432 Days & $4,000 Later…

Getting this curved-at-the bottom threshold to fit was – and I'm not kidding – the most difficult thing in the entire project.

Getting this curved-at-the bottom threshold to fit (well enough) was – and I’m not kidding – the most difficult thing in the entire project.

It’s been 432 days since I eased into rehabbing my kitchen by gingerly and carefully removing one of the paint-over-contact paper-over-MDF big-box cabinets that used to grace the space.


2013 Realtor’s photo, shot with a wide-angle lens…it is not as big as it looks. And I’m pretty sure it was retouched.

I admit, the “before” shot from when I had it on the market in 2013 doesn’t look that heinous. I’ve sure seen a heck of a lot worse. (It was worse when I moved in – I painted over the “wood” look and changed out the grotty “brass” hardware.)

What you can’t really see, however, are the crooked doors, cracked tile, dented and rust-spotted sink, sway-backed peeling laminate counters, black rubber mop board…

Plus, the squat stock cabinets were too short for the space (and didn’t align to one another – ACK!), and inside, the shelves were all bubbly with lifting paint – MDF zits, if you will. (They were like that when I bought the place, though I likely added to the problem).

After looking at hundreds of kitchen pictures online, I stole ideas and looks, then drew a SketchUp model of what I’d decided on. I took that and a materials list to a couple of kitchen rehab pros, and was quoted $28,000 and $28,700.

Um, no. I work in publishing.


After. No wide-angle lens, no retouching.

S0 432 days and about $4,000 later (I’m not counting my time, obviously, nor the cost of the many expensive tools, etc. I used in the process) I have a new kitchen. And I am tired. But I am done.

At least $150 of that $4,000? Ibuprofen and a tetanus shot. (Broken and rusty floor underlayment staples are minions of the devil.)

I now understand those professional quotes. In retrospect, they seem perfectly reasonable. Plus I’m guessing it wouldn’t have taken a professional kitchen remodeler more than a year to get done. Still, I (mostly) had fun, and I learned a great deal.

The finished kitchen is pretty close to what I envisioned. I ended up not taking cabinets all the way up to the ceiling as I’d initially planned, yet there’s about 40 percent more storage than before. And I didn’t do a full tile backsplash behind the sink; the century-old plaster walls are simply too out of flat. (Plus, because I decided to eschew cabinets over the sink, I couldn’t find a stopping point for tile.)

So now that I’ve created almost exactly what I wanted and am – not gonna lie – proud of it, it’s time to sell and buy a new old house. (I should seek mental help.)

My plan is to buy another inexpensive house with good bones (but poor stewardship and curious design decisions) and fix it up. Again. (I sure wish I’d taken before and after pictures of the other five rooms, two baths and concrete back yard I’ve torn out and rehabbed over the last 13 years here. The kelly-green carpet in three rooms and the manila and brown-tiled 70s bath were quite a sight.)

At 46, I think I have one more old house fix-up in me. And because I now have more skill (and tools) than I did 13 years ago, perhaps the next one will take only five years to get done.

But at the moment, as long as it has space for a woodshop, “move-in ready” is looking mighty fine.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
This entry was posted in Kitchen, Renovation/Restoration. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to 432 Days & $4,000 Later…

    • fitz says:

      Yup — I’ve been eyeing that one online. And boy howdy does it look like a project, but a doable one. Depends on if there’s decent exterior basement access and/or the garage would suffice for a shop. Not counting chickens yet…so I’m not going to start physically looking at places until there’s an incontrovertible need to do so. Also, I really want to stay in Northside or Clifton Gaslight (though I doubt I’d be able to afford anything in Clifton that’s livable). But keep ’em coming 🙂

  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    My hat is off to you.

  2. Very well done! You have every right to be proud; that’s a mighty fine accomplishment. It’s been fun watching it come about. Glad you also learned from this ordeal.

    • fitz says:

      Thanks! The most important lesson I learned was to not touch the flat snaky looking thing on the rear wall of the electric panel. I mean…110v might smart a bit, but that snaky thing will kill you.

  3. Ross Graham says:

    Hmmm – the problem is that once it gets in your blood you can’t stop – I am 66 now and I am still “fixing” up things with many plans for the future – but it is not as easy as it use to be.

  4. Dave Cathers says:

    It looks awesome.

  5. jmwagle86 says:

    Congratulations on a job well done. The woodwork and the wordwork!

  6. Norm Reid says:

    Way to go! It’s been fun (and a whole lot less work!) following your design anguish and your progress. Let’s hope the next installment isn’t too long delayed.

  7. snwoodwork says:

    Your kitchen looks great; nice work.

  8. Great job Megan. Does this mean we’ll be seeing more cat postings and less rude mechanicals until a suitable buyer comes along?

  9. Congratulations on a job well done!

  10. Congratulations Megan!!! It looks awesome.

  11. Totally love the cork. I recently installed cork in our basement and love it.

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