First person DIY: Our 2-year kitchen remodel for $27,000

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First person DIY: Our 2-year kitchen remodel for $27,000

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Kitchen, Before. John cracking eggs beside the sink. It took no less than five steps to walk from the …

When my husband and I paid off the mortgage in 2010, we decided our aging house needed some attention -- especially the kitchen. While the oak cabinets were beautiful, the floor plan was awful. Foot traffic went straight through between the oven and dishwasher. Pedestrians had to navigate open appliance and cabinet doors, getting in the way of those cooking and cleaning. The sink was five steps away and around the corner from the dishwasher, making loading dishes a twice-long or two-person chore. The linoleum had dirt-encrusted gouges. The dining area was too small, and the laundry area also had no work space whatsoever. It was time to knock out some walls.


John downloaded a free computer-assisted drafting program. He could make 3-D drawings that rendered a realistic diagram of what our dream remodel might look like. Then we hired our son-in-law, a professional framer, to advise us. The addition was going to require extensive changes to the roof line, including moving and re-installing a sky light. Like all projects, this one kept growing and growing. Our framer suggested we have a cathedral ceiling with soffits and crown moulding. My husband wanted to use a dome-shaped window over the slider that he had bought on sale at the hardware store. I wanted a walk-in pantry and larger laundry room. The entire roof really needed new shingles and gutters, and of course the exterior siding would need a new coat of paint all around to make it uniform. By the time we settled on a plan, we were adding 520 square feet, bringing our home to 2,500 square feet, a 26-percent increase.


We looked for ways to cut costs. We re-used everything we possibly could. We kept all of the newer appliances we had purchased previously. My handy husband did the cabinetry himself, moving and reusing the old oak, ordering matching doors, refinishing, and building more cabinets around them, at a savings of $4,000.

Savvy shopping

I chose a color scheme of sunny yellow and white with touches of navy blue. My priorities while choosing floor and counter materials were durability and price. I wanted this remodel to outlast my own lifetime if possible, at as low a price as possible. The best product, I concluded, was ceramic tile. It would never wear out, and was the lowest price of all. I went to the local flooring guys and asked them what they had in stock that they could offer me at a discount. Usually suppliers will have leftover odd lots from big jobs that they are anxious to move out of their warehouse and will sell for a song. It so happened I found a supplier with just enough tile on hand for both my counters and floors, in the color and style I wanted, for $2 a square foot. No shipping needed. I bought every last tile he had. It also allowed me to spend a little extra on decorative tile for the backsplash and behind the stove. The tiles were 13-inch and 18-inch squares, so most of the 18-inchers were used on the floor and the 13-inchers went on the counters. (I also chose minimal spacing between the tiles; this saved money and maintenance on grout and sealer and has made daily cleaning much easier.)


We also recycled the old kitchen sink and breakfast bar by moving them into the new laundry room. The former homeowner had left behind some 4-inch blue tiles from the old kitchen counters, which my husband dug out of the garage and used around the laundry room sink at no cost. He also painted the rooms in faux-finish style. Everything else -- from framing and roofing to drywall, plumbing, and electric -- was hired out to professionals.


Since we had just paid off the house, we didn't want to go back into debt, so we had the work done in three phases over two years' time, using credit cards and paying off each phase within four months. At a total cost of $27,000, our average cost per square foot was $51.92. The nation's average cost to remodel a kitchen in 2010 and 2011 was over $30,000, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. I'd say we did quite well.


The dining area is now large enough for two tables seating 18 people comfortably. The kitchen, pantry, and laundry room are roomy and pleasant. The dishwasher is right beside the sink. There's no more tripping over each other in the traffic area.

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