Master Bedroom Walk in Closet – Framing 8/29/13

Framing the walls for the closet was fun and much easier than I anticipated. I drilled pilot holes and used 3″ and 2 1/2″ screws instead of nails. Hammering so many nails would have done in my shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Plus, I think the screws will make the walls stronger than nails would, especially nails driven by me. This was my first attempt at the first wall.

This was the first pass on the first wall.  The corner is built backwards and the header for the door would need to be added after the fact.  What appears to be a threshold is a 26" spacer for the 24" inch door that's going in,

This was the first pass on the first wall. The corner is built backwards and the header for the door would need to be added after the fact. What appears to be a threshold is a 26″ spacer for the 24″ inch door that’s going in,

Our neighbors did a very clever renovation in their downstairs bathroom, replacing a tub/shower unit with a laundry closet and shower. They bumped out a wall (into the living room) to accommodate the shower and laundry closet. They replaced the sink, toilet, and bought a shower surround, put in a high wainscot, closet doors, and painted. They bought the new fixtures from Lowe’s and hired the construction. They did all this for around $5000. Awesome. It looks really, really pretty.

I tried to imitate the way their carpenter made the wall corners but I realized I had it backwards, so the wall came down and was replaced by this.

Here the first closet wall door header and corner are correct.

Here the first closet wall door header and corner are correct.

Although I’ve had a bit of experience with framing walls, first in the basement when we built the family room (15 years ago! And, I really only assisted), and again when I converted a nook in our bedroom to a cedar closet (about 6 years ago); I am not at all confident, at this time, that the walls are plumb or straight, even after using a level and carpenter’s square. I think they are off by about an eight of an inch. Trouble is, this trend will continue to each of the adjacent walls. I guess we’ll know the truth when it comes time to install the closet door. All I can do is the best I can do, right?

There was just enough space in the room to construct the walls on the floor first.

Here’s a picture of the second wall ready to go up.

Closet wall #2

Closet wall #2

The second wall is up!

Isn't this a pretty picture?  Second wall of the closet up!

Isn’t this a pretty picture? Second wall of the closet up!

It’s starting to take shape! You can understand why the framing was my favorite part, right? Almost instant gratification.

As you may have noticed, I’m putting the walls up under the drywall ceiling. Everything I’ve read says it’s OK. The carpenter who did our neighbor’s house did their bathroom renovation that way. I also did the cedar closet this way and after 6 years there has been no movement in the wall–even after a noticeable earthquake last fall!

The only problem with framing over drywall is I couldn’t find a connecting ceiling joist for the second wall. It’s only screwed into the drywall and adjacent walls at this point. All of the other walls are connected but the second wall is a concern. So, what I’m hoping to do is connect the wall in at least two places from the attic when I do the bathroom part of this project. The drywall will need to be replaced with green board (that resists mildew), ceiling included, which will give me the chance to add spacers above and connect the second wall.

Below is a picture of walls three and four from the inside of the closet. The closet will be roughly 5′x7′ with a cutout that allows for the baseboard heat register and bathroom sink.

Walls three and four are up!

Walls three and four are up!

In the picture below, you can see how important it was to save the board(s) with the angle for the back dormer. You just mimic the angle with the chop saw.

Here is where the framing had to be angle-cut for the back dormer.  Using a piece from the original closet framing, I copied the angle on several boards with the chop saw to get the right fit.  This wall was built in place instead of on the floor.

Here is where the framing had to be angle-cut for the back dormer. Using a piece from the original closet framing, I copied the angle on several boards with the chop saw to get the right fit. This wall was built in place instead of on the floor.

Here is the wall partially framed for a medicine cabinet. I’ll need to add a lower board for the cabinet frame when I decide where it should go.

I left a space in the wall framing for a medicine cabinet.  Hope this is right!

I left a space in the wall framing for a medicine cabinet. Hope this is right!

This is the final picture of the framing event. Joe the electrician has returned to install the light switch and I have built a slide-out hamper. More on the hamper later.

All of the closet walls are up and the light switch is installed.

All of the closet walls are up and the light switch is installed.

Ready for Sheetrock!

Master Bedroom Walk In Closet: Demo 8/3/13

I am really, really excited about how well things are going with this project. The details go through my head at every free minute. This project is on the verge of taking over my life!

I have scoured HOUZZ walk-in closet pages for hours. There are 425,000+ images of walk-in closets on HOUZZ.com.

