Amazing home transformations

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Diary of a kitchen remodel

Planning, patience, and sweat equity pay off for Sunset's building writer


Installed farm-style trough sink and fir cabinets. Cabinetmaker hung doors, installed glass, and added pulls.

Electricians returned to add light switches, under-cabinet fluorescent fixtures, ceiling fixtures, and wall receptacles for dishwasher and disposal. Stone fabricator arrived to make exact templates for counters, including holes for plumbing fixtures and circulation. Fabrication took a week.

Hired heavy-appliance moving specialists to bring range and refrigerator up from garage.

Plumber returned to install and hook up dishwasher, faucet, disposal, and drain line after counters were installed and sealed. He and I muscled the range into position, sliding it on flattened cardboard boxes, after he hooked up a flexible gas line.

I installed the range hood and vent lines during two days of crawling around in the attic. While there, I added blocking around the ceiling light fixtures to hold back insulation. Cracked the ceiling with overzealous hammering and had to patch that area later with plaster and paint.


Asked a local tile shop for recommendations on tile installers. I originally thought of installing the backsplash tiles myself but knew it was critical in such a public room to have a professional-looking job. The installer came to the house to see the project and give us a bid. He installed it all in one day and grouted it the next. Electricians returned to hook up backsplash outlets.

After much debate, we decided to paint the dining room and kitchen the same color -- a dusty olive green -- to enhance the rooms' relationship and open flow.

Filled the built-in wine rack beside the refrigerator with bottles, opened one, and toasted the kitchen's near completion.

How we could have saved more

Every choice of material represented a fork in the economic road, and in many cases we chose the more expensive path.

I estimate that we could have halved the expenses and still achieved the same floor plan by substituting these materials: vinyl flooring for hardwood; factory-made cabinets for custom ones; a drop-in sink for the trough sink; a standard dishwasher for the quiet, wood-paneled model with hidden controls; a smaller range for the six-burner gas model; an enamel-coated refrigerator for the wood-paneled one; laminate countertops for the limestone; and a maple butcher block instead of the madrone.

But because we served as our own contractor and did all of the legwork and much of the grunt work, these key upgrading decisions did not push us beyond our budget.

Next: More amazing Before and Afters



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