Well, I’m happy to say that one no longer requires a strong imagination to envision what my kitchen is going to look like finished. In fact, I’ve had several people say something similar to “It looks done to me, what do you have left to do?” This statement, and those like it always send me into a tizzy. It inspires me to stomp around huffing and pointing at all of the “obvious” things I have left to finish while my guest just nods in shame for having not noticed. But seriously, did they think I was going to leave the windows and doorways with no trim? Or leave out a section of crown moulding as some sort of statement? How about the base trim? The caulking, the island makeover? And all of the finishing touches that make a person want to dance and pet cats? Funny how things stick out like a sore thumb to me, (probably because I’m stuck doing them) but most people just see a mostly finished kitchen.
And I suppose I should be thankful for that.
For a brief recap, we’ve painted the lower cabinets and the upper cabinets using two different techniques, we saved a load of money installing the quartz countertops ourselves, we tiled, and we tiled and we tiled. And now we get to have a little fun. It’s time to make these cabinets look like they were made for MY kitchen. We are going to do a little customization.
On we go!
For the section by the sink and over the fridge, I made a simple three-sided box using the exact depth and width of the cabinets. I used Menards best quality pine to ensure it was perfectly straight. And yes, since the kitchen cabinets are oak, I should have used oak. Even painted, you can see the wood grain is different, but it’s not noticeable unless you point it out, and it saved me a load of money to go with pine. And you know by now that I’m a frugal bugle.
Full disclosure. I forgot to take a photo of this next step but it’s simple enough. Using some scrap wood, I nailed some pieces along the inside, front top of the current cabinets, again, so I’d have something to sink ,my nail into when I put the three-sided box in place.
Now for the creme de la creme. It’s not a long stretch to say that the WHOLE kitchen makeover started with my dream for one particular section of my cabinetry. I planned this design one evening after I was sent home from work, sick with the flu. I arrived home at 10 am, slept until 5 pm, woke with a splitting headache and body chills, and while laying in bed feeling miserable, I got a whim to start designing how I wanted the cabinets to look someday, so I crawled out of bed and whipped up this design. And you know, it’s just what I wanted. Flu works for me I guess.
First things first, I wanted to extend the middle cabinet out further in front, about 2-3 inches, just to give it a more custom look. We emptied and removed the middle cabinet and we placed a piece of 1 inch plywood and two strips of 2×4’s where the cabinet would hang and screwed them to the studs. Then we replaced the cabinet by nailing it to the studs, with longer screws of course.
Now onto the top. Just like the cabinet over the refrigerator, it’s all about finding a place to secure the “boxes” to the wall and to the current cabinets and also finding places to sink your nails. And this time, I’m making three “boxes” instead of one, so it is a little more complicated. I put quotations around boxes because none of them actually formed a box, the left and right hand sides are more like an L-shape, and the middle was made by securing the sides first, and then adding a front.
Ryan would cringe at this photo, but really, it’s all about establishing a solid base to nail my wood in place. This did the trick. And I continued bracing, spacing and nailing until everything was sturdy and the top section had been “built up”.
Next came the trim.
Add the crown moulding, fill in the nail holes, caulk the gaps, sand, clean, prime and paint that baby up! Oh she looks goooooooood.
On to the appliance garage. I’ll admit, this wasn’t a DIY on my part. I told Ryan what I wanted to have in that area, a very detailed description, (which included my sketch-up drawing) right down to the type of hinge I wanted, and he surprised me by making it for me for Christmas. I was so excited, I painted it that night so I could see what it looked like put in place. Now for the most part, Ryan used scrap pieces of oak to make this cabinet, so most of the cost wasn’t in the lumber. It was in the super fancy hinge I encouraged him to splurge on. And a splurge it was, but to me, it was well worth it. This hinge ROCKS. Once the garage was painted, we installed it by putting it in place, screwing it to the cabinet above, and caulking the seams.
Once in place we added an outlet (because what’s an appliance garage without a place to plug?). And then I tiled the inside. Yep, more tiling. But thankfully, it was a quick job.
Let me remind you what that section of kitchen looked like before…..
And there you have it! The pièce de résistance of my humble kitchen. (why are French words so much better?)
What do you think about that!? Next up, kitchen island makeover!
Well, here we are, chest deep in the murk of our DIY kitchen makeover dream (that never ends). We’ve painted the base cabinets a beautiful iron ore using a $40 sprayer and a DIY spray station. We’ve replaced the countertops with quartz and installed them ourselves, saving a TON of money. We’ve added tile from floor to ceiling on two of our walls and backsplash which resulted in major impact for a low cost. And now we’re on to the upper cabinets.
I know, I know… I ALREADY covered painting cabinets. Why grace you with another super interesting tutorial?
Well, for one, I wanted to show you that you CAN have a professional looking cabinet with nothing more than good paint, brushes, and rollers. And two, I can’t use my sprayer when it is 20 degrees BELOW zero. Yes, it’s that cold. The arctic chill has made its cruel home in Minnesota, and that cold has settled into the very depths of my sad, summer-missing soul.
So let’s get to it!
Just like the base cabinets, remove the uppers and LABEL the hinges in whatever system you want, just make sure they go back where they came from. This really will save you a huge hassle later on. Next, like the base cabinets, use your fancy, or non-fancy sandpaper, 150 -220 grit, and going with the grain, sand off that exterior sheen. One cabinet door should only take 5-10 minutes for both sides so don’t freak out. Just get it done. Remove dust and thoroughly clean with a degreasing cleaner and make sure the cabinet is completely dry. I used the same primer for the uppers as I did for the base, which was tinted grey for the deep charcoal color on the base cabinets. This was a little silly on the uppers since they will be painted white, but no matter, the primer is meant as a binder, and the paint will cover it. Use your angled brush and paint a thin but even layer of primer and watch for drippies. Primer has a flat sheen so it goes on very easily and dries quickly. Once dry, sand with a fine grit sanding sponge. Sanding should take 30 seconds or less, you just want to smooth out the finish and remove any dust or debris that may have settled onto your painted surface. Wipe clean.
