We remodeled our kitchen

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Project summary

I’ve established that we’d like to redo our kitchen.  But what are we doing?

I have not had much success finding a new configuration that works better in the kitchen’s current footprint.  The room is too wide, and has too many doors, to be an effective two-counter parallel galley kitchen. But the room is too narrow for an island.  If we didn’t cook much, or were on a more limited budget, I think we’d make a more attractive space with minor improvements in function.

But the way things stand, the plan is to annex the adjacent sunroom.  This involves removing a section of load-bearing wall, which we’ll need to replace with a header. It also means removing the one closet on the entire first floor.  The logical way to address that problem is to expand the foyer slightly into the current kitchen’s footprint, making room for a coat closet that’s actually near the front door.

Annexing the sunroom also means we lose the sunroom space itself, which we do use.  We have been planning since we moved to create a new 3-season porch, replacing the current deck, like we did in our old house.  Since this is a significant but not huge project, the logical plan is to do it at the same time as the kitchen.

One last item: expanding the kitchen’s footprint means either matching or replacing the tile floor in the kitchen. I’m not convinced we could match that floor, so we’re probably looking at ripping it up. And if we’re going to rip up the floor, we shoud put in radiant-floor heat in the newly-renovated space while it’s easy.

If we’re putting in radiant floor heat, it may be time to bite the bullet and update the heating system with a more efficient modern condensing boiler, with domestic hot water supplied by a zone off of it rather than the standalone water heater (hey, look! something else from 1983!). And I fear the number of electrical circuits required by code in a kitchen these days may require doing something to our main electrical panel.

So there you have it, the master outline: construct a new 3-season porch, replacing the current deck. Do a gut remodel of the current kitchen, including relocating a wall and removing a load-bearing one. Bring the exposed electrical, plumbing, heating, and insulation up to code, also fixing any “oh my god” structural issues discovered in the process. Construct a new patio to replace the lost deck functionality. And then get on with our lives. Sounds simple enough, right?  Right?

What we’ve done

Here’s what we’ve done to the kitchen to make it more liveable.

P1000262.JPGPretty much immediately, we installed some sliding mesh baskets from Container Store into the lower cabinets. Thanks for the help, Stefan!

DCL_9512.JPGInstalled some open oak shelving we brought with us from the old house. At the time, we thought we might be able to do a minor remodel of the kitchen and wanted to test how some cabinets or shelves here might help. They’ve been invaluable.

Installed a new faucet (Kohler Simplice) and a filtered-water dispenser, and replaced the garbage disposal (which had a paper clip lodged in it and was rusted out).

P1000333.JPGRipped out the old recirculating range hood and replaced it with an over-the-range microwave, freeing up valuable counter space in the process. Though I picked the unit with the best exhaust power (CFM) I could find, and while it’s better than nothing, the new project will need a real range hood.


Replaced the stove! The old stove was actually not horrible, given its age. But my Garland in the old house had spoiled me, so I bought myself the same range (now BlueStar brand). We will clearly be keeping this stove in the new kitchen. You can see the OTR microwave here; it’s a good microwave, just not a very good range hood.


Replaced the dishwasher, when the old one started putting food back on the dishes. This Bosch is much quieter, and uses a fraction of the water and detergent. We’ll be keeping this one too.

One thing we did not replace is the fridge. According to its Energy Star label, it was the least efficient model you could buy in 1983. But idly shopping for a replacement led us to the conclusion that we’d probably want something wider — and perhaps counter depth — in a new kitchen. So we’re hoping it survives until it can be replaced.

The existing kitchen

Here is a picture of the kitchen from when we first saw it; this is still the previous owners’ stuff.

And here is the current floorplan:
You can clearly see that it’s straight out of 1983, including all the appliances.  There’s a short list of things we like about this kitchen:

  • the floor (not visible here): 12″ square quarry tiles, set on a diagonal. Durable, well-installed, attractive.
  • spaciousness: the physical room is large, accommodating a lot of people.  That’s important because, of course, everybody always winds up in the kitchen at parties.
  • room for a table: Lis and I eat in the kitchen most nights.
  • pantry storage: the adjacent bump-out contains an extremely useful pantry cabinet

Just about everything else here could use improvement.  I won’t even go into aesthetics, just functional issues:

  • insufficient working space: given the amount of counter in the room, you would not think that’s a problem. But the primary working space is between the sink & the stove, and it’s tiny.
  • insufficient cabinet space: this room is somewhat bigger than our old kitchen, but we had to struggle to find a home for everything. We also have more stuff in offline storage (basement) than we did.
  • cabinets: they are 1983 builder-grade. One tried to fall off the wall.
  • fridge & sink: 25 years old. We’ve replaced the rest of the appliances, which I’ll describe in another post.

Now about that decor.  This house is 120 years old.  You would think there would be some hint of that in the kitchen (besides the far-from-level floor, I mean). But no, it’s crappy 80’s builder-grade modern. I think we can do much better.

Kitchen remodel project

This past spring, Lis turned to me and said “I think it’s time to redo the kitchen.”  I think she’s right.  We moved into this house about 2 1/2 years ago; we knew at the time that the kitchen was serviceable but dated.  What we did not realize is that its layout is poor — making it operate as a much smaller kitchen than it really is — and that just about everything was wearing out.

I am starting this blog to collect my thoughts, share progress with family and friends, and document the process.  I intend to publish a flurry of entries now to catch up to real-time; the pace will then slow considerably as we select contractors and work on plans. You can expect an uptick of activity as we actually begin work, followed (we hope) by a steady stream of progress until we’re done.

I’ve set this blog to publish new entries at the end, so it reads like a diary. So if you don’t see anything new, you’ll need to skip to the end.