Here’s what I’m thinking at this point in time, 7/29/13. Except on a MUCH smaller scale, I like the color and design of this closet above all others I’ve seen. You really have to see it microscopically for my project because this is a grand closet and ours will be barely adequate, sizewise. It’s the way the hanging spaces and shelves appear to be built, and the color that interest me. It’s just looks clean looking and doable, I think. After our stuff goes into the closet the clean-looking part will be a distant memory. Ha!

It took several weekends to get the old closet torn out without getting hurt (a big concern!). After confessing to John that I had been using a couple of pry bars and hammers for the demo, he advised me to get a “real” crowbar. So, I did and it made things much easier. Duh. TK helped me with the really scary stuff.

This tool, The Sonicrafter was extremely valuable in the demo. I bought the older model on Woot.com for $40. I don’t think the Sonicrafter is meant for this but it cut through 2x4s like a champ. It also cuts sheetrock beautifully, though dusty compared to a knife cut. Here are some demo pics.

This is after taking the doors off, obviously.  Sadly, the bookshelf had to go.

This is after taking the doors off, obviously. Sadly, the bookshelf had to go.

The semi-built-in bookshelf was one of my first projects, so it was kind of sad to see it go. We considered making the bookshelf into the closet door, and after tossing that idea, I tried to convince our neighbors to use it for something close to what they were looking to do in their living room. Maybe I’ll take it to my daughter’s new house and install it somewhere. It holds a lot of books. We used the opportunity to donate a lot of books from this shelf and one in the living room. Why is it so hard to part with books?

This is where I got to on day one.

This is where I got to on day one.

So, baseboard, door frame, carpet, bookshelf — gonzo. The flooring from the bedroom side was pulled back too.

In this picture you can see the wire for the closet light that needed to be moved and part of an upper wall that I originally wanted to keep to avoid additional framing and sheetrocking at the back dormer.

In this picture you can see the wire for the closet light that needed to be moved and part of an upper wall that I originally wanted to keep to avoid additional framing and sheetrocking at the back dormer.

I ran into a minor electrical issue when I took down the closet light and switch. After turning off the power to the room, I undid the wiring and took the light fixture down from inside the closet; no big deal, right? The demo was not at the point where I was ready to call my friend Joe the electrician, however, I managed to knock out the power to half the upstairs when I took apart the switch at the wall.

This is where I ended up after removing the light fixture. Don't worry the power is off.

This is where I ended up after removing the light fixture. Don’t worry the power is off.

Well, I was in quite a pickle so I, of course, called John, who was not available at the moment. I asked another friend and ended up with the situation in the picture above. John, our ex-nextdoorneighbor has good home wiring knowledge. He called me back and helped me through this one, as usual. Thank you John.

This is the rewire after removing the wiring from the light switch which cut off the power to the bedroom and bathroom. The electrician put in an outlet to remedy that and pulled out the light fixture wire.  Later he put in a new switch and left a wire hanging from the ceiling where the 2' florescent light will be.

This is the rewire after removing the wiring from the light switch which cut off the power to the bedroom and bathroom. The electrician put in an outlet to remedy that and pulled out the light fixture wire. Later he put in a new switch and left a wire hanging from the ceiling where the 2′ florescent light will be.

I’ve wired several light fixtures but that is it. Frankly, I would rather leave the electrical and plumbing stuff to the pros and not have to deal with it at all. Too much can go wrong with disastrous results. Luckily, Joe the electrician was able to come over the next day. He left me with a long curled-up wire that hung from the ceiling and a new outlet to conduct the electricity to the house.

As I mentioned in a photo (above), I was trying to save myself sheetrock mudding headaches by retaining the curved part of the ceiling that accommodates the back dormer. There was no hope of this. It took some time for my reasonable self to convince my idiot self to let go of the idea. It was not going to work in a number of ways, the last straw being Joe the electrician saying, “You can’t have a wall in front of a window”. It was going to be 24″ out and house a recessed cabinet, but it would have been an awkward space. Joe the electrician is a smart guy and knows much more about renovations than I do. He made several other suggestions; make the window smaller, shorten the heat register, use a florescent fixture instead of recessed lighting, because of code, and a couple of other things that I can’t remember now. I took all of his advice except making the window smaller. A friend who is experienced at this sort of thing came over and shortened the heat register and I reconfigured the space so it makes more sense.

