Just Say No

…to remodeling your kitchen.

Hate the layout? Need an island? Ugly cabinets got you down? You have three options:

  1. Learn to love it the way it is.
  2. Move.
  3. Burn the house down.

That’s it. Those are the only options.

Not convinced?

You’re not as smart as you look.

Or perhaps you have the same problem Brian and I had back in the early days of our marriage: hubris so big, it’s amazing we could get our stupid giant heads through doors. I mean really, how did we not understand how disruptive it would be to gut the cooking room in the middle of our house?

First thing we did was pack up most of the kitchen. I’m all about using almost nothing disposable, but for the kitchen remodel we went over to Costco and bought paper plates, paper towels, plastic forks, and all the rest of it. My thinking was that, if I didn’t have to wash dishes in the bathtub, the whole remodeling thing wouldn’t be so bad. It makes me snort and chortle to remember that part. There is no not so bad in kitchen remodeling.

We had this weird vanity in the hall bathroom in our old house. It was a great diaper-changing area when we had babies, but since we had no babies at that time, I set it up like a kitchenette – microwave on the counter, utensils and all that paper crap underneath. Then we got busy tearing our kitchen apart.

There’s a corollary here: just as you should never remodel a kitchen, you should also never buy a house from people whose idea of a fun Saturday is to drink a whole lot of beer and do household projects. True story: the first time I climbed into the crawl space above our house, I found hundreds of beer cans all around the new ductwork that had been, ahem, interestingly installed. Hey, we’re all about DIY around here, but I’d like to think we know when we’ve come to the limits of our abilities.

Anyway, all of that explains this next bit: the kitchen cabinets were nailed to the walls. Just dozens and dozens of giant nails through the backs of those cabinets into the drywall behind them. We took turns, one of us holding up the cabinets while the other pulled nail after nail after nail

after nail

after nail.

It went on forever.

There was abundant cussing.

When we finally got the cabinet into the yard, we broke it into as many pieces as we could manage while cussing our home’s former owners.

At which time we realized we really should save our energy because that bit of cabinetry that was nailed to the wall was maybe 20% of the total.

By the time we got all the counters and cabinets out of the house, all those nails didn’t seem so bad. When we pulled out the base cabinet and the stove, we discovered that the former owners had moved the 220 outlet into which the stove was plugged by splicing some wires and dragging the whole thing over by about 9 inches, then duct taping the damn electrical-fire-in-waiting to the back of the bathtub that was on the other side of the wall.

Safety was, apparently, not even on their list of priorities.

The mess of stove outlet told us we needed an electrician. Said electrician discovered we needed a new breaker box and the whole kitchen had to be re-wired.

After he was done with all that, we had to hire a guy to come fix the drywall.

After we had the new (gorgeous!) cabinets put in, Oops! We hadn’t measured right. We had to have someone come in and move the window.

By then, we were maybe 7 years into not having a kitchen (Or maybe it was more like 2 months; who can remember?) and one evening, as I was squatting in front of the refrigerator making a sandwich (Our refrigerator didn’t fit through the doors, so it stayed right in the kitchen the whole time, along with our kitchen table because I couldn’t find anywhere else to put it.), I had a bit of a breakdown. By “bit of a breakdown,” I mean I picked a huge fight with Brian during which I threw the kitchen table and took a chunk out of the side. I’m so proud.

When I was finished screaming at him, Brian took me to the Chinese restaurant down the street for dinner. It was my favorite restaurant for years, and it is again, but for the two years following the kitchen remodel? I wouldn’t go near the place.

By the end, all my good intentions were completely scrapped. I gave up on preparing┬áhealthy burritos in the microwave or omelets on the hot plate. Nope. It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever purchased Lunchables. We were subsisting on Pop Tarts and every manner of crap you can buy in the grocery store that is meant to be cooked in the microwave. It’s amazing none of the children turned into a pizza. We made a pathetic nod to healthful eating by keeping fresh fruit and carrots in the house.

