Diary of a kitchen remodel

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

kitchen diary sink
Photo: Thomas J. Story


Bought house. Rude surprises awaited us in the kitchen: the counters were too shallow for a built-in dishwasher, and the oven fan vented only into the attic. Since a remodel seemed imminent, we removed some cabinets from the walls, took out the roll-around dishwasher and trash compactor to gain floor space, and tore off the black -- yes, black -- wallpaper.


Stared at the kitchen. Collected photographs of kitchens we liked; doodled out floor plans; gathered samples of backsplash tiles, counter materials, paint colors, flooring choices.


Hired a kitchen planner. Developed a concept that gave us something concrete to digest. After a kitchen contractor gave us a rough estimate of $60,000 for the job, Beth and I decided that I would act as the contractor.


Hired a carpenter. Although there was no finished plan, we knew a wider opening between the kitchen and dining room was needed. The carpenter removed the existing doorway and pass-through opening in this non-load-bearing wall and added a new 4-by-10 header and supporting posts. I filled in a doorway leading from kitchen to hall, then covered the studs with plaster wallboard. (We had decided the refrigerator would stand where this doorway once was.)

We now had a better sense of the new space and laid out the conceptual plan at full scale on the floor with blue masking tape, using rough measurements for placement of appliances. Made trips to appliance stores to select a refrigerator, range, dishwasher, sink, and faucets. Took all of their precise measurements.

  • kitchen diary corner sink before


    A roll-around dishwasher crowded the corner sink. The range in the middle of the wall broke up the counter space.

  • Cabinets

     Built-in wine rack

    When the project was done, we filled the wine rack by the refrigerator with bottles, opened one, and toasted the new kitchen.

  • Cooking area after

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