Our house was built in 1970 and the cabinets are original. It appears this has been a well-loved kitchen, so the cabinets, which are all pressboard, took a beating. Should we have noticed when we bought the house? Probably, but that’s another story all together. Once we moved in, we saw that the cabinets were, well, gross: water stained and warped, with some parts of the cabinets with rot. (The basic house, however, is great and the neighborhood is fabulous.)
Fast forward three years and we are getting a new kitchen. Some of it was inertia on our part; the other was getting someone to call us back. After giving up on the first guy (who went to my high school), we went with the husband of someone I work with. They are both people who also went to my high school. Hey, it’s a small town.
We got a quote, gulped, said OK and we were off and running. Goodbye to the cabinets, the broken dishwasher, the old microwave, the floors and paint color. Keeping the fridge and the range. We’re also keeping the counters (engineered stone) and the sink. He says 2-3 days. I’m thinking 4-5. Husband is thinking a couple of weeks. I hope I’m right.
So, here’s a log of how it went.
Emptying the Kitchen
Day 1: Rough holiday weekend for me. I got a rash, with welts and itching, starting on July 4, right after I finished an antibiotic. Finally, after everyone encouraged me to see urgent care to get a cortisone shot, I broke down and went. Sat around for an hour and finally got in, only to have a two minute consultation with a doctor who declared it couldn’t possibly be that, because I took one more dose after the symptoms started, so if I had a reaction to the drug, I would have ended up in the hospital. Of course, by the time I get in, the Benadryl is really attacking this stuff and I have little rash to show. He patted me on the head and sent me on my way and I burst into tears in the car from frustration. Once I calmed down, I went to get the farm share from the folks that are splitting it with me this year and ended up talking to them for an hour. Great people.
What does this have to do with the kitchen? Well, my husband didn’t exactly know where I was and so he got going on what he thought needed to be done. We frequently attack problems from different angles, so when I got home, he was 1) irritated that he didn’t know where I was and 2) fixated on getting the kitchen packed up ASAP. He is going to miss all the fun, since he has to travel. I’m jealous as I’m stuck here having to work around all this, but he’d rather be here supervising. In the end, there were two goals going on here. My goal was to use up the farm share while I still had a kitchen and then pack and his goal was to pack up the kitchen so he could focus on getting out of town.
Finally, we got to a point where I got cooking done and managed to serve a dinner and half the kitchen was packed up. The pantry stuff is in the extra room in the basement area, behind a closed door to keep the cats out. And, there’s other stuff in the rec room space.
Day 2: I go to church and when I get home, we finally get it all out in the open and come up with a plan of attack. A bunch of stuff lands in front of the fireplace in the living room. More stuff in the rec room.
The food in the fridge gets put in the beer fridge in the garage. (A gift from the sellers, who I guess got a new fridge and didn’t want to move the old one.) We push the dining room table against the wall (or as close to the wall as possible) and put the food we will use in the interim on one side of the table. The microwave cart gets put next to that and the toaster oven is on top of the microwave. “Don’t run them at the same time,” I’m told. At least we have a plan and it works. The house is still usable, except we will soon have no kitchen.
I finish up food preparation. I have cut up salad ingredients I will take to work along with some wraps and hummus. I also have prepackaged oatmeal, so I can also eat breakfast at work. I have a frittata and leftover broccoli pasta in the fridge downstairs. Still left from the farm share are potatoes and turnips, which will keep, and cabbage and a tomato. I might give those away. Once the frittata and pasta are gone, we’ll eat peanut butter sandwiches or go out. Or get sushi from Publix. And, we will pray this really doesn’t last more than 4 days.
The Contractor Takes Over
Day 3: Husband takes off for his business trip bright and early. I finally wake up and finish up a few things: I pack the dishes that were in the dishwasher and put those in the living room. I also go ahead and move everything breakable off the shelf near the front door. OK, we can do this.
