Hawaiian House Projects | December 2019 – June 2020 | Written by Curtis
In light of the fact that we were likely leaving Hawai’i this Summer, we decided that with the reduced work load over Christmas we would tackle a couple home projects to spruce up the house in preparation of selling.
Specifically, we were interested in updating our kitchen. We initially only intended to do the floors and countertops, and maybe freshen up the cabinets, but the project soon expanded to include replacing the cabinets and countertops completely and ended with putting in a new backsplash right before we placed the home on the market.
Kitchen – Before (This picture does well at hiding the holes in the linoleum floor and particle board cabinets that were falling apart)
We decided to start with the floor which was in really bad shape, and work our way up from there. We went to the Flooring Super Store near Pearl Harbor on Black Friday. They had plenty of in stock selections and it didn’t take too long for us to find something that matched the style and color scheme of our house. I wasn’t sure that I could adequately lay tile, so we went with 12″ x 24″ vinyl panels. Overall, the cost for flooring ran about $580.
Once at home, and I knew I would have a run of time not at work (I was standing duty every 3 days, but didn’t have to be in otherwise). I began the process of putting down the floor. I had pulled up the trim a couple days before and so all that was left was pulling up the old floor. On top was a plastic laminate sheet that came up easily with an exacto knife, but under that was old linoleum ‘glued’ to the underlying base floor with what looked and smelled like a pitch/tar. That took about 2 hours to pry up using a wonder bar and hammer. Since the old floor went under the old cabinets, I also had to remove those. I did my best to preserve the old cabinets but…MDF isn’t a very strong material, especially after it’s been sitting around absorbing moisture for years. More work for me I guess.
After I had torn out the sink, I realized that the drain was still the old galvanized steel piping that we had replaced about a year ago. It had a nice nickel sized hole on the underside. We had been dealing with bugs since the start of ‘rainy season,’ and suspected this to be the cause of our problems. Fortunately, past Curtis was smart and knew that this section of piping had to be replaced eventually by someone and had left a critical joint unglued. 3 runs to the hardware store (because I can’t measure worth a darn) and I had a new leg of drain installed. Since then, we haven’t seen any bugs in the kitchen, so this extra effort proved to be a success!
With all the old floor removed, I wondered how much it would cost to clean and preserve the wood floors underneath, an obvious continuation of the hardwood in the rest of the house. Probably more than $580.
Laying down the vinyl was easy enough once I got the first line down. Each panel interlocks with those adjacent and if you are careful, you can get a near seamless finish. By 7 that evening I had layed out all of the vinyl covering the entire kitchen with 1 and 2 half panels left over.
Charlotte models the new floor
I jerry-rigged some of the old cabinets together and put back the sink so we could have one. And then I was done…for now. I had obviously done some irreparable damage to the cabinets when I was removing them, and the MDF was coming apart in multiple locations.
Mid-Project Chaos that we lived in over Christmas break
We weighed our options: use the good parts of the cabinets and fill in the rest with purchased, buy a complete new set, hire a professional, or make a new set ourselves. For whatever reason (the challenge, the ability to customize?), we decided to make our own and purchased eight sheets of birch plywood.
This in itself was an adventure considering that we only have a four door not capable of carrying such a load. A U-Haul rental, and some borrowed tools later and we were in business.
My primary goal in designing these cabinets was to increase the counterspace (albeit marginally), and increase the usable cabinet space by decreasing the size of the under-sink space. Making the cabinet boxes themselves was relatively easy. The primary challenge was getting the cabinets to fit around the sink drain and water lines, but by the end of the second or third day, I had two nice looking boxes.
The next challenge was building and installing cabinet doors. This process proved to be my downfall. The only supplies I had were the plywood and a circular saw, so the doors were never going to be beautiful, but a non-square cut that I missed soon made a challenging problem that much more difficult. But I managed to make a presentable product, if you don’t look hard enough. And more importantly, I learned several lessons in cabinet making.
With holiday standdown over, we left the old countertop just sitting on top and began the process of looking for a solution. We considered briefly getting a professional to install a solid surface countertop, or making a laminate countertop, but both proved prohibitive in either cost or skill level. The cost for installing even a simple butchblock countertop was close to $2500 (over the budget for the entire project). We did our research and found that we could buy a butcher block for 10% of the cost to install.
I had previously used butcher blocks in building our farmhouse table and have always enjoyed the aesthetic. With the exception of cutting out a hole for the sink (which left a nice sized bit of wood for a future cutting board), the butcher block was relatively easy to install.
As we got our things packed away, we knew that we had to do something about the backsplash. We had previously ordered some ‘peel and stick’ fake tiles from Amazon, but when they arrived, we were less than impressed. Running the clock for when the house was going on the market, I made a Lowe’s run, only to find that they too were completely our of peel and stick backsplashes (COVID really brings out the DIY-ers I think). So we jumped in feet first into the realm of tiling. And for a first go, it wasn’t half bad, improvable, but good enough to sell.
Kitchen – After (professional pictures from the house listing)
Overall, I think the kitchen renovation cost about $2500, $500 over budget due to the switch to tile. But we learned some things that we hopefully can apply to a future home.