It is a really freeing feeling to be able to start a major remodel project with the knowledge that no matter what you do, no matter how much you screw up, you cannot make the room any worse than how it started. That was my kitchen.
There were no appliances, save a smelly dishwasher and some mini-fridge/toaster oven things I brought in so I wouldn't starve in the meantime. There was no hardware on any of the cabinetry, the drawers didn't operate smoothly, and the 1/2" plywood shelves in the cabinets were moldy and sagging.
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The floor consisted of grey peel and stick tile, which I suppose matched the grey laminate countertops. The room was lit by a single light bulb screwed into the ceiling. No cover or anything. Just a light bulb. The overall atmosphere was dark and dull, and I could not imagine anyone wanting to spend a second in that room.
The kitchen needed help, obviously. And some new appliances. But here's the thing: I paid less than $100,000 for this house. Experts (aka, the internet) suggests you not pay more than 10-15% of the value of the house for a kitchen remodel. This house is in a small rural town in the Midwest; I am well aware that I am unlikely to recover remodel costs when I sell the house. Therefore, this remodel needed to be as inexpensive as possible. I was aiming for under $10,000, including appliances and cabinets.
That budget meant I was doing everything myself. The plan. The demolition. The installation. Running utilities. Everything. It took four months.
I started by drawing considering different layouts of the kitchen. The gas line led to the empty wall across from the sink, and a circuit labeled "fridge" supplied an outlet next to the gas line, so I suspect the prior owners kept the stove and fridge on that empty wall (see below!)
But as a kitchen layout goes, that seemed awful. No workspace or storage next to the stove. No counter space to put down things from the fridge. Need an oven mitt? Have fun running across the kitchen. Getting ingredients out of the fridge? Good luck finding a place to put them. I didn't want to move the gas line, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed inevitable.
After I'd drawn about 10 to-scale drawings on graph paper, I finally came up with a layout I could live with. I'd close up the door to the laundry room (and make a new door in the hallway,) line that wall with the stove and cabinets, and place the fridge to the left of the exterior door. See below.
The hand-drawn layout above is a top-down drawing of the base cabinets; I have a similar drawing for the wall cabinets. This was my final base cabinet drawing where I used Ikea cabinets. I have similar drawings with Home Depot's entry line of cabinets, but I ultimately went with Ikea due to the flexibility of choices. The Ikea cabinets were more expensive, but I was able to put drawers exactly where I wanted them, which seemed worth the trade-off.
Note that if you go with Ikea for cabinets, they offer a free in-home measuring service (well, the cost is deducted from your final total,) as well as free in-store consultations to help you plan your kitchen. I am an overconfident idiot who didn't want to drive 90 minutes into the store, so I didn't take them up on these offers, and instead ordered everything online. I missed things, like the rails needed to hang the cabinets and the toekick pieces and a few other things, and ended up driving into St. Louis to purchase them anyway. Don't make my mistakes. Take advantage of their free services.
After determining my layout, I waited a couple days before actually ordering the cabinets and appliances. This was to give me an opportunity to think of reasons this layout wouldn't work. For example, on day 2, I realized that there was a HVAC vent right where I wanted to put the stove. This is really obvious in the photograph I labeled above, but not so obvious if you're just looking at the paper drawn layout. As a result, I ordered a separate cook top and electric oven instead of a range combo so that there would be room for the air to vent. Also: don't forget about your doorway size. I didn't think of this at all, but got lucky that my 30 inch fridge fit through the 30 inch doorway.
The Major Purchases
Finally (aka, about a week after I moved into the house,) I ordered the cabinets and appliances. I got the appliances from Lowes, and was able to hit their 4th of July appliance sale (40% off, plus $200 in rebates, plus an additional 10% off coupon that I had from changing my address.) The only thing was that I ordered an LG Suite of appliances that were special order only, so they didn't come in for a month and a half. This was actually fine, as it gave me time to demo the old kitchen and get the cabinets installed before the appliances arrived.
If you're curious, I ordered this cooktop, this oven, this microwave, this fridge, and this dishwasher for a total of $3656 (which does not include the $200 rebate I received later.) I picked LG primarily because of the fridge: I only had 30 inches of space and this was one of the few french door refrigerators that was only 30 inches wide. If you're curious about how I feel about any of the appliances, feel free to ask in the comments!
As mentioned above, I got my cabinets from Ikea. I purchased during their big "kitchen event," which is basically a 15% rebate on your purchases. This was nice, in that when I returned to Ikea to purchase all the things I initially forgot, I was able to use my rebate instead of more money. However, I'm not actually convinced this is that great of a deal, because when I returned to Ikea after the kitchen event was over, a number of items were less expensive than when I priced them in July. I didn't go through and compare item by item, so this isn't scientific data by any means, but if you're considering a major purchase, maybe track prices for a while before you buy.