I took this picture to show how the back dormer wall was framed.  The angle in the ceiling board (inside the ceiling) needs to be copied when I do the framing.  So, I had to take it down without damaging the angled ends too much.  These are the 2x4s that I cut away with the Sonicrafter.

I took this picture to show how the back dormer wall was framed. The angle in the ceiling board (inside the ceiling) needs to be copied when I do the framing. So, I had to take it down without damaging the angled ends too much. These are the 2x4s that I cut away with the Sonicrafter.

This is the last demo pic.

This is the last demo pic.

Framing is next!

Furnishings for a Small Cape Cod Bedroom

To finish this room off, or at least make it habitable, I bought a full-size, Ikea Malm bed. At the time it was only $100. It’s low to the ground and works well with the slanted ceiling. The mirror is from Ikea as well. The dresser is a cheap POS bought from Overstock.com. I wouldn’t use this somewhat flimsy dresser in a kid’s bedroom and my 20-somethings have strict instructions to treat it with TLC.

For this small cape cod bedroom I chose an Ikea Malm bed and mirror and a small dresser from Overstock.com

For this small cape cod bedroom I chose an Ikea Malm bed and mirror and a small dresser from Overstock.com

As you’ve seen in previous photos I added a mirror to the closet door. I considered cutting the mirror to match the slant in the door (a feature which I love), but I chickened out. Now, there is also a light inside the closet. It was wired but never installed. The small, blue and white, sponge-painted table (in the left corner) holds an old-school TV and DVD player.

TV table

TV table

The wall lamps seen in the picture below are KRAMARE wall spotlights we bought in a hurry at Ikea.

Recently added lamps above the bed are Kramare wall spotlights from Ikea.

Recently added lamps above the bed are Kramare wall spotlights from Ikea.

I am very disappointed with these lamps. First, the cords hanging down the wall are unsightly, and second, I cannot find the required light bulbs ANYWHERE! Maybe with some cord covers and some art on the wall…. and light bulbs!

How to Make a Fold-down Desk in a Small Cape Cod Bedroom

Space-saving Fold Down Desk

Space-saving Fold Down Desk

As college students would be using this bedroom when home on breaks, I decided to add this little fold-down desk. I dithered for some time between the desk and a slide-out hamper. The desk won out only because I didn’t want to forfeit the closet space. Please bear in mind that this was a couple of years before tablets came onto the market.

Fold-down Desk in Fold-down Mode

I happened to have a piece of pine (leftover from a previous project), that was just the right size for the desk. I bought the folding brackets from Rockler. Of course, the wall studs were nowhere near where I needed them to be, so I had to hang the brackets from two pieces of poplar which are screwed firmly into the wall studs. The poplar boards add character, right? The medical stool came from somewhere online, as cheap as I could find. These medical stools are expensive little suckers. I keep meaning to put a small bulletin board on the wall above the desk but haven’t got to it yet. A recessed shelf is another idea. Maybe someday…

Space Saving Fold-down Desk

Creating Storage and Space in a Small Cape Cod Bedroom

The next step in the process was to build a window seat in the dormer. Two front dormers were added when we put the garage and breezeway addition on, Gaaa!, 17 years ago. I’d better look this up… Honestly, cold air came in around both dormer areas. The window seat took care of it though. This window seat was mostly build from scrap wood. I REALLY miss working next door to a shop that builds fine furniture. The guys who worked in the shop shared the wood scraps with us and there were some beautiful scraps. When I think of how many of those beautiful scraps we burned in the fire pit I cringe deeply and get very depressed. The window seat(s) came up before I realized I could easily build my own drawers. so for this project I bought pre-made Closet Maid drawers from Home Depot. I was not happy with the cost — close to $100 for the 4 drawers. Fortunately, they closed out this color two weeks later and Home Depot willingly refunded the difference, which was around $40!

Space saving drawers and a place to sit!

Space saving drawers and a place to sit!

I set to work sewing pillows for the room, a cushion for the seat, and a roman shade for the window. I bought a piece of foam online somewhere for around $30 and made the cover and blue pillows from leftover fabric. The fabric for the tan pillows and shade came from The Curtainshop. Hanging the drawers was no picnic but it was easier than I thought it would be. Here’s a picture of the dormer part of the project. I should add that I painted the room and refinished the window trim before building the window seat.

Here's the window seat with the cushion and pillows.

Here’s the window seat with the cushion and pillows.

Window dormer with roman shade, and window seat.

Window dormer with roman shade, and window seat.

