Demolition Diaries: KaZoo Kitchen Reno

Newsflash: We are back in demo mode! The KaZoo Kitchen is no more. Well, the old one anyway. When we bought the ‘Zoo in December 2013, our kitchen looked like this:

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It was a typical builder kitchen with basic white appliances, stock thermofoil cabinets, beige laminate countertops, beige vinyl tile, and a micro pantry. All the essentials, and all functional (mostly). Once we brought our old (but newer than theirs) fridge and a new gas range, things were looking up:

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After installing our hood vent in summer 2014, which necessitated the removal of some of our wall cabinets, the kitchen took a turn for the worse functionally and aesthetically. We added some hardware to facilitate drawer and door opening, but the loss of so many upper cabinets was rough. We painted to help the kitchen feel happier until we could do a real renovation.

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In the interim, we began discussing ideas for our future kitchen. Almost immediately, we began dreaming of relocating the refrigerator: Its position in the southeast corner meant we could never open the refrigerator door fully. Stuffing pizza boxes, jugs of milk, watermelons, holiday turkeys, etc. in the refrigerator was next to impossible, but even regular things like heads of lettuce, bagged carrots, and leftovers saved in Pyrex containers proved difficult. While buying a French door fridge might help matters somewhat, we were also frustrated with the inefficient pantry on the opposite end of the kitchen (deep but not wide = digging out 10 things to get 1 item at the back). While having a pantry is nice, we decided we’d rather have more cabinets and counterspace…and was it remotely possible that the fridge would fit in the pantry’s spot if we tore down the pantry?! We couldn’t shake the idea, and after measuring, there was joyous celebration in the KaZoo Kitchen for the kitchen-to-come.

Of course, we were concerned the pantry might be structural, but other homes with our same floorplan in the neighborhood didn’t have a floor-to-ceiling wall at the pantry (the boxy area above our pantry was completely open to the living room in the other homes), which gave us hope. We took everything out of the pantry (feel free to play “Where’s Hermes?”)

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and tore into the drywall above the pantry to check things out.

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Our basic understanding of structures was telling us we were looking good, and after getting a licensed professional to confirm our suspicions, Mission Fridge Move was a go! That’s when the fun of Demo Day began. Kicking down drywall is so…satisfying!

Once the pantry was torn out, it was amazing how open the kitchen felt! While we had attic access above the old pantry/new fridge location, my dad and I installed a new electrical circuit and outlet so that the refrigerator would have its own independent circuit. My dad is a professionally licensed electrical engineer, and while I could do the wiring myself now after years of helping him, I’d rather have a professional on the site.

There’s a lot of shoddy DIY structural, electrical, and plumbing work out there that might get missed in a regular home inspection that can be the ultimate nightmare, so be skeptical of any home that’s obviously been renovated (especially if you see signs of bad workmanship, like the worst painted-over, patched drywall you’ve ever seen). Chances are, those homeowners may not have gotten the licensed professionals, permits, or inspections necessary to ensure a quality job. Installing or moving electrical, structural, and plumbing is a huge deal. Just because a friend or family member ‘taught’ you how to do something back in the day doesn’t mean it’s up to current code or would meet the code for the state in which you now live (Florida and California have specialized requirements, for example). Calling a professional is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of intelligence. 

We then took out the island, scraped and cleaned the remaining vinyl tiles up, lay the underlayment, and tiled the first part of the kitchen. We also patched, taped, mudded, and sanded the drywall in the new-fridge area.

 

After allowing those tiles to set, we took out the rest of the cabinets, only to discover damaged drywall behind the sink, where the previous residents clearly had experienced a leak at some point. We expected some damage because of the water damage we had seen in the cabinets, but it was more extensive than we had hoped.

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We had a mold inspection when we purchased the house that came back good to go (otherwise we would not have purchased the home), but we definitely wanted to get rid of the water damaged drywall (and the insulation behind it) ASAP, now that it was exposed and accessible.  At this point, our fridge got to move to its new, happier home. Behold the wonder and glory of being able to open the doors completely!

Can’t you hear angels singing? Hallelujah! We can. Every time I open the fridge now I can’t help but smile. You’ll note that we left the wall to the left of the fridge (a) because it had the kitchen switches on it) and (b) because we wanted the wall to hide the fridge from the view in the rest of the main living and dining area, which it does rather well.

Anyway, out went the damaged drywall, followed by the insulation, as carefully as possible to minimize possible mold spore diaspora. We took out everything in all areas evidencing any water damage plus a bit beyond the damage, both vertically and horizontally, just in case. The studs were fine, though. Whew. We installed new insulation and mold resistant purple-board (the new green-board), which was made easier with a compass-like drywall cutter than enabled us to cut clean circles for the pipe fittings and wiring.

