Kitchen Renovation | "Morgue" Tile Backsplash

Last weekend, two days after our countertops were installed, we went to work on the backsplash.  The official last "construction" item of the kitchen!  It was exciting.

Mike was making a trip to Home Depot so I decided to tag along and pick up supplies for tiling.  We usually chose a local tile shop, but they are only open "bankers" hours except on Thursday's and the one Thursday we left work early to make a special trip, they were closed, no explanation.  So, Mike refuses to use them anymore.

I knew we were going to use white subway tile, so I didn't think there would be a problem finding it at HD.  The grout was a little harder.  I wanted the higher contrast look, and thought a darker gray would work.  We also wanted premixed grout since it's much easier and more time efficient.  They had nothing in the darker grays in premixed, a lot of options in the dry selections though.  I waved down a guy and asked and he showed me to the rolls royce of grout, (with the matching price tag): Fusion Pro® single component® grout.  Yes, that's two registered trademarks.  We asked if it was an epoxy, (what we used on the floor), or an polyurethane, (what we used in the upstairs bathroom), and the associate responded it's a "fusion".  Whatever the heck that means.

They only had one option of a dark gray called Charcoal and since we experienced the floor grout drying much lighter than we expected, we thought we would be fine.


This picture makes it look black.  And, guess what, it is.  Black.  Very black.

We started by installing the tile.  I can't lie, this was all Mike.  We had stayed out late with my girlfriends and our husbands the night before, celebrating one of my friend's new job and I woke up hungover and Mike had half the kitchen done.  Sometimes he scares me.

The tiles are self-spacing and had little ridges along the edges so it was pretty quick work.  The next day we were really optimistic about grouting.

Let me tell you, it was the worst grout we've used.  It wasn't helped by the fact that black grout + white tile and white everything else = mess.

After a couple feet, we finally got the hang of it, and if anyone gets stuck buying this overpriced grout, here's what worked for us.

Step 1. Tape everything off.  Put paper down on all horizontal surfaces.  Seriously, like 30% of this stuff just falls off, so save your wife the constant fear of giant black stains and do some prep.  Don't forget your brand new outlets.  Nothing is safe.

Step 2.  Wet the tile.

Step 3.  Apply grout.  Work in small sections because the grout dries really fast.  This was towards the end where Mike had some confidence, most of his work areas were smaller than this.  Tip: He found that having a spray bottle nearby allowed him to work in larger areas.

Step 4.  Wipe with lightly wet sponge.  Don't worry it's normal for it to look like you're making it worse.

Step 5.  Wipe with clean, very lightly damp sponge.  Tip: We had 3 sponges in rotation.

Step 6.  Wipe again with clean, lightly damp sponge.  Tip: The sponge needs to be almost dry at this point or the grout starts running and it's not pretty.

Step 7.  Right after sponge, use a paper towel to wipe some more.  Tip: Fold in fourths, not balled, so that you're using a flat surface to wipe.  I know that sounds anal, but if it's not, it might pull out some grout.

Step 8.  Repeat any of the steps over until all the tiles are clean.

Step 9.  Move over and do the next square foot until your arms give out or you finish.

After we were done we stepped back and were a little quiet.  The grout was still black, and even the first half of the kitchen, which was pretty much dry at this point, was still very much black.

Mike looked at me and very quietly said, "it looks like the tile in a morgue".  We both agreed.  Then we did something even weirder, and admitted it looked pretty cool.

It's way more design forward than I would have picked, but it's pretty awesome.  You'll have to wait until the final reveal, because that's all that left before we clean everything off and call this turkey done!

Kitchen Renovation | Solid Surface Countertops

Last time I mentioned our kitchen plans it looked like this:

I had mentioned that I found a granite, called 'River White' that had some gray veining and and red speckles.  Everywhere online I found gorgeuous photos of it, the sample at Home Depot looked great, and even the little 2" x 2" sample they gave me to take home looked awesome.  I was ready to order it.