Funny, I just noticed the Stieg Larsson books on the shelf which were not published yet when I did this project. Soooo, recent picture and nothing’s changed except the books on the shelves!

After the window seat came the floor. This is the crappiest laminate flooring I’ve ever worked with but the price was obscenely low — $0.69 a square foot from Home Depot. So, it was less than $100 for the flooring. Nice! I like it in the room for now. I need to be more patient in the future with floors because there is an obvious place near the door that had to be filled (I just could not get it right), and I cut the closet door trim too high. Not professional by anu means — last time, promise. Here’s the “showcase” floor picture.

Laminate floor in cape cod bedroom.

Laminate floor in cape cod bedroom.

As you can see, the baseboard trim has been removed. My architect, sister was on my case to update the “stock” baseboard so I replaced the “stock” baseboard with a two-piece system – costly but nicer, I think. The new baseboard is kind of a disaster in places though. One of the inside corners needed more than an 8th of an inch of putty. I kept measuring too short! It’s not really noticeable, except to a discerning eye, but it still sucks. And, I’ll need to maintain that corner because the space is so big that the fill will fall out over time. Again, last time, promise.

Onward and upward!

Storage and Space Saving Ideas in a Cape Cod Bedroom

This was a REALLY fun project. The front bedroom…. When the offspring were all out of the house and our nest was empty for the first time, I had the opportunity to redo this room from top to bottom. First of all, this is one of the best rooms in the house — very quiet and private with lots of interesting angles, and there is a view of the marsh at certain times of the year. It is, however, on the small side at 11′ x 14′. The room needed to be changed from a teen ravaged bedroom (for many years) to a guest bedroom that could sleep a couple, and still accommodate the ‘coming home for awhile’ of an offspring here and there. Because it is a small room. I wanted clean simple, and MOSTLY easy to clean fixtures and furniture that are still comfortable. I had the idea that some of the insulation had fallen down behind the knee wall because the room was always pretty cold. So, I started by cutting between the joists in the knee wall for the shelves you see here. The double shelf unit is on this wall and a single is on the other side of the dormer space.

These shelves are cut into the knee wall, framed inside the wall with 2'x 4's, insulated all around, and trimmed on the inside with 3/4' pine.

These shelves are cut into the knee wall, framed inside the wall with 2′x 4′s, insulated all around, and trimmed on the inside with 3/4′ pine.

Actually, I started by calling in the oil company rep and asked about extending the heat register in the room. Apparently, the door to the room needs to be left opened to allow the heat to circulate through the upstairs properly. Needless to say, during a decade of teenagers the door had been mostly closed. I discovered after cutting into the wall, however, that as suspected there was a piece of insulation behind the knee wall that had fallen down. There was also a hole from the outside, to accommodate a phone wire, that needed to be caulked. And! There were holes from a fallen down shelf in the closet that were blasting in the cold air.

So, I built a sort of frame system out of 2x4s for each of the shelving units that could be fitted into the holes in the wall, and built the shelf units separately from pine. The 2×4 frames were specifically built so they could be screwed into the existing framing of the house – the rafters, flooring board, and wall studs. I put insulation all around the inside of the frame and taped all the outside joints of the shelf units with Frost King tape. I regret not having taken pictures during many parts of this project.

More soon!

Garage Storage Solutions

To this bare wall, we added a 10″ shelf and pegboard to neatly store items that were strewn around our garage.

TK and I have been working together the past few weekends trying to get the garage cleared out and organized enough to actually use for our cars this winter. We sold a couple of items on Craigslist, donated some things to Goodwill and are trying to organize the rest. The garage is 24′long x 22′wide. The goal is to accommodate 2 cars, a snowblower, a lawn mower, power tools, lumber, 3 bikes, firewood, two large town-owned trash/recycling bins, and gardening tool and supplies…AND two cars. It’s hard to believe but we are almost there!

The woodworking tools and supplies use up a lot of space, and that’s where we started. You may remember last winter’s basement-workshop project. This is where I got to with that: http://dianabuild.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/DSCN1257-1024×768.jpg You can see the post in its entirety under March 2012 archives, if you’re interested.

We started with a shelf that extends across most of this wall.

A 10′ x 12″ piece of pine + shelf brackets = a sturdy and useful storage shelf for the garage.

We attached the braces to the board with 3/4′ wood screws, marking the screw holes first. Then, using a level, simply attached the shelf with brackets to the wall. The shelf is high and I can barely reach it, but I’m short, so no big surprise there. We needed ample room under the shelf for the pegboard. The wood and braces for this shelf were two of only three things we had to buy for this project! The wood was around $23 at Home Depot and the braces were $5.99 each from Ace Hardware. Coupons made the expense of the latter easier to swallow.

