Tag Archives | DIY

Kitchen Renovation: Planning

Today I’m taking a break from progress pictures and taking a step back. I tend to get bogged down in tiny details of every project, so it’s good to remind myself where we’re headed and what the end goal is. And also, how far we’ve come already. Making all the decisions regarding finishes and materials for our kitchen was such a headache and took months! Now all the decisions are made and finishes are purchased (unless new issues arise, of course), and it’s such a relief!

So without further ado, here is our kitchen mood board! Ok, so not quite a mood board since all this is decided, but you get the idea.

1. White shaker cabinets

I’ve always known this is what I wanted for this kitchen, so there wasn’t much to decide here. Our house is not really an obvious style like traditional, craftsman, modern, etc. If anything, it’s become a bit of a mix between contemporary and mid-century, so I wanted a neutral, timeless cabinet. Hence, the classic shaker. I also like to keep our house feeling bright and airy, so white was an obvious choice. Andrew may be a messy cook, but I also wipe down our cabinets quite frequently.

2. Simply White by Benjamin Moore – cabinet color

I collected white swatches from Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, and compared them to our countertop and flooring choices to narrow it down.


I didn’t realize until after how popular Simply White is for cabinets and trim, but that gave me some reassurance. It’s not too stark, but not too yellow, gray, or blue.


In fact, we like it so much that we’re actually going to repaint ALL of our trim this color. We’re replacing our baseboards with something a little taller (I know, I know, we should have decided this before we repainted all our trim!), so those will have to be repainted anyway. But I’m not looking forward to repainting all the doors…again.

3. Kraus Pax zero-radius undermount stainless steel sink

Here’s the link on Amazon. Seriously, this is a beautiful sink. I’m SO excited!! It comes with the grate for the bottom (to keep dishes from covering the drain or scratching the sink), but you do have to buy the square drain separately here.


I waffled a lot between a divided sink or a single basin, as well as a sink with rounded corners or square corners (also called zero-radius). Square corners can be harder to keep clean, but I just don’t like the look of a sink with rounded corners quite as well. Especially where it meets the countertop.



In the past, I’ve made some decisions based on functionality/practicality over aesthetics, and I’ve regretted it. So I followed my heart and went with the zero-radius, and I’m so excited! As for the single basin, we really never used the other side of our sink for anything but collecting dirty dishes. I stacked them there so they weren’t blocking the sink from draining, but with the grate, we won’t have that issue! Also, look how much I can fit in the single basin (these are the actual dimensions of our sink)! Even a large cookie sheet will lie flat in it! Hooray!


4. Abalone by Benjamin Moore – wall color

We already agonized over this paint choice for our living room, hallway, and kitchen a few years ago, and we still love it. So as long as it doesn’t look terrible with our backsplash or countertop, it will stay. (On my screen, the color of the swatch below looks totally wrong, but it has the number, so oh well.)


5. Delta Trinsic Touch2O faucet in Champagne Bronze

After more debate, mostly with myself (seeing a trend here? talk about decision fatigue!), I decided on gold hardware for our kitchen. Satin nickel and oil rubbed bronze are perfectly fine and we have those elsewhere in our house, but I just wanted something a little different. So I figured we needed a gold faucet, too. Andrew’s employer MASCO owns Delta, and he gets a discount, so we chose the Delta Trinsic Touch2O single handle pull-down faucet in Champagne Bronze.


We were open to forgoing the touch aspect since this faucet is almost $500, but we got it on sale from Amazon on Black Friday, plus Andrew’s discount, so it ended up being a really great deal! I’m so excited it’s Touch2O! We also got the matching soap dispenser since our current one is satin nickel.

6. Daltile 3 x 6 Bevel subway tile in glossy Desert Gray

We chose to go with this glossy beveled tile in Desert gray for our backsplash. Since we chose to lay our flooring in a herringbone pattern (here’s a sneak peek), we’ll have this laid in a normal subway pattern.


Originally, we were drawn to these flat matte subway tiles in the same collection by Daltile, and ordered a sample of the matte Architectural gray. Right off the bat it read a little green-ish with the other finishes we’d chosen.