By the way, did I ever tell you about the time I came into the kitchen and found Jacob and Spencer eating carrots for breakfast? No? My kids are weird.

When we were finally exhausted from the whole project and weak from consuming mostly crap, it was time to take out the old floor. Hellooooo, asbestos!

We were so sick of the whole damn thing, we sent the kids to their grandma’s house and tore that floor out, precautions be damned. If Brian and I come down with mesothelioma in a dozen years, we’ll all know why.

Finally, when all was said and done, the only things left of the old kitchen were the faucet, the refrigerator, and the table and chairs. It was beautiful and functional and totally suited me.

I don’t like the kitchen in our new house.

I’m learning to live with it.

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30 thoughts on “Just Say No”

  1. Oh dear…

    At the trip to Ikea this weekend where I got to partake in the donk…MEATballs, I left with a handy dandy brochure on new kitchens.

    Quite the sirens’ song, new kitchens.

    Fortunately, the wallet is weak where the flesh is willing. (At least, willing NOW when we’ve not lived on microwave mac-and-cheese for two months.)

  2. One of Craig’s most admirable traits is that he doesn’t fool himself into thinking that household repairs are in his skill set. A full kitchen remodel horrifies me.

    I am so with you on the three viable options, preferably option #2.

    1. Good. You two have your heads screwed on straight. Unlike us.

      I’m actually very handy around the house, and Brian is a pretty good sidekick if he decides to listen (we’re all about bending the gender roles over here), but there are limits. Turns out, tearing apart the most important room in the house is on the other side of those limits.

  3. LOL After that, I think I would learn to live with the kitchen too. Oh, we are finishing our basement right now. DIY style. It’s AWESOME. *snort*

    1. You are so wise! Also? We’ve done TONS of remodeling in almost every part of our old house and this one. It can all be a major headache, but nothing compares to the nightmare of tearing apart the kitchen. Nothing.

  4. We JUST finished our master bath remodel (hardest part was wallpaper scraping, UGH!)I HATE our kitchen but i only want to rip out the island and change the cabinet doors, not too bad right? I would have moved in the middle of your remodel (or hunted down the former owners with a sawed off, just sayin..)

    1. Ugh. Yes, wallpaper scraping is a miserable job. Two years ago, as we were preparing our new house, I had to take down lots of wallpaper. I ended up having to rent a steamer. I have never been so hot and sweaty in my life!

      Also? There is no “not too bad” in kitchen remodel. It doesn’t exist. Mark my words.

  5. We sort of did it halfway. We replaced the vinyl flooring (well, hired someone to do it), had someone put drywall mud over our ugly wallpaper and I painted over that, bought all new appliances and new countertops, and I also primed and painted the wood cabinets and put on new hardware. The layout stayed the same and we didn’t move anything major. I’m still not crazy about the layout, but the countertops/floor/paint brightened the place up and it was only a little slice of Hell instead of the whole pie.

    1. Wise, wise woman. Imperfect forever is always better than a 2-3 month nightmare.

      To be fair, our old kitchen in that house was really, really bad, but we should have just moved!

  6. lmao! the original kitchen work sounds like somethin you’d find up here in conerland! been there, done that – twice! both times with the same husband and we’re surprisingly still married!

  7. Now see, I’m married to the contractor, and the contractor lives here, so our remodels go a tad more smoothly than average, but on the whole, I’d say hire a REALLY trustworthy contractor (if you’re in central MA, my man’s your man–or something), or move.

    Or go to Fiji instead.

    I hear Fiji’s nice.

    1. I would love to go to Fiji.

      Here’s an idea: you and I go to Fiji while your husband remodels BOTH our kitchens and my husband watches all the kids.

      That’ll work, right?

