renovations: the kitchen

When I moved into my new place last fall, my plan was to get new floors, paint, renovate the bathroom and create an office space. The kitchen would follow in the summer. My sense was I would have months in between the bathroom and the kitchen to relax in my new space. But, no.

The floors and painting were largely done before I moved in, so that went to plan. The problem was the bathroom – it took forever to finish that job. There were perfectly valid reasons for the delay: the bathroom walls were all made of different materials and dealing with them took a while, there was a steel girder in what was to be the shower, the contractor only worked on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm, and there were supply and other logistical issues along the way. By the time the bathroom was completed, it was almost time to renovate the kitchen. I could have pushed the kitchen reno back but, as anyone who lives with a person who has dementia will tell you, disruption and change only gets harder for them to process. My mother is having a harder time coping, so working on the kitchen sooner rather than later was the better long-term option.

It all started in April, when I went to pick out appliances and kitchen cabinets. Since it takes a while for delivery in these COVID days, I started shopping even though the work wouldn’t start until summer. I found the perfect little refrigerator – my kitchen is ridiculously small and actually was made smaller by the creation of my office space (which I’ll talk about in a later post). I ordered it. It came. It fit perfectly and I love it. Then I moved on to the stove and dishwasher.

I shopped in part based on availability – anyone who has tried to buy an appliance in the past year or so will understand this. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because renovations in the time of COVID are really expensive and have eaten up more of the budget than I intended. So, my goal was to go for decent but not fancy. I ordered and waited the two months for shipping. First, they had to cancel the first two delivery times – stove and dishwasher were not available. The third weekend, the stove came (but no dishwasher – the store sent it back to the manufacturer because it was dented) but the stove also was dented, so back it went. Then the next week, the dishwasher came (but not the stove). Then after a couple more weeks, the stove finally arrived. The installers tried to remove the old stove, but it was stuck – turns out there had been a leak sometime in the past and the particle board separating the old stove from the old dishwasher had gotten wet and expanded. The only way to get my stove out was to rip out the lower kitchen cabinets and dishwasher. Since we were not ready to do that, I had two stoves in my very small kitchen for a few weeks until the contractors could start on kitchen demolition.

Demolition day arrived in August. It’s not at all like on HGTV. There were no sledge hammers, no wanton destruction. The guys used screwdrivers and carried the cabinets out largely intact. The sink cabinet and dishwasher were tricky to remove because they were so tightly in place (because of the expanded particle board) but eventually they gave way. Turns out I was right not to put too many heavy items in the old upper cabinets – they were only attached to the wall by a few fairly short screws and came down a little too easily. The new lower cabinets and the small dishwasher went in and the new stove replaced the old. It took another week to get everything firmly in place, but it looked great.

There was only one problem, we were missing an upper cabinet. When the cabinets were delivered, the delivery guys put them into the storage cabinet for me. This was great – some people’s orders are left either outdoors or in the lobby of the building. The problem was that they were so fast in putting them in the closet, I didn’t really have a chance to check the boxes – I did a quick count but didn’t realize that one box I thought was a cabinet was actually the uninstalled dishwasher. When the contractors went to put in the cabinets, we had a problem. The big upper cabinet with the glass doors was nowhere to be found … sort of. The doors were back at the store and hadn’t been delivered, so just the cabinet that was missing. Fast-forward a month and the cabinet arrived at the store. The cabinet and the doors were set to be delivered. I was holding my breath, crossing my fingers and sending positive vibes out to the universe. The morning of the delivery, I got a call that the cabinet and one door were set to be delivered but they couldn’t find the other door! I told them both doors had been in the store – I had seen them – but to send whatever they could find.

Meanwhile, my lower cabinets remain uncovered. The countertop I had initially selected was not going to work in the space. I had intended to paint the walls a light grey (with white trim). But the space is so small that I decided to go with white walls. That meant the countertop (light grey and cream quartz) would always look a little dirty. So, I picked out a new countertop. The installers came to measure – everything was fine. Then the store told me they switched vendors and I would have to pay another $700 because my order was very small – below the new vendor’s minimum. I cancelled the order and went to another store. I now have a lovely granite on order and it should be installed next week. Hopefully then the contractor can install the faucet and turn on the water so we can stop eating off paper plates! To be continued ….

Lessons learned:

  1. Always look at the boxes to make sure you have the cabinets you ordered!
  2. Countertops are tricky for small spaces – you may want to look at smaller, local stores for options, including remnants.
  3. Check out the small, local stores earlier in the process – the store I used for the countertop also sold cabinets, which would have worked just fine.
  4. Don’t be afraid to cancel, especially if there is no fee involved – my countertop order was fully refunded.
  5. Don’t be frightened by the chaos created on HGTV demolition days – I’ve never understood why they destroy kitchen cabinets when they only really need to be unscrewed from the wall.
  6. Hang in there – it will all work out!

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