After willing myself to love it for a few weeks, and realizing I just didn’t, we ordered a sample of the matte Desert gray and gloss bevel Desert gray. We had thought matte originally to keep our whole kitchen from feeling shiny and stark, but we saw a beveled subway tile installation (in white) and knew the bevel was the right choice.

7. Liberty Hardware – 5-1/16″ pull with square feet from the Northampton collection in soft brass

We specifically wanted to choose a pull from Liberty Hardware (because it’s also owned by MASCO, Andrew’s employer, which means –> discounts) but it’s kind of hard to search their website as they mostly sell to distributers, not directly to consumers. I had seen this pull in satin nickel originally, and once we realized it came in gold, I was sold! We could only find one website to order a sample from and get it reasonably quickly, so we paid $15! Haha. But we got it, decided on it, and then ordered the rest directly from Liberty.

5-1-16inch-128mm-pull-square-feet-p28670-sbs-c-28. 12 x 24 porcelain glazed ceramic floor tile

I actually don’t know anything else about our floor tiles! We bought them over 2 years ago at Surplus Warehouse (see this post I wrote about it for pricing details and more pictures), and I don’t know the manufacturer or the name of the tile. We opted to have them laid in a herringbone pattern. Because why not?


9. Boudreaux by Elk Lighting antique gold and matte black wall sconce

We decided we were going to tile all the way up the wall behind our sink/around our window. When we decided that, I got it into my head that we should do a wall sconce instead of a pendant light, because why not. Not only does this add the complication of installing a light fixture (read: electrical box) where there’s a header, but also, I needed to find a gold wall sconce that was in my budget of less than $100. Not as easy as it might sound. I love this one:


But it was back-ordered on every site until January 9th. That’s today…but still no word. I went ahead and ordered it since I knew we’d still be mid-project come January, so hopefully I’ll hear something about it soon!

10. LG Hausys Viatera Minuet quartz countertops

Last, but definitely not least, our countertops! We originally were thinking granite because it’s the most affordable solid surface if you choose a basic option (when compared to stuff like soapstone, marble, quartz, Corian, etc.) BUT then we saw the quartzes. To be fair, I’ve always loved quartz. It’s no maintenance, unlike granite which can darken over time (even just from water!) and needs to be sealed regularly. Also, lighter granites are less dense/more porous than darker colors and so they stain even more. And we were definitely wanting something light. So we got some quotes on quartz, and decided it was worth it to us to spend a little more. But which one??

Here are 4 that we considered with our floor tile. Left to right – Silestone Blanco Orion, LG Viatera Minuet, Santa Margherita Victoria and Santa Margherita Lyskamm.


We ruled out Victoria and Lyskamm fairly quickly, leaving us with Minuet on the left and Blanco Orion on the right. I went back and forth for weeks on this, and asked everyone and their dog for their opinion.


This picture shows it best. Minuet (on top) has a whiter background, while Blanco Orion (on the bottom) is a bit gray with more defined marbling.


Initially, I liked the marbling of Blanco Orion better, but in the end I was won over by the white background of Minuet and felt that it more closely resembled marble.

*    *     *     *     *

We’re continuing to make progress on the to-do list I shared last time, but there’s still so much to do! At the very least, we’re hoping to have our ceiling primed and painted by Thursday when countertops are being installed! Woo!

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Kitchen Renovation: A progress update

Now that the holidays are over, it’s back to work on our kitchen! A lot has happened since the last update. Cabinets were installed and painted, and our flooring is done! With the busy-ness of holidays, though, we haven’t had a chance to clean up the dusty floors and move tools/appliances to get good pictures, so here are some iphone pictures we snapped just after cabinet install.


We LOVE the cabinets! Our kitchen feels so much bigger and we’re really excited about our pantry cabinet! I definitely think moving the water heater was worth it!


We also love how built in the area around the fridge feels. Though we have yet to push the fridge in there, so hopefully it fits!

The opening below is for the dishwasher, and I’m still so excited to have the dishwasher next to my sink instead of behind it! We’re also giddy about our trash can pull out, which is the lower cabinet on the very end.


And look at all those upper cabinets! Before, we had about the equivalent of one of these on this side of the window, and it held mostly barware. Now we have a small bar on the other side of the kitchen for all those items, so these cabinets are basically all added storage!! So excited.


