Old House Kitchen Renovation – Part 2

The other day I posted about the beginnings of our old house kitchen renovation. There were a lot of steps involved, but really our objectives were to keep it open, and take advantage of the space, keep it neutral and fresh, try to make it look old and new at the same time, and make it functional. At the same time we wanted to keep the plumbing relatively the same, make sure the electrical was done safely, and add some character – WITHOUT SPENDING TOO MUCH MONEY. (Yes, I was yelling there, sorry).

The Real Estate – Before Kitchen – the kitchen was big and warm – but the cupboards and counters were all damaged and had been visited by creatures over the years

We didn’t do everything right, because we are not kitchen designers, and we did spend too much money, but that’s because we bought some things we wanted – So there!

Keeping the Kitchen Open

We took down all the upper cupboards, and the other wall of both tops and bottoms

The kitchen is fairly large, and had both lower and upper cupboards on 2 full walls. This was way more storage than I needed. The upper cupboards made the kitchen look heavy and crowded, and made the countertops less accessible. It’s not that I disliked the cupboards. We had similar ones in our previous kitchen before our reno. We had painted the cupboard doors white – but every person that came to look at our house for sale said – oh the old style cupboards!! I guess I’m getting old! So we knew we weren’t keeping the style.

We removed one wall of cupboards, and removed all of the uppers. We had 2 kitchen cabinet companies come in to quote, and they both wanted to put in upper cupboards and replace everything – that’s because they sell cupboards.

After we took all the cupboards out but the floors had been refinished

A Cupboard is just a box

To me a cupboard might have a certain style to it, but it’s just a box. I don’t get too excited about cupboards. They need to be sturdy, have backs to them, close tightly and open easily, and be clean. I would have preferred to leave the remaining cupboards in place, clean them, paint them white and put new doors on. This was not to be, once my husband started ripping the cupboards out he found lots of super-large animal droppings inside – bigger than a mouse – quite disturbing! We opted to pull the remaining lower cupboards away from the walls, and fill every single hole in the floor and walls – thoroughly. We haven’t seen any more signs of creatures yet.……

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A computer genrated drawing of our kitchen

So we went with white, lower cabinets only along the wall with the large window and sink. We compared Home Depot, Lowes and 2 Cabinet Companies. We wanted simple white cabinets, smooth surface to keep clean, with just a little shaker detail – but not too much to avoid crumb accumulation. The needed to be solid wood cabinets with backs (to keep the creatures out), and to help with perceived re-sale value. We learned from our last house sale that people want to hear solid wood cabinets. We also wanted painted cabinets – not thermofoil. Thermofoil is a thin layer of colour over the cabinets – which can peel or chip away. It seems durable at first, but when the inevitable damage occurs to the cupboards, I want to be able to spot fix with paint.

How Many Drawers do We Really Need?

We chose fewer drawer banks than in the drawing – How many drawers do you really need? I mostly need space for pots and pans, casserole dishes and small appliances. It’s always good to think about what you will be storing! And I think it worked out that cupboards were less expensive with fewer drawers – bonus! “Soft-close” drawers are a big deal for new home buyers these days and that’s what we got – but I just think it’s important to test and re-test the way the drawers will close and open in the kitchen showroom – to see if you think they will work in your kitchen.

Cabinets being installed

We eventually chose the cabinet company that could install the cabinets and the counters. There was not a great price difference between any of the four vendors, because we were not choosing a lot of cabinets. Each of the four was happy to make a computer simulated drawing. We could have gone with a do it yourself, build your own cabinet solution, and then ordered the counter separately. We did not, because our old house, is not in any way level. We had previously had new quartz counters installed over refaced cabinets. Our brand new quartz countertops cracked within 3 months. The vendor had blamed it on the cabinets. This is why we wanted one company to be in charge of both cabinets and countertops.

One of our young men eating lunch in our half installed kitchen
Quartz Countertop Installation

Cabinet Layout

For the cabinet layout, we had the sink placed centred on the main window (it drove me crazy that the window and sink were off centre before). The stove had been over to the left against the family room passthrough – it was a little too far from the sink. We placed it on the right side of the sink, with a little counter in between, and a little counter between the stove and the wall to support a toaster or something. Apparently corners cause a loss of space – so no corner cupboards. We moved the existing dishwasher from the right side of the sink to the left. More about the dishwasher in part 3!