Patrick is great. He gets there a little early, ready to dig in. We’re ready for that too. More proof this is a small town: I take the kid to summer drama camp and a minivan pulls up with Patrick’s wife inside. She says “are you ready to eat out for two weeks?” Huh? Is it two-three days or two weeks? Help!
I head home for lunch and get my answer: we’ll be functional again after Thursday, but there will still be some work going on for a week after that. And, the kitchen is ripped out. The underfloor and walls are in GOOD SHAPE! OK, the valves are leaky, but Patrick is going to fix that. I take a bunch of pictures and forward them to my husband, who is relieved to get an overload of news.
The kid and I go to our workouts, head home and eat some frittata. There’s plenty left, so we have more for dinner tomorrow.
Day 4: a little instant coffee from Starbucks, which isn’t that bad! I then made my oatmeal at work, so I’d be able to wash out the bowl. So far, so good. Oh wait a sec, turns out the kid slept on the couch due to the dripping from the ceiling in her room. Crap. We’ve had some rain in SC. OK, we’ve had a LOT of rain. The lake has gone from extremely under full pool to overflowing within a year. However, my fabulous editor has a roof guy, which I call and within six hours, the dude has patched the roof, punctured by a high falling limb, and they’ve even swept off all the leaves, for $175. He says “sometimes you have to look for it, but this one was easy.” He shows me a picture of a big limb stuck in my roof. I write him a check before he charges me more.
Between running the kid to her various activities and dealing with the roof, I work late and we end up getting Publix sushi. We’ll dig more food out of the fridge tomorrow.
I never see Patrick, but I see evidence he’s been here. Stuff is gone and there’s a new subfloor. And, the walls are different. Tomorrow, I bet I see paint and maybe even cabinets, if we’re on track.
Day 5: Patrick does show up early and I get to talk to him. He scheduled the cabinets to come in today, so paint will have to wait a little longer. His goal is to get the kitchen semi-funtional ASAP. We run by the house at lunch and sure enough, there are cabinets in progress. Oh boy do they look good. When we get home, all they need are countertops. Still lots to do: the ceiling, the floor, the paint. All the appliances, too. We aren’t done yet.
We eat the rest of the food I made that is in the fridge. Tomorrow, I need to visit my dad. He’s been in the hospital and it’s time for a visit.
Day 6: I’m beginning to think if anyone has to deal without a kitchen, it’s me and Bella. Tonight, we pass on the Chinese food and she eats PBB (peanut butter and banana) and I eat oatmeal. (Wait, why am I spending so much on a new kitchen if I can live off oatmeal and peanut butter? Remind me.)
I again get to see Patrick and he’s bought a nice little button device to go into the countertop, which means I can now run the disposal without having to open the bottom cabinet and flip a scary looking switch. I mean, I suppose that was good for my hamstrings, but I can’t think of much else that worked about that arrangement. This button will make things easier AND I didn’t even know such a thing existed. The ceiling has been scraped and the walls are prepped. He still needs to paint, which I think he’s doing after the cabinets just because that schedule worked for the cabinet and countertop guy? Whatever. He seems to know what he’s doing so I’m trusting him. All I know is I’ll have a sink back tomorrow. How exciting! Next week, we’ll work on the other pieces: the floor, the appliances. The whole thing is done and finished in less than two weeks.
Day 7,8 and 9: so busy with the kitchen, I forgot to blog. Friday, I came home to find a sink hooked up! Hooray! Still, we are lazy and I eat a salad with hummus and she has oatmeal. A long week at work, with Dad in the hospital (he’s doing OK now) and the kid had a short week and I had a job that required a lot of attention (which is all I will say about that.) I spend part of Friday searching pantry ideas on Pinterest. We’re on our own for the pantry and there’s no way we can just use what we’ve had. I’ve been irritated by the pantry for a while, so I have some ideas what I’d like to do.
