The Kitchen Reveal: Day One

When Evan and I were house hunting, the first thing we wanted to know was what kind of shape the kitchen was in.  Was it small?  Too large?  How old were the appliances, the cabinets, the countertops, the flooring, the fixtures?  We saw some beautiful kitchens with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.  And we also saw some scary kitchens… you know, the kind with peeling vinyl floors, crumbling ceilings, and appliances and fixtures circa the 1950s.  We weren’t being snobs; we simply didn’t want to gamble with a fixer-upper house that would require a $30,000+ kitchen renovation just to make it livable by our standards.

Yeah.  Not happening.
We wanted a kitchen that would simply work for us and our lifestyle.  It didn’t necessarily have to be perfect.  That’s what paint’s for.  We wanted a fairly updated and large kitchen that would enable us to feed a small army for Thanksgiving and football games.

Call me crazy, but I wasn’t completely in love with the kitchen that we chose.  It had some fantastic elements to it:  beautiful Corian countertops, a deep sink, newer appliances, a corner window, a pantry, recessed lighting, and an island.  I’ve always wanted an island… EEEK.  What prevented me from adoring the room was, quite frankly, the cabinets.  They were boring, had been through some wear and tear, and the dirty gold knobs bothered me. I settled with the hope that if we planned to live in this house for a long time, that I could update the cabinetry in 15, 20 years.

And then it dawned on me.  Why wait.  Why not try to update the cabinets?  Why is it preconceived that all kitchen renovations have to be expensive?  They don’t.  So I decided one evening (with the help and persuasion of several Bob Vila videos on, and with Evan’s blessing) that I was going to refinish the cabinets myself. 
This guy knows EVERYTHING.  How can you not trust that face?
I began by taking off those hideous brass knobs from every cabinet and drawer and washing them.  Replacing hardware has the potential to be very expensive.  Each knob usually costs $3-8, and multiply that by 30-some cabinets and drawers… yeeeeeeah, not worth it.  I opted for the inexpensive route by buying a $7.00 can of Rustoleum spray paint in a Metallic Satin Nickel finish, and used that to update the knobs.

Rustoleum’s great because you don’t need to clean or sand the project before painting, and can be applied directly over rust. 

I liked the look of the handles so much that I decided to refinish the dirty and white electric outlet covers with the same spray paint.  Outlet covers are typically $2-10 bucks, so I saved a little money there, too.

Then came the overhaul.  I removed all of the cabinet doors and drawers, careful to save all of the screws in Ziploc bags.  The hinges, thankfully, were in great shape, so I kept them where they were.

Welp.  Here goes nothin.’
Over time, cabinets get pretty filthy from not only food residue and cooking oils, but from hand oils, as well.  Per Mr. Vila’s recommendation, I cleaned each cabinet and drawer by brushing on and wiping off a dab of Mineral Spirits ($5).  This stuff can also clean your paint brushes and rollers, and is generally handy to have around.

Apparently I can’t rotate this picture.

Then came the sanding.  I debated buying a Craftsman hand sander from Sears for $40-150, but decided against it, thinking that the sander wouldn’t be able to reach into the grooves of each cabinet door.  In hindsight, I probably should’ve just bought the darn thing.  The sanding took about three hours and turned my hands raw, but it was kind of exciting to watch my progress.  I used a 220 fine grit sand paper, which is usually used between paint coats on furniture, but I didn’t want to scratch up the cabinets too much by using a heavier grit sand paper.

Surprisingly, I ended up using only two of these sanding sheets.
That’s about as “sanded down” as they need to get.  You don’t have to overdo it.
Check out my lovely pants.

Next was the fun part.  I have mostly black furniture, and with the open floorplan, I thought that brown or maple-colored cabinets wouldn’t coordinate very well.  And, well, I always dreamed of having red kitchen cabinets, so I took the leap and just ran with it.

Minwax makes a one-coat stain / polyurethane combo, but Lowe’s didn’t carry any colors of theirs that I liked.  I opted for the two-step process of Rustoleum’s Ultimate Wood Stain in Cabernet, and planned to finish with a second coat of their polyurethane.  Using a nice, sturdy brush meant for stain, I stained each cabinet door and drawer with one coat of this stain, making sure to apply it in the direction of the grain.  Since I wanted a bold red finish, I didn’t wipe off any of the excess stain, and just left each door to dry on its own.

After waiting an hour, I turned the doors upside down and stained the underside, as well.  This was a good opportunity to make touch ups on the sides of the doors that I missed on the first coat.
Hey, I made good use of all of the leftover moving boxes.
Once that was done, I cleaned, sanded, and stained the frames of the indoor cabinets.  Once these “skeletons” were stained, it was easy to picture how the kitchen was going to turn out, and how drastic of a change it really was.

Thankfully, I managed to finish both sides of the doors and the indoor cabinets by nightfall.  I carried the doors in one-by-one and reattached them to the cabinets and drawers.  It was pretty late at night by this point, so I called it for the day, took some progress pictures, and prepared to finish the job the following day.

Stay tuned!  Day Two of the Kitchen Reveal can be read here
Best DIY Project of 2011 Contest - Not JUST A Simple Housewife

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