Friday, January 30, 2015

kitchen counters and cabinets (so clean and so fresh)

We have tons of work done on the house this month, to prepare it for selling.  None of it is terribly exciting blog fodder.  In fact, most of it has been repairing things to look exactly the same but not gross or broken.  Case in point, our kitchen counters.

Remember I discussed cleaning the latex paint off the counters myself, as it would have been a very cheap but interminably long and extensive DIY fix?  The material cost of doing this myself would have been less than $20 for paint stripper and new grout paint.  The time suck, however, would have been substantial.

I am SO GLAD I paid someone else to do this.  It took the contractor two full nine hour days to get all the paint off and re-stain the grout. He went at it with a razor, with a gas mask and powerful paint stripper, with some grinding thingy tool, and it generally seemed like a giant pain.  In fact, at 2 pm on the second day of a projected two day job, he said "I'm probably going to have to be here tomorrow too."  But he called his boss to tell him that, and the company sent two other people over to help him finish the job that day.

I considered 8 different colors of grout stain, and went with Antique White.

The grays and brown seemed too dark and grid-like.  The Bright White seemed like it would be dirty quickly.  The Antique White was almost exactly the color of the unstained grout, so we went with that (in the above picture the counter is unstained except for the  row of samples, so you can see that the unstained grout is pretty neutral.)

I'm sure it would have taken me months of weekends to do it myself, so I consider it money well spent. If you're wondering, we had a little less than 70 sq ft of counter and backsplash, and it cost $1250 to have the paint scraped off and the grout restained.  Our grout was actually in good shape--only two spots needed new grout--so they were simply cleaning and putting new color on, not digging out the grout and putting in new grout (that would have been more expensive).

We got estimates for putting in new granite counters, but even the cheapest, ugliest granite was over $8,000 for 70 sq ft.  Not only was the cost prohibitive, but I hate the idea of putting $8g of granite I don't like on top of kitchen cabinets that are not in the best of shape.  It seemed like a horrendous waste of resources.

This is the one job I wish we had done two years ago.  It looks so much better and now there isn't peeling paint in my food prep area.

I also spent a weekend painting the kitchen cabinets.  I sanded down the chipped spots, scrubbed everything down with TSP, cleaned them with q-tips (all those ridges and detail on the cabinets collect dust on an hourly basis), and slapped on a coat of primer.  I finished up with a coat of semi-gloss Dunn Edwards Whisper, which is the white paint used in every white surface in the house.

This is one of those jobs that took an entire weekend, and in pictures, looks exactly the same.

They look clean in person.

I'm getting close to done with repair projects.  I have a few painting projects left, a shower door to replace, carpeting to install, and two window treatments.  The one thing I am having difficulty getting done is repairing a 2x3 spot of our brick front walkway.  All the masonry/landscaping guys I have consulted have given estimates of about $1000, which I am willing to pay, and all of them have told me that they don't have time for such a small job.

I would like to live in this Naomi Campbell-esque world where I can turn down $1000 for a day's work.  Note to self, encourage my children to become bricklayers, as they apparently make a ton of money.  


  1. We haven't moved as many times as you have (so maybe you're just used to this by now) but I always find these "repairs for the sake of moving" to be really bittersweet. You've probably already read this (?), but Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist addressed this a few months back, when he did a piece about the benefits of staging your house/getting your house ready to sell, but doing it for yourself, without any thoughts of moving. For me, those small, niggling, half-done, need-to-be-done projects and repairs add up exponentially, and weigh a lot more heavily on my subconscious than it seems they should. I'm trying to make 2015 the year we "take care of the little things" (in the house).

    Your kitchen is gorgeous, by the way; I hope your house sells quickly and you can move on to a house where your work and money goes to things that are just for you and your family :)

    1. Thanks, Marian. I did read that piece--I think its good advice, and all the little things that I have painted and refreshed look so much better, so I'm glad for the little jobs that we have finally done ourselves. We bought our house "as is", though, and there were a TON of things that needed repair that weren't huge jobs, or needed immediately, but still cost quite a bit of money, like the kitchen counters. I do sort of wish we had done the counters a while ago, but I'm looking at it as character-building delayed gratification :-)

  2. The kitchen looks great - so clean, fresh, and in a style that doesn't look dated (to me), and that anyone can add his or her own personal style to - perfect for selling your house.

    Keep up the good work and I hope it will result in a quick sale. I still can't imagine how you do all of this: he projects, packing, moving, taking care of kids, etc.

  3. It's amazing how much nicer the tile looks, and it makes me really want to fix ours. I hate how ours looks (much like yours did), but I don't know if I want to invest in fixing counters we don't much like. We know the cabinets are going to need replacing and we're in this spot of "it's not great but we aren't ready to do a major overhaul so we're just going to live with it." But I know that could go on for another decade, so maybe we should just get it done already. Gah. I dunno. I know your kitchen is looking great, though.

    1. We were in the same spot! We didn't want to spend a thousand dollars on fixing up a counter we eventually intended to remove, so we just lived with the gross spots by using a really large wooden cutting board. Honestly, if we hadn't made the decision to sell, we would probably have lived with the gross peeling paint a few more years, because the cabinets are also not in the best of shape, and we intended to do a major kitchen remodel in a few years, so investing money into the kitchen was silly. There were just so many other projects in this house that I could spend $1250 on that would have a bigger bang for the buck.

      But yeah, I hated the counters the whole time.


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