Onto the paint! There are a lot of good options out there, Annie Sloan with a durable top coat or General Finishes Milk Paint are two of my favorite recommendations, but please don’t go with a wall paint. You will never regret spending more for a project of this caliber. If you want to choose from a vast amount of colors, which I do, I’d go with my favorite paint for this type of project, Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic, which I did. As I said before, this paint is created for high traffic areas and is made for trim and cabinets specifically. It self-levels, so with the right brush and multiple light coats, brush strokes are invisible, and while it takes a little while to cure, you will eventually have a finish just as tough as wood with polyurethane. A gallon can run around $75 so I usually wait for it to go on sale. Sherwin Williams has lots of good sales. I got mine for 40% off. I chose the color “Whitetail” to match my trim. I also made sure I had a good small angled brush and a small paint roller. I highly recommend Purdy, with the mohair glass finish roller.
About the sheen. Some of you may remember that I started my base cabinets out with a satin sheen, and, in my opinion, it just wasn’t glossy enough for kitchen cabinets. So I ended up taking down the cabinet doors I had just put up and added three sprayed layers of topcoat, which also happened to be in satin, but were definitely glossier than the paint. This did the trick and at least, since July, (back when it was warm…) they have been very easy to maintain and clean. I wasn’t going to make this mistake with my upper cabinets. I bought the semi-gloss. A semi-gloss or gloss is a little harder to work with than a flatter paint, but doesn’t need a top coat and dries to a hard finish. So for a big project like a kitchen, weigh your options and choose thoughtfully.
Another thing that is really important, you want to find a way to raise the cabinet door while you are painting it. They sell cute little cones for this, but I usually use four of my food canisters or four matching mugs and lay the cabinet door on its back. Then, using my angled brush, in the direction of the grain when possible, I quickly hit the recesses, first dabbing in the corners and spreading it out smoothly. The layer should be thin to medium thickness. Most importantly, make sure there’s no pooling in the recesses. Always fan out your brush strokes so you don’t get a paint line. Do the recesses quickly, under a minute so the paint won’t start to set up. Once finished I use my roller, and roll out the main parts of the door and smooth out the edges. Then leave it! One thing to note with this paint, you do not want to over work it. Lay it on quickly, fix any areas that pool or drip, and leave it to its self-leveling magic. Your first coat is going to look like crap. Accept this and don’t try to fix it. As long as there are no pools or drips, you are fine. You just wait!
And I mean wait. This isn’t chalk paint folks. I waited over an hour before I touched it again. I gave it a very quick 10 second sanding with a fine grit sanding sponge. Then I wiped off the dust, and did the same thing again. Start with the recesses, make sure there’s no pooling or drips, move fairly quickly, and then smooth it out with your roller. And because it is white and I was covering gray primer, I did one more coat, same as above. Then I waited and flipped it over and did the same thing. If you notice any accumulation of paint along the edges of the unpainted side, quickly remove it with a chisel or razor before you begin painting.
Important: If you are going to be painting the other side of the cabinet (with one side already painted) When laying your dried, painted side on whatever you are using to raise it up, put a towel between the painted surface and the risers. You never want to put anything directly on paint that hasn’t cured. It could leave indentations or even worse, take up some of the paint. The towel will keep the painted surface safe. Good towel!
Once you go through the tedious process on the other side. Put those babies up, no top coat needed! Then stand back and enjoy because you just crossed another thing off your never ending DIY Kitchen Makeover. And boy does it look PRETTY!
I can say now, with all confidence, that I am whole-heartedly weary of working on my kitchen. I have the base cabinets done, the countertops installed, and now comes Phase 3, the backsplash. That’s the thing about these DIY projects. People say, “I don’t know how you do it, I just don’t have the patience”. And I think, neither do I. And honestly I really don’t. But what I do have is this astonishing ability to convince myself that whatever project I’m about to embark upon will somehow be a breeze. A Saturday afternoon of hard work that will be followed by a plethora of delights. Who wouldn’t work one measly Saturday for all those delights? And then it’s a downward spiral. After all, you can certainly order and install a countertop, and decide you are done right there, but what you can’t, or at least, really shouldn’t do, is paint a 36 inch section of base cabinet and decide you are throwing in the towel. You just have to keep on going. And we all know how one project tends to produce another.
I am deep in that whirlwind. And there’s no getting out until I’m done. And I will never be done.
Way back, (it feels like a lifetime ago) when I proposed the idea of updating our kitchen to my husband, I broke it into baby steps. Obviously, for financial reasons, the countertops/sink were the part I needed to sell the hardest. Once they were agreed upon, the rest just became white noise to my husband. I had mentioned several times that I wanted to do a modest white subway tile backsplash. Something classy, simple, clean, easy to care for, and CHEAP! So about the time that I was ripping out the old backsplash and repairing the wall for the new tile, I casually brought up the fact that what I was “actually” going to do was tile from the floor to the ceiling on two of the walls. This revelation was met with a “Jessie, PLEASE don’t.” followed by a lot of reasons that sounded like white noise to me. (It goes both ways). Mainly, it was an unnecessary amount of work and it might end up looking like a hospital laboratory. But the designer I like to pretend I am invited Ryan to once again, trust me, I already KNEW exactly what it was going to look like in my head. And it was going to be good. Maybe EVEN great. So he exited the room with a sigh, and I could only gather that he was absolutely delighted by the idea. We’ve been married long enough that I can tell by the tone of his sighs on how upset he is. If it’s really low and growly, I’m certain that can only mean good things for me.
Let the tiling begin!