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The counter is partly installed

Farmhouse Apron Front Sink

Finally, we wanted something to make the kitchen have character – so we wanted a farmhouse style, apron front sink. We saw many of them, and they were quite expensive in Canada. I knew that I couldn’t have a half sink, shallow sink, or single sink – I wash a lot of pots and pans – so we went for a double, deep farmhouse sink – we found one on Wayfair, and waited until Wayfair’s “Wayday” sale to buy it. The Wayday prices were a little bit funny – the price changed when I finalized the order, but Wayfair later followed up with a refund. We eventually spent about $800 CDN for a large sink with metal grids in the bottom, when I had seen them locally for $1600-$2000. I was nervous about the Fireclay finish breaking of cracking, but I have not had any issues so far – knock on wood….

There were many sizes of sink for sale – but some of them are not as deep and don’t go as far back into the counter as this one – it’s 18″ front to back, and 33″ wide – and 9″ deep. The key is to make sure that the cabinet makers can fit it into a cabinet underneath (because some don’t), that it can be supported (it’s really heavy), and that there is room for the plumbing underneath. We confirmed this with the cabinet installers many times. They also had to custom cut the cabinets to fit the apron front sink.

Wayfair – Cape 33″ by 18″ Double Basin Farmhouse Sink.

Now we are not perfectionists, but we did do a good job of checking the measurements, and letting our installers know the exact width and location of each item – sink, dishwasher and stove.

Quartz Countertop

We chose a simple marble look white with a bit of grey Quartz countertop. I don’t personally like anything too dark, so we didn’t do granite – and I was worried about staining marble, so I was happy with Quartz. It’s important to ask your quartz supplier if there will be any seams in the product, and where they will be if any. We had a small seam behind the faucet, and I am OK with that. Due to the length of the counter, and the deep cutout for the sink, they needed to do a seam. Countertop installers generally come out and laser measure your kitchen once the cabinets are installed, so that they get the exact location of everything – and measure where the sink and faucet holes will be cut. Getting them to take responsibility for any measurements is super important.

It’s also important to understand what you are getting with your quartz – ask and compare what is the thickness of the quartz itself, and what is the style and width of the edge. There are lots of kitchen installers who will try and sell you a thinner quartz on plywood.

The Boring Stuff – Plumbing and Electrical

Finally, my husband was able to do the plumbing, as he only had to install the sink and faucet, and slightly move the dishwasher plumbing. This took days and days (10 trips to different home stores and plumbing supply stores before we got it right) but we got it, and didn’t have to pay for a plumber.

We hired an electrical company we had previously dealt with and been very happy with. We wanted to move the stove and dishwasher plugs, install GFCI (grounded) plugs for the small appliances, and raise 4 plugs a few inches – to be above the new moldings (to be installed higher). All of the plugs already existed, the wiring had already been updated in the 90s, and the cables were already visible in the open ceilings below in the basement. What should have been a one day, one person project, turned into a 2 day 2 person project, as the electricians decided that it was not a moving plugs project – but a “Kitchen Renovation” – which needed to be of the highest standard. They installed a brand new 50amp stove plug on a new protected cable, – even though we didn’t need it as installed a gas stove. They also insisted that even though we already had 2 small appliance plugs on each side of the long counter, that we needed to put one on each side of the sink – in case someone decided to plug a small appliance in with the plug going across the sink?? Lesson learned – we paid too much and won’t use them again.

Well that was the boring kitchen renovation stuff – Last week, the demo, the floor and the asbestos abatement – this week – the electical – plumbing – layout- cupboards, sink and counter. Next week the fun stuff hopefully – that is “stuff” – appliances, lighting and details.

10 thoughts on “Old House Kitchen Renovation – Part 2

  1. I love the farmer’s sink, but I shy away from white appliances and white cupboards – too much “hospital clean” bothers me for some reason. I think it makes it all sterile and cold. Just my taste.

    1. All white is not for everybody, for sure! We have wood floors, wooden sideboard, island and doors, and a buttercup yellow fridge to break things up but it is still a lot of white. Thanks for commenting!

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