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DIY Kitchen Remodel: Painting Cabinets

I never had an issue with our oak cabinets until a friend invited me to a kitchen remodel Facebook group. I was wanting to paint our kitchen green and was having trouble finding the color I wanted. So that’s where this entire project started. Trying to find the perfect shade of green paint for the walls. After seeing tons of before and after pictures of painted cabinets, particularly of circa 2000 oak, I was sold. At that moment the project transformed from green paint to an entire kitchen remodel.

The first big decision was deciding whether to use normal paint on the cabinets or chalk paint. Chalk paint seems to be all the rage and the claim is that you don’t need to sand or primer your cabinets. While that sounds nice, I decided to go with normal paint. Having never used chalk paint, I was worried about using it on such a big project right out of the gate. I am going to use it in my bathroom so I’ll report back later which I prefer.

5 Steps to Painting Cabinets

1. The first step is to clean your cabinets really well. While there are cabinet cleaning products, I am not a big chemical fan so I opted for soap and water and it worked great. This sponge is amazing! And some blue Dawn soap.

I’m not sure how often you clean the top of your cabinets but that’s not something I do on the regular. Honestly, it’s not even something I think to clean. Out of sight out of mind, I guess? Boy was I surprised when I realized how much grease and dust is up there and how hard it is to clean. If you find yourself in the same situation, this post is helpful. I used vinegar, baking soda and a credit card to get the majority of the gunk off and then followed up with blue Dawn and a sponge.

2. Once the cabinets are clean and dry you want to lightly sand them. We used 220 grit sandpaper per the recommendation of a cabinet guy refinishing a friends’ cabinets. I also bought a foam sanding block thing to make the corners easy. I honestly don’t know what a “light” sanding means and have no idea if we sanded enough. Basically, we roughed up the surface but did not take off the first layer. Make sure you sand in the direction of the wood grain, that I do know! After sanding I wiped the cabinet down again to get rid of the dust. (Be sure to wear a mask while sanding.)


3. The next step is to primer the cabinets. As with most of the steps in the kitchen remodel process, there are 1,000 options and everyone has their own opinion of what’s best. I struggled with analysis paralysis every step of the way on this project. Ultimately, I decided to use Benjamin Moore STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer which we purchased at Ace Hardware. Our cabinet boxes have laminate on the ends and supposedly you should use a bonding primer. That’s what the internet told me. Don’t worry about the primer looking perfect. The cabinet paint will cover any imperfections.

The most annoying part of painting cabinets is painting the doors. We took ours off so I didn’t have to paint around the hinges but it took twice as long you have to wait for the side to dry before flipping it over. I thought I would be able to fit all the doors on these two tables at once. Nope! Turns out they’re much bigger than I realized so I had to do them in batches.

We used a brush for the inside corner edges and a small mini foam roller for everything else.

4. Once the primer is dry it’s time for the first layer of color. This is such an exciting step because you get to see the kitchen start to come together. For the cabinet color we went with Benjamin Moore Evening Dove. We used their Regal Select paint in a pearl finish.

The first coat doesn’t look that great but that was fixed with the second. Once the first coat is dry add the second. I noticed small bubbles on some of my doors. The paint is self leveling and most of them go away as the paint settles or whatever it does as time goes on. Don’t worry too much about what it looks like initially. It gets better as it dries.

Cabinet door after the first coat of color

5. The most exiting part of the project is putting the kitchen back to together! Our cabinets didn’t have hardware so we added it (I’ll write up a post about how to do that next) and put the doors back on.

Tips for Painting Cabinets

We opted to hand paint the cabinets versus using a paint sprayer. Being that we live in AZ and completed this project in June, painting cabinet doors in the garage was out of the question. If we were to do this again, and it wasn’t a quarantine project, I might try the paint sprayer route in the garage not in the summer. Here’s what we learned.

