As a single woman, I hated my compact kitchen, and finally, the time came that either I would never cook in it again, or I would rip it out and start from scratch. Little did I know that I would learn so much about myself, patience, frustration and, finally, gratitude.
My house was built in 1962, using CBS (concrete block construction), and had not been updated since. The kitchen was a galley style, with jalousie windows that cranked out over the sink and counter area. These windows faced west and were protected from the hot Florida sun by aluminum awnings that closed tight for hurricane protection.
I mention these windows first because they were my first big challenge. I measured the framework and ordered new windows. When the day came to take out the old, what we found was most unsettling. Not only had the wood screwed into the CBS been damaged from years of leakage through the awning connections, but also the concrete had begun to disintegrate around it. It took two weeks of looking to find a repair service to redo the window casings and help install the new windows. That complete, I moved back inside.
The galley wall opposite the sink included a refrigerator, stove and virtually unusable trash compactor (the really old kind that cranks, from the 1960s), as well as a measured space that standard cabinets wouldn't accommodate. This required a custom cabinet to be built to match the white clapboard I had picked out for the rest of the kitchen, thus testing my patience for another two weeks.
I wanted a new refrigerator with a square top (the 30-year-old model was about 5 feet tall with rounded edges, so nothing could sit on top, and if I put cabinets above, it would have looked ridiculous). I also wanted a water / ice dispenser in the door. The installation of this device would prove to be another major hurdle.
In these older homes, the water pipes run under the concrete flooring, and the sink is on the other side of the kitchen from the fridge. Also, the ceiling is open, so HOW was I going to get the water line from the back of the fridge to a water source? Finally, I realized that the utility room was around the corner of the back wall and housed the hot-water heater and a washtub., a water source to tie directly into, right? Not so easy.
Behind the fridge, I started drilling holes, trying to get through to the other wall, but a trip into the attic showed this is a bearing wall, which meant I had to drill up on a 45-degree angle to get to an opening through which I could fish the plastic water line up into the attic and run it down the other side of the bearing wall into the utility room. This took a couple more days, and I used about 15 feet of tubing to go approximately 2 feet from the back of the fridge to the water source.
The cabinets came in (minus the custom-cut one), and installation went off without a hitch. Hallelujah!
Flooring also was a breeze, except that I had 12 boxes of tiles left over, and the tile store I purchased from wouldn't take the returns because it was a discontinued style (my frugal efforts sometimes pay off and sometimes don't).
Oh yeah, and remember all that window-casing work on the outside of the house? That caused me to need to have the entire exterior painted. The existing paint was quite old and impossible to match, and with the concrete repair, it looked like someone had slapped Play-Doh all around the windows on the front of the house!
In the end, I got a kitchen I enjoy cooking in, and I have clearly increased the value of my home. Would I do it again? No way ... I'd hire a contractor. Pennies can be saved, but mental illness is looming just around the corner of every major do-it-yourself home improvement project!
By Pam McFeely