Unfortunately, we didn’t love the paint job quite so much. The painters have already fixed several of the issues, but we’re still in the process of talking with them about some things. Sigh. Overall, we definitely would consider it a professional looking paint job, and we get that nothing is ever perfect, but we’re still hoping for improvement in a few areas. We’ll see.


We also wish they had covered our patio door and window better…because we’re going to have to spend so much time scraping all the oil-paint overspray off EVERYTHING. Grrrr.


On a happier note, here’s a sneak peak of our flooring being installed! I’m in love! 🙂


We opted to hire someone to install the tile rather than do it ourselves, and we’re so glad we did. The reasons are almost infinite:

  1. Herringbone is a complicated pattern.
  2. This isn’t like our other projects where we can shut the door and ignore it. It needed to get DONE!
  3. Bigger tiles are harder to work with and keep level.
  4. December is already a super busy time with holiday parties, travel to see family, etc.
  5. Did I mention the pattern?

He did an awesome job and got it done so quickly!

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So our countertops are scheduled to be installed January 12th, and other than the backsplash that we’ll be using the same tile guy for, almost everything else falls on us to complete. You may be thinking, what’s left? Oh, trust me, SO MUCH. Here’s our to-do list:

  • Install outlet for fridge
  • Install 3-way dimmer switch
  • Re-mud small areas on the ceiling (where the painters didn’t use painters tape and it ripped off the fresh mud. Ugh, why?!)
  • Scrape/clean paint overspray off patio door and hardware, window, chandelier
  • Prime and paint ceiling
  • Caulk/fill crown molding
  • Sand, prime and paint walls (will need to sand and prime because of oil-paint overspray from cabinets)
  • Frame kitchen window and install window sill, fill, prime and paint
  • Install scribe around base of cabinets, caulk, touch up rough edges
  • Prime, paint, and install baseboards, caulk baseboard, fill and touch up nail holes
  • Re-paint patio door, laundry closet doors, and door to garage to match cabinet color
  • Replace threshold piece on door to garage
  • Paint laundry room (tired of that color) and re-install trim, put washer/dryer back
  • Frame out laundry closet and re-install door tracks
  • Install cabinet hardware
  • Re-install kitchen light and vent
  • Sand, prime, and paint broom closet (where water heater used to be)
  • Install flooring/trim in broom closet

After countertop install

  • Install electrical boxes and complete outlet wiring
  • Schedule backsplash install
  • Install under cabinet lighting
  • Install stove and over the range microwave
  • Install dishwasher
  • Install faucet and garbage disposal
  • Install sconce above sink (over backsplash tile)

Eek. Deep breaths. I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that seems like more than enough for now!

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Finished framing

We’ve made some serious progress on our deck over the past week!! So much so that there hasn’t been time to post about it. We’ve done much more than just framing, but I can’t share a million pictures in one post, so let’s talk frame. Last time I posted it looked like this.


Andrew had already installed the new ledger board in the house, but we hadn’t gotten around to building the frame for the addition part. Building the frame and installing joists was the next step in the long process.

This part of the deck won’t have supports directly in the corners because of the red block wall, but we positioned the concrete footings as close to the edge as we could. There’s still about one foot of overhang.


Once we decided the angle we wanted for the front edge of the deck, it was just a matter of making a few mitered cuts, ensuring everything was level, and bolting the pieces together and to the 4×4 supports.

Then we installed our joist pieces about every foot. They’re notched on the back to sit on the ledger/hanger pieces in the house (and screwed in to keep them in place) and then screwed into the front side of the deck.


We installed 2 joists about 5.5″ apart from each other (the width of a piece of deck planking) between the new part of the deck and the original part because we will have one deck plank that runs the opposite way. This will create a seam between the two parts of the deck so we can use full length pieces on each side instead of having to offset the planking.


In order to support that piece, we had to run tiny little pieces the opposite way between those two joists. Again, these are every foot.


As you can see from the picture above, we decided to paint the frame. We used our old deck planks to create the support structure (they had used 2×6 s for everything instead of deck planking), but any piece that had previously been a plank was painted red.