We taped and mudded the new drywall, then lay more underlayment. The floors would already have been finished, but we wanted to keep our range connected to the gas, which has meant flooring in phases.

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Hermes is ready for things to be finished. So are we. Next time we’ll be sharing the finished flooring, painting, and all about the cabinets. I can’t wait to put ALL THE THINGS in the cabinets. And now back to work. 😉

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Demolition Diaries: Cleaning up the ‘Hood

When we bought the ‘Zoo, we knew that most of the things in the kitchen needed to be replaced sooner or later, starting with appliances for functionality.   The ‘Zoo came with these gems of a hood and range, you may recall:

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Substituting the existing fridge with ours and installing a new gas range were major improvements, but after Chris began cooking on the gas range, he realized the ineptitude of our recirculating range hood meant another appliance purchase.  Best way to describe it? It performed at two settings: wimpy and wimpier, accompanied by a whining sound to mask its false industry.

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Meanwhile, I was still living in the city, so I began trolling Craigslist for possible options, where I spotted an ad for this Bosch chimney hood for $350 (retails for $899-$999).  The price was a little higher than what we would pay for a nice recirculating hood at a big box store, but it was also a much better hood than those we could normally afford.  Plus, it’s better to vent outside, especially with gas, so we thought it might be worth investigating.

 

(Picture courtesy of Houzz)

I called to ask some questions and found out it was being sold by a kitchen/bath design store because it was installed in a kitchen model but never used.  It had some scratches that didn’t seem too noticeable, so we decided if it was still available the following weekend, we would take a look.  Why wait, you ask? We wanted to give the purchase some thought since it was really more than we’d originally planned to pay but knew it was a great deal.

Sure enough, the hood was still available the following weekend, and it was way more functional than our existing hood.  After I pointed out a gouged out section in the insulation for the electric cord that had not been mentioned in the ad or when I called to inquire about it (they hadn’t noticed it because it was on the side of the cord you couldn’t see without really looking closely and feeling around), they agreed to knock the price down to $325.  We walked away with the hood for $358 (we did have to pay tax because we bought it from a home design store but thought it was worth it).

We also had to purchase a mounting kit ($11.97) and brackets (2 @ $7.99 each) plus $8.99 shipping because the person who uninstalled the hood from the model kitchen didn’t keep all the parts.  We also purchased some Sugru from Amazon for $22 to patch the insulation instead of buying a $27 plus shipping for a replacement cord, bringing our total purchase to $416.94.  Compared to buying it new at the lowest retail price we could find, we had a total savings of $482.06.

Time for Amy’s demo dance (yes, this is a thing)!

Last weekend, we uninstalled the old wimpy hood and discovered this awesomeness:

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Apparently the builder’s crew didn’t install an outlet for the hood and couldn’t find where to hardwire it, so they hired a woodpecker drilled holes in the drywall until they found electrical.  Then they didn’t bother to clean up their mess because it was hidden by the old hood. Classy, huh?

This means we will be installing a new outlet and doing some serious dry wall patching in addition to taking down the upper cabinets so the new range hood can be installed.  While we’re doing electrical work, we’ll go ahead and install the outlet for the range that was missing (you can read more about that here).  Keep your wires fingers crossed that all goes well!

Decision Diaries: (Feeling) Painted into a Corner

Back in November when we first learned that the bank had accepted our offer and we had an official closing date for the new Florida house, I went crazy brainstorming furniture layouts, design schemes, and home improvement ideas. Over Thanksgiving, Chris’s mom, an architect, advised us to paint and then put in new floors before moving our furniture into the house, and she loaded us up with floor samples to take back with us.  Echoing my MIL’s advice, my mom kept asking what paint colors we were planning to use throughout December.

One thing led to another, and by closing day, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted instead of being blissfully excited.  When Chris said we needed to finalize the paint colors so that we could get our paint ordered before the sale at Sherwin Williams ended, I could feel myself beginning to hyperventilate like Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride.  Paper bag. Now.  I realized I was feeling painted into a corner by paint I hadn’t even purchased yet.  We decided to put on the brakes and didn’t buy anything home-improvementish for the house in December or January (Chris did get a mower through Craigslist, though).

So what’s the takeaway here?  Any professional will tell you that painting before putting in new floors before moving your furniture into a house is a good idea.  We agree.  However, it is never sensible and smart to make hurried decisions that you may live to regret, especially ones that involve dropping a considerable chunk of change.  For some people, $1k to paint a whole house at one time is no big deal, but for us it is because we are currently funding two separate residences (one rent, one mortgage, two sets of bills) on one income + student stipend for a few more months.  Shelling out another $10k for floors made us positively queasy.  We also needed to build our savings back up after making our down payment in December at the same time as Christmas travel + presents for lots of people. We chose to save instead of splurge a la Dave Ramsey style.   

