Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Odyssey Update: Kitchen Cabinets

It’s amazing how many difference kinds/brands/styles of kitchen cabinets there are. It’s mind boggling, You can stroll through home improvement stores, visit cabinetmakers, scroll through catalogs, and still not even scratch the surface. I went about it a different way.

I used to write for a real estate blog and consequently had to visit a lot of open houses. This allowed me to see what other people were doing with their kitchens. This helped to narrow down what I did and did not like and what was popular. Since I am not installing a kitchen for me, per se, but for the next owners of the house, I need to be a bit more conservative and traditional than I would be with a kitchen I was designing for myself.

Given the location of our home and the neighborhood it is in, I can’t do IKEA and I cannot just reface. I do have to replace and the cabinetry needs to be a good brand that looks quality. On the other hand, it needs to be affordable, as I do not have an unlimited budget.

There is also the consideration of light in the kitchen. Originally we had an enclosed porch and large tree that made the kitchen very dark. Both have been eliminated (the tree was lost in a particularly bad storm) and therefore the space is a bit brighter. Because we intend to open up part of one wall into the dining room, this will also help, but overall something dark like cherry will not work.

After deciding on a shaker style cabinet front and the color white, we consulted with our realtor who agreed with both choices. At this point we went on down to a local cabinet and tile company to place our order. (We are consciously trying to avoid big box and standard home improvement stores as much as possible.) We chose Grand Tile in San Carlos, as they were the one store nearby that carried KraftMaid cabinetry.

Neil Wu, at Grand Tile, was very helpful in explaining the finishes, which threw the first monkey wrench into our plans. Apparently it is more expensive to buy white painted cabinetry than stained. The reason being that they have to use multiple coats to get a clean finish without the grain showing. An upcharge of 15% for white painted cabinets is not in the budget. We brought home both a muslin and praline finished door in maple to see how it would look. We took votes from the family and even had our realtor stop by with her husband for their two cents. The consensus: Praline. It is a warm wood color, not too dark, but will fit in well with the house (the link does not do it justice). So the final cabinets are Kraftmaid Huntington in Praline with a flat front drawer.

There will be spice drawers, a cabinet with vertical shelves for trays and cookie sheets, pull out drawers for pots and pans, and some other nice amenities. And although we are taking out part of one wall, losing two cabinets, we are moving the kitchen door which will allow us to add 6 feet of cabinets. We have chosen a full height pantry, two lower cabinets, and two upper cabinets which will have glass fronts. There will be four feet of counter for display or serving purposes, as well. Overall, it is a much more efficient use of space.

Delivery Day: January 25, 2010

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why Remodel, You Ask?

You might wonder why I want so desperately (and I am desperate) to remodel my kitchen. There are numerous reasons, all of which are serious enough to merit the inconvenience and expense.

So, what I have is basically the original kitchen that we have dressed up with some new appliances and tile countertops. But the oven, one of the main components in my cooking and baking, is the original dual wall ovens that went in when the house was built. The broiler does not work, temperatures are not true and often fluctuate, and the doors creak when you open them, leading me to believe that a door will fall off any day now.

There are other issues as well, such as a lack of storage, a poor use of space, a top mounted sink (never do this), piss poor cabinets made of plywood that are peeling paint (see below), and a bad flooring choice.
Our suburban ranch-style home was built in the late ‘60s, along with several other homes on our street. We purchased it in 1995 from the original owners, who had done very little (good) to it over the years.

The galley-style kitchen had stained and worn linoleum, dirty wood cabinets, the original electric cooktop and double ovens, and cracked countertops. The color scheme was dirty beige, with a hideous wallpaper accent, and the room was very dark.

Prior to moving in we did a mini-remodel on the kitchen. It was very low budget, as the whole house had to pretty much be gutted. So we gave our ten-year-old a sledgehammer and let him go to town on the old tile countertops, we tore out the fan hood, stovetop, dishwasher, fridge, floor, sink, and fixtures. We pulled off all the cabinet doors and steamed off the wallpaper. Then we started repairing, repainting and replacing.

We added a gas line for the new Dacor 5-burner stovetop, had new black-and-white tile counters installed along with sink and fixtures. The cabinets were prepped and painted a light gray, as were all the doors and drawer fronts with new hardware. All new appliances, except the double ovens, were installed. And finally walls were painted and vinyl flooring installed. This makeover lasted until about two years ago.

