Monday, September 22, 2014

Mini Rent House Kitchen Makeover

My last post gave the grand tour of our rent house, and today I'd like to share with you a little kitchen makeover we did recently. Really, the most glorious part of this reno is that I hardly lifted a finger. I considered doing parts of it myself, but in the end it was a very good decision to have someone else do it (more on that later). We hired the job out to qualified professionals and am unbelievably thankful that everything went as planned! No delays, no material mix ups--every step of the way I found myself knocking on wood that things would continue to progress smoothly, and they did :) It was a miracle!

On the other hand, the day of the counter installation was a horrible, no good, very bad day, because my camera died a very sudden death and refused to take pictures, plus my phone imploded and deleted all of its content within about 15 minutes of each other. I took a lot of deep breaths, and also a lot of iPhone pictures, so please forgive the low-quality images. I was hanging onto my sanity by a thin strand, but it's all better now!

Let's remember where this kitchen started--purplish brown laminate counters that fed up the wall as the backsplash. Behind the stove was a sheet of white plastic, and a utensil holder that the current tenants never used and frankly seemed very odd to me. Not sure I'd ever want to lean over an open flame to grab a spoon? 

Before any of the demo go started, I had to choose our materials. This was a pretty hard process for me, because I had to constantly fight the urge to upgrade to something we didn't need. After all, this is just an income property, and not something that I (or the tenants) will have to live with forever, so getting a fancy edge on the counter wasn't worth the extra money.

For the counter, I chose a white quartz, and they came from Home Depot because they had the best prices, by far. It took me a couple of trips and an appointment to successfully connect with someone in their design department, but once I did everything went very smoothly. First, I gave them the rough measurements that I had taken myself, and then they sent someone out to template the space. Easy peasy.

The backsplash came from Kevin Lorino at The Tile Guy. I'm a huge fan of Kevin's, and I highly recommend his store if you ever need tile. They have a huge selection, but I think Kevin's knowledge of his inventory is what makes him stand out the most. I went into the store with an idea of what I was looking for and found a sample that I really liked. Unfortunately, it was about $20/sqft which is a lot more than I was looking to pay, and when I showed Kevin what I liked he actually apologized that something so expensive was out on the floor! Apparently someone had come in and requested that particular product, and that's the only reason it was out. He said he had something that looked exactly the same for less than half the cost, and went and grabbed the tile I ended up using. Sure enough, it was just as nice and was a much better price!

So, demo time. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't do much of anything myself, but I was in and out to oversee the process as a whole. Partially because I'm a control freak, and partially because I really, really love learning how all of these things work. I didn't know anything about how counters were removed or installed, and was eager to learn.

The counter guys requested that we move the stove, so our handyman took it out and also removed the plastic panel that was behind the stove. Unfortunately, it uncovered some pretty sad drywall work, so he had the added step of re-drywalling that area so the backsplash would have something to stick to.

Here's a better look...

In the end, the biggest reason I was thankful that I decided not to demo myself was when I saw how hard it was to get the laminate "backsplash" off the wall. It was installed with a huge amount of adhesive, so our handyman had to get it really hot with his heat gun. Even then, it was difficult to get off, and after watching him struggle with it I was glad I could just snap some pictures rather than burn my fingers!

After he got some pieces off, he started chiseling the corner to detach the backsplash portion from the counter portion.

It was a very sticky situation.

To get the counters off, first he pried off the decorative cap on the front of the counter.

Then it was just a matter of separating the counter top from the wood it was nailed to.

You'll see that the wood is actually just sitting on top of the counters. We debated removing it as well, but it provided some extra support (mainly on the other side of the kitchen from where this picture was taken) so we decided to leave it.

Woohoo, no more purplish brown!

Next up was the counter installation. As promised, the counter guys called me on their way to the house so I could meet them over there. They made pretty quick work of it, and really, it was very anti-climactic. They got the counters, put down some caulk, and laid them on. Not much to see or learn there.

On the other side, they cut a hole for the sink. The hardest part of their whole installation process was rigging a platform under the sink hole to "catch" the counter when they finished cutting it. 

See how pretty? Me lovey these counters.

Next up was the backsplash installation. Earlier I said I didn't lift a finger... well, that wasn't quite true. I carried all of the tile and grout in from my car, and holy cow that stuff is heavy! Don't laugh, but I was sore for days.

Laying the tile went pretty quickly, although longer than I would have guessed. All in all, it was probably a  6 hour process. 

Once the tile started going up, I was pleased to see that it had more blue undertones than I realized. I was worried about the kitchen being white on white on white, but didn't want the backsplash to have tons of color either. What we ended up with is perfect!

Before they grouted, I was feeling a little nervous because the glass tiles were reflecting light in a strange way and almost looked like they were glowing on the ends.

Once the grout went on, though, it took care of that problem!

Instant gratification is my favorite thing, so naturally I was a huge fan of the point where they start wiping off the excess grout--haze, I think they call it. The left side of the picture below has been wiped, the right side hasn't.

Helllloooooo pretty tile. How are you?

And now things are so much lighter and brighter! You'll notice that between the counters and the cabinets is a dark line--that's the wood we decided to leave that I mentioned earlier. These cabinets are due for a new coat of paint, and when that happens, that line will get painted and disappear.

How about a little side-by-side action?

Of course now the grout on the floor seems a little harsh, so painting that might be in my future. They sell "grout pens" which are a lot like paint pens, but are specifically made to re-color grout. I think a lighter tan/beige would make those floors look more seamless and less in yo face, but that's a project for later, especially since it's tedious and completely unnecessary.

Next time, I'll post some pictures of the rent house as a whole and you can see how far it's come since we bought it! Amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do, especially when you have navy doors and avocado-colored trim :)


  1. I LOVE it! It makes me wish we lived somewhere we could do something like this! Soon enough I guess. ;) (Also the grout pen would be TOTALLY worth it!)

    1. Yes, soon!!!!!! Before & afters are just so dang satisfying. A grout pen is definitely in those floors' future... I just have to invest the time and get some knee pads hahaha.

  2. You're right in letting the professionals do the dirty work. If anything, you could plan out all the details you want, so that it'll come out as you deem fit, which is what you did here. The stove's backsplash was a tricky fix, and that could had made the renovation a lot harder if you did it yourself. Though it's too bad your camera and phone didn't cooperate in the end. Good day!

    Helene Raymond @ Trade Squad