Before I get to ahead of myself, let me explain what I did to prepare the wall for the tile. Using a variety of chisels and scrapers, I plucked out the old glass mosaic tile. Thankfully, it came up ok. Next, again with chisels and scrapers, I removed whatever chunks of mortar were left on the wall. The paper layer of drywall was gone in most areas. In order to fix that issue I applied a skim coat (a very thin, flat coat) of mortar to the entire wall that was exposed. I let it dry overnight and lightly knocked off and sanded any major ridges. Now it’s ready for tile.
The subway tile was fortunately on sale at Menards at 17 cents per piece. The cost was a little more for bull-nosed pieces which I only used in a few small areas. I bought two 100 pc. boxes to start off with, along with some gorgeous glass accent tile, grey mortar, a cheap forked trowel and 1/8 inch spacers. I started right after work. I used a hand cutter to begin with, but even with the few cuts I had, it was a bit of a pain. Eventually, we borrowed a high quality tile saw from a friend and I would highly recommend you do that. And if your friend has a crappy tile saw, you should rent a NICE tile saw. (Unless your project is very small). We have owned two tile saws in the past, cheap ones. And there is a HUGE difference. Rent yourself a sliding wet saw, you won’t regret it. It cut tile like butter, louder and wetter, yes. But oh so smooth.
Now I’m not going to get into huge detail about how to tile. There are many good comprehensive tutorials out there and honestly, it’s a very forgiving process that is much easier than it looks. What I will say, is that you get yourself a good level and use it like your life depended on it. Wherever you decide to start, I started at the base of my countertops (with a spacer underneath) just make sure your first row is level. From there, check with the level often, horizontally and vertically. You are usually working with spaces that are not always square so be prepared to make micro adjustments using your spacers or anything else that might work. If it’s level, it’s going to turn out good. You’ll also need a good square to make sure you are marking the tile straight for your cuts.
Another thing to note. Mortar and grout are NOT the same. In a pinch, you could get away with using a little mortar in place of grout (if the colors happen to match) but not the other way around. Grout has no adhering properties. It is meant to fill space between tile, period. I know this because I had to look it up when I ran out of mortar with only a few STINKING tiles remaining. And yes, I had to go BACK to Menards, AGAIN, in my “tiling clothes” all covered in wet saw gravy and mortar sludge to get more. It was a very difficult thing to go out looking less than my usual fabulous.
Totally joking, I go from scrubs to paint clothes to pajamas most days. Menards is especially used to me looking like ragamuffin. It’s probably their pet name for me.
I had hoped it was Ladybug.
Now, the one thing I dislike more than placing the tile is grouting. I think it is because once the tile is in place, the work looks deceivingly almost done. But don’t underestimate the grout. It takes time, and it’s messy. And annoying. Do you like to wipe and rinse and wipe and rinse, over and over? Oh, you do? Ok well, then maybe you would like grouting, but I don’t.
I broke the grouting into little sections of around 6 square feet. Mix the grout to a semi-runny cake frosting consistency, let sit for 10 minutes, give it a quick stir and you’re ready to go. Using a grout float, squish the grout into the gaps holding the float at an angle (so you don’t gauge the grout line with the float) Once the gaps are filled, use the float to squeegee the tile surface to make it as clean as possible. Again, holding it at an angle. Let it sit until the grout has set up a bit, like 10 minutes or so, then grab your big ol’ damp sponge and wipe, making sure your grout lines are smooth and clean. The less water you use, the better. (too much water can weaken the strength of the grout) Don’t worry about the haze, it comes right off. Once dry, I used a paper towel to buff it all away.
I bet you think you’re done then huh? You placed the tile, you grouted, you sealed the grout (I used a grout with the sealer built in to the mix, but if not, it’s just a wipe on sort of thing) And it looks like a finished masterpiece. Right?
Almost. It is important you allow room for expansion and contraction in your tile. You do this by using caulk. So the gap where the tile meets the countertop, DON’T grout that! If you already did, pluck it out and learn to read a whole tutorial before you begin your work! This gap must be filled in with caulk. Get a caulk that matches the color of the grout. Cut the caulk tube at an angle and, using your caulking gun, run a thin bead of caulk along your line. Dip your finger in water and run it against the bead of caulk to smooth it out, wipe off any access (I use a small sponge), and let dry. You are done. Make sure to caulk where the tile meets trim of any kind and where it meets the cabinet or in my case, where the tile meets the ceiling.
For those of you using colored grout, here’s another trick. If you have areas that end up uneven or choppy looking, ex. Where the tile meets the un-square ceiling. Instead of using your colored caulk that matches your grout, use the color of your ceiling to disguise the ugly line. Same with where the tile meets your trim, in a doorway or windowsill perhaps. Just use a caulk that matches the color of your trim. It will blend it right in.
Man, when I write this, it makes it sound like I did this in one afternoon. HA! Between the tiling and the grouting, it was four afternoons. Only instead of “noon”, it was more like first thing in the morning until late at night. AND throw in a few instances of after work until evening. Oh and one 5:30 am in my pj’s before church, cause mama just couldn’t sleep when she’s “this close to being DONE!” (I’m mama in this scenario) And I haven’t even finished all the caulking yet…..
And there you have it. I think, out of all the projects so far, this one has the most impact for the least cost. In fact, for all of the tile, accent tile (which cost almost as much as all the subway tile!) mortar, grout, caulk and supplies, the cost came to about $200. That is money well spent if you ask me. So please, ask me, and I’ll tell you it’s money well spent.
Stay tuned for my next tutorial, hand painting the upper cabinets.
Good news! This one is bound to be short. Or shortish. Unlike my last post on painting my base cabinets, this one is not even a tutorial really, it’s just me rambling on about countertop choices. But if you are in the market for a new countertop or like reading stuff, it may be worth your time.
