The kitchen series: the demolition and the counter saga

Goodbye, old cabinets and cheap linoleum countertops! We will miss you never!


We are nearing the end of the first week of the renovation, and the kitchen is looking pretty bare. The dining room, however…



…is absurdly full. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, having a second place to live while this work is being done. There is not a single room that has not been temporarily taken over by the kitchen. There is backsplash tile under the coffee table in the living room and a teetering stack of dishes and kitchen accessories in the bedroom. The second bedroom is a countertop workshop and the bathroom is stacked with chairs that have no where else to go.

Belying the looks of it, we ostensibly only have a week or two left of the major construction. The prep work has been meticulous, and once the aesthetic elements start coming together, I don’t think it will take long.

It’s been so interesting to uncover the layers under the floors and ceilings. The building was built as a single family home some time around 1895 and then modified into 6 units between 1913-1915. The kitchens were built as an addition at that time. We estimate that the last kitchen renovation took place in the 1980’s. Under the awful drop ceiling, there’s evidence of very old plastered drywall and a gas pipe that has been capped off (with more plaster, it seems). There’s also several old plant hooks and an odd piece of wood that’s coincidentally painted nearly the same color as the walls were in 2008.


The bottom layer of floor seems to be wood that was painted red at some long ago point, and there was crumbling sub-floor and several layers of linoleum on top of it. The new sub-floor that the contractor has put down is sturdy and remarkably level, considering that nothing in this old house is particularly level. Before the last layer of floor is put down, Nik and I slipped a 2013 nickel into the layers. We were hoping to find a coin or two that a renovator might have added before us, but no such luck!


The electrician worked in the space most of today, and I’m rather charmed by his checklist on the wall:


The only thing I’m concerned about, though, is the sink placement. The cabinet dimensions are sketched out on the wall, and the sink is sitting slightly to the left of the window. We’re meeting with the contractor tomorrow to finalize lighting placement, and we’ll see what can be done about the sink (or rather, what needs to happen to make it centered, because it will bother me forever if it’s not).

In the meantime, Nik’s counter factory is humming along:


When our first contractor bailed after we’d already purchased the cabinets and created a budget based on her estimate, we were left scrambling to find someone else who could work within those parameters. After meeting with several other contractors, we realized that her estimate was incredibly low, but our budget was already set in stone. Some of the estimates for the work were way out of our range, and some of the people who came closest we just didn’t feel comfortable working with.

We finally found someone who we love so far. He’s incredibly communicative, dependable, and we’re impressed with the quality of his work (Angie’s List was a great resource for vetting contractors). His estimate was a not-insignificant amount more than we intended to spend on labor. We realized, though, that the difference was nearly the same amount that we had originally earmarked for quartz countertops. To stay within our budget, we could go with the much, much less expensive Ikea Numerar butcher block countertops.

I have to admit, it felt like a huge sacrifice to me at first. I was entirely smitten with gold-flecked black quartz, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around butcher block. Nik was entirely convinced, though, and has undertaken the project of staining and sealing them herself. Seeing them come together, I am floored at how much more gorgeous the beech wood is with a walnut stain. I have an inkling I won’t miss the quartz one bit.

For my part, I have been considerably less helpful to the project thus far:


One last little note: I’m in the running for an Apartment Therapy 2014 Homie award for Best Home Project and DIY Blog! I’m thrilled to be holding my own midway through the pack led by some of the blogs on my personal must-read list. If you like what I do, please consider giving me a nomination? It would mean the world to me!



  1. […] lastly, the counters! Despite the so-called counter saga, I could not love these one iota more, or even imagine what the kitchen would look like with […]

  2. […] and didn’t want to be without it for long. We have a Ryobi Corner Cat, which Nik used for prepping the butcher block counters and likes quite a bit, so after checking in with my handy dad (14, 18, 24 volts?? 18, he said), I […]

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