Yesterday I started feeling nauseous after dinner. It got worse and worse, and I ended up spending most of the night barfing. It was terrible! I guess it was food poisoning, although Tony ate the same stuff and was fine. I’m still not feeling great today, but hopefully I’ll be better by tomorrow. Please be better, stomach.
The silver lining is that, thanks to my sick day, I finally had time to write a Fawn Log post. I missed you, Fawn Log!
Tony and I have big plans to finish an ongoing kitchen renovation project this weekend, and I thought it might be fun to post the “reveal” here on Fawn Log like the real DIY bloggers do. In order to build suspense, I’m going to post the before pictures today. I hope this will ensure that people’s expectations are very low for the reveal posts.
So, my parents’ kitchen. The realtor told us that we should try to update it within our small budget, since “kitchens sell houses.” I don’t think my parents’ kitchen is going to sell this house even after our updates, but at least it won’t cause potential buyers to recoil in fear? That’s about the level I’m aiming for, at least.
Here’s the lay of the land:
One of the things you might notice is the difference in color between the left and right sides. My parents had new cabinetry installed on the purple side in the mid-nineties. The cabinets and countertops shown in gray are original to the home (~1920). It feels more than a bit bipolar. There’s not a whole lot within our budget we were able to do to fix that, beyond painting the right side to match the left. More about that in a second.
Another big issue is the floor. Before our updates, there were two layers of linoleum down. The top layer looked like this:
In terms of the pattern, it could have been much worse. However, linoleum like this is not meant to last, and it was irrevocably stained in many areas.
We knew there was hardwood underneath, but we had no way of knowing what shape it was in. Also, we heard many, many horror stories about refinishing wood floors. At some point we pulled the dishwasher out and saw the floor underneath, which appeared to be in good shape. That was enough for us, and we started the process of ripping up linoleum.
Sorry for the extremely blurry photo:
(Okay so here’s where I’m forced to admit that I did a terrible job on the floor plan rendering above and am too lazy to fix it. The “old side” in this photo is on the right, and it was painted the bright purple you see here when we first started updating. I made the rendering unnecessarily complicated by showing the “new side” in purple. Also this photo was taken from the doorway into the dining room, so obviously I made the floor space look way bigger than it really is.)
The process of ripping out linoleum was actually pretty easy. It took my brother, Charlie, and I only 5 or 6 hours to get it done. The floor underneath had lots of old black glue on it, but otherwise it appeared okay.
We considered renting floor sanders and attempting to redo the floor ourselves, but after pricing what it would cost to rent a sander for a day and buy sandpaper, stain and polyurethane, hiring out the project started to seem really worth it. We estimated that, if everything went well, doing it ourselves would cost about $300 and take a week. A flooring company told us they could do it for $500 in three days. We’d heard enough about redoing floors to doubt our ability to successfully complete the project without any errors on the first go-around, and so decided to hedge our bets and go with the company.
Honestly, I’m really, really happy with our decision. They did a great job, it cost exactly what they estimated, and they got in and out incredibly fast. While it would have been nice to try our hand at refinishing, I feel confident we made the right call. But you’ll have to wait for the reveal post to see what I mean.
I mentioned painting earlier. Painting sounds easy, right? I used to think that, too. I was so naïve.
The old cabinets from the 1920s had, Tony and I estimated, never been stripped. There were at least seven layers of paint on them, if not significantly more. To cover up the purple, we would have needed to paint at least a couple layers of Killz primer before the layers of paint. That sounded like a bad idea, so we decided to scrape the cabinets first. Just scrape in areas of paint build-up. Sounds easy, right?
Here’s the point in the story in which we take a wrong turn down a dark path. It turns out that, with seven or more layers of paint, there’s really no way to scrape away a consistent layer. About four hours into scraping, we realized we had made a terrible mistake.
Tony suggested we try paint stripper. We bought it that night, applied it, and were up until 2am with a stripping nightmare on our hands. [insert obligatory stripping joke here].
It turns out that paint stripper– even the kind marketed as nontoxic– smells horrible. It’s also only effective on a layer or two of paint at a time. Basically, in our case, it made the first few layers bubble up, but didn’t do much for the layers beneath. We were pretty much just scraping, except now in a toxic fume-filled environment. Also, while we had intended to only scrape in areas that needed it, now we needed to scrape the entire surface area of 3/4 of the kitchen. What had started as a couple hours worth of work had suddenly become a horrible part-time job that we did daily for multiple weeks.
Here are some progress pictures of the arduous process. (They also do a good job of showing the strange juxtaposition of the two sides of the room).
Eventually, Tony, Charlie, and I decided we’d had enough. It was time to fucking move on and STOP THE MADNESS. We borrowed electric sanders from Phil and our neighbors, and sanded the shit out of everything, even the areas that still could have used some stripping. It was 7 or 8 hours of pure hell, but we finished.
I texted Charlie to see if he had any pictures from that day, but he told me he’d just deleted them.
The picture he replaced them with is a beautiful watercolor of a snowy mountain scene.
Honestly, we’re probably lucky that no pictures exist from that day. Better to instead think about pretty mountain scenes than dwell on on our cabinet saga.
The good news is, we’ve finished priming and (hopefully) will be done with painting this weekend. The floor is finished, the fan is updated, and life is moving forward. If all goes according to plan, I should be able to post the final pictures early next week. Check back!
In the meantime, please help me say a big congratulations to Tony in the comments. In addition to being the world’s best scraper and the person who has kept me somewhat sane throughout this kitchen update, he is also the newest official copywriter hire at the ad agency where he was interning. I couldn’t be more proud of my (nice, non-misogynistic) Don Draper.