Kitchen Renovation Regrets

My husband and I bought a delightful piece of property in February of 2016.  You’ll notice this blog post is dated January of 2017.  That’s right, it’s been nearly a year, so to give you some background, let me tell you a bit about our beautiful piece of property and the unfortunate things that rested inside.

Before I get on, though, I feel like I should include some useful advice from what we’ve learned since it’s a rather long post and all useful information will be buried inside.  Mainly, I have two bits of advice since they were things we did that my former contractor father found surprising and helpful.  We were fortunate enough to know someone who is super into recycling metal for his income, so we were able to recycle hundreds of pounds of metal from the old, broken appliances as well as the giant metal sink they had in place as well as nails and other assorted things.  I also used the tresses to make my chicken’s roost in their coop.  Most areas have people who recycle metal near them, so definitely look that up if you’re doing a major remodel.  Second, thanks to craigslist, some strangers picked up all the cabinets and the questionable countertop that went with them, including the ones severely damaged from water, mice teeth, and fire.  They were mainly going to be used in people’s shops, which is a good second use for old cabinets.

I gave them away for free, but in hindsight I likely could have charged something as well.  My dad was just glad we were able to avoid taking them to the landfill, saved hundreds in dump fees not to mention the time we saved, and shocked people would want the old cabinets.  I was grateful that since I wasn’t charging anything that when people flaked out,  I left unclaimed cabinets outside under the porch without guilt and strangers came by and picked them up for me.

Now, back to our main focus!

Our house is on a lot just under 3 acres.  Where we live (the greater Seattle area), this is nearly impossible to find anymore without handing the seller your bank account access information and giving them permission to take whatever they want for the rest of your life.  We were fortunate enough to get it for a fairly reasonable price given it was a bank foreclosure after spending half a year looking for a property, offering on many, and failing to get a reasonable price every single time.  That said, we also live in one of the few remaining rural communities in our area that still has fairly easy freeway access.  While the commute is definitely less than ideal for my poor husband who has since started working in Seattle rather than the Eastside, it’s still not terrible considering we love our home.

When we first purchased it, however, there were many problems with the house.  Namely, the kitchen didn’t have any working appliances, some mice had made a home in the electrical in what was supposed to be an island which lead to a small fire at some point, and there was water damage throughout.  That doesn’t include leaks elsewhere around skylights, the mice living in the insulation in the ceiling and in the basement, the lovely little mouse door leading to said basement, the rolling fields of blackberry bushes gently winding their way up my neighbor’s fences and in what I assume was once a lawn in our own yard, numerous holes from rage punches into walls, leaking plumbing, leaking faucets, a hole where I’m certain a shower was supposed to be, which, by the way, also housed a nice family of mice.  None of these things were terrible, and we were very fortunate to find out our house actually didn’t need a new roof like we had originally anticipated, and it had a barn and a pond to boot!  All my childhood dreams of being surrounded by farm animals could be a reality!

nightmare-shower

This “shower” has been the scene for many of my nightmares involving zombie mice in plumbing.

That said, the kitchen aspect certainly did inhibit the comfortably living in the house thing as someone who cooks a vast majority of our meals and the components that make them (homemade broth is the best!)

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Hello, old kitchen with your illegally wired second stove, floods, and fire!

My father used to be a contractor, but given he wasn’t exactly great at figuring out how much to charge people and had an unfortunate habit of trying to give everyone a great deal that usually ended with him working for less than minimum wage, he had resumed his courier work.  That said, he was very skilled, and kind enough to volunteer to help us.  While my husband is the self-proclaimed “mother of IT” (thank you, Game of Thrones, for making my husband think the greatest title to have was “mother” as in “mother of dragons” instead of “father” or “king”), he and I both hadn’t really had the opportunity to work on our handy skills beyond mounting TVs and assembling shelving units.