And just to be thorough, I ordered 14 cabinets and a sink from Ikea, which totaled $3095. That does not include the rebate, which I used primarily on accessories for cabinet installation (the rails and toekick pieces). I installed the cabinets myself; if you're curious about how that went, click here.
The cabinets took about three weeks to come in from the time I ordered them. While this seems annoying, it meant I had time to prep my kitchen for their arrival. Before the cabinets arrived I closed up the laundry room door/ opened a new doorway for the laundry room, installed a new electrical circuit (and ran the wire) for the electric oven, tore out the old cabinets and countertop, removed the peel and stick flooring from the floor, and installed a new plywood floor.
You'll note that I did not write a post on how to add a new circuit to your circuit breaker. That is because I am not at all qualified to be giving anyone electrical advice. I was super nervous that I was going to accidentally burn my house down, or electrocute myself, or something else dramatic (and if you do any of these things, I cannot be held responsible,) but guys, it was actually really not that hard. I did a bunch of research (I'm talking 4-5 hours worth) before I started, so I had a decent idea of what to do and what not to touch. It probably took me between 2 and 3 hours to actually run the wire, and most of that was spent wrangling the Romex into the right places.
The internet will tell you to hire someone. Maybe they're right. But my philosophy is that you'll never learn a new skill unless you take chances (make mistakes, and get messy!)
For the record, the new electrical circuit I ran (the orange Romex on the left side of the photo) remained off until I connected the Romex to the oven.
The other thing I did before the cabinets arrived was move the gas line. I told you the electrical line was easy, right? Well, the gas line was not. Theoretically, gas lines are simple. Screw connecting pieces together until you end up where you want to be. It's a simple process. However, the stakes are high, and if you don't tighten the pipes enough, you'll have a gas leak, and then maybe your house will blow up*, and that seems bad.
*This sentence comes from the fear portion of my brain. My dad, a chemical engineer who spent the majority of his career at an industrial gas company, says that residential gas lines are barely pressurized at all, and it would take a leak in a basement at least a couple days to really be dangerous. I repeated this to myself throughout the entire project.
So, the entire gas line project I was paranoid I would under-tighten the pipes. Therefore, I was thorough in my tightening. This was miserable. I am neither large nor strong. It took every ounce of effort I had to get those pipes tight enough. Mid-project, I promised myself that if there was a leak when I was done, I would hire someone to come fix it, because there was no way I was going to do this again. Lucky for me, when the gas company guy came out to turn on the gas after I was done, he assured me there were no leaks. Thank god.
Once the cabinets arrived and were installed, things started picking up. I purchased and installed my butcherblock countertops. I got them from Menards for a couple reasons, the first being that Ikea doesn't seem to have the solid butcherblock selection that they used to. There wasn't any in stock when I was looking. Additionally, the Menards butcherblock is 1.5" thick, costing $160 for an 8 foot length. This is less expensive than Home Depot, Lowes, and Ikea, and for thicker countertop.
I was able to purchase the countertops during Menards 11% rebate sale (which they seem to have pretty regularly,) and therefore got $50 back. However, the countertops went on sale for around $130 a piece a couple weeks later, which was a way better deal. Super frustrating, no?
The appliances arrived shortly after I got the countertops (and this awesome pull-out towel rack) installed. When I ordered them, I didn't think much about installation, other than "I'll install them." Big mistake. Installing appliances is an involved process. Who knew? The fridge had to be connected to the water line. The oven had to be hooked up to the electrical line. The cooktop had to be connected to the gas. The dishwasher had to be hooked up to water and to the drain line. The microwave had to be mounted. I pretty much needed a full day for each of these.
The Finishing Touches
I finally, finally, got to the part of the project I was actually comfortable completing. If you were thinking this whole time "Oh, Lindsay's handy, she knew how to do all of this; I could never do this." No. I had no idea what I was doing. I had never opened a wall before. I had never even changed an electrical outlet, let alone install a circuit. I had never worked with any sort of pipe. I had never installed appliances. I had never done any of this. But I got through it. And finally, I got to do the pretty stuff, the things I had done before.
First up was the backsplash. The walls were weird, but whatever, I was so happy to be doing something I knew how to do I didn't care. I then created a mini-mudroom out of a corner of the room to help organize my primary entrance. Finally, I made a seating area out of the leftover butcherblock, which I was so, so excited to have!
I did the best I could to track every cost I had, but disclaimer here: there were probably a few small things that I bought in town that slipped through the radar (wood filler, the occasional 2x4, etc.) Additionally, all the costs below are pre-rebate. Regardless, here is my best estimate of the costs I incurred transforming my kitchen!
I manged to come in almost $1000 dollars under budget, which is fantastic, especially since I wasn't tracking super closely during the project- I basically just threw all the receipts in a folder, and tried to limit my expenses as much as I could!
I am super, super excited to share the final reveal with you! Click on over to see it!
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