Our new dining room. This has made such a difference in our lives. Photo: Los Angeles Times
The bland kitchen before. Believe it or not, this is color photo. Photo: Los Angeles Times
Our first wake up call concerned the building plans. When I took my plans into the building department, I fully expected to be building the next weekend. Instead, the plans took four weeks to get approved. I hadn't even factored in this possibility.
It turns out the wait for the plan approval was fine, though. It gave us time to demo
the kitchen's adjacent concrete patio to make way for our raised-foundation dining room addition. We rented a jackhammer and invited some friends over for a demo party. We provided the entertainment (the jackhammer) and food (pizza) and drinks (wine) after the work was done. It was tremendous fun; more so than we had anticipated.
Even before we started, I knew I hated plumbing with a passion. And my experience with the remodeled kitchen confirmed that fact. I cursed so much during the plumbing work that Lily threatened to call in a professional! And I said, "No! I won't let this beat me." I got through it, but barely. So if there's something you really
hate doing, it might save you some stress to hire it out.
Now, I don't regret not asking for help. But here's something I do
regret. While we had the framing of the original kitchen exposed, I wish we had made sure it was secure and squeak-free. Instead, we were eager to get the sub floor installed and the flooring laid. Now we have a squeak that will take some effort to correct. If I could do it again, I'd be more patient with the details.
Also, tools are more important than I realized. When we started, I had a couple of rickety ladders. They were fine for changing light bulbs, but dangerous for serious remodeling work. I threw them in the trash and spent a few hundred dollars on fiberglass beauties
. Things went better after that.
We saved money by renting some tools instead of buying them. Lily was in charge of cutting the granite tiles we used for our counters. We rented a tile saw from Home Depot
and Lily had great fun with it. She also did all the drywall -- and I think she's gifted in that department! But she also practiced a lot, installing drywall and tape until she got it right. You can't expect yourself to do as well as a professional who does drywall everyday. But you should take all the time you need to get it right.
In retrospect, we didn't really understand how all-consuming the project would be. For the six months it took us to do the work, the remodel is all we talked about and all we did. We ate, slept, and breathed our renovation. We kind of had a hunch it would be this way. But until we got deep into the project, we didn't know how completely it would take over our lives.
Before we started, there was no guarantee that Lily and I would succeed. But we did -- spectacularly. Our total costs were $28,000 (See Where the Money Went
) and we figure it would cost at least $100,000 to get this project done by a contractor. The feeling of accomplishment we have, though, is priceless.
Our final verdict? If you have some experience and passion about doing things yourself, go for it!
Looking for more cool kitchen remodels? Check out:
A "New" Kitchen -- But With The Same Cabinets
Before and After: An Emergency Kitchen Makeover
Refrigerator Makeover: See How It's Done