  • Buy a box of disposable gloves. Painting cabinets requires so much work – cleaning, sanding, priming, two coats of paint, cleaning brushes and rollers. Your hands will thank you. I reused the gloves as many time as I could but did use quite a few pairs over the course of the project.
  • If you are adding hardware, drill the holes before painting. Fortunately we caught this mistake before getting too far into the project but did have to touch up a few doors.
  • If you take your doors off to paint, you need to rest them on something. I didn’t do this at first and quickly learned why. Any excess paint pools at the point where the door touches the table and drys that way. Fortunately, we learned this on the primer coat and were able to sand it down and move on.
  • Test. Remove.
Dried primer pooled on the bottom of the cabinet door.
  • Cans do a better job of holding up doors than plastic cups.
    • Cans are solid and didn’t fall over if the table was bumped.
    • While the plastic cups got the job done, they were very unstable and kept sticking to the doors. (I realize the cups are upside down which increases the instability. This is because there is a small depression on the small end of the cup that was leaving a circle in the paint. The larger opening wasn’t doing that so I had to use them upside down.)
  • Since this project happened in bursts (before and after work), I had to do a lot of brush and roller cleaning. I used an old dish drainer for drying and storage of the brushes and rollers. It kept my mess mostly contained so I had a somewhat functional kitchen for cooking.
  • Puppy pads make for a great moveable floor cover. We also recently adopted a puppy and had some on hand so there’s that.

Before & After

Before
After!

We are so happy with the result! The kitchen is so much brighter and it’s no longer an eye sore. We were/are planning to add a backsplash but are taking a break for now. We were naive to think we could get this far, and add backslash, within a week. We’re not sure the accent wall will stay that color but once I find curtains, a backsplash or wall art I will finalize the color.

Budget

Painting kitchen cabinets is actually a really inexpensive way to update your kitchen. All you need is sand paper, primer, paint, paint brushes, time and patience. We spent $150 total on paint and supplies (this does not include cabinet hardware). We purchased one gallon of primer (and have a ton left) and one gallon of cabinet paint (and used almost all of it).

If you have questions on painting cabinets or want to share your experience feel free to do so!

DIY Kitchen Remodel: Installing Luxury Vinyl Tile

Installing New Flooring

Before we could lay the new tile we had to fix the under floor. If you haven’t read that post it can be found here. We have wood flooring in the rest of our house and wanted to keep a tile look in the kitchen. Having tile installed was out of the budget and attempting it ourselves seemed like a really bad idea. We started by looking at peel and stick vinyl floor tiles but couldn’t find a pattern that we agreed on. We ended up coming across vinyl plank flooring and found a pattern we both really liked. It was more expense than everything we were looking at, but still much cheaper than real tile.

We went with the TrafficMASTER Luxury Vinyl Tile in Sedona. Online the color looks more yellow than it does in real life. Supposedly this style is being discontinued so we couldn’t buy it in the store but were able to order it online and have it shipped to the store for free.

The style that we chose comes in planks with three tiles per plank. It’s a floating floor so if we decide to redo the floor later down the road it should be easy to pull up. The planks have sticky on the edges and that’s how they stick together.

Overall, we are happy with the way the floor turned out. It looks great and has brightened the kitchen. Working with the sticky was a bit challenging at times and there are a few sections that didn’t glue together properly leaving some noticeable gaps. The picture below is the worst section. The majority of the connections are fine.

We wanted to buy grout to fill in the gaps (we have no idea if we should do this so don’t follow our lead) but haven’t been able to find a color that matches. The downside to the quarantine kitchen remodel bandwagon is that so many items are out of stock everywhere. And if we’re being honest, our old floor had duct tape on it so a few small gaps really aren’t a big deal.

Our biggest frustration with the tile is that of the 13 boxes we ordered, the tiles in 4 boxes all came with broken corners. Of course we didn’t know that until we actually started laying the floor because we had left the flooring in the boxes. You can see in the picture below what the broken tiles looked like. We ended up using these pieces for the edge cuts. We finished the project with four tile strips left. Two broken and two not broken. That is way too close for comfort but I’m glad it worked out. Because of the sticky the pieces can only be installed in one direction which means you end up with a lot of waste. I would highly recommend purchasing the extra 10% recommended.