Even though we were planning to butt our new planks up against each other as tightly as we could, we knew there’d still be gaps and we didn’t want red showing through. We got lucky and found a greyish exterior latex mess-up paint at Lowe’s for $5 the first time we went to look for one! We were super excited that we didn’t have buy a gallon at full price or keep waiting till a mess up was available!


Spoiler alert: We’ve already installed the planking (Eek! Be excited!), and as expected there are some gaps, so we’re really glad we did this extra step and don’t have any bright red showing through! The grey doesn’t emphasize the gaps like the red would have!


We were also struggling with what screw color to choose. Composite decking screws come in tons of colors, but coated wood deck screws only come in a standard tan and green at Lowe’s and HD (Andrew didn’t want to use galvanized because they don’t last as long, or stainless steel because they’re pretty pricey!). The same company makes other colors, but you have to order them in larger batches, pay shipping, and wait who knows how long to get them. Boo.

We got tan first and tried it out next to our stain. It was way too obvious for me, but I really didn’t think I wanted green, either! After a ton of deliberation and calling a million hardware stores to see if they sold brown (which they did not, except one that had one 25 lb bucket for $100, which sold the next day anyway), we tested out the green and decided to go with it.


As I said before, our deck planking is already on (stay tuned for pictures!!!) and I definitely think we chose right! Andrew chose a box of green that didn’t look quite as vibrant, and now that they’re in the deck they look very neutral! Hopefully, I’ll like them once the deck is stained! But we’ve encountered a small problem with that, too…but at this point all we can do is laugh.

I think this is the first project where we’ve really taken everything in stride and remembered the two most important rules of DIY:

1. Nothing ever goes quite as planned.


2. Everything takes longer than you expect!

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Deck preparations

We are finally beginning to prepare for our new deck! I can’t express how excited we are to be at this point. Let me give a little history, because after 2 years even the most loyal reader (aka my Grandma) would have forgotten the sequence of events. Our deck used to look like this.

First, we had a group of friends help us take off the planks (in April of 2012!). We thought we would just remove the planks so we could regrade underneath, and then sand, repaint and reinstall them. Hahahaha, oh, how wrong we were… (gotta laugh so I don’t cry).

But then we realized the structure had been severely compromised by termites. The deck always felt really sturdy, so we were surprised. But also surprised that our deck was still standing! All the supports looked like this, or worse. Eek!

That’s what you get when you put wood directly in the ground! So we took the whole thing down! Fast forward two years later, and we still have no deck! We weren’t necessarily being lazy, we just couldn’t figure out how to solve our water and drainage issues, and we had to make room in the budget for these fixes (especially the new gutters!). But yesterday I shared about the drainage trench we dug and some other steps we took to help solve the water problems.

The next step was to protect our crawl space from any water or dirt getting in during a heavy rain. In order to start the re-grading, we had come up with this temporary solution since we had to raise the grade against the house, making the level of the dirt slightly higher than the crawl space vents.


Not exactly the appropriate fix, but it worked for a while. Due to some re-configuring that we’re going to do of our deck, this vent on the left will be under the deck, so we had to do this step first. We found these crawl space vent covers at Lowe’s.


They’re pretty heavy duty metal and exactly the right size, so even though they’re a painful $20 a piece, we had to do it. Not the most fun $60 purchase ever. (We bought 3, 2 for vents near the deck and 1 for a vent in the back of our addition.) Andrew caulked the inside edges, and we’ll secure them using concrete screws.


Another issue we had to solve was how to retain the dirt on the other side of the deck. Our whole yard is in levels, and this middle level is the path. We want it to be tall enough that there’s only one small step down from the deck. Previously, this was retained with a railroad tie. Super cute, huh?

But just like our deck supports, the railroad ties were rotted and an invitation for termites and roaches to live in our backyard. We got rid of all of them (cost us $40 to dump them since they’re “toxic waste”), and settled on a small concrete block wall using extra red blocks we already had. Much more durable than wood!


Typically each row of a retaining wall is offset from the previous row, but these are hard to break where you want them, so we figured it wouldn’t matter on such a small wall. Once the deck is up, we’ll figure out what to do with the gap on the right.

We also had to build a wall on the other side. There was a very similar wall here before (thought not nearly as neatly done), but it had to move so we could dig our trench (which is directly under it.)