So for years I have tried to find a suitable countertop that I could just make myself. Why? Because I’m incredibly cheap frugal, and because of the pride I get from doing something on my own. But mainly, it’s the cheap thing, and the irresistible challenge of trying to make it look like it’s not. And in my years of DIY I have learned that with certain projects, that goal is sometimes hard to achieve.
Here were my top DIY countertop choices:
Concrete: I’m talking the whole shebang. Custom molds, edging, bracing, mixing, polishing, acid staining and sealing. We actually made concrete counters in our old house. They were heavy, they were messy, and they didn’t turn out “exactly” as I had hoped. Mainly, they were a lot of work, and required a decent amount of materials and tools to do a top notch job. They also can be a bugger to seal.
Concrete overlay: Either over the existing counters, or more likely, over a new plywood base (because I didn’t like built in backsplashes in our existing countertops) This also seemed like a lot of work. It would require a ton of sanding and polishing inside the house, and then there’s the whole sealing issue again. Check out a favorite blogger of mine and her tutorial for a concrete overlay.
Wood: Why not? It’s beautiful and I could do it myself. But my kitchen gets such heavy traffic… painting, and projects involving solvents, and even some cooking, so even with 20 coats of poly, or epoxy I could picture it getting scratched, yellowed, chewed through and yucky, or having water issues. Also, Ryan said no. Here’s a great example of a wood countertop.
Paint and epoxy: Again over our existing countertops. I have actually done this as well on my old kitchen island, and honestly, for a cheap, plywood island top, it came out pretty close to looking like granite and it cleaned very well. But man, getting that epoxy perfect is tough, and I was distraught over how many bubbles and imperfections were on the surface. Also, if I wanted to go with a light color mix, it would be especially noticeable when the epoxy started to yellow over time. And again, I really wanted to get rid of the built in backsplash. So I nixed that idea pretty quick. Here’s a great tutorial on the process of painting and using epoxy on your existing counters.
So this whole, I gotta find a cheap countertop that I can do by myself no matter how much work and time it takes went on for several years. Until fairly recently. This last year it has become much clearer to me that my time is valuable and why not focus my attention on things that are important to me, and also things I am good at. I thought, “Jessie, not EVERYTHING needs to be DIY, not everything girl.” And I starting considering that perhaps I could splurge on a real countertop if I could find an incredible deal.
I took my idea to Ryan. I presented it as an “opportunity”. My key points were as follows:
It would increase the value of our house. People LOVE nice counters. And we needed to replace ours sooner or later, why not upgrade?
It would be a countertop that is low/no-maintenance, and stain resistant Then I pointed to the coffee maker sized brown stain next to our sink. I threw in a disgusted look for good measure.
New sink! Which is a must. (More on that below)
I would do…. like….. ALL the work and it would be the beginning of the whole kitchen makeover! And I would blog about it, and you know, some bloggers make a ton of money and they retire from their day jobs and just blog about their pretty houses and their pretty projects and the crazy hijinks they get themselves into. (maybe I should have left out the hijinks part, boy does Ryan hate my hijinks)
It would be GREAT to have an updated kitchen. It “might” even bring the whole family together, you know… all four of us cooking and laughing and dusting flour on each other’s noses for giggles?!
So, after that stunning presentation and hearty bow, Ryan must have needed some time to take my words and ponder them in his heart, because he went right back to watching TV. But I wasn’t worried. He does that. A week later, when we were knee deep in a lively discussion involving finances, he brought up the countertop like it was something we were going to do.
In all the years I researched DIY counters, I also read dreamily about other countertop choices. I fell in love with soapstone, marble, granite, and some beautiful composites, but my most practical yet still fabulous pick would be quartz. Why? Because it is practically zero maintenance, bacteria resistant, stain resistant, heat resistant and oh so pretty! In fact its one drawback, is its price.
And that’s not good for this cheapskate.
But I thought I’d look into it. After researching several manufacturers and installers in town as well as big box companies like Lowes, and Home Depot, I found that prices ranged from $60-$98 per square foot installed. With approximately 42 square feet (which didn’t even include my island) and a undermount sink, we were looking at $3,100-4,700.
Or were we?
So I did what I always do, I took it to a DIY level. In all of my research, there is one place in town, (that I know of), that will let you install the countertops yourself. And of course I should have known it was Menards, my home away from home. So I went to their website and printed off their countertop measuring guide, I measured, re-measured, and had Ryan measure the existing countertops, and noted where we would want a finished edge.
And then I waited. I waited because I knew, in my heart of hearts, that these countertops were bound to go on sale. And you know what, they did. I can remember the exact moment.
I was enjoying a Moscow Mule at my in-laws house over the 4th of July weekend. And, I’m not sure if it was the mule talking, but I swear I heard a faint but distinct whisper, “Hey you… looky there.” And there it was, just inches away from me, resting patiently on the coffee table, awaiting my wandering eye. A Menards Ad.
On that ad was a picture.
That picture was of a countertop.
That countertop was my countertop.
That countertop was on SALE.
And I’m not even kidding, the moment my eyes met the word “sale”, fireworks went off… literally, outside!
Probably because it was the 4th of July.
But I took it as a sign. I might actually pull this off.
So after the 4th of July festivities, Ryan and I took our sheet into Menards where they put all of our measurements into a program. We discussed edge choices, and where to put the finished edges, sink options and cut-outs. We decided to go with a under-mount sink for an additional cost and ogee edges. And we put it on our Menards card. The whole thing INCLUDING the 31 inch sink came to $2200. (not counting the 11% off rebate which was ALSO going on, ka-ching!)
