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Back in the renovation saddle again


It has been two years since we finished our renovation. We love almost everything we did as part of that insanely large project although there are very few things we would choose to do differently if we were to do it all over again. But looking back, that renovation damn near killed me. OK, that’s being dramatic, but it was far more emotionally draining and stressful than either of us expected. And because it went considerably over budget (due to a few unexpected things that popped up and a general contractor who was amazing in almost every regard other than his ability to accurately quote the job) it was also a big financial strain.

We’re still feeling a the financial pinch of that renovation. Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow was that we created a whole new loan at the end of it. So, even though we pay extra on our principle every month, we were suddenly back to square one.

Those kind of numbers make you pause before you go spending any more money. Neither of us is comfortable with debt. We don’t carry balances on our credit cards and we only allow ourselves to have one car payment at a time (and it would be nice if that went away too). We also like to keep a healthy cash reserve handy for emergencies too. So when we started thinking about other projects in the house, we resolved that they would be paid for in cash. No racking up credit card bills or applying for another loan.

So we’ve been saving. We have a little corner of the savings account reserved for our next project. Yes, believe it or not, after all that renovation, there are still projects to be done.

And there are two big ones lurking. The first is the downstairs bathroom, which we both hate and which we swore when we looked at the house would be the first room we fixed. Ironically, it is the only room in the house that we’ve done absolutely nothing to so far.

The other is the working side of the kitchen. The cabinets were in need of a paint job when we bought the house. Trust me, 11 years of serious cooking and dog living (when you have two enormous dogs in your house, everything is worn a little harder) haven’t done them any favors. Remember, the house was a summer  place for at least the two previous owners, so nothing was really designed to be lived in hard. And we do some hard living.

This side of the kitchen is not so bad.

There is no doubt that the more glamorous of those two projects is the kitchen, but it’s really not horrible the way it is. Technically, it functions. A coat of paint would most certainly greatly improve the situation. The bathroom is hideous. There is no getting around that. But ever since we built the bathroom upstairs, I basically don’t go in the downstairs bathroom anymore and no one has showered in there for two years. In other words, out of sight, out of mind.

So, with a little bit of cash saved up and the memory of the renovation a bit foggy (although no amount of therapy could make the thought of the stress of that go completely away), we’re back at it again. We’re fixing up the kitchen.

The working site of the kitchen (before we swapped out the island top).

Don’t get too excited; this isn’t a gut renovation or anything particularly glamorous. Really, this is the completion of the what has become a kitchen renovation in slow motion. Within a year of buying the house we bought a new range. After that we bought a new dishwasher and replaced the floors. Then we got a new refrigerator and a new faucet. At some point I replaced all the knobs and the lighting and of course we fixed up the whole eating area. Most recently we got a walnut top for the mini island.  All of those things, other than the cabinet hardware, will remain the same, but we are getting new cabinets, new countertops and a couple other gizmos.

The kitchen isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the cabinets were in rough shape when we bought the house and 11 years hasn’t done them any favors. They either needed fixing and repainting or replacing. But they were never very high quality so we have a lot of sagging shelves, cracked panels and not the most creative storage.

Chipped corners and cracking seams can be found on pretty much every cabinet.
This is a good example of why you’re not supposed to put your coffee maker under your cabinets. It was like this when we bought the house and it has not gotten any better. Worse yet is the mildew or whatever those dots are (they do not come off with any cleaning product known to man including the Magic Eraser).

This is the grossest shot. This is over the stove. The cabinets are completely discolored and covered in mildew. If you look closely you’ll notice there seem to be some dog hairs stuck in the sticky greasy mess up there. Newfie hair has the amazing ability to go literally everywhere.

I’ll share lots of details with you in the weeks to come. Some of the decisions involved in this project have been particularly challenging (I’m still suffering from decision fatigue from the renovation and that makes it that much worse), but so far we’re doing a great job sticking to a pretty tight budget.

Stay tuned.

6 Responses

  1. Renovationis all about managing expectations. It is going to take so much longer than you want and cost so much more than you imagined……. relax and enjoy the ride. It’s a wonderful way to create a beautiful home & with your skills and that garden & your great sense of style & taste, so worth the pain !! Kind of like root canal.

  2. Oh boy, that's a bigger job than I thought when I first starting reading this post. But since you're not replacing the floor or plumbing, it could be done within a week or so. Have fun shopping – isn't that the best part of any renovation?

    1. I thought the shopping was going to be fun but it sort of turned into a drag rather quickly. But I think I now have all the big decisions made. We are pretty much keeping the same layout but even though we've ordered the countertop and it will be waiting for us, it's still two to three weeks from templating to installation so we'll be without real counters for a couple weeks at least. And I know it's going to be worse than that because that's how renovations work!

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