Thursday, December 2, 2010

DIY Wannabe

One of my absolute favorite things to do is watch HGTV. I LOVE decorating shows, house hunting shows, DIY shows, etc etc...I've tackled a few of my own DIY projects, with less than stellar results. Let's see...there was the kitchen floor, the dining room paint job, the kitchen wall tile (which involved me, a pry bar, and a hammer. Scary ingredients), the faux kitchen countertop paint job...okay, you get the idea.

I have the heart of a warrior, but the skill of a rock. I mean well, but I don't posess the know-how to do the job right. I thought painting would be so easy if I used painter's tape and meticulously taped off the area. Wrong again. It seems no matter how careful I thought I was, when I peeled the tape off after painting, it looked like I sneezed my way through taping. Not a "clean" line in sight, as the professionals would say.

I stumbled across an awesome website about a year or so ago. It's called Young House Love. John & Sherry Petersik bought and renovated their 1950's ranch. They did so smartly, slowly, and cost effectively. And they took before and after pics all along the way. I love stalking reading about their DIY triumphs. For every DIY tragedy I've had, they've had about 10 triumphs. Part of me wants to hate them out of sheer jealousy (did I mention they're both beautiful?), but I'm too impressed. They're pretty terrific. And funny to boot.

Instead, I'm going to make a little fun of myself and post some pictures of my screw ups. Maybe it will give someone who fancies themselves a DIY failure (like moi) some peace of mind knowing that they are not alone in their Do-it-yourself-er shortcomings.

Ready? Here we go...

Here's the kitchen. It used to have cupboard doors when we moved in. It was also painted white. We got a wild hair up our you-know-whats and decided it would look better this pukey brown color. Every. single. square. inch. We also thought we needed to refinish the cupboard doors. So, off came the doors. We "carefully" stored them in plastic under our deck as we got distracted by other things and had to postpone the refinishing. Come next spring, guess what?

We unearthed the cupboard doors from under the deck to find that the plastic had come undone and  the cupboard doors were ruined. Done.

We priced getting them refaced professionally at someplace like Lowe's or Home Depot but had to be revived when the sticker shock took hold. Turns out our kitchen was "custom made" back in 1950-whatever and would require more custom made cupboards. No off the shelf for us.

By the way...check out that sweet, fake butcher block countertop. That's some "top of the line," laminate sheeting you're feasting your eyes on.

This was a wonderful feature with small kids running around-lots of poisonous cleaners with no doors. That big gray thing in the front is the garbage disposal, God rest its soul. Yes, it IS supposed to be connected to a pipe. Joe slammed some frozen chicken on the counter one day, and the disposal broke off. We had no clue how to fix it (and I was terrified Joe would electrocute himself) so we just did what anyone else would do. We left it like that. For weeks. And it smelled.

Notice the tiny strip of scotch tape I threw across the disposal on/off switch. Great deterrent. Surely, a toddler would never dare to mess with it with SCOTCH TAPE over it...

Here's the aftermath of my tile prying fury and subsequent re-plastering. You should have seen it before I replastered it. Believe it or not, it actually looked worse. And, yes, that is an outlet incredibly close by. Talk about being afraid someone was going to electrocute themselves. Had I taken off that tile at the top left or right hand corner of the outlet, it may have been Mandy flambe for dinner.

So there's one part of our miserable do-it-yourself-kitchen project. Now for the countertop.

Nasty original countertop

I hated that faux butcher block. It wasn't even solid was laminate sheeting. So, I Googled myself up a way to make the countertop look like Granite. I found a great tutorial, printed out the directions, and marched off to my local home improvement store to match paint colors to real granite. The people at the paint counter looked at me like I was crazy (they apparently knew something I didn't) as they matched my paint to the colors in an actual piece of granite. No matter, I was undeterred. I drove home with gusto and marched into the house with all my new toys; primer, sand paper, denatured alcohol, paint, glaze, and my fave...a blow torch.

That's right. You read that correctly.

I followed the directions to a 'T.' I was soooo impressed with how it turned out. It really DID look like granite. At least I thought it did. What do you think? (Also...notice we started repainting the drawers white--the ones that we still had.)

What you DON'T see is the other corner of the kitchen where I screwed up MAJORLY and somehow the primer didn't completely soak into the counter, thus creating a barrier between the particle board and the paint. Therefore, the glaze DID soak into the particle board. No matter what I did--even reglazing--that part of the counter never fully glazed over. It got so that everything stained it and it became a gross brown sponge that was this disgusting yellow-ish brown shade--somewhat reminiscent of the old paint color.