I was thrilled to find enough pieces of leftover 2×3 board to hang the pegboard.

The wall is sheetrocked due to fire code so we couldn’t just attach the pegboard to any exposed wall joists. You need a space behind the pegboard for the hooks. I was prepared to chop up leftover lengths of 8′ 2×3 boards to use for the hangers, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a box with leftover, already-chopped pieces of 2x3s, hoarded from another project! This saved us a lot of time and mess.








Frame out the space where you want to hang the pegboard with pieces of 2×3, then, using 1″ screws, attach the pegboard.

The 2×3 pieces are attached with 2 1/2″ screws to the wall joists. We would have done better to use 3″ screws but we didn’t have any. You could also frame the perimeter of the pegboard pieces with 2x3s, or even 1x3s, and attach it to the wall directly. I would do this if I were attaching an 8×12 sheet to a wall. With the smaller pieces of pegboard it would be overkill, in my opinion. Plus, the additional supports would plug up operative pegboard holes.

The lovely and talented, Hilary, a friend at work, donated the pegboard for our garage project-and brought it to me at work and helped me load it into my car. Thank you Hilary! I owe you a major haul of perennials These are used sheets of pegboard that Hilary’s parents rescued from a store that went out of business. It’s really good, heavy-duty stuff–and colorful, as you will see.


The last thing we bought was a variety pack of pegboard hooks from Ace Hardware for around $10.

Filling the shelf and pegboard was a great reward!

We’re going to need a few more hooks. They make some really cool pegboard stuff. Check out the shelves on the pegboard made from brackets that came with the kit, also, the hanging bin (bought from Amazon), at the lower left–a great place for random nails, screws, and small pieces. I scraped the rest of the obnoxious label off today. This is the organizing bin: http://www.amazon.com/Crawford-PB2-Portable-Pegboard-Organizer/dp/B0009WG62U/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1353716298&sr=8-9&keywords=pegboard+accessories There is plenty of other pegboard exotica available, as I’m sure Amazon will remind you…

DIY TV Stand

We decided to get a very large TV for the basement family room. The idea had been discussed, agreed upon, and sealed by the fact that we would have all three offspring home for the summer. We have a nice TV in the living room but in the family room at the time was a 21″, old school, Sony, something or other that would not die. The thought of having all of the offspring and all of their friends in the middle of the house (living room) until all hours of the night so they could watch HDTV was more than we could prospectively tolerate. Sleep is very important thing, after all.

What we had for a TV stand at the time was a table we made (long ago) from basement project scrap. It is approximately 30″x20″. The TV is 46″. Can’t last forever in that situation, right? The components were stacked up here and there and the dvds and other TV things were in boxes all around.

Research began for TV (media) stands. Of course, everything I liked cost $900 and more. The budget allowed $100 for lumber plus a Kreg jig and other supplies-clamps and angle pieces,

Mini Kreg Jig and Kit – Rockler Woodworking Tools.

Universal Fence Clamps with Clamp-It™, – Rockler Woodworking Tools.

I found this media stand/bookshelf on the Crate & Barrel site. I might have just bought this from Crate & Barrel (temporarily ignoring the budget), if it were made of thicker plywood instead of thinner “engirneered wood”

Crate & Barrel Media Console

This piece from Crate & Barrel looked like something I could build. Modified slightly, it could be stained to match the other furniture in the room, it could fit the space, there is ample room for wires (four components), and I really like the symmetry of it.

The C&B piece is 27.25″Hx15″Dx73.75″L. To fit the room and our components, I made it 21″Hx16″Dx76″L. I used 3/4″ plywood, maple on one side and birch on the other. Lowe’s cut the plywood for me. The bill for the lumber and cuts was $96.74–under my $100.00 budget! Also, on that trip I bought a light wood edge banding tape to cover the edges of the plywood in front.