Now a moment about the sink. This was, in many ways, an even bigger deal than the countertop. At the time, we owned a 24 inch sink. 24 inches split in two. (that’s… 12 inches you know) A pan doesn’t even fit in this sink. We use pans often. We eat meals. A small sink, is not a good thing for a family that cooks and has a lot of messy hobbies. And don’t get me started on the color. Cream. While initially very nice looking, it had become a bit ombre over the years, cream on top, brown at the base. I paint, I tile, I’m messy! (Ryan and the kids are gross too) This sink was BADLY stained. In fact, It was so bad, I actually got a can of comet, with a bow on top, for Christmas. (I can take the hint)
So the 31 inch STAINLESS steel under-mount sink was kinda a big deal!
Remember when it was cool for people to say “I’m kinda a big deal” all the time? HATED that.
Sorry, I digress. Wow, and I thought this wasn’t going to be long…
So we put in the order for the countertop and sink, and I started searching and reading. Ok, I had been searching and reading long before that, but I read with more intensity. More gusto! I wanted to find other people who have installed this countertop, how they installed it, and what they thought. Unfortunately the internet was limited on this exact product. But here and here are a couple.
With Menards, after you put in all your measurements, they send them off to a magic place somewhere, and in a week or so, you get a life-sized template that you lay over your existing counters. This will have your finished edges marked and your exact dimensions. Once you approve this template, the countertops will be made to these exact specifications. This part scared me because Ryan had already opened the templates, checked them, and packed them up before I got home, and said they were good to go. And of course, he is more qualified to say this than I, he’s a contractor for goodness sake. Seeing him work a tape measure with such precision can make this girl swoon. I just wish I would have been there. So after 4-5 calls and texts to “make sure” that he was comfortable with me approving the template. I went online and said, “GO AHEAD, those templates are spot on!” Or something less British sounding.
Fast forward another week and a half, and I get an email that said they were in.
THEY WERE IN!!!
So I’m like… we need men, a lot of men! And a trailer! And should we turn up the heat? Turn it down? And while I was planning in a frenzy of how we could possibly get these countertops home, Ryan went and picked them up by himself. They were packed upright on a large wood frame that Menards forklifted into the back of our truck. Ryan cautiously drove them home, and then forced my 15 year old daughter and two of her friends to help us unload each countertop piece by piece into the house. They were unbelievably heavy. We put cardboard down on the ground inside and leaned the countertop upright, on edge. It is VERY important that when you are unpacking and carrying the countertops sections that they always remain on edge. Too much pressure could make them snap. It is also important that the countertop becomes acclimated to your house temperature. (This is especially important if the countertops were allowed to get cold) Letting them sit overnight should do the trick.
We installed the countertops in pieces, starting with my 9 foot long section. We were able to use a cart to wheel it over to the general area. And then somehow, by superhuman strength, my husband, daughter and I lifted it into place. Seriously, it is SO heavy. Over the course of the week, we installed the remaining three pieces and the undermount. Everything went according to plan with no issues.
While I did read up online about tips for the install, we mostly just followed the instructions that were given to use from Menards. Here’s some important tips.
As I said, leave them on edge until you are putting them in place, never lay them down flat.
Make sure your cabinets are ready for them. I mean level, strong enough to support the weight, and securely fastened to the wall. Any unlevel spots in the cabinet could cause stress on a section of the counter, which could cause it to crack.
Have adequate help. I would suggest less 15 year old girls and more burly men, but that’s just my opinion. But for real, they crazy heavy foo.
Research, research, research! Read reviews, tutorials, ask the professionals! Installing this type of countertop is totally doable, but make sure you know what you are doing.
Coming next: the backsplash, although, I don’t think you can call it a backsplash when it covers the whole FLIPPING wall! Oh, I wear myself out…
I know, I know, it’s been a while since I blogged. In fact, it’s been a while since I Facebooked, Instagrammed and social mediaed all together. I wish I could tell you I burned all my paintbrushes in one sweet semi-toxic bonfire. With s’mores. Or used my computer to tackle the ever-expanding list of books I’d like to read on a beach somewhere. But honestly, this summer was just plain CRAZY busy. Of course I found the time to de-ugly things, it’s my mission after all, but I didn’t take the time to document a lot of it, and for that I’m a little sorry/not too sorry.
But I have missed you.
And I did have some genuine FUN this summer, here are the highlights:
-My family spent the most GORGEOUS weather week ever in Park Rapids on Lake Belle Taine. It is the only week of the year where I truly don’t allow myself to work (much), and it is divine. I always end the trip with a mini breakdown where we all stare at the lake to say our goodbyes, and I tearily remind the family over and over that this was my “one break, …. my one break for the YEAR!” And they usually pat me on the shoulder and nod in solemn agreement that I need to chill more.
-My 15-year-old daughter Emmalee and I road-tripped to Brandon, SD where we saw her favorite band, Panic at the Disco, and one of my favorite bands WAY back in high school, Weezer. It is a strange and wonderful feeling sharing the music I enjoyed when I was 15, with my 15-year-old. (And she liked it) It was 95 degrees, with 90% humidity, and we got as close as we could to the stage in a shoulder to shoulder, VERY sweaty crowd. But it was a blast! (and my daughter insisted I mention how much I enjoyed Panic at the Disco, which I actually really did)
-I got my hair chopped off! Over 10 inches. I did that! And yeah, I don’t have a before and after, I can’t do selfies. But it’s cute and retains less heat.
-My beloved sister-in-law Jamie got married! The bride was beautiful, the wedding was perfect, and so much fun. And I finally got to wear matching dresses with my daughter and see my son and husband in matching tuxes, what more could a mom want?
-I turned two years older than 35.
-My mom, sister and I went on our yearly Duluth trip. My mom found and immediately bought a life-sized doll at a thrift store that we named Bethlehem (Beth for short), and she teamed up with us for much of the trip. (and she got a much-needed makeover) We also got to see the Temptations and the Beach Boys, which was so much fun, my face hurt from smiling so much. My sister won our annual rummy game this year, which is weird because she usually sucks.
Take that Shawna!
