our kitchen renovation

this post is sponsored by coors light.

i've been stumped trying to figure out how to put our kitchen renovation into words.

"blood, sweat and tears" has got to be where we start.

our blood, from cutting our fingers on our glass backsplash tiles.

our sweat, from hauling out junk pile after junk pile.

our tears, well, mostly mine, all along the way.

we went into this project with no plan and no clue what we were doing. what we did know was that we wanted to take down a wall separating the kitchen and formal dining room to create one large open concept space which suited our pre-covid entertaining lifestyle better.

that's when we started to learn. that's when the headaches started.

over twelve different people told us the wall was fine to take down. there was no way it could be load-bearing. they checked our attic and crawl space, used stud finders, even jumped on the ceiling above. we wanted to believe them, but we didn't. and then one person took a look and told us it was absolutely load- bearing and that was enough to fuel our doubts. so what do a couple of first time home owners who are trying to get a project done as quick and cheap as possible do? they take down the load-bearing wall and then they immediately regret it.

with the discovery of the electrical and plumbing lines that once were in the wall now dangling and dangerous, and with the one person and our instincts leading the way, we decided to bring in a structural engineer. for a couple hundred dollars and just a few minutes, we had our answer. of course, it was in fact load-bearing.

at this point in our renovation, our custom cabinetry maker, appleton wood work, was already underway gutting the kitchen, the wall was down, we were paying junk removal fees (which we hadn't even considered), and we were starting to realize just how lost we were. we spent the days hauling loads to the dump, and spent our nights driving around picking up our random purchases, like a brand new kitchen sink we found on the next door app.

in addition to the structural engineer, we realized the right thing to do was to hire the needed professionals. we contacted a plumber, electrician and contractor to give us some guidance. that's when the kitchen started to come together and the project in general became manageable.

we had our plumbing and electrical rerouted, and we were able to get a beam installed in place of the wall we removed. that's also when we found out our ceilings had already sunk over an inch. had we not hired a structural engineer or contractor to install the beam (within days, weeks, months), our ceiling would have completely collapsed.

we were also able to leverage our contractor for help with relocating our vent and hood and he taught us enough about electrical and plumbing that we (alex) were able to independently handle the remaining plumbing and electrical work around the house. of all his contributions, giving us the idea to build a wine rack into the dead space of our island was probably my favorite.

with the beam in place, the cabinets being made, and the appliances being re-configured, we were discovering new problems (like having to replace the flooring from where the appliances were) and, for the first time, we started thinking about how we actually wanted the finishes to look. alex was adamant about having a gas stove which meant removing our electrical stove, storing it, finally selling it, ordering a new stove, AND pulling a permit to have a gas line installed.

if you're still with me and wondering the time span of all of this, we had taken that sledge hammer to the load-bearing wall february 27, 2020 and by march 14, 2020, our custom cabinetry boxes were built out and we were ready to have countertops installed. we met with our countertop company and within a few days the templates were made and they were back over to set them in. while that was happening, we were ripping up carpet in another room and getting ready to install new hardwood flooring which was a headache of its own and an absurd story for another day.

next it was time to repair the holes in the drywall in our ceilings and walls. measure. cut. realize measure was wrong. cut again. cuss. drink a beer. get measurement right. realize you need to go back to home depot for the third time that day. mud/sand/tape/putty. texturize. back to home depot. paint. repeat. we had a lot of repairs. fixing them was not fun.

about a week had passed, and as we were winding down on march we were able to swap out our recessed light fixtures for more modern LED fixtures, get started on our backsplash install, and get our cabinets painted. because we hadn't even thought about our cabinet paint, doors, or hardware yet, we decided to hire out the paint job because after all that time and beautiful work, we weren't about to wreck them painting them ourselves. while that was underway, quarantine and lock down was in full swing, so alex was able to take on the task of installing 80 square feet of backsplash. i asked him if he had any insight or lessons learned to share and all he had to say was "there's no amount of beer that would make me do that again."

by the first week of april, all we had left to do was the finishing touches of having the cabinet doors and cabinet pulls installed and we were ready to start moving into our first home.

from gutting the space, making structural changes including relocating our plumbing and electrical, implementing a new lighting layout, installing custom cabinets, new countertops, a kitchen island, new backsplash, a new sink/faucet, a new range/hood, new floors, and paint, had we hired out the job it would have cost anywhere from $75,000-$150,000 (actual quote from our contractor). given the fact that we were sipping coors and not champagne throughout the project, you can rest assured we didn't spend anywhere close to that. and if you made it this far, yes, i was kidding about this post being sponsored by coors.

since photographed, we've installed a new fridge, styled the shelves differently, and installed electricity in the (previously non existent) pantry so we can have all our bar/beverage in one location. we plan to change out the hardware to a mix of pulls and knobs, and we'll probably paint the island a different shade of grey. i'd also like to add some sweet cafe curtains. while our major renovation days may be over, we learned so many skills, feel like we got the opportunity to learn the bones of our house, and each project since, with their own share of hiccups, has been much smoother.

now i just need to learn how to cook.

photos by brianna swan photography