In 2006, the dishwasher developed a leak in the front seal and we came home one day to find the floor in front of it raised and swollen from water. Time for action...again. We had to tear out the dishwasher and the vinyl to get to the subfloor. Not such an easy task, however, as there were three layers of vinyl and linoleum. The original linoleum floor, a second vinyl layer probably from the 1980s, and the layer we had installed. The years and traffic had caused the first two layers to practically fuse together, and the first layer was almost impossible to separate from the subfloor. Shoulda hired a pro. But we made the necessary repairs, installed a new dishwasher and chose to replace the linoleum with a FLOR product, as a temporary fix. A rather unconventional choice, as most homeowners don't like carpet in a kitchen. But this is not your ordinary carpet. FLOR comes in large squares, that are easy to put down, and should there be a spill, you can literally pick it up and rinse it off in the sink! It's actually held up well, but I don't like it near as much as I thought. We also decided to repaint the walls and cabinets during this time, which is where we made our mistake.

Apparently when the cabinets had been repainted in 1995, an oil-based paint had been used. In 2006, we used an acrylic paint, which was fine at first, but has since started to peel away…a little at a time, leaving our cabinets looking, well, tacky. Hence our current call to action.

We live in a neighborhood of high-end homes, and our kitchen really does not reflect that. The original cabinets are a cheap, thin wood in addition to their current peeling state. Refacing or replacing the doors is not an option, because it still means low-quality cabinetry on a whole. That and the fact that there just are not enough of them. While I have whittled down my pots and pans considerably, I do own a variety of larger items that don't seem to fit anywhere well, like my professional mixer and canning pots. I also do not have enough room for spices and baking goods, and no pantry whatsoever, necessitating open shelving right outside the kitchen door in the garage. And let's not even go into the limited amount of counter space I have.

Speaking of counter space, the current black-and-white tile countertops are in fair condition. There are some cracks and chips, and the grout is not holding up all that well. And as an avid cook, I have found that the uneven surface is not optimal. I do like the fact that tile holds up to heat and you can use it as a quick cutting surface, but being so white, it is hard to keep clean and shows every speck of dirt, food, and berry stain. I am constantly scrubbing them. I am in need of a smooth and much larger surface. I also need a larger sink. Either a deep farmer's sink, or a deep two-tub sink (depends on how much space I want to give up).

As for the cooking options, I currently have a white glass 5-burner Dacor stovetop with white burners. Bad. Never buy white, not if you cook as much as I do. My husband actually got out a razor blade to try and scrape off some of the burned bits the other day because it was looking so bad.
We also know we intend to sell the house in the next few years, and our realtor has advised us to renovate – and has given us some very specific suggestions, which I most appreciate. With this need in mind, we also need to replace the industrial-looking FLOR carpet tiles. These carpet tiles go from the kitchen into the dining room (which is currently my office). We’ll redo both rooms in hardwood.

We recently had our electrician son install recessed lighting in the kitchen, Two over the sink and three down the center. He wants to install two more over the stove when we put that in place. It's amazing how much more light I now have. So much so that it illuminates every speck of dirt on the counter, every spill on the stove, and every grain of sand on the carpet. Really makes the counters and stove look bad. One small wrinkle here, namely Title 24 (I live in California) which may necessitate us removing these newly installed lights and putting in something compliant (READ: expensive).

Ahhh, so much to do. Kinda scary, don't you think? Of course, that means there is a lot more to write about and share. Tune in next time….

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mrs. B’s Kitchen Odyssey

I was wondering if you might want to make a journey with me. I am anticipating a trip through remodeling hell and thought you might get a kick out of my angst, and ultimate joy. I'm in need of a new kitchen and I‘m determined to do it starting in January 2010.

I fully expect it to be a bumpy ride, full of potholes, missteps and missed opportunities. But I think we can all learn from this process together and maybe you can even provide some wisdom that will help me as we proceed.

I don't undertake this project lightly. My kitchen is tied to my livelihood so to speak, as I do test recipes and write about food here and there, and having it torn up and unusable for any period of time will make everything infinitely more difficult. (I might just need to rotate through all your kitchens to do my recipe testing.)

This is going to be a full demo and will include cutting one wall in half (the wall above the stove, removing the double ovens above) and completely moving the doorway to the kitchen. This means new electrical (and conformity to Title 24), plaster and dust everywhere, some new appliances, and then the big stuff like cabinets and counters.

Over the years I have vented my frustration with my kitchen on this blog. Sometimes more politely than others, but I have reached my limit. I want to put a big ol’ sledgehammer into my hands and go to town. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Expensive fun….

So I will do my best to chronicle my journey, and feel free to chime in at any time with suggestions and opinions, or to drop by my house with sustenance that doesn’t have a fast food wrapper around it. We might just let you play with the sledgehammer.