Full Kitchen Remodel

This winter we decided to take on the kitchen. We have separate kitchen and dining rooms, with the kitchen being outdated and not having enough countertop space nor storage, so it was time to say goodbye to our old looking sad cabinetry from the 50’s?60’s? and say hello to open-plan modernism.

Taking down the wall

The first thing to do is to open up the space by taking down the wall. Here’s the culprit:


There’s no magic to doing this, though I don’t like to make messes and have plaster powder flying all over the house. To minimize this, I tried to break up the plaster pieces by using a crowbar to detach the back of the plaster off the studs, which broke the plaster into big pieces, creating less dust clouds.

Once the plaster was gone,
the studs were exposed.20160101_180045.jpg

We had 3 vents going up in the wall (all the more reason for deconstructing the wall carefully).

We wound up redirecting the vents against the exterior walls instead.



You can already feel how much more spacious it is after taking down that wall!

Sagging Floor Repair

The floor was sagging between the kitchen and dining room, inspecting one exposed joist from the basement revealed a crack that went the whole length of the joist. We decided to attack this from above, since there was a lot of ductwork hanging off the basement ceiling where the compromised joists where.

We took out the floor and wound up having to sister 3 joists. We could’ve just sistered 2, but surely 5- 10 years down the road we would’ve have to do the remaining joist and that would’ve meant a lot more work and hassle.

huge crack on the joist, possibly from water damage as evidenced by the dark & white stains?


Avoid notching your joists!! It creates a weak spot, and probably the worst place for this is in the middle, which has the most flex.

Not my idea of a fun weekend…

p_20160213_144043.jpgTo sister the joist, we dropped a new one next to it, pressed them together with clamps, and screwed them together with structural screws.


Once we sistered the joist, it became apparent just how much sagging there was… a good inch!

After sistering the joists, comes the time to rebuild the floor with plywood.

The floor was still not perfect ‘enough’ though…. I’m saying ‘enough’, because it’s practically impossible to get wooden houses perfectly square, level, etc… wood warps as it dries out, the house shifts, etc. An apartment made of concrete on a high rise might have a chance, but a house with wooden floor and studs from 1940 doesn’t 🙂 So to get close enough between the old floor and the new floor, we used self-leveling cement, which you mix into a liquidy mess and just pour on the floor. Supposedly the cement finds its way into level, though I found myself helping it spread sometimes (as in feathering edges and so).

One thing you have to be very careful about though, before you pour the self-leveling cement.. make sure you fill up any crevices…because the cement will find its way through just like water will, but it’s not as cheap as water and it won’t evaporate. I filled up the perimeter carefully with foam yet time and time again, I found myself running from the basement to the kitchen, stuffing paper towels into a million places all along the floor, trying to stop the cement from pouring through the floor. The cement went through old nail holes, between the subfloor boards, etc. It was a nightmare..

Here’s a sinkhole, they’re easily identifiable
Another place where the cement started pouring downstairs

Here’s what it looked like after it was done, showcased by Lulu:

After the cement, comes the hardibacker (since we’re tiling at some point):



Floor’s done, except for the tiling. We decided to not tile under the cabinets, so that we could go ahead and start installing the new cabinets from Ikea. I want to introduce a new toy used for leveling. I’m never going back to no stupid bubble!

This is basically a laser level, which you mount somewhere and which auto levels the lines it draws. It draws a plus sign on the wall, so to make sure the top of the cabinets were leveled, you make sure the horizontal laser line is just slightly above the top of the cabinet, and you make sure that all points are the same distant to the red line. We marked on a stick how far the line was from the cabinet top, and made sure that the right/left side,  front and back were equally distant from the red line. It literally takes minutes to level all the cabinets perfectly (compared to the tedious, million-passes that ensue if you use the level with the bubble!). I’m never going back!


p_20160306_162956_1.jpgHere’s a lessons learned while doing the plumbing. When you have to get from Point A (the sink) to Point B (the pipe coming out of the floor), you tend to lose your patience while playing with all the moving parts. I came up with this backward-looking pipe, where the short end of the JBend is first and the taller end of the JBend comes after. While connecting it I knew it was a weird way of connecting the pipes, but I didn’t think at the time it would make a difference….

…but it does! Connecting it this way means that the water level (where the last bend is) is higher, and that not one, but rather 3 joints will be under water at all times, as well as the dishwasher connection. That’s a recipe for disaster.


..and so I redid the J Bends the right way.As you can see, the dishwasher hose is not underwater anymore, and only the middle connection remains underwater.

Besides, there’s a cute kitty.

Once the waste plumbing is in, it’s time to connect the water supply lines. I prefer to do them in that order since the water plumbing takes so much space. The water lines are easy, so I enlisted my kids’ help to connect them 🙂

You might be asking yourself why we set the sink on plywood.. and that’s because the granite people needed everything ‘in place’ in order to measure the granite pieces (and we wanted running water while we waited for the installation).



I covered how to tile in an earlier post..  so just a few words of wisdom. Whatever you do, don’t get wood floors for a kitchen. They get food between the strips and it’s a nightmare to get out.. or you spill a liquid and even if you immediately wipe it off the liquid probably got between the strips as well. It’s not a big deal if it happens every now and then, but in a kitchen that happens very often.

Since we like the look of wide wood planks, we went with a ceramic tile that looks like that (it’s a new trend). We disagreed on the color (he wanted dark, I wanted light), so we went with what I wanted (I am the wife after all! 🙂

..and I lost the grout-color battle, a darker colored grout which I was very unsure of. But, as you can see in the picture, lighter tiles and darker grout look awesome together. To make it a bit more interesting, I negotiated a strip of a different color tiles (our cabinet handles and appliances are nickel/stainless steel).. and the stripes look great.

The Backsplash

We decided on using those really modern looking glass and stone tiles. And oh boy…tiling the backsplash took longer than tiling the floor, even though the floor is 6 times the surface. Here’s why.. the tile sheets are not perfectly square, the edges are all jagged. If you need to put 2 sheets together, no problem.. the sheets fit together like a puzzle. But if you need to do a straight edge (like in the corners or around a window) you have to cut each little piece of tile that is too long, as well as fill in the holes for the tiles that are missing.  

To add to the fun, when you cut stone tiles, they don’t always snap on the right spot so you’ll wind up with lots of redos.

So anyway, this is the ordeal to get those edges done.. and multiply it by 12 for every sq.ft. of straight edge you need:

Measure the tile, put the tile in the tile-cutter, snap, and glue it on the wall.

And….We’ve Finished!!

After all that hard work and probably 6 months of working a few hours here and there, we’ve finished the project. I picked olive green for the walls (since it supposedly matches burgundy according to several online color apps), dark pink as the accent color for the backsplash, and we love the new look!

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