-AND we have walls up in our garage addition (we are making a much-needed work shop), and hopefully a lot more will be done in the next month or two.
All in all, I can’t complain, it was a really hectic summer, but a happy one. Now on to school, football, Junk Market, um… snow, deep winter depression, cabin fever….. AND a new BIG project to blog about.
What’s that you say? A project?
Yes, that’s right! This project has been a small baby bloom, sprouting in my brain for over 5 years now. Design aspects have changed of course, but the mission remained the same.
And it will be a huge.
It will be time-consuming.
And many aspects of it will require an unnecessary amount of work (but will be so worth it, I hope)
And here it is…
I am doing some major kitchen remodeling, DIY style, on a budget! And I want you to journey along with me. Here’s my plan!
Sand down, prime, prime, paint, and seal the cabinets, change or paint knobs
Buy new countertops and sink, install ourselves
Build the cabinets up toward the ceiling, add crown moulding
Build an appliance garage, move middle cabinet out few inches
Rip out old backsplash, apply new, all the way to the ceiling and on walls
Re-vamp kitchen island with paint and reclaimed wood
New trim on windows and doors
Prime and paint doors
New paint on walls
New light fixture over sink
Just 10 SUPER easy steps! (that is how I presented it to my husband) I know, actually, it’s a little overwhelming isn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m going to break it down for you, and don’t be surprised if one step starts before the other is finished. (I say this speaking from the future, as this has already happened quite a bit!)
Stay tuned for my next post which will cover my process of painting the base kitchen cabinets. And of course, here are some before pictures. (sorry the quality is so poor!)
Often times, when I buy a new piece to makeover, I like to give myself time to daydream about it until “THE idea” comes to me. This is usually about the time I am bundled up in my bed with my blankie wrapped around my head and saying my nightly prayers. I can tell you, when you have a creative bug, there is nothing more distracting then when an idea pops into your head and I often find myself in the midst of talking to God about all the things that matter in my life, when…. “OH MY GOSH, I could totally turn that armoire into a desk!” comes barreling through. And once the idea is implanted in my head, it is hard to remove and I often have to end my prayers with something like, “oh, and I’m sorry I keep thinking about that dresser.” But I have to remind myself that God gave me the creative bug in the first place, so I hope he understands.
So that is how it was with this fairly dated, hotel style, oversized tv cabinet that I had yet to own. It was at an upcoming auction and I already knew it would be mine. Fast forward a week or so, and it was (for a reasonable price I might add), and it was even bigger and more hotel style then I ever imagined. But I knew what was going down with this piece, and I was excited!
So here’s my plan. I was going to cut off the top, I know, some of you are cringing, but this vision came to me, mid-prayer, so it must have been important. So just go with it. Ok, so remove the top entirely, keeping the hardware of course, because it’s fabulous. Paint the dresser using Amy Howard’s High Performance Furniture Lacquer in Belgium Blue. We are talking a high gloss, super strong , durable, gorgeous finish. Then I’m going to add a long metal top, maybe an aged zinc finish, and some cute metal legs from the pile of legs I have in my basement. It is going to be so cool.
So, of course, this was in the middle of winter, and painting with that lacquer was not something I can do indoors without killing my family’s brain cells fume-style, so I held my ideas close to my heart, and waited and waited, as a good Minnesota girl often has to do.
But then there was a break, March 12 was the day, and it was mid 60’s, so I got out my wood filler, and sandpaper and my paint, and I went to work on the first drawer. Here’s what I did.
Fill any major scratches, holes and dents. This is especially important for a high gloss paint because it is way less forgiving.
Once dry, sand the spots you filled using whatever grit you are comfortable with. I used 220 to make it go faster.
Sand the whole piece with 400 grit sandpaper.
Clean thoroughly using a degreaser and a lint free rag.
Remove any trace of the degreaser with a damp lint free rag.
Tape off any areas you don’t want painted.
Spray with Amy Howard Primer using a sweeping motion, just as if you were using a paint brush. (more on this later)
Let primer dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Sand with 400 grit sandpaper and remove dust.
Note: the primer is meant to go with the lacquer, and is especially important for filling wood grain, if your piece has a heavy wood grain texture, you may want to do several coats of the primer to get a smooth, glass like finish.
Now the paint. With my drawer face facing the sky, I first painted all of the vertical edges of the piece, using a fairly quick, clean sweep. Then (and this is the most important part for this paint) I started at the corners closest to myself and started to sweep, back and forth very intentionally and carefully going slightly past the piece on both sides. (the reason you start closest to you is to avoid overspray, which will make your finish blotchy and less glossy in some areas.
11. Once dry, sand lightly with 400 grit sandpaper, and do a second coat using the same method.
12. For extra protection, top painted finish with Amy Howard Bright Idea using the same technique.
So over that next week or two, I finished all of the drawers and the body of the dresser/desk. The main thing you need to think about with this product is to avoid overspray. Always keep that in mind.
Next comes the top. I wanted to do something different then a plain wood top, so I thought it would be neat to try a metal top with an aged zinc finish. Finding the sheet metal was more of an undertaking than I had thought, but thankfully, my husband used his contractor wiles to get me a sheet of 4X10 foot sheet metal, 26 gauge. The goal was to wrap a piece of 3/4 inch thick plywood that I had cut to size with the sheet metal.
Now, I am leaving out the metal bending part for a reason. For those of you who want to duplicate this look, you either need to own a break, (and if you own a break, you already know how to bend metal) or you need to have a metal worker bend it for you. From what I have read, this can cost around $100 or more. Thankfully, my wonderful husband used breaks for many years, and also had access to one. So he bent up the corners for me so I could wrap the plywood.
Now for the top. The metal was very shiny, scratched and etched in areas, but that’s no problem, it just adds to the look I wanted. I used a strong de-greaser, followed by a rinse of tap water and let dry. Then I got out my oxidizing product. I used Amy Howard Zinc Antiquing Solution.