I’d often read that pocket hole joinery creates strong joints in furniture, and I can now attest that it is indeed true. Using the Kreg mini jig and the right angle clamp system noted above you simply clamp, drill, and screw. Here’s a picture of how the pocket holes look. This was a practice piece. (click on image to enlarge)

As I mentioned previously the rough edges of the plywood were finished with edge banding tape. I bought it at Lowe’s but you can get it in the usual other places. This tape is made of very thin wood with an adhesive back that is ironed onto the edges of the plywood and trimmed with a knife. There is a special tool for the trimming but I used a utility knife with a new blade. You have to trim off the ends and edges of the trim because it doesn’t fit perfectly. Just try to get the edges right on one side so you don’t have to trim both. The ironing-on went pretty well except for a little bit of buckling here and there, probably from a too hot iron. I don’t notice it now.

It seemed like a good idea to finish the individual pieces of the unit before putting it together.

With the help of sandpaper and the three products in this picture, I managed to get a finish that is pretty darn close to the existing furniture in the room.


Here’s a picture of the finished project. (click image to enlarge)

Good, right? The feet were a quandary. What I had in mind were little metal post feet but what I could find of those were all too tall. What I ended up using are cabinet pulls attached to the unit with plates that are made for attaching furniture legs. You can see the feet in the picture. There are actually six but the two in the middle are inset. Solid as a rock. I can easily stand on it.

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Painting is a Gateway Drug to Bigger and Better Improvements.

I always get into trouble when I’m repainting a room. It is such a mundane and repetitive task that my mind starts to wander and I notice other things about the room that absolutely NEED to be changed. It was this way with the kitchen. As I was repainting the ceiling and walls I started pondering things like, the cabinets could use a good scrubbing and a new finish, I need to move the cookbooks out from their cabinet storage and into a more accessible place, the possibilities of hanging a microwave over the range instead of having it on the counter are what(?), wouldn’t it be nice to have an incorporated wine rack, how can I bring more light into the kitchen, and so on. It was from here that the “update the kitchen as far as you can go without spending huge dollars” project was born.

Of course there are other improvements that also came to mind, like a new countertop, new flooring, an updated ceiling fan with a light, and a garden window. Unfortunately the budget excludes these things – for now.

Counting down from least to most impact….

#10 Clean, Paint, and Purge

And I mean clean and/or paint everything! Paint the beat-to-heck toe kick, heat register(s), and walls. Patch the holes in the walls. Take down any old, out-of-date wallpaper. Clean the cabinets inside and out; cabinet doors, frames, drawers and drawer fronts, flip the cabinet shelves (where you can), give away or throw away all unneeded items, and put new shelf paper in the drawers and cabinets. Clean out the fridge/freezer and toss anything that has expired or looks, even remotely, like a science experiment, then scrub out the entire fridge. Clean under, over, and behind the fridge and range. Clean the electrical plates. Be a cleaning, painting, purging fiend! This is long and hard work but it will set a very nice stage for the bigger and better improvements to come.

I’m sure that some of you keep up with this sort of regular cleaning thing I’ve heard so much about, however, I do not. Here are some images of the painted toe kick and heat register. (click images to enlarge) These small improvements really do make a big difference!

For the toe kick I used a glossy, Red Devil, black paint. One coat was fine.

For the heat registers, cleaning, sanding, and a wipe down, I used a spray on primer and an eggshell/satin off-white color spray paint.

Please make sure you have adequate ventilation when using spray paints. Open doors and windows, and maybe run a fan, blowing the chemical air away from the project so as not to affect the direction of the spray, of course. A mask is probably a good idea too! Be sure to use tape and newspaper to protect walls and floors from the flying paint.

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#9 Refinish Cabinet Fronts, Sides, and Doors

After scrubbing old fingerprints and gunk off the cabinet doors and drawer fronts with Simple Green, I think, I bought a can of Briwax often recommended by my friend, Caroline, and went to work shining them up. Luckily, the cabinets were not in bad enough shape to warrant a complete refinishing job involving sanding, stain, and polyurethane. Briwax does a terrific job of revitalizing old furniture and cabinet finishes. You just apply it to the wood with a cloth and rub it on with some elbow grease to make sure it shines. Adequate ventilation is advised when using this product.

The other part to refinishing the cabinets is the side panels. For some reason the people who built our house only covered the cabinet sides at about half of the cabinet ends. I don’t know if they only received boards for half, or they forgot to do the rest. Cabinet side boards? This was the best I could find in the family photo archives for a “before” picture. (click image to enlarge)

Maybe your kitchen cabinets came complete with side boards. These are thin pieces of plywood, somewhere around 1/8″ that cover the paper laminated ends of cabinets both above and below. You cannot get these thin pieces of plywood as a shelf item in stores that I know of. Home Depot, however, (and possibly other(s)) sells a cabinet resurfacing program from which you can buy these precious pieces of odd-size plywood. They are cut to size, from the measurements you provide, and sent to your house. The unfinished pieces are less expensive so I bought 3 pieces to cover the sides of the cabinets that needed to be covered. Then put on a clear stain and couple of coats of glossy poly. www.minwax.com I don’t remember how much the new side pieces cost but it was probably around $50 for all three, and well worth it.