My awesome hubby had this wall done on Saturday before I even got out of bed! Waking up to this was a great surprise! Maybe next I’ll wake up to find a deck?! Lol, just kidding, Andrew.

As you can see, the frame for the deck is up, though! We did that before this second retaining wall so we could be sure to start the wall in the right place. We did that a few weekends ago, and oh my gosh, what a terrible phase of the project!


The first step was figuring out where the two corner support posts and cinder blocks needed to be. This is way easier said than done. We spent a whole Saturday just getting that part of the deck put back together! We’ve had these cinder blocks in place for a long time (They also replaced railroad ties. Again, we wanted to go with durable, long-lasting options!), and we thought they were in about the right spot to slip the corner 4×4 supports into the first hole on each end…and they were, about. Just not exactly.

So we picked them up, dug out behind them, and moved them back a tiny bit. Remeasured. Dug some more and moved the block again. Remeasured. And so on. In the sun and the heat. Miserable! Once we had the end cinder blocks exactly where we needed them for the 4×4 supports (we used the old joist pieces as a guide for where they needed to be), we moved the rest of the block wall to be exactly in line with them.


Next, we filled in the two corner holes with cement and positioned our corner pieces in the holes. The support on the left of the picture below didn’t need to be straight, because we’ll be cutting it off below the deck planks. The other one, though, is the only piece that is both a deck support AND a railing support, so I leveled it about 100 times as the cement was setting.


Once the corner posts were set, Andrew mortared between the rest of the blocks. After letting that dry, we filled the holes with rocks, pea gravel, and then cement over the top. We don’t want them to be a den for spiders or other nasty critters!


The next step (which, spoiler alert, we’ve already started!) is getting the joist pieces installed in the middle and installing the other three 4 x 4s for the railing.

Now let’s talk fun stuff, like colors and design! Originally our deck was a 10 x 12 rectangle…like so.

Fullscreen capture 6252014 30800 PM

How do you like my awesome floor plan, complete with blue and white checkered tile? Haha. Must.Destroy.Tile.

It’s not the smallest deck in the world, but by no means large. The space wasn’t super functional since the door took up almost one entire end, so we wanted to extend it a little to gain as much space as we could. Here’s the plan for our new deck. We’ll extend the deck to the edge of our house, and then angle the front end of the new part of the deck along the pathway (it will actually cover some of the red block wall).

Floorplanner - Midland - Google Chrome 6252014 31155 PM

We also wanted to keep the deck from feeling too closed in, so we’re only going to do a railing along the left side and part of the end. In front of the railing, I’m planning to do an L-shaped bench (the railing will be along where the bench is in the diagram below).

Floorplanner - Midland - Google Chrome 6252014 32741 PM

As far as colors go, we were planning to paint our deck because the boards were already painted and not in great shape. We were hoping to use Behr Deckover (a really heavy duty paint formula designed for damaged wood), but we’d have to buy new wood for the extension anyway. Plus, our previous “deck planks” are actually 2 x 6s, not deck planking (which is thinner, and therefore cheaper.)

I also forgot to think about the fact that our deck boards have been sitting on the ground in the elements for an additional 2 years (in an easement behind our house). I hadn’t seen them since, and for whatever stupid reason, assumed they’d be in the same condition as when we put them there. Yeah, not. We could NOT have painted over them! The paint was in such bad shape! (That red piece in the picture below was previously a plank. See all the peeling paint?)


So instead we’re using those pieces for some of the additional supporting pieces we need (they’re still very sturdy, just not pretty), and we’re going to replace all the planks with new deck planking!

This means we have the option to STAIN!! Woot! We picked up some Behr samples the other day and tested them out. The first three from the left are semi-transparent stains (Pewter, Valise, and Cordovan Brown), and the last is just a regular walnut stain.


At this point we’re leaning towards a semi-transparent. It covers more flaws while still allowing the grain to show through, and it’s also supposed to last about two years longer than the transparent stain. We’re loving the dark Cordovan Brown!

Oh boy! It’s finally starting to feel real! With each step, the projects seem to come together more and more quickly! Hopefully, before you know it, we’ll have a deck!!

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