I bought my current home about 2.5 years ago. The market was heating up in Georgia and homes were getting snatched up within 7-10 days. I had lived in Los Angeles, and the surrounding areas, for 22 years and was ready for a new adventure. I grew up in Louisiana, so no worries about culture shock. When my agent showed me this cute little colonial on a cul-de-sac, I grabbed it.
The original kitchen (see photo above) was a nice size and had a wall of French doors and windows looking out on to the backyard. This would definitely be the gathering place. The cabinets had been painted to look “old farmhouse” but it made them look dirty. The butcher block counters were in decent shape and I figured if I sanded them down, they would have a nice raw look. The kitchen also came with a large island with plenty of storage. I did a lot of research on design and execution before starting. I had never tackled a kitchen full-on. By the end of my first six months in the house, I was ready for demo.
Since I figured I would completely redesign the layout with a professional in the future, I decided not to replace the cabinets. They were old but still in good shape. I first removed the doors and outlet covers. I could see there were wires and power cords running throughout the upper cabinets for the counter lighting. Holes had been drilled from cabinet to cabinet but I was going with open shelving so it didn’t turn into a big patch job. A conduit was running under the cabinet and an additional outlet had been added. The lighting was actually made for art galleries and it would heat up quite a bit. Not the best choice under wood cabinets. Next, I removed the tile and butcher block backsplash with a hammer and scraper. This particular scraper is thick enough to be sturdy but thin enough not to damage too much of the drywall behind the tile. I happened to have one I found at Ace Hardware a couple of years ago and it worked fine. I was not replacing the drywall unless there was water damage. Once that was done, I took a hard look at the electrical.
The electrical had never been updated. The house was built in 1980 so this was dangerous, especially in a kitchen where appliances are used simultaneously. Also, outlets have now been upgraded to GFCIs, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, which detect imbalances and shut down to reduce the risk of shock. A really good upgrade for kitchens when dealing with water, and in my case, cake batter splattered everywhere. Remember how our homes had phone outlets in the kitchens 40 years ago? I still had mine. It was in a terrible location so I had it disconnected and sealed into the wall. So, electrical…I NEVER do my own electrical. It needs to be up to code for safety but also, through no fault of my own, I’ve been electrocuted and it hurts like hell. Electrical had been run through a conduit pipe that became unscrewed around the top edge of a horse wash rack. While I was washing an angry stallion after exercise (one of my many previous jobs), I touched the pipe not knowing the electrical was exposed down the line. Thankfully, I was in rubber soled riding boots but it still hurt. Once I could let go of the pipe, I basically flung myself out of the rack so I wouldn’t pass out under the horse. That definitely would have been the end of me. So….no electrical. I had my awesome electrician, Wayne, update the outlets and add wiring for LED shelf lights.
I think one of the most exciting moments was taking down the cabinets and seeing the space completely open. It was like I could really breath in there. Along with the cabinets came bits of insulation. Wear a mask when doing this stuff. When you open a ceiling, you have no idea what’s in there. Fortunately, it was pretty clean and no sign of rodents. The cabinets can be heavy so ladies, use your whole body and be smart on how the cabinets come down. Look at how they’re connected to the wall and each other.
I had wanted to completely take out the soffit but it was hiding the duct work for the range hood. The original hood was installed into a cabinet so taking all of that out allowed me to pick any hood I wanted. The ducting was in decent shape so I only added extra flexible ducting to make the connection to the new range hood. More on that in a later post. After exploring the ceiling further, I came to the conclusion that I had no options to relocate the ducting without moving the location of the stove. So, the soffit would have to stay. However, instead of the particle board material that was used before, I built my own smaller soffit out of wood. More on that in Part 3. Next, I filled in the old nail holes and removed the moulding.
Because I was making the soffit smaller, I needed to repair the ceiling and make it as smooth as possible. I applied pre-mixed Sheetrock Plus 3 Joint Compound from Home Depot with a putty knife. It’s super easy to use. You’ll get a great arm workout while sanding it down, too. Make sure you let it dry completely before painting. For me, it was 24 hours but the time will depend on temperature and humidity. You can use drywall tools but I have an assortment of scrapers and putty knives that work for various applications. They’re cheap and they work great! I applied joint compound over areas of the drywall that were slightly dented before skim coating.
What is skim coating? Drywall itself is not normally smooth so you need to do something to make it smooth under the paint. When you remove tile or wallpaper, it roughs up the drywall so adding a skim coat will smooth it out. In my case, I needed to even out the wall surface before applying subway tile. Otherwise, my tiles would not be even against the wall. Again, I used the pre-mixed joint compound then added water. I recommend getting a mud pan, putty knife and taping knife. It’s easier to mix the compound and apply it evenly to the wall. Here’s a great tutorial from Ugly Duckling House. Once applied and dried, put on your mask and eyewear to tackle the sanding. I used sanding bricks for this one. They were much easier for the awkward reach across the counter.