Here’s a recent shot of a covered side panel and a lovely Briwax shine on the adjacent cabinet door. (click image to enlarge)

Just glue and clamp the pieces to cabinets. I also put a few 1/2″ nails in to be sure.

I’m really glad to have done this because one of the paper covered sides had partially peeled off. The memory of what it looked like is horrifying.

Stay tuned. Remember, we’re counting down and the best are yet to come!



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#8 Update Your Appliances

Admittedly, I hemmed and hawed about including this point in the post, because although buying new appliances is quick and easy, new appliances are expensive. Our original Kenmore appliances served us well, and lasted for at least as long as they should have, but it was time, AND it made a huge difference to our kitchen life. The energy savings and updated features were well worth the expense. Besides, as I said, it was time. The old appliances were an almond color with black trim, very stylish in the 1980s and early ’90s. The range is shown in the nest segment. Here are the new range and fridge. (click images to enlarge)

We love them.






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#7 Move the Microwave Off the Counter

Duh, right? In modern kitchens you’ll find the Microwave oven situated in a wall or in an integrated cabinet space. These preferable, choices were not an option in our 12×12 kitchen. Our Microwave was situated on precious counter square footage! Soooo, I had the cabinet above the range hood re-sized to allow enough space above to hang a Microwave oven with an exhaust. We chose a Bosch model that matches the range.

I hired a carpenter who makes high-end furniture for a local designer to shorten the cabinet by, I think 6 inches. We did lose cabinet space, and I have trouble reaching the cabinet now, but it’s the junk food cabinet so it’s all good. Below are before and after pictures. (click images to enlarge)








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#6 Let the Light In!

The wood valence over the sink had to go, along with its companion florescent light-so conveniently tucked in behind it. Bye bye also to the cloth window valence. Over Done Gone. I left the mini blind because it is unobtrusive and useful in the summer. Here’s a before picture. (click image to enlarge)

After unscrewing the wood valence over the sink from the inside of the adjacent cabinets, and taking down the spring rod that held the fabric valence we hired our best in the world electrician, Joe, to install 2 small recessed lights to replace the florescent fixture.



It’s funny, really not so much in a way, that the lights could not be centered to the cabinets because of the location of the beams overhead, but since the window is not centered between the cabinets, they end up perfectly spaced to the window. We had dimmers installed here and at the other overhead lights. Since the dining room is so open to the kitchen it’s nice to be able to block out the kitchen during a meal. Here’s the update. (click image to enlarge)


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#5 Add New Hinges and Pulls to your Cabinets

Before this little project our kitchen cabinets did not have knobs or pulls. I kind of liked the plain look back then. Nowadays I like a little more bling. I was tempted to get contemporary looking pulls but since the cabinet style is more traditional, I settled for all pulls in a transitional style (bought at Home Depot), hoping that all pulls (no knobs) would make the cabinets look more a little more modern. To mount the pulls I used a template that you can buy at Home Depot (and other places). Here’s a link for the templates- Cabinet Hardware Templates You use one piece for the cabinets and the other for the drawers. Since the cabinets and drawers had never had hardware before I had to drill new holes. It was terrifying to be truthful. I only had about 1/8″ of play so getting it right the first time was pretty much imperative. With the help of the template I was able to line them up acceptably well, although you wouldn’t want to hire me for this job. Here are picture of the new cabinet pulls and hinges.

The original hinges were an antique brass and encrusted with rust and grime. It was really easy to replace the hinges. All I had to do was choose new hinges that were the same type, except this time nickle instead of brass. The holes in the new hinges were placed differently, so I did have to drill new holes for these as well, except nobody can see them!

It was shocking to see how much of a difference the new hardware made. The effect was sort of the same as adding some nice pieces of jewelry to an otherwise plain outfit. Bling! Fine jewelry for your kitchen cabinets!