We lived with it like that for quite some time. Mostly because we weren't sure what the heck to do with it. Replacing the counter seemed like an expense we weren't ready for, but it was embarassing. You can keep a towel over that section of counter only so long before a guest is going to see it.

How about the floor? Funny you should ask. The flooring was peel and stick parquet tiles when we moved in. Not bad, but I was trying to get away from the fake wood look, so we decided to lift up the old flooring and reveal what we thought would be spectacular orginal hardwood underneath. Perfect.

My poor husband worked for days to lift up all the layers of flooring. There was the peel and sticks first, then some linoleum that was not only glued but nailed to the floor, some sweet old fashioned, green and off-white "school tile" (which was also glued AND stapled to the floor) and then, finally, the hardwood. Well, we're pretty sure it was the hardwood. What we could see through all the asbestos and tar-like glue looked like hardwood.

We tried everything: chemicals, renting a professional sander, getting price quotes for professional removal...everything we could think of to restore the original flooring. Finally, we realized it was not worth the time, energy, expense, or elbow grease to try to restore them. Plus, every professional we asked for an estimate gave us the "you are CRAZY if you think I'm going to get that stuff off" look when we asked them if they would consider removing the glue.

Here are some shots of Joe working dilligently on getting the old flooring up.

My honey, hard at work. Poor guy.

Doesn't that remind you of the cafeteria or the nurse's office when you were in elementary school??

Millions of nails and miles of glue...

Hello, asbestos.
Naturally, we had NO idea that was probably asbestos until long AFTER we finished the floor!
 Fine, So, we decide our only recourse was to put down new flooring.

Once again, we resolved that if the people on HGTV could do it, so could we. Off we marched to Lowes with our checkbook and a bus load of determination and misplaced bravado. Our sails were only slightly de-winded when we saw the pricing of  laminate hardwood that would match the rest of the house. No worries. We merely skipped all the way to the end of the aisle, where the "bargain" laminate flooring was and calculated out how much it would be to buy the 120 square feet we'd need for the kitchen. Only about $200 you say? We'll take it!

So, with the new flooring, a borrowed table saw and his own mediocre hand-held saw, Joe began the project. I tried to block out the sound of the table saw every time I heard it. I also did my best to not envision him cutting his hand off EVERY TIME he used it. Meanwhile, he banged and cut and cursed his way through measuring, sizing, and resizing the flooring until he finally finished. I can't even remember how long it took all told, but I know it was a mini-series of sorts. It took a few groupings of his days off until we had the entire floor covered. Here it is at a glance.

The wood grain goes the same direction as all the others in the house, so that was a plus. It's a smidge lighter than the rest of the house, but it was such a steal, we couldn't pass it up. And it was about 1/5 of the price of the stuff that would have matched.
 Now, if you take a closer look, you'll see the reality of the situation.

See how closely it lines up with the wall/door frame? No? Neither did we. Unfortunately, it was like this all around the kitchen. One crucial piece of equipment we were missing was a mitre saw. Turns out you CANNOT make flooring fit corners without one.

It's been a long road, but we have made some progress. We scored some great countertops at Ikea for...get this...$130. Total. Yes, they're laminate, but who cares?! They look like stone and they were installed professionally, so they actually fit and were cut correctly. There isn't even one section that we have to try to hide because we botched it up somehow.
The cabinet doors? My brother-in-law came to our rescue and designed and created all of the cabinet doors in our kitchen as well as added drawer fronts to the drawers that were broken. He also took a cupboard and made it into 4 drawers. This is amazing to me! Did I mention he is NOT a carpenter by trade? He drove 2 hours here, took pictures, listened to me yap on about what I wanted, measured, and then went home. A few months later, he drove back to our house (another 2 hours), and proceeded to unload the most beautiful cabinet doors, drawers, and even a NEW cabinet that he made specially for us--and installed them.

I think Joe and I stood in the kitchen with stupid permasmiles plastered on our faces for the rest of the evening. We'd forgotten what it was like to have a real, functioning kitchen. It was magnificent.

And while it isn't completed yet, we feel SO much better about having people over. We don't feel the need to say, "We're in the middle of renovating" quite as often (although we still do). We still have BIG plans to remove half a wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room and add a breakfast bar with stools, and also retiling the floor. With real ceramic tile. And when I say "we" I mean will have a professional do it. I think we've learned our lesson. =)

More to follow, including an updated shot of what our kitchen looks like today.
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