Tuesday, February 9, 2016

One Step at a Time: The Kitchen Renovation Edition, Taking It From The Top

It's been about a week since I posted about starting our kitchen redecoration/remodel. This week was a slow start, but still some progress has been made! I think I will try to post weekly update s on Tuesday covering progress from Saturday to Saturday. If no progress, no post; if I am too busy or not in the mood, no post.

I'm challenged to include the relevant details, explanations, etc. in my usual sort of rambling style. So, I think I want to try a slightly more outline-esque or bullet-pointy style for talking about our kitchen project. Here goes!

This week we made progress on a couple of aspects of the redecoration/remodel of the kitchen.

1. Removing the corner cabinet from behind the stove.

BEFORE: Corner shelf and upper cabinet

The corner cabinet sagged towards the back corner, because it was only attached to anything at the end. At some point someone had thrown a pre-made furniture leg under that corner, but it was not the right height to keep the shelves level. It turns out that the leg was probably doing a lot to hold up the whole section, because of the total of twelve screws attaching the shelves to the upper cabinets, only 3 were long enough to adequately anchor it to them. Yup.

The cabinet was also just a good place for cooking oils to land and not a good place to store anything for convenience's sake.

The cord for the non-hardwired track lighting ran thru holes drilled thru the shelves, holes too small to get the plug through. So this meant the lighting had to be taken down first, because the other end of the cord would need to be disconnected to feed through the holes. See number 2, below.

One of the upper cabinets on the end of the shelves would have to come down to get it out of there.

Looks like they had to try a few times to find the stud... with their too-short screw.

This house is no stranger to stripped out screw heads and those holding up the smaller of the two cabinets is now exception. I received advice from some knowledgeable friends, bought a screw extractor set and was unable to get it to work. It was time to call in Renaissance Handyman, Nick. He got it taken down in short order and found... guess what... that those stripped screws were also barely holding that cabinet to the wall! Maybe that little furniture leg was holding up that, too! [giant sigh] Renaissance Handyman Nick also listened to some ideas I have for modifying the cabinets in a few places and thought that these ideas were sound and that he can lend a professional and skilled hand where needed.

While that cabinet is down and it's easier to get into the corner behind the stove, I decided to get the 2-layers of wallpaper down, do drywall repairs, and prime the walls. So far I have just picked the top layer off - it turns out it's not even vinyl (i.e. water-resistant, easy to wipe). Still left on the wall is that layer's backing paper and what I hope is the original wallpaper. I also hope that it is not attached directly to the drywall paper like the original wallpaper the downstairs bathroom.

The coffee mugs, travel mugs, and associated accessories are sitting on the other end of the counter, the outlet and switch plates are removed and the walls in that corner have an in-progress/dodgy rental look. Oh, and the upper cabinet is sitting on the floor waiting to be cleaned up a bit and reinstalled.

2. Using flex-track light fixtures to replace the non-hardwired track lights, and the two hardwired fixtures, using just the two, existing electrical boxes in the ceiling. One is over the sink and one is allllllllmost centered in the room.

The fixtures seemed permanently dirty and difficult to clean off what wasn't permanently attached. One was broken at the base and no longer adjustable and another was missing the black ring around the opening. The wheel switches for turning them on and off were also really hard to get and keep clean and were inconvenient to use, especially with full or wet hands.

BEFORE: light fixtures

The center ceiling fixture provides inadequate light, is splashed with paint, and a very basic utility fixture. Maybe it'll find a home in the shop later.

The fixture over the sink had it's charms as a hand punched metal drum shade, but wasn't at all functional for providing task lighting and we almost never turned it on.

The old track lighting did a pretty good job of lighting the counter tops and we definitely wanted/needed to keep that functionality, but we really didn't want to add complexity and expense to the project by having to hire an electrician to run wires, etc. In addition, the "center" fixture is not even over the island a little bit, it just missed it on the refrigerator end.

Like all the holes cut in the drywall for electrical boxes in the house, the ceiling holes are too big. That didn't matter with the previous fixtures, but it matters with these. The canopies on these fixtures won't set flat against the ceiling*, not even close. We'll do what we did for the chandelier over the dining table: paint small, simple medallions to match the fixtures and install them under the canopies.

Removing the track lights exposed unpainted areas, 4 large toggle anchor holes, and at least a dozen plastic anchors.

I guess we waited too long to get "silver"/nickel/steel finished fixtures for our chosen (inexpensive) fixtures. While oil-rubbed bronze would suit our style, the house, and the setting, we're not huge fans of the look of flex track lights. They're just the lights that will give us light where we need it using only our existing electrical boxes. Since we don't plan to paint the ceiling a dark color and the cabinets are going to be painted a lighter color, oil-rubbed bronze lights would just draw the eye to what is not an aesthetic design feature for us. But they are better looking than was there!

One kit is up and in use! The stove, sink and most of the counter tops are well lit! And we like how these four, LED, 60-watt-equivalent bulbs light the task area without making the whole room bright. I know that "light and bright" is very popular, but we both lean towards darker interiors. Also, nice is that those bulbs should last years and are each pulling less than seven watts while not flickering or causing headaches like florescent bulbs can.

We're having trouble finding a couple of pendants for over the island which had stalled installing the other set until we decided to move forward using more spot lights until we can find something that looks a little nicer... the choice to use pendants was mostly aesthetic, anyway.

The original list, of the order I think the projects will happen. Line through for complete items, italics for additions.

1. Light fixtures
2. Remove corner shelf in order to...
3. Remove wallpaper and repair walls (& ceiling) as necessary, get temp solution for backsplash
4. Paint walls above cabinets, around wood stove
5. Cabinet repair, move, modify
6. Refinish cabinets
7. Maybe try to do something with that terrible brick veneer wood stove surround?
8. Refinish counter tops
9. Install backsplash, probably tile
10. Replace outlets, switches, plates.

*I painted the ceiling within a few months of us moving in. It and all the downstairs walls in the living room, dining room, and kitchen were pink which is not to our tastes. We both kind of hate the ceiling texture, but just the thought of skimming it all out exhausts me... that's a lot of overhead square footage and some thick and inconsistent texture to cover.


  1. Wooo! I love your kitchen remodeling posts. I'm learning so much and it's very inspiring to see all that you're accomplishing. I seriously need to get back to updating my house and working on the home improvements lists.

    1. Thank you, Tiffany! I hope that Week 4 (already?) is going to have yield some more impressive progress!


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