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Kitchen remodel: It all began with the floor
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Kitchen remodel: It all began with the floor

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It all began with the floor.

Our white vinyl kitchen floor from the mid-'90s had became worn. After years of dropping cans of tomatoes or sharp knives, the corner where we stand to do our prep work had become pitted. Elsewhere, I managed to scrub the shine off the original finish.

So I wanted a new floor.

But then what about the cabinets? my husband, Dave, asked.

And thus began our journey to this point — the point where we are poised to remodel our kitchen. New cabinets, appliances, countertops, everything. The floor, as it turns out, will be the last thing installed.

Here's how we got to this point.

The cabinets aren't really that bad, except for the six that we use the most. They, like the floor, are worn, especially where our fingers reach inside the handles to open them, wearing the finish and, to some extent, the wood.

We discussed refinishing them ourselves (a lot of work that we weren't sure we were capable of) and refacing, in which a company lays new veneer on the outside. But the insides would still be old, with wear and tear on the boxes and sliders of the drawers.

Plus, there are all kinds of options available in cabinets these days. Stuff you never knew you needed!

Nowadays, cabinets can be made with what's called pull-out shelves. Instead of stationary shelves wherein items at the back of a high cabinet disappear forever, and items at the back of a low cabinet practically demand that you stand on your head to retrieve them, you can just pull out the shelves and the items will come to you!

It's a wonderful thing.

Once we decided that we probably needed new cabinets in addition to the floor, we considered the appliances. Our refrigerator was 30 years old and definitely not considered energy-efficient anymore, so we planned to replace it. During the time that it has taken us to get to where we are today, the 30-year-old quit working so we already have replaced it.

Regarding the microwave, we decided we'd like one of the over-the-stove models to free up space on our limited countertops, so we decided to replace that, too.

We have an electric-burner cooktop, but Dave prefers the clean look of a smooth glass, so we decided on a stove with a glass top and convection oven below.

This combo will replace our wall oven that I've grown to love because food is at eye level, and it's a pretty chrome-and-glass model of the sort they don't make anymore. I think it's original to the house, making it 54 years old. But smooth glass it is.

That leaves the dishwasher and, well, it should match the other appliances.

As for the sink, you've doubtless seen that undermounted sinks — with no bump between the countertop and the sink — are practically standard in new kitchens. You can brush crumbs from the counter directly into the sink without getting them caught in the intervening crack because there is no crack.

I'm fine with our Formica countertop, but if we're going to get an undermounted sink, we'll have to get a new countertop.

The contractor, the estimate

If you're like most people, you know that the most difficult thing about a project — aside from paying for it — is finding a reliable contractor to do the work.

A co-worker recommended (Jeff) Christenson Carpentry of Coal Valley, so we gave him a call.

Jeff came over, looked and measured. He would build custom cabinets to fit our space, and he would be the general contractor for the work, securing and scheduling the electrician and plumber and people to install the floor, countertop and drywall.

Some weeks later the prospective sub-contractors came to our house and looked things over so they could provide estimates for their particular parts of the project.

Finally, Jeff compiled all the estimates and scheduled a time to present them.

We were figuring $25,000 to $30,000 because every kitchen I have ever written about had cost at least that amount. We didn't think it would be too much more because ours is a small, galley kitchen, 19.5 feet long and 11 feet wide.

But we were wrong. Jeff's estimate for the cabinets plus installation and the general contracting came to $28,437. Everything else would be extra. Gulp.

We said we'd think about it. After several days, we decided that amount was more than we wanted to spend.

My husband is pretty handy with tools and has a lot of know-how. Plus he's retired! So we decided he'd see how much the project would cost with stock cabinets purchased at a big box store and him acting as the general contractor.

That was three years ago.

In the interim, we have looked at lots of cabinets in lots of stores. Dave has made plans and revisions to plans. He has measured everything in our kitchen multiple times.

We finally came to the conclusion that doing it ourselves (that is, Dave doing it himself) would not be that much cheaper. And if he got to a point where things weren't working out, or something came up that was above his skill level, then he/we would be stuck.

So, would Jeff be willing to revisit our project? Yes, he would. With a 3 percent up charge.

So here we are.

Jeff is making new cabinets and Dave is taking down old ones. And watering our money tree.

I'll let you know how this goes.

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