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#4 Make Your Trash Can a Pull-out

It probably sounds crazy but the minor addition of a pull-out trash can rocks our kitchen world! Again, no room in the 12×12 kitchen for a stand alone trash can, ergo, under the sink. Before the trash can slider it was a comparative headache to open the cabinet door in the traditional way and then have to pretty much lift the can out to throw anything significant into it, like vacuum cleaner bags, old shoes, massive amounts of cooking debris…you name it, it was a pain. Here is our lovely new(ish) sliding trash can cabinet.

I bought the slider at our local Lowe’s but I can’t find it online, sorry. There are several different models available. I vaguely remember measuring the inside width and height of the cabinet, and gauging the location of the pipes from the dishwasher and sink to make sure it was going to fit. The can came with the slider. You screw the frame for the slides into the bottom of the cabinet and then screw the front into the inside of the cabinet front. It cost around $40-$50. I also carefully considered installing sliding options in other cabinets but in the end they take up too much space inside the cabinet for our needs. Anyhow, awesome kitchen convenience addition! Moving on….

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#3 An Integrated Wine Rack

While this project was going on I scoured the kitchen brochures from Home Depot and Lowe’s looking for ideas. One thing most “perfect” kitchens have is a wine rack that is integrated into the cabinets. Many of these are located, horizontally above the refrigerator or vertically along the side of a lower cabinet in kitchen islands. I’ve never seen one placed like this one but it works for our configuration.

The wine rack is made of oak, like the cabinets. The boards were cut by my friends at Home Depot because of my lack of skill, (working on it). I tried to be really organized about building it and get the center boards in order by numbering the them in sequence across the rack. Tough too was getting the vertical boards to line up equidistant across the rack. I think I had to call for math genius husband help for the measurements. In the end it’s fine and serves its purpose with aplomb.

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#2 Convert Your Cabinet Door Panels to Glass

This is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done but it was easily doable in retrospect. That is, after having done it. It wasn’t until I was part way through this project that I remembered where I saw the idea. It was in an episode of “This Old House” that I slept most of the way through. Luckily I was awake during this part when they used a jig saw to remove the panels from the cabinet fronts.

Out came the center panels of six cabinet fronts. I was left with a lovely L-shaped area along the inside edge for a piece of glass and an unfortunate ridge on the inside of the frame that had to be carefully removed. Carefully, lest we accidentally shave off some of the front trim. The center panels were encased in the oak frame, in a dado, if you will. The back edge of the dado had to be taken off and not in a sloppy way. Since using a router for this sort of thing was out of the question for me at this point in time (due to lack of skill), I ended up painstakingly removing the inside edge with a Dremel and its circular saw bit. I was so obsessed with this that I came home from work at lunchtime as often as I could just to saw off an inside edge or two. Six AM, I was out in the garage removing that annoying inside edge. It really seemed to take forever!

I spent some time while this was going on trying to find clips to hold the glass in place. Finally, I ended up taking them to my glass guy, Lucas, at a local glass shop. Lucas skillfully applied silicone to the inside of the cabinets to hold the glass in place. We have not had even a hint of a problem in the 4-5 years since. I believe the cost was $5-$10 per door, depending upon Lucas’s mood that day. I took them in as they were ready so it was several trips to the glass shop.

My oh my! What a difference the glass panels make! Being able to see the depth of the cabinets and the reflection of the glass opens up the room is a huge way. I am really pleased with this outcome. (click to enlarge image)


Here’s a pic of the silicone job.







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#1 Build an In-the-wall Shelf for Your Cookbooks and Much More

At the beginning of this post I mentioned the need to create a handy space for our cookbooks. At the time the cookbooks were living in a lower cabinet. We tried lining they up on the counter but quickly put them back because they started to get food splattered on them and we really couldn’t sacrifice the counter space.

My daughter, home visiting, walked in the door and said, “Dad is going to kill you”. Using a drywall saw I was removing the front layer of drywall in a wall between the kitchen and dining room. The idea was to create shelves that recessed into the wall between the wall studs. They would stick out into the room only as far as the adjacent doorway. My building buddy, John, very kindly ripped the oak stock with his table saw so it would fit into the wall. He also cut dadoes in the side pieces for the shelves to slide into. I painted the inside drywall and used a jig saw to make cuts in the shelves that allowed them to extend beyond the frame on the left side, thus, centering the shelf on the wall. I could not be more pleased with this creation. (click image to enlarge)

My husband was unhappy about the cut-outs in the wall. In fact, he was irritated with the entire project because it was disruptive, as any kitchen project is. After everything was finished though he could not have been happier with each of the updates. Seemingly, after this project TK became a gourmet chef!



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