Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel Progress: July

I don’t think I’ve written an update on our budget DIY kitchen remodel in a while.  Here’s what we’ve been up to these last couple months.

February: I started refinishing the cabinets and tearing out cabinets to make room for the range hood
March: Purchased and installed range hood
April: Spent this month tearing up the many floor layers
May: Popcorn ceiling removed, countertop installed, laminate flooring installed

Unfortunately, I have a crappy tradition of getting sick at the start of summer.  Being sick and recovering knocked the motivation out of me for about five weeks.  During this time I didn’t do jack on the house, but now we’re back at it.

July: Installed the cabinet pulls and reattached most of the doors to the frames.

Here’s a snapshot I took today:

budget diy kitchen remodel progress

To Do: 

  • Paint the interior of the ceiling lighting recess (Dad and Jim installed two LED can lights into here, they’re awesome)
  • Hide the cord from the range hood
  • Hide the range hood’s duct
  • Install wall shelving to the left of the range hood
  • Tile a backsplash around the kitchen

By spreading the work out over a long period of time we’re preserving our sanity (kitchen has experienced nearly 100% uptime through all this work) and putting months between major expenses.  I don’t know how people spend 50-100 grand on a kitchen. Those fortunate people live in a different world than I do.

Yardmageddon 2012: Part 1 – Side Yard Slaughter

We never go in this part of the yard.  Honestly, I think we forgot it belongs to us.  It’s a useless alley hardly large enough to hold a garbage bin, but that’s exactly what we’re going to put in it:  our three carts will have a new home here once we’re done weeding and mulching.  The weeds got a bit out of hand – foliage grows fast in Washington!  Fortunately, they are easy to pull out.

20 minutes of weeding, a trip to Home Depot and 4 bags of mulch later:

We pulled out the rest of the weeds a few days later.  Minutes after taking this pic, it began to rain (hard).

Yay, rain! Now we can go inside!! (This is one of the things I love about living in Washington.)

DIY Floor Removal: Hardwood, Laminate, and Vinyl

Our floor contractor is arranged!  We considered installing it ourselves to save money (half the total flooring cost), but there’s just too much of it and with both of us working full time it’s just not going to be feasible to install flooring into our kitchen, dining room, hall, and bathroom.  Alas.  But – we can still save a lot of money by ripping up the existing flooring.  There are many layers of existing flooring in this house, and each room is different.

Since we want a consistent flooring throughout the downstairs, we’ll have to say goodbye to the hardwoods in the entry and the bathroom.  There’s no way to match so we’d just as well tear it all out down to the subfloor and put the same floor into all areas.

Now it’s time to RIP UP SOME FLOORS!

Tearing up Hardwood & Vinyl Floors

Bathroom flooring layers:

  1. Hardwood
  2. Hideous brown vinyl
  3. Newspaper from 1993 (I shit you not, wtf)
  4. Hideous orange vinyl
  5. Subfloor

It was hard to figure out where to start in the bathroom.  There was no obvious edge to work from.  We pulled up a couple small pieces near the heating vent, and then just smashed one board with a crowbar until we got it out. From there, we had access to the rest of them. We pulled out as many as we could without removing the toilet or sink (that’s a project for this weekend).

I don’t know why there is newspaper (from 1993) under the sink. I don’t want to know why.

Tearing up Hardwood Floorboards

Entry hall flooring layers:

  1. Hardwood
  2. Subfloor

Same technique worked in the entry way: destroy one board, pull out its shattered remains, and use the gap to get at the adjacent ones. Removing each board is not easy work, but at least it is doable. We took turns leveraging the boards out one by one. Each one has several nails through it, and not a single one has come out without splintering.

Tearing up Vinyl Floors

Kitchen flooring layers (top to bottom):

  1. Allure
  2. White vinyl
  3. Plywood
  4. Purple vinyl
  5. Plywood
  6. Subfloor

Unfortunately, the hardwoods ain’t got nothing on the plywood and vinyl combo in the kitchen. This crap comes up in tiny bits, requires several swings of the crowbar, a lot of leveraging, and it makes a huge splintery mess. Here I am prying up the largest piece we’ve managed to pull out at once (which took a lot of two-crowbar teamwork).

*BONUS FEATURE* A bizarre ramp made out of white vinyl and plaster to try to make up for the difference in floor thickness where hall meets bathroom.  Why? Why not just do it right? :(

1990s vinyl, meet 1980s vinyl. Below that: 1970s vinyl.

Our warzone:

This process took us weeks of chipping away at it before and after work.  We saved a fortune, but our sanity is another matter.

Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel: Why We Chose a Solid Surface Countertop

We’ve scheduled a contractor to come out on March 15th and give us an estimate for all of the following:

  • new countertops
  • new sink + new faucet
  • laminate flooring in dining room, kitchen, drop zone, and hallway
  • lighting changes – just something that isn’t three ugly fluorescent bulbs

That means we have until March 14th to procrastinate on choosing colors need to make a decision on this counter top!

Our new counter top must-haves:

  • Undermount sink!
  • No bizarre cleaning regimens (I don’t want to seal / buff / oil anything)
  • Reasonably durable, though neither of us is particularly destructive nor do we intend to chop food or put hot pans on the counter
  • Must be cleanable with normal cleaning solutions, like Lysol kitchen spray
  • Affordability – our budget for this kitchen update is around $5000
  • Stain resistant – we can be messy

This kitchen’s a work zone. We both cook twice daily.  I don’t know where some of these counter top manufacturers get off making counter tops that aren’t rugged or stain proof but I suppose if you don’t actually use the counter top for cooking, it’s fine if it’s made of paper mache.

Corian solid surface counter top quickly became a front-runner.  Young House Love first drew my attention by choosing it for their kitchen.   (I swear I am not stalking them.  Okay, maybe a little.)

We eventually decided on Corian for all of the following reasons:

  • Non-porous (stain resistant!) and solid all the way through, so if terrible things happen they can be sanded/buffed out
  • Highly rated by Consumer Reports
  • Works with undermount sink, wooo
  • I just like the feel of Corian.  As in, I REEEEEALLY like the FEEEEEEL of it.  It’s so soft and smooth.   (Actually, forget I said that, that was creepy.)

The next challenge was figuring out what color to go with.  I hate agonizing over colors, I really do, but with the counter top making up about half our kitchen update budget, I couldn’t afford to just choose on whim.

Here are our samples, chillin’ on the pantry’s painted shelves.


There’s a slight “warm” tone to the less-speckled white Corian sample which clashes just a tad with the cabinet paint color.  (But seriously, that observation can safely be filed under “shit only Mandi would notice”.)

Ehh?  I feel like no matter which one I pick, it’s going to be WAY better than the aging off-pink laminate with scuffed up wood border that we have now.  I think the speckly grey/white one is my favorite.  The ‘Pot had a sample similar to it with tiny black flecks, but it looked way too much like Oreo crumbs in milk.  Not that I don’t love Oreos or milk or the combination thereof, I just worry about the world’s Oreo supply should I crave Oreos every time I go through my kitchen.  Ultimately, we chose a bright speckled white (and it was perfect).

When we went to make the purchase at Home Depot, we discovered Samsung had a promotion on their version of Corian that brought the price of a Samsung Staron counter top several hundred under the cost of the same counter top in Corian.  There we were, presented with another option we hadn’t even considered after hours of ruling out other choices.  A quick look at online reviews revealed Staron is just as well reviewed as Corian and chemically quite similar, so we said what the hell and went with it.

Our gorgeous Staron counter top was installed a few weeks later!

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