Saturday, I wake up and I’m ready to tackle some kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s raining, again. It’s been raining a lot in the Clemson area for the past two weeks and the night before, we got a whopping 8″. My friends are posting pictures of Nettles Park underwater, Mac’s Drive in parking lot flooded. I hear the Botanical Garden is devastated. Three large trees are down on Pendleton Road, all missing houses, but at least one car is crushed.
We are far more fortunate 3-4 miles up the road, but it does mean there will be no painting today. I go ahead and buy the boards I have in mind for the pantry and instead, I’ll lay down some contact paper. This turns out to be an enormous task. It’s at least 60′ of shelving, and getting it square and flat and bubble-free in drawers is nearly impossible. Fortunately, many of the shelves are removable, but it still takes me all day to get much of it done, and the rest of it, I finish before church the next day.
Sunday, I came home to find the family had unpacked the plates and glasses and there is much happiness from me. My husband tells me that we seem to have less and more storage space. Having done the plastic the day before, I know what he’s talking about. With the pull out drawers and the cabinets each being a unit (so they don’t span the width of two doors, it does limit the capacity. But, it also makes it easier to organize. We’ll just have to adjust. The cabinets over the washer dryer are going to be great, but we’ll need to get used to a stepladder. It’s a reach to get over the units, but we have tons of space up there. Again, an adjustment.
The husband is leery of the button for the disposal and he’s found a door that he thinks is slightly warped. He notices everything.
Now what is left are the things that would go on the counter, some free-standing stuff (the breakfast table, a rollable cart) and, of course, the pantry.
The weather forecast swears it’s going to dry out. I sand my six shelves and set them aside. My husband is extremely dubious of my plans for the pantry. Trust me, I tell him. Fingers crossed I have a good idea here.
Day 10: Kitchen is now painted a lovely coffee latte brown. Seems to be an appropriate color and it goes with the cabinets and the countertop. Getting close! Patrick did say painting wasn’t his favorite and I can see that it’s not his best skill. Still, it’s at least as good as I would have done. Bonus: he painted the pantry. Whoops, he painted those nasty ass shelves I was going to toss. They’re total pressboard with no veneer and some of them are kind of moldy. Gross! They are gone. I leave him a note about that. I also tell him to not bother rehanging the laundry doors. They’re a pain in the ass and they’re old and ugly. The only thing I really use them for is to 1) hide the mess on the dryer which I’ll now be diligent about and 2) hang clothes, which it doesn’t do well. I’ll need to find a solution to that, but it will still be better than what I’m doing now.
Patrick’s list includes: the floor joist in the garage, finish painting, vinyl, lighting, dishwasher.
I go ahead and spray my five new shelves. They will match the cabinets. I do an adequate job spraying them. I’m covering the top with contact paper anyway, so I’m not terribly worried.
Left to buy to finish all this up: some wire shelves to mount in the pantry, a cleaning organizer, a few hooks, something to hang clothes. And, a new can to store recyclables. Not bad.
Day 11, 12 and 13: Things have been wacky all round, and yet the progress is less obvious. The painting is slow going. It’s a big space with lots of nooks and it’s not Patrick’s favorite. The floor has gone down (which looks fabulous) and the paint looks good, but it’s slower this week.
The pantry continues to be a puzzle. Patrick offered to cut new shelves, so I took him up on that. My boards were just a little too narrow. My husband was probably right. I told him to cut them about 10-11″ so I could put a broom holder in there. I’ll probably put some hooks on the other side. The two shelf brackets I bought aren’t going to span the boards nailed to the walls for the shelves. CRAP. And the door mounted pantry thing is HUGE. 77″ long? I won’t be able to get stuff off the top shelf and I’m not sure I want stuff on a shelf that close to the kitchen floor. And Lowe’s, ugh. They are very nice down there but their site and their store don’t exactly mesh. I search and search for a broom and mop holder, even trying just broom holder, broom organization, mop holder, cleaning organization and nothing. But when I go to the store, I find the very item I want and it’s called “BROOM AND MOP HOLDER.” WTF, Lowe’s? I had talked myself into buying the 77″ behemoth only to NOT find it in the store, so I came back to order it online and then decided it was a sign not to buy it.
