Summer Glamping

24 hours before the wrecking ball

Redoing a kitchen is kind of like having another kid; there’s never really a perfect time to do it. So just buckle up and hold on tight for the wild ride. We have taken the plunge this past month and fully gutted the kitchen. Oh and baby #4 is expected any day. I realize most people ideally do this kind of project before they move in…or perhaps at least not when a baby is due…but we just thought it would be so much more rewarding to do it live-in style with three small hellions underfoot. Our due date is tomorrow, July 12th, ironically the same day that our cabinets were originally expected to arrive. Cabinets have pushed back a week so far and baby still isn’t here, but things are charging along with this project and no one has starved yet!

So why did we wait a year for the kitchen? When we moved in, while it definitely wasn’t pretty, it was completely functional and other areas of the house were far nastier, thereby taking priority. Second, we weren’t sure exactly what we wanted to do with the kitchen as far as a few big decisions go and we wanted time to marinate on those choices while living in the space to see how the existing kitchen did and did not serve us well. And this latter reason is definitely something I would recommend. A lot of kitchen decisions are really personal as to how you cook, how you live, and how your family works. Certain things are musts for some while they might just take up space and be a waste of money for others. Using the kitchen for the past year and really thinking about what we did and did not want in a renovation is something we are definitely glad we have done.

no kitchen, no problem. we will just eat popsicles

So why did we take the kitchen plunge this summer? Mostly because we are idiots, but we did have a few valid reasons. First, in our defense, our plan was for this to be done before baby’s arrival, and on paper we had the time. Of course, major renovations never go perfectly according to plan and ours was no exception to this rule. As a blame-oriented person, it’s frustrating to admit that I really can’t fault anyone except myself really…not the wood shortage, nor the cabinet production timeline, nor any specific major problem. The hangup was just us simply working out all the details of what we wanted and revising things again and again with our very patient cabinet guy as we tried to insert this and that (biggest wants, try not to laugh, were our mini wine fridge and trash pullout). We did want to do this project in the summer rather than the winter. We love the summer here and we grill and eat outside almost every evening this time of year, which means it’s a much better time to go without a kitchen than the middle of the winter would be. Finally, we were starting to push it with a few things in the existing kitchen. To start, we knew there was some decent water damage going on around the sink and we weren’t sure how bad the rot underneath it all was. The actual sink faucet was corroded in places and actually spraying water in our faces periodically and I refused to replace the fixture since we were on the cusp of ripping out the whole thing. There was also a fairly serious ant problem presenting itself periodically on the outside-facing wall of the kitchen, making us think there was a good amount of unsealed areas. So after going back and forth with the timing of it all, we decided what the hell…life with 4 kids is going to be a hoot anyways, bring it on.

From the beginning, the kitchen was the most intimidating project for us to take on. It’s arguably the biggest item to tackle in any house and by far the one with the most details. And as a detail-obsessed person/perfectionist, this was not a plug and chug type of decision for me. It is also definitely a challenge to work with a set space which comes with unique parameters and try to fit in everything. After going around and around in my head trying to work out some design problems on my own, we thought that maybe talking with a professional could help. So Ronny found a kitchen designer to come for a short consult. I was pretty sure within minutes that she wasn’t going to be able to provide me with solutions which rocked my world, and sure enough, she didn’t. She completely lost street cred with me when she strongly suggested we make the large dining area window smaller, raising the bottom level up to counter height so that we could extend counter there. The cost of a new window and exterior brick work was turnoff enough, but it would be terribly difficult for me to get on board with making ANY window in any house smaller. So I just went back to grappling with it all on my own. HOWEVER, I have no doubt that a good designer/architect can make all the difference in this department. We didn’t want to continue throwing money at it so we pulled the plug on going down that route. But I definitely believe having the right designer guide you through the process and help you navigate the many decisions would be hugely valuable!

before moving in, after we took down dining room wall (which completely closed kitchen off from family room)

From the initial picture above, we have slightly widened into the dining room (far back center in pic) making it an opening rather than a doorway and widened the opening into the hallway (left of picture). We pushed back the entire pantry (white door in the kitchen) which was not a very functional space.

It was oddly deep, making the first half not suitable for any substantial storage and we had extra floorspace where the old AC ducting used to be. So we turned the pantry into a smaller cleaning/storage closet, moving the doorway to face the family room. This gave us space to extend the counters and cabinets just enough to make a small “drink bar” (coffee, blender, wine fridge, glasses cabinet) to the left of the fridge. Pantry items will now go into pullout cabinets along this wall. We also pushed into the coat closet in order to steal some space to push back our fridge, making it flush with the counters on the back of the kitchen. This is going to make our closet space rather odd, but we chose kitchen over coat closet in the end. Our electrician just finished up with new lighting and outlet changes and plumbing changes have also been made.

And of course we had the cabinets torn out. Ronny has a gift for selling things online which I would take for nothing more than trash. Once our cabinet plan was finalized and ordered, we needed to gut everything fast, as we have a lot of work to do before cabinet install happens. So we did one last dish load in our archaic dishwasher and prepared ourselves for cooking al-fresco. Ronny took pics and complete measurements of the cabinets and counters and posted them online on a contractor site. Within minutes, to my great surprise, he had actual interest. Meaning people were not only willing to come tear them out for us, but also pay us for them. Ronny worked up a bit of a bidding war and ended up selling them to a couple who would come the next morning at 9am and haul them away. I was simply ecstatic we wouldn’t have to pay for demo (or do it ourselves!!) They arrived 10 minutes early the next morning, ready to get started. They were quite hardcore, which made sense after we learned they owned a slaughterhouse and their eldest daughter enjoyed skinning pigs for 4-H projects. They got right to work and by the afternoon we were kitchen-less (without lifting a finger).

so glad this wasn’t us doing all this tear down

The last big piece I wanted done before baby came was the subfloor getting replaced. Linoleum that went in during the 60’s and 70’s was often installed with an adhesive which includes asbestos. So heads up, if you’re ripping any out that was put in during that era, mask up, ventilate the area well, and take it out with the subfloor attached if possible rather than peeling it off (this makes it airborne). Knowing this, I really wanted that crap out while we were out of the house. All of our past flooring guys were unavailable and I completely panicked that I’d go into labor 2 weeks early without this phase complete. Ronny pulled off a miracle and after calling nearly 20 people that night, we had two really great guys out later that week who not only did an awesome job but were under budget for us. They removed THREE layers of linoleum which had been slapped on top of each other over the years and the subfloor below that which was really bad. In the kitchen where we suspected some water damage, there was indeed a good amount of rot and mold, making us very thankful we didn’t let this go any further. After it was all removed and disposed of, they bleached sections of the lower subfloor and we aired out this entire area well, keeping it completely closed off with plastic, a window open for days, and an air purifier running. Next they laid new subfloor, ronny did some deep cleaning with the shop-vac and we have begun our summer of “glamping”, filled with lots of grilling, pb&j, take-out, watermelon and popsicles!

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