The hardest part of the install was cutting the tiles for the pantry doorway. Cutting the tiles in general was super easy and one of the main reasons we liked this tile. All you need is a box cutter to score the tile. Then you bend and it breaks apart. We used a T square to keep our lines straight. For the door frame, we started by creating a paper template of the doorway. The tile cuts weren’t coming out right so we just kept measuring and recutting. We went through quite a few pieces of tile but in the end got it right. And when I say we I mean The Husband. This was all him and he did a great job!

When laying flooring with glue you are supposed to roll over it with something heavy to set the glue. We didn’t know this when we started and were really grateful to learn that Home Depot rents tools and had a tile roller in stock. There were a few sections where the edges kept popping back up so we left the roller sitting on top of them for a while. There is still one corner that keeps popping back up but the rest of the floor is fine. Don’t let the size of the roller fool you. It’s heavy!

Installing New Baseboards

We weren’t planning on redoing the baseboards, but with all good projects, things change as you go. Our baseboards were 20 years old and in bad shape. A friend convinced me that baseboards are really easy so we went for it. I am so glad we did because they look great.

If you’re removing baseboards I would suggest scoring the top where the baseboard connects with the wall with a box cutter to break the bond. We didn’t do this at first and ripped off paint and dry wall in a couple cases. The paint was an easy fix but we had to buy some spackle to fix the dry wall.

We used a miter box to cut the baseboards.

Before we removed the baseboards, we made note using painters tape where the nails were so we would know where to nail the new ones. We then read that the nails are supposed to go into a stud so we used a stud finder and updated our tape markings. We started by nailing them into the stud area but later realized that the nail goes into the wall board and not the stud so we’re not sure if it really matters. In the end we stopped caring.

When we got to the cabinet baseboards, the nails would not go in. Like at all. I’m not sure what it is about the cabinets versus the wall but a normal hammer wasn’t cutting it. We ended up renting a nail gun from Home Depot and that solved the problem. Too bad we didn’t get the nail gun to start! The only issue with the rental nail gun is that it didn’t come with nails. We paid $50 to rent the gun and then spent $25 on a box of 1,000 nails (the smallest quantity sold in store) which we only used 30 of. If you need nail gun nails holler and I’ll send some your way.

The other surprise with the flooring is that we had to replace the threshold molding between our living room and kitchen. We should have known better but it was not in my original plan. Our wood floors are old so we had a hard time finding a color that matched the flooring. We found one that works but it’s just another unexpected expense. (We used weights to hold it down while the glue dried. DIY all the way.)

Knowing that painting the cabinets was next on the docket, we painted the cabinet baseboards before installing them. It made painting the cabinets so much easier! Painting the underneath was the worst part so not having to worry about the bottom edge was life saver.

Once the flooring was in and the baseboards installed, we used caulking to seal the edges. White caulking for the baseboard wall connection and clear caulking for the baseboard floor connection.

Budget

We spent $800 on the tile to fix the old flooring the the new tile. That was all we budgeted for. Naively we thought that’s all we would need. We ended up spending an extra $500 on unexpected items. Tool rentals, 970 nail gun nails we don’t need, floor scraper, heat gun, baseboards, over-reducer, caulking, ect. Had we expected these expenses ahead of time we could have borrowed tools from friends and shopped around for what we needed. Because we had a limited amount of time for this remodel (we were off work for a week) and our appliances were already in our living room, we opted for blowing the budget to save time.

So that’s it for the floor. Next up is painting the walls and cabinets! If you have questions about this type of flooring let me know.

DIY Kitchen Remodel: Removing Vinyl Sheet Flooring

By the title of the post I assume you figured out that we jumped on the quarantine kitchen remodel bandwagon. We are not DIYers. Actually, we’re not really home project people in general. Our kitchen has needed work for years but we’d rather spend our time and money camping, riding bikes, and exploring the country.