As soon as we decided not to buy paint and floors, I could feel my blood pressure dropping and the chest pains subsiding.  Plus, after a couple of months of saving, we were ready to consider less expensive purchases, such as a gas stove.  The house came with a functional electric stove in extremely good condition, so why replace it instead of buying paint? Look closely. Very closely.

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I spy with my little eye…that’s right: more little eyes.  Three little eyes and only one big eye, to be exact.  While the electric range has been serving Chris’s needs quite well during the week, cooking on it during the holidays was frustrating for me when making meals to share with a large group, and I knew this would drive me nuts sooner or later.  Most likely sooner, given my proclivity to cooking large batches of food to make meal prep during the week faster. It also took the oven FOREVER to bake things. We’re talking 40 minutes for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, folks.  Waiting the typical 25 minutes for their yummy deliciousness to be ready is already hard enough, but double the time?  Talk about delayed gratification.

When the gas company turned on our gas in December, they gave us a free installation coupon for any one appliance, good through March.  Since they also gave us the happy news that we have a ‘gas nub’ behind our oven, we knew we’d want to switch to gas at the earliest opportunity.  When we found out that it would be $140 regularly for them to install a gas range (and you have to pay $60 for installation if you get Sears to do it), we decided that purchasing our gas range during Sears’ Presidents’ Day sale (35% off Kenmore appliances + additional 10% online purchases + free delivery) and getting free installation would be a better idea than buying paint.

After doing some research, reading Consumer Reports (strongly recommend a subscription if you are making big $ purchases) and product reviews until our eyes rotted in their sockets (not really), and discussing our needs/wants, we narrowed our choices down to three Kenmore products.  We’ve had great experiences withKenmore appliances in the past, so we were comfortable/confident going with another Kenmore product.  After weighing features and prices, we selected the Kenmore 5.6 cu ft. Gas Range with True Convection Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel top as our winning gas range.  We actually chose not to get a Kenmore Elite or Kenmore Pro, primarily due to price but also because the regular Kenmore met all of our needs/wants.  See it here: http://www.sears.com/kenmore-30inch-freestanding-gas-range-w-convection-oven/p-02274343000P?prdNo=3&blockNo=3&blockType=G3

Unfortunately, the range we selected wasn’t 35% off, presumably because of the beautiful stainless steel top. Womp, womp.  We decided to get the $350 cheaper-but-same-model Kenmore 5.6 cu ft. Gas Range with True Convection Stainless Steel with Black top that was discounted, and we’re more than happy to be saving even more money that can go towards other things.  

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In the end, we saved $500 on the range and got free delivery, thanks to the awesome sales and two coupons/promotions we were also able to use towards our purchase.  Major score for us. We also Craiglisted our electric range and recouped $150 for it.

The gas range installation went rather smoothly, with only one small hiccup: There isn’t a regular electrical outlet behind our stove, so we had to plug the range into a wall outlet on its left (I know you’re thinking: Wait? I thought the original range was electric, so how is there not an outlet behind it (or how did they not notice this before)?  Answer: There is a special outlet at the bottom of the wall that was perfect for the electric range but not for our new gas range.)

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It’s a bit awkward-looking to say the least, but that’s something we can remedy in the near future, thanks to my dad who happens to be an electrical engineer and rather handy with home repairs and fixes in general.IMG_0383

Best part? It looks more high end than it actually is and cooks like a dream.  The burners light instantly (no repetitive clicking and hoping, for those of you familiar with older gas ranges), and all the special burners (simmer, turbo boil, etc.) perform their respective functions exceptionally well.

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My husband inaugurated the oven by baking yummy cookies, but unfortunately (for me) I was in the city at the time so did not get to enjoy them.He used soy-filled chocolate chips, so none for me anyway.  After eating some of his cookies, he decided my soy-free chips taste better. #foodallergies #smartman

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On my ‘spring break’ this past week, I joined Chris in FL and baked some of those pumpkin chocolate chip muffins again.  They were easily done in 20 minutes and could have probably have been taken out earlier than that–faster than the time range given in the recipe!  As for all those people who say that gas ovens don’t bake well, think again.  Double-fisted muffin eating may have happened in our household. Evidence, you ask?  They were devoured so quickly I didn’t even have time to snap a good pic.  Next up? My favorite pound cake recipe that hasn’t ever worked in an electric oven yet turned out perfectly every time in a gas oven.  Pound cake + fresh berries = Supreme Deliciousness.

Overall, moving more slowly down the path of home improvement is allowing us to savor every minute instead of sweating every dime and decision.  We’re enjoying the calm and contentment of knowing we will get around to doing things when the time is right.  After all, we’re on island  beach time here, and we’re good with that.