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Our Kitchen Remodel

This post: It’s been a LONG time coming… We moved into our house right after we married (in 1996), and I have wanted to update the kitchen since before we bought the place! And then what was supposed to be a four or five week job beginning back in October ended up dragging on for nearly eight months, all because there was a problem with the paint that was used on the cabinetry.

It was supposed to be a fairly simple job—no major structural work, just a facelift of replacing cabinets, flooring, and countertops. New sink and new appliances (except the stove), too. We used the cabinet guy we’d used several years prior when we added a new den on behind the garage. He was great back then—we had no reason to think things would be any different this time. Luckily though we hired an actual contractor to oversee the rest of the job—our contractor was phenomenal!

We chose this very unusual paint color for the cabinets. We showed the cabinet maker photos I’d cut from magazines, and I tried to explain in words what color we wanted (“not exactly green, but definitely not brown, kind of pewter but not in that silvery way…”), he finally said, “You realize I’m a guy, right?” I laughed, and Emily pointed to a picture frame (framing one of my Grandpa’s drawings) on the wall behind me—it was PERFECT! It was exactly what I had in mind. And so he took the frame to his painters, and brought back a gorgeous sample door of the exact color we wanted. We were deciding between that and the safer cherry color like we have in the den, but we loved that color and suddenly “safer” just seemed boring.


Here’s what we were deciding between (my amazing sister was a huge help in the process, and once we picked the cabinet color, everything else just fell perfectly and beautifully into place!):


I think Emily’s favorite part of the whole job might be that we let her (and our friends) color on the old fridge with dry-erase markers. Her handiwork is all on the front panel; I love seeing all the thoughts that run through her head displayed on the fridge—it’s become a memory that I hate to have to get rid of! And for now, it’s nice having the extra fridge in the garage, so hopefully we can keep it for a while yet…


So, beginning in mid-October, our makeshift kitchen—kind of a pain, but also kind of fun, because I’d been wanting to remodel for so long that (this first time) even the inconvenience felt more like an adventure!


And so it began… Ripping everything out:


Getting the cabinets installed (and so relieved to be madly in love with the color!):


And then the tile:


Getting to make template for how the granite would be cut to make the most of the veins, etc., that we liked best:


And getting the granite installed (which was fascinating—our kitchen isn’t huge, but still it took five guys to guide it in—I can’t imagine how difficult this would be with a huge piece!):


And it’s nearing completion!


But right at this point, we began to see something odd happening with the paint. It looked almost like someone “greased and floured” it. Or like chocolate when it begins to bloom. It felt perfectly smooth, but looked powdery and even crackley in some places. And we could see the “blooming” increasing every day. (All the blue tape is the weird spots. It was less apparent on the top cabinets, though we discovered later that you could see it there too if you looked at it from above, like from a ladder.)


So the whole project was halted, and the cabinet guys came in and sanded down the conversion varnish and reapplied it. Without, it turns out, actually checking to see if that was the cause of the problem.


So then the final touches are done, and I move back in. We only lost two weeks to the paint issue, and though that was significant since the whole job was supposed to only take up to five, I expected there to be at least one problem because remodels never run perfectly, right? So yay! (Sorry, kinda crappy iPhone pic—it’s all I managed before my bubble burst…)


Within a week of moving back in, THIS started to happen, and it continued to grow and grow while our cabinet maker and painter chose to ignore our calls:


It finally took threatening to file a complaint with the state against the cabinet guy’s license before anyone got serious about fixing the problem. No one felt it was their responsibility—the cabinet maker thought it was the painter’s fault (possibly true, but we didn’t hire the painter, he did), and the painter blamed the paint company for selling them incompatible paint for the silver metallic base coat and the conversion varnish top coat (also possibly true, but I’ve never had, say, Kelly Moore, tell me whether the paints I was purchasing together will work well together, unless I specifically asked). And ironically, it was Tom who finally spoke with the paint salesman and discovered the incompatibility issue (all while we were still being ignored by both the painter and the cabinet maker)—neither the painter nor the cabinet maker bothered to do their research until we threatened them. But finally, after many unpleasant conversations and more than a few tears on my end (with Tom—only once did I lose it with them, at least), they agreed that at the very least we were not the cause of any of it, and that they would fix it. At the recommendation of a friend of Tom’s who is a cabinet maker (whom we should have hired, in retrospect), we got a sample door created with the new paint, and we put it under the sink, where the kitchen garbage is—the most “abused” door in a kitchen—to live with for a couple of months to determine how it would wear. And we waited for three months and it seemed fine (hopefully a few months was enough and it will good for years to come, though I am trying not to worry about that!).

So after the trial I packed up and moved out of the kitchen all over again, and again we lived in chaos for several weeks. This time was much more unpleasant, in part because the whole thing had become such a sore point in our life, and in part because, since the frames all had to be refinished in place, this time entailed a lot of sanding and stripping and fumes and dust that far surpassed that of the initial project.

JRH_3286BlogHere’s the progression of the process. First, taping:

JRH_3292BlogThen stripping:


SBBlogMetallic base coat—it’s actually silver, very similar to car paint! Then there’s a chocolate-colored glazing, followed by the matte top coat:


But finally, we are done!!!!!!!!!!!! So without further ado, here are the before-and-afters (still need curtains of some sort, but I have NO idea what to do on that front and I’m momentarily burned out…):


Before&After3BlogThe light is different from morning (old pic) to afternoon (new pic) in our dining room—should have done them at the same time…):

Before&AfterBackBlogOh—and we had the old cabinet in the living room (it had shutters!) replaced as well. We had a minor problem with the paint on that as well, but it was repaired and in comparison was not a big deal. So here’s the before, during, and after of that part of the project. We love it as the laminate is now no longer peeling up and the cabinet is beautiful and matches the mantel we had replaced several years ago. It’s perfect!


All in all, we now absolutely love our kitchen and are really glad we did it (and are oh so grateful that it is behind us!). And we ADORED our general contractor (and will absolutely use him again one day when we update our front bathroom—we’re more than happy to provide references for Don Williams and his wonderful team who went above and beyond!). But we are so relieved to not have to deal with the cabinet maker or his painters again. And you know? If only they’d taken responsibility from the beginning, and not made us fight and argue to get a problem corrected that clearly we didn’t cause, and if they had behaved professionally and responsibly throughout, I might even still recommend him/them to friends as this was a new finish for them and I can understand a problem occurring (though we would have expected THEM (rather than Tom) to do the research to determine the cause of the problem the first time, rather than us having to do it when it cropped up yet again after we’d moved back in). But the fact that they both wouldn’t return calls, that it took threatening to file a complaint with the state against his license to get them to deal with this, and that even during the second (!) redo he still never called to see how the job was progressing, never apologized except in the same breath with telling us how much this was costing him to fix (REALLY? Because you can bet it was worse for us, 24 hours a day for more than three weeks, than it was for them!). The lack of professionalism on their part astounded me.

But we’re thrilled that it’s finally done, and we love it!

  • Suzanne Carey - June 17, 2014 - 8:09 pm

    Love this detailed post of your renovation of the kitchen. I cannot believe how you lived with the mess of a reno, but clearly it was worth it. I am sorry you had to deal with dishonest people. That is so frustrating but glad it all worked out!!! Congrats. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Holden - June 19, 2014 - 6:35 am

    I am so happy that it is finally finished. I think you were extremely patient with the whole long process. It is beautifulReplyCancel