We had a vacation planned for the summer but decided to stay home instead. Partly because of the pandemic and partly because we got a quarantine puppy and realized leaving the pup with someone for 10 days wasn’t a good idea. (Puppies are a lot of work!) We had a week off work, money we weren’t spending on vacation, and a kitchen that needed a face lift. As all good projects, it started with painting the walls and morphed into new flooring; new baseboards; painting the ceiling, walls, and cabinets; and adding hardware to the cabinets. We thought the project would take a week but it took four. Rookie mistake. We were also planning to add a tile backsplash and lights under the counters but we need a break. Not sure if we’ll ever get to those.

Before

Our kitchen and pantry had 20 year old vinyl sheet flooring that was a mess. Over the years it ripped and we covered the holes with duct tape. Classy, I know. We finally decided to bite the bullet and install new flooring. We wanted tile but didn’t want to spend that much so we opted for luxury vinyl flooring. It is a floating floor and comes in planks that glue together. We opted for this option because it was something we could do ourselves and we didn’t need to purchase extra tools. (We have since learned that you can rent tools from Home Depot.)

We have no idea what we are doing and definitely did some things wrong. If you are here because you are wanting to learn how to remove old vinyl flooring, proceed at your own risk. 🙂

First step in the project was to fix the existing flooring. Because the new floor is floating it can be installed over existing vinyl. The only problem is that we needed to fix the holes to create a flat surface. Our original plan was to cut out the holes and install a new square. As such, we purchased a box of vinyl floor tiles. Turns out, vinyl sheet flooring is paper thin (or it’s worn down over the last 20 years) and the vinyl tiles were much thicker. This discovery happened around hour one and we quickly realized we were already in over our head.

At this point we decided we were going to pull up all of the old vinyl rather than patch the holes. (If you’ve done this you know already know it’s a nightmare.) We watched some videos and of course it looked so easy. I’m pretty sure those people had just laid the flooring they pulled up.

We couldn’t get the vinyl and glue to come up together. The top layer of the vinyl came off easily but the glue stuck to the concrete. In the end, we decided that pulling up the entire floor was going to take too long and neither of us have that much patience. Also, something was causing me to break out in a rash every time we started scraping the glue. Now that I think about it, I have an adhesive allergy so that makes sense. I’m definitely glad we didn’t finish the project.

Since we started pulling up the old flooring we had to finish that section. We left the bare concrete in the large section (I’m pretty sure we weren’t supposed to do that but don’t really care) and there is a small lip where the old flooring remains. We continued with our original plan and patched the holes with the vinyl tiles. There is more of a height different between the new tile and old tile than there is between the old tile and concrete. Our overall hope was that neither would be noticeable once the new flooring was down.

We did learn a few things along the way so if you are planning to pull up vinyl tiles or vinyl sheet flooring this is what we learned.

A heat gun and heavy duty floor scraper is your best bet. This was also confirmed by the nice salesman at Ace Hardware. He also suggested I get a bottle of wine for the task, so it’s clear he’s done this before. Some sections are harder than others to remove. We tried no heat, lots of heat, and found that gently warming the tile and scraping worked best. WARNING: DO NOT TURN THE HEAT GUN UP TO HIGH. I tried that thinking it would expedite the process. Nope. It only starts fires.

We didn’t actually get to the fire stage but on several occasions we did get smoking glue. Think of the heat gun as a hair dryer – if you hold it in one place too long it burns. Gently waive it around to heat up the glue and then use a floor scraper. Trust me – you want an actual floor scraper. We started using a hand scraper and it was taking forever. The process got better after we purchased this scraper. Having two people was also helpful. I was heating the floor while The Husband was scraping.

We ended up spending the entire first day prepping the floor for the new flooring. Most of the day was spent trying to get the glue off the concrete in that little section in the picture above. Once we figured out the right tools and method it went faster. There were also a few trips to Ace and several moments questioning what on earth we had gotten ourselves into.

Our must have products for this portion of the project were:

Have you tried to remove vinyl tile? How was your experience compared to mine? Had we decided to finish the floor I’m sure the rest would have gone faster. There’s definitely a learning curve. If you’re getting ready to tackle this project and have questions feel free to reach out.