we put the extra at the top where it will be covered by trim. Luckily, on the rest of the wall, they lined up better.

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We quickly realized that the white that would show in between each plank would be tedious to paint after the planks were installed, so we measured and painted lines on the walls first.

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Then we continued installing planks from top to bottom, using a pneumatic finish nailer with 2″ finish nails. Normally, 1″ would be sufficient, but we put an extra layer of drywall behind there first and we wanted to make sure some nails reached the studs.

We butted up the vertical joints as tightly as possible, but left gaps horizontally. A lot of tutorials recommended using pennies or dimes as spacers, but we thought that might be too small of a gap, so we used nickels. And boy, am I glad we did. Getting in there to paint the edges with a craft brush was difficult enough.

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On each plank, Andrew put a few nails in at varying angles to help hold the planks tight against the wall. We wanted our wall to be smooth, so I went along behind and used a nail punch to make sure none of them stuck out.

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Not looking too shabby! (Though the pictures are. Sorry…iPhone camera. And that orb of hanging light is just that. Our old light fixture hanging from the ceiling.)

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Andrew used the jigsaw to cut out openings for the electrical boxes, and then we ripped the boards on the bottom to fit the smaller space (we figured the different width would be less noticeable on the bottom row.)

I filled all the holes and vertical seams with lightweight spackle. Once it was dry, I sanded (basically the whole wall) lightly with a sanding block.

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And then we were done! And very, very happy with the result! We still need to install the trim around the edges so we have a perfect, clean line, but we’re waiting to measure and cut until after we install baseboards.

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The install was a bit time consuming, but a pretty fun project, nonetheless. And it only cost about $50!! (Full budget breakdown will come at the end of this project.) Since this is such a long time coming, we’ve already made a lot more progress than this. The plank wall is primed and painted, other walls are painted, closet is painted, light fixture is installed, and closet doors are sanded.

Still a ways to go, but we’re getting close! Maybe we will actually finish this room some day!

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