This process was so easy! Wearing gloves, I poured out the zinc solution in a glass bowl and started blotting it on, very liberally at first. You will notice the oxidizing starts immediately. Once it is covered completely, you’ll see that the metal will resist it in some areas. What Amy Howard recommends is rubbing the product in, in a circular motion using mild pressure. Do this for 15 minutes. Then blot again, making sure to make your blots random so you don’t have a detectable pattern. Let dry about 60 minutes or more. Dry time is important.
Once the top had dried for at least an hour, I used my wax brush and brushed on clear wax in a circular pattern, waited 10 minutes, and buffed it. I used Amy Howard’s Clear Wax. Note that most waxes are not food safe, so be smart. Use a plate.
With any waxed surface you will want to periodically re-wax using the same method. And please keep in mind that this metal will scratch. I think this just adds to the look. However, if you get so many scratches and want to re-age the piece. Remove the wax with mineral spirits, and re-apply the Zinc solution as I did above. Then re-wax. No, it will not remove the scratches, but it will blend them into the patina, by making them dark.
Once the top was finished and waxed, we made a skirt for the desk part, to make it look more desky, and also to cover the hardware for the legs. Then we attached our top to our dresser, added the legs, and Voila…. something totally unique and trendy!
I can’t say enough about how much I love this finish. The photos just don’t do it justice. Amy Howard products are available at Ace Hardware, and this lacquer is worth checking out. The end product is so smooth I have a strange desire to lick it. (But don’t worry, I haven’t…. yet.) This awesome desk will be at Eco Chic’s Design Conference on April 23rd at the Scheel’s Arena. (yep, that’s this weekend) There are still tickets available and it is going to be a super fun show. I hope to see you all there!
ps. that extremely cool glo-dial advertising neon clock is available as well, that is, if you can pry it from my husband’s cold dead hands.
When I started this project, I had not meant it to be a tutorial or a review, so I apologize ahead of time for the lack of photos. I just loved how it turned out and I was impressed with the products I used, and I thought I’d share a bit about both.
First, the piece. I bought this cute little cabinet at an auction recently. I knew instantly that I wanted to paint it black. It was originally a record cabinet that had been gutted, there’s even a hole, which I opted not to fill, where the old Victrola handle used to be. (I wish it still was)
So after a very thorough cleaning, very light sanding, and a major fix and filling of the veneer on the top, I painted it using Americana Decor Chalky finish in carbon. I have used this paint many times, and have never been disappointed, and the nice thing, for a small project like this, the little sizes they come in are perfect!
So I got out my black, gave it two coats (lightly sanding in between coats) and a wet sanding. For those of you who don’t know, this paint is great for wet sanding. After it dries to the touch, about 30 minutes or so, take a damp sponge, and a clean bucket of water, and just start rubbing over the parts you’d like to sand. No dust, which means if you are careful, you can easily do this inside. You do have to clean off your sponge often to avoid mess and black fingertips.
The next day after another light sanding, I waxed and buffed my piece.
Now for the fun part! The glass. When I bought this cabinet, the glass was clear, and you could see the contents of the cabinet. However, the shelves are narrow, and I didn’t see it as the best piece to put things on display, so I decided to try doing a mercury glass finish to the glass.
After reading several tutorials on this, all of them different, but similar, I came to the conclusion that you can’t really screw this up. So this is exactly what I did.
Remove the cabinet door and tape off the frame surrounding the glass. I also cleaned the glass. Important: You do this to the back side of your cabinet door, not the front.
You take a spray bottle and spritz the glass (still on the back side) with straight vinegar.
You shake up a can of Krylon Looking Glass spray for at least a minute. Then give the cabinet door a light spray in a sweeping motion over top of your vinegar droplets. I did two light coats, one about 30 seconds after the other.
Then I did another very light spritz of vinegar and another two light coats.
After about 2 minutes I took a paper towel, balled it up and VERY lightly blotted the surface.
I repeated this process until I got the look and opacity that I desired.
Speaking of opacity, this stuff is so cool. When you looked at it from a distance, it looked like an old mirror, but when you looked at it close up, you could see right through it. I LOVED how it turned out, and like I said, I don’t think you can screw this up.
And there you have it, a super simple, SUPER neat finish. Try it on a project of your own and send me a pic, I’d love to see your own creations!
As I was filling out the registration forms for my son and daughter for school this last year, there was a little blurb you were supposed to fill in about special ways your family may be able to contribute “volunteer-wise” to the school. (my words) Now, we LOVE our kids’ school, but I wouldn’t say either my husband or I are terribly good at volunteering, mainly because volunteering often involves being with people, and any time I am with people, I am internally reminded of the fact that I am a strange introvert that doesn’t know or understand how to make small talk. This grosses me out about myself, and you know… Ryan also kinda sucks in this way too. So I tried to think of a way we could be helpful, but, ahem… not on a regular basis. I wrote in something about having a little woodworking skills, and didn’t expect to get called in very often to prove it. But then in September of this year we received… an email.
dum dum dum.
The school was wondering if my husband and I would like to help with a little project. The project being new holiday lights display piece at Lindenwood Park. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a fundraiser for the FM Sertoma club. For a small fee, local businesses get a chance to set up a display. It’s always fun to grab a hot chocolate, and put on some Christmas music, and drive through the park at night and see all the pretty twinkly things. And proceeds go to a great cause.
This email was received about 2-3 weeks before the Junk Market, and for those of you who have the unfortunate “treat” of being around me during that time, you know that I am in no position to take on new projects. But the my creative wheels started speeding away from the logical part of my mind, and I sent a quick email asking if any ideas had been submitted.
Because I had some.