  8. Everytime I think of a remodel I remember that there will be chaos. Disorder. MESS. And the part of me with all those issues twitches and itches and calls out to me until I *finally* give up and say NO. I will live with the ugly countertops and the outdated cabinetry. Because there in lies my order.

    Until I think of remodeling again and start the cycle all over again.

    I may be a “certified” Bad Ass, but I have a shit ton of issues.

  9. When we were in the market for a house I knew that if I didn’t like the kitchen in a house it was NOT the house for us. Our house search got so frustrating that we just gave up and built a house instead. Now my kitchen is perfect. Well….. mostly perfect.

    1. Smart! See, when we bought that house, I was lured in by a beautiful back patio. HUGE, covered patio that we loved like crazy. Now I know: better to build your own damn patio and start with a good kitchen!

  10. Speaking as a victim of a kitchen-in-progress pursuit (which is going on a year now), I understand everything completely. Neither my husband or I are particularly handy beyond the painting realm (though He likes to try to do everything anyway), and yet everything beyond the new sink plumbing and the new electrical outlets, we seem to have done/need to do/need to fix/etc.

    I’m deathly afraid that this kitchen will be our downfall when we try to sell it.

    And IKEA kitchens aren’t worth the hassle. I speak from $5k worth of cabinetry experience. If you lack talent, hire the talent. Amen. May I rest in peace tonight.

    1. Ack! Valerie! Hello, gorgeous one!

      Us ordinary folks who just USE kitchens? I don’t think we properly appreciate how complicated those rooms are. We hired someone to put in the cabinets and counter tops (we did demolition and paint but hired people to do most of the rest), and still it was a huge and terrible thing.

      But a YEAR? Oye.

  11. Maybe you’ve heard me mention my on-going slab leak issue? Well, I’ve been there. I vote for just moving. A two year old doing an amortization schedule would be easier than a kitchen remodel. I’ll have to tell that one some day.

    At least you had something from which to learn. I learned my lesson that’s for sure. I don’t care if I have trolls living in any future kitchens, they can just stay there because I won’t be doing anything about it, promise.

    1. Oh, yeah, I remember that story. Really, I think in-slab leaks are about the worst thing that can happen to a house, short of burning down or being swept away in a storm. Our old house was on a slab and I was always worried about that. Kinda stupid not to put the plumbing in the walls where it’s easier to get to!

  12. I only did it once. Once. I hired it down because you can’t DIY in an 80 year old house, with 12″ thick concrete walls. I lived out of my dining room, my daughter was eating baby food so no cooking was involved. And me? I don’t remember what I ate…I lost a lot of weight in that 6 months. No beer cans found, but a Kansas City newspaper from 1936, the day they stayed the execution of the man that kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. I moved out of that house, but the newspaper is framed and hanging in my new home.

  13. uhhh…let’s generalize this post to include any home remodeling project. i tell my couple friends when they are thinking of buying a fixer-upper to run like hell.

  14. We remodeled the kitchen when we moved into this house. We had planned on doing a hybrid of do-it-yourself, and pay someone to do it. Now, some other time I can tell you my favorite story about Jay trying to install the mailbox with a brick, but for brevity’s sake, lets just say I’m the handy one in the family. We hired someone to put the cabinets in, but we decided that we would install the floor – it was a floating floor, and the glossy instruction manuals showed how easy it was to slide each piece in and click it into place. About four hours after we started, we didn’t have a single piece installed, it became evident that Jay is incapable of using a tape measure, and those fucking pieces of floor DID NOT CLICK TOGETHER. When we realized we were accomplishing nothing besides making each other insanely angry, we gave up and called our contractor the next day. Who came in and used rubber mallets to bang the floor boards into place. Which we could have done if we were smarter and understood the first thing about home repair.

    1. See? Home repair is BAD for marriages! Very bad!

      We didn’t exactly learn our lesson; we bought a fixer-upper 2 1/2 years ago. NEVER again. Never never never. I’d sooner live in an apartment.

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