Curtains, too, takes forever. There are none at Lowe’s that suit my tastes. We face a fairly wooded area and so it’s highly unlikely people will be able to look in, but we probably need something. OK, the husband insists. It takes me all night to search online and narrow it to four choices. I send them to him and show our intern in the morning. I end up buying my first choice after all.
Yesterday, he sent me an update which included that the washer dryer were hooked back up. Yeah! Laundry! We were running low. So I fill ‘er up and get back to work on this nightmare job that has me working nights on it, only to have the kid tell me 30 minutes later that there’s water on the floor. That turns out to be accurate. There’s water everywhere on the floor. We mop as quickly as we can and when we have stopped the bleeding, I take her to her martial arts class. At that point, we find that one reason it’s not more water in the kitchen is it’s all over the garage under the kitchen as well. CRAP. My sister visiting offers to pick her up in an hour and I return home to clean up the mess. I manage to move the fridge and the bottom drawer of the range and clean all that up. I can move the dryer but the washer! I have to take all the clothes out (and catch some of the water that pours out with a bucket.) Those land in a plastic hamper lined with a garbage bag, thrown on the back porch. The kitchen done, I sweep the water out of the garage into the driveway. This is not good for resting my psoas muscle that I injured by poor running form.
I then go visit my sister and my brother-in-law, get something to eat and hang out with them for a few hours. They share this odd version of Baby Got Back and a funny “translation” of an Indian pop tune retitled Benny Lava and I come home and find that it’s drying out and all is good. I send an update to Patrick and to my husband, who happens to be in California this week and no one freaks out. Whew. To bed.
The next day, the husband is a little concerned about what caused it but glad to hear it’s cleaned up. Patrick tells me an appliance guy will figure it out. It might be the seal. I think it might be the hookup. Either way, it will be resolved and that’s all I care about. And God bless good neighbors: mine offers her washer/dryer and I can at least make sure my clothes don’t mold. It’s important to have good people in your life.
As for cooking? I’ve just about given up. I’ll get back to proper eating when it’s done. I’m trying but it’s just too hard with your food one floor down and the door kind of blocked by your car in the garage. Especially when you’ve got emergency jobs, a sick dad, a leaky roof, packing, unpacking, contact paper and mopping mopping mopping.
SO: today’s progress seems to be: paint is about done. Light connection has been properly positioned. Warped cabinet door is replaced. I hope hope hope by tomorrow I at least have a fridge back. And maybe the dishwasher. The rest of it can happen when it happens.
The kitchen is done with the exception of putting the tabletop back on the base of the breakfast nook table, which has been moved enough that the holes need some larger screws. Turns out the washer wasn’t hooked up correctly, but it was also missing a foot. This is why the washer shook like a mother. They also added some sort of base that would absorb the shaking. I finish it with a tension rod for hanging clothes on hangers. Hangers get put on two drapery tieback hooks that I mount on the wall, to keep them hidden when I’m not doing the wash.
We resolved the recycling issue by getting a separate can. Seems obvious in retrospect. The new can is rectangular. My husband likes to say “rectangular as in recycle.” I like to think “rectangular so it easily fits the Cheerio box.”
The last step was the pantry. After searching high and low, I finally found my wire baskets. I had to special order them from Walmart. A week and a half later, then a half hour in the store and they arrived: in a humongous box. I left all the cardboard behind, with baskets that took up less than a quarter of that big box. Mounted them on the wall and the pantry is DONE. Everything has a place.
The final test was cooking in the kitchen. So far, it’s been fabulous! What a difference! Moving the microwave gave me more counter space. You can never have enough counter space! It was totally worth it. And, I would have hired the same guy again. Locals, get in touch if you need a guy.