Next thing I know, I am volunteering myself and my husband to do the whole thing ourselves. No, I don’t do this to be gracious. Again.. I do this because I do not work well with other people. Now besides being an awkward introvert, I suffer from a strange and conflicting combination of extreme humility, and extreme arrogance. (I get this from my Dad) In creative projects, my arrogance tells me that my idea is the best of the best, and that I know precisely how I want to go about doing it. My humility tells me that I have no right to impose my idea on others because it is disgustingly terrible, even though it is so great…. it might not be….. but it is….. you get the idea. So if I have a plan that I think will be cool, I just volunteer to do the whole thing, and force Ryan to help.
Here’s my main caveat, this kind of work is not in my area of expertise. Yes, I had an idea I thought would be really neat, but I, in fact, I had very little clue how I was going to execute it.
So here’s the inspiration for my idea. And I think it’s beautiful. For those of you who are not familiar with the verse from the Bible, it is from the book of John, chapter 8 verse 12. The full verse says “When Jesus spoke again to the people he said “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Oh how I love that message. And it’s not too “Christmas cliché” (I hate clichés!) I knew that whatever I came up with would not look exactly like it, but I was confident it would be cool. I knew I wanted to cut out the letters and maybe some of the light “holes” and somehow shine light through.
That is all I knew.
First things first, talking size. Our space is 20 feet, and I wanted a reasonable amount of darkness surrounding both sides of our display, so we bought six 4×8 pieces of plywood,(three for the front, three for the back) making our display 12 feet long, by 8 feet high.
Next was transferring the image onto the plywood. After a little photo editing and scaling, I was able to make the image more visible and compatible with the 8×12 size we were using. I ordered a transparency that works with laser printers off of Amazon. This process required an old timey overhead projector which we were fortunate enough to borrow from our church. The unfortunate part was, due to the size of the plywood, we had to do this outside, and we needed to do it in the dark to get a good clear image, and because we only had a couple nights before the projector needed to be back, we ended up having to do it in the rain. I traced, while Ryan graciously held an umbrella over the projector. But the process was much more rushed and unsteady then I would have liked. But the good news, neither one of us got electrocuted.
Next came cutting out the letters. This was a bit challenging. I brought my kitchen bar stools outside, and laid a 4×8 section flat on top of them. I drilled a couple larger holes into each letter, (large enough to get my jig saw blade into) and then I began cutting. This took me a few days because unfortunately, I lost daylight before I could get too much done, but eventually, I got all of the letters cut out. Then I sanded lightly to get rid of any majorly frayed edges.
Next came the painting. Now, I have very strong opinions about interior paints, but I’m completely clueless when it comes to exterior so after consulting with the good people at Home Depot, I went with Behr Ultra paint and primer in one. Flat black. I painted the front and sides of each panel with two coats of paint, and the back side with one. It took two whole gallons to cover all six. And yes… because of the cooler weather, I did the painting in my kitchen. (if you think too many hutches look dumb in my kitchen, you should see how dumb 6 pieces of 4×8 plywood look)
About this time, I am both giddy, and anxious about how this is going to turn out. Since I have no idea what I am doing, the lighting is key to making this project a win. And, to make matters worse, I found out midway through the project that there is a strict limit on the amount of lighting we can use, so we are going to have to be strategic about it and perhaps let my dream of major dazzle fly away.
We decided it would be best to line the entire inside with some sort of reflective material. We first checked at Menards, in the gardening area, hoping to find some rolls of Mylar, but we were out of luck. Then we thought we could use tinfoil, but we were hoping to find an alternative. Then it occurred to me that we could use those emergency Mylar blankets you keep in your car. So I ordered a pack of 12 on Amazon. Prime Baby!!
Two days later, we were ready to add the Mylar. This is where the biggest expense came into play. The spray adhesive, 4 cans at $12 something a pop. This is also where I accidentally got high (in a completely non-fun way) and had to go lay down for a good 45 minutes. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, we managed to line all the plywood backs with the Mylar.
Next came setting up the structure. Using our backyard patio space, Ryan braced all the pieces that had the word cutouts, to give them a little more strength, then he made some simple braces, attached the back, and for the first time… we got to see what it would look like with some flood lights shining against the back.
And I was really disappointed. Cause it was so… anti-climactic. And boring.
So we started drilling holes. Hundreds of holes. Then we got tired, and went to bed. But the night day… more holes. All sizes. We went through one lithium battery after another. “HOLES!” I said, “We need more holes!” like a crazy tyrant. I’m still not certain we did enough, but we had to stop….
We HAD to stop.
I also noticed that the words and even the big holes, needed a filter. I used a florescent light cover to filter the word “LIGHT” and some white plastic Menards bags that I stapled on to filter the words “I am the” and “of the world”.
This, and the magic little holes of course, made all the difference.
Next we bought more plywood and cut out triangles to completely enclose the sides. These I also painted and added Mylar to the inside, in my kitchen of course.
Arranging set up was tricky, but in good old Schultz fashion, we ended up setting it up the morning of the day it was supposed to debut. In the light, so I had to guess how to situate the lights before we closed it up. And even now, having never seen the complete project at night…
I have to hope that it turned out ok.
Haha… what I wrote was true, 12 days after they opened the display for public viewing, I had not seen it and it was tearing me up inside. But finally, I did see it, and you know, it’s not half bad.
All in all, I like the finished project. No, it is not as flashy as the graphic image, but, with light restriction, and the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, I’m kinda pleased. Actually, I am drawn to all of the things that are terrible about it, but I’m choosing to be proud of it instead. And I promised my husband I would never bring up (aloud) how much I hate the wonky “G”.
Overall the cost was around $300. Approximately $10 for the transparencies, $75 for the plywood, $65 for the paint, $50 for the spray adhesive, $10 for the Mylar, $30 for the 2×4’s, and $60 for the lights.
And you know, a much smaller version of something like this would be fantastic for your own personal outdoor display. You should give it a try and send me your photos!