Originally, we were planning on staying with my parents while we got the kitchen ready.  This plan changed when we realized how difficult trying to get pregnant (or just enjoying a certain recreational marital activity) is when your sleeping accommodations are 2 feet away from your parents’.  So, we set up a studio apartment in the future office of our house thanks to it having a mini bar.  With a toaster oven, pressure cooker, and an induction cooktop, we had every college student’s dream kitchen and were ready to take on breakfast.

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Hello, College Steph’s dream kitchen and Spoiled Steph’s cramped reality.

Now, let’s talk kitchen progress, shall we?

I’ve had appliances for my new kitchen sitting in what will one day be my living room since February.  I’ve also had my future cabinets sitting in my future great room since April.  I at one point owned granite, but having realized that the kitchen was nowhere near my future decided to get my deposit back rather than hold onto it given it didn’t seem like a finished kitchen was anywhere near my future.

It’s not from a lack of effort that we found ourselves kitchen-free still nearly a year into the project.  We had a good pace of working on it once a weekend, but numerous delays kept coming up.  The electrician we used is a good family friend, but he’s also very busy due to actually being good at his job, so once we got the kitchen ready for him it took him about a month and a half to have the ability to come in.

On top of that, I have an old shoulder injury that makes me fairly useless for most of the heavier lifting aspects of the work, and so anything overhead or too demanding on the upper body leaves just my dad and husband to the tasks.  Given they both have full time+ jobs, that means they mainly only had the opportunity to work on it about once a week, and with my dad’s tendency to offer help to anyone in sight, he got caught up with a few other things during this time period (including 2 months of redoing his brother’s roof, a month of cleaning up my grandma’s old rental so she could sell it, and a back injury that took about a month and a half to get in good shape again).  Consequently, there was a lot of down time where we weren’t really doing much of anything since my dear husband and I, as well intentioned as we are, are fairly helpless without his guidance on something as big as redoing our entire kitchen.  We did spend a good portion of that time doing other exciting things like eradicating all the texture on our walls, fixing plumbing on the pump, dealing with blackberries, building a chicken coop (or should I say chicken suite?!), prepping a garden bed, digging bastard trenches, and other fun projects, but still no kitchen.

So, after another fine evening of cooking on my little induction cooktop, I decided to review the progress that has been made.  Our kitchen started out with a strange sunken ceiling that inhibited the light from the skylight to fill the room and made the room feel crowded.  We removed a door to grant more cabinet space, and took out a wall blocking the great room from its greatness.  We redid some plumbing, had an electrician make it so our lights worked as intended and our double oven and island would be good to go as well, wired for a chandelier, and then redid the insulation throughout to remove the glory of mouse feces.

There are a few things I regret design-wise.  I forgot that part way through our ceiling on the left we have a drop, which will be addressed through magic.  Also, where we took out the door there is now complete and utter darkness.  This will maybe be fixed with cabinets, but right now I want it to have a window so I can see into my pretty blackberry forest and admire my barn.  I also think we likely should have stopped the kitchen before the pantry entryway rather than extending it past it, though I’m not sure how clear that is in photos.  I’m not sure which makes more sense.  I prefer the pantry being officially part of the kitchen, but that little indent towards the lower ceiling area is a bit strange.  Also when I measured the ceiling heights I failed to realize at the time that part of the ceiling had dropped in the area I measured due to previous homeowners cutting out a beam that supported the upstairs so they could run some cables through.  We fixed that by jacking up the beam and wedging another one to support it after sticking wood through the hole, but still may have some fun consequences for our backsplash.  I originally wanted backsplash going up to the cabinets, but now I may have something shorter in hopes that the differences in ceiling heights are less noticeable.

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One day, my kitchen will look like this.  Sort of.

Well, that’s our progress so far!  I’m hoping to check in with some good news in the future where my spoiled butt gets to use a real oven again, and I can go back to making (and eating all of) my fattening homemade pizza.  I know; I know.  First world problems.