A couple days before we were going to make the order, during a quick stop to a Home Depot we don't usually go to, I got bored and walked over to the kitchen section to see if they had a counter in one of the sample kitchens with the River White.  I got really excited when I saw they did, but it quickly turned to panic.  The lovely red garnet specs actually made the gray veining a light lilac color.

Not the look I was going for.  I know that you can pick your slab and all that, but the possibility of getting some purple veining was too much a risk for me.  Mike was happy because he's not that big of a fan of granite and our second choice was solid surface, which he prefers.

Up until I found the River White granite, I had fallen hard for Corian's Rain Cloud which is the solid surface equivalent of carrara marble.  I had actually wanted the carrara marble look, but knew I could never live with marble, so I was sold on the Corian Rain Cloud.  Whenever we told people of our kitchen renovation people always asked if we were getting granite.  I know it's the common upgrade and always a selling point, but I was going for the look, and not so much the "status".  Also, granite has more maintenance that I'm not going to lie, I'm not always the greatest at.  Since Rain Cloud is the highest price point of Corian, we could have gotten granite for cheaper.  The River White was actually cheaper per square foot, but there are some things you should be aware of when trying to get the actual costs.

Here's some things that I found out during our research, based on Home Depot's costs:

Rain Cloud is actually a directional design since it has veining in it.  This increases the cost because they count area of the corners twice.  We have 2 of these corners.

Mike had emailed requests for quotes and this was actually mentioned in the email.  When we went to order the counter tops, the woman said she made a mistake and that would have to be added on.  After talking to the manager and showing the email, (which was from the same woman we were ordering from), we came to an agreement of only adding about $150 for this mistake.  It would have originally cost us $600.  ALWAYS GET THINGS IN WRITING! 

So, after changing my minds and going with the Solid Surface 'Rain Cloud', our new design board looks like this:

I ended up ordering the rug already, and decided on a different style.  I also bought the Target tray, and it was on clearance, woot!

Two weeks ago a couple guys from the local company Home Depot hires out to came by to measure the counters.  Since Mike's done this before, (back in high school he worked for a counter top shop), and he was aware of all the right questions he took the time off work to meet them.  He also begrudgingly took photos for me!

They used corrugated plastic strips to layout everything.

We even got to see what the overhang would look like, instead of imagining it.

Last Thursday was two weeks, to the day, since they measured and they scheduled to come in the morning.  Mike took the morning off and stayed during the installation.  He even sent me a midway photo with the air compressor thingies set up.

He then sent me some of the completed photos:

Over the weekend we installed the backsplash, so I only took a photo of a close up of the counters to show the pattern.  I'll have better photos during the reveal.

Not only do we love the amount of space we've gained with the new counters, we love the pattern and look!

Kitchen Renovation | Painting and Pulls

Mike has been the driving force behind this kitchen for the last 3 months.  He's the demo and construction guy, and while I help out where I can, it's Mike who gets stuff done.  That is up until now.

I've mentioned before that Mike doesn't paint.  It's okay, because I don't really demo.  We all have our strengths.

Mike got me up to this point, and it was my turn to take over.

On the list was to paint the trim white, paint the crown to match the upper cabinets, touch up the wall paint, and finally paint the door!  It's been 4 years since we installed that door and we're just now painting it!

To add to my list, I also have to paint the walls in the dining room and decided to repaint all the trim as well.  I didn't want crisp fresh white sitting next to 4 year old trim.

My first task was matching the Ikea Adel cabinets to a paint color.  Lindsay from Little House Blog, says that Benjamin Moore 'Paper Mache' is a perfect match to Adel cabinets.  But, since I ran around to 3 different stores, I've learned that my local stores are slowly removing the BM line, and none carried the Aura line that I guess 'Paper Mache' is.  I decided to go back to my comfort zone and had Sherwin Williams color match it.  I took a scrap piece of cover panel and they used their little computer color thingie to do their magic.  Since I use the contractor's line, ProMar 200, I got the low-sheen finish, which is like a satin, but a little sheen to it.  Here's the important information for anyone who finds themselves in my predicament.

The guy asked if I wanted to save the color and I even named it Ikea Adel.  Because I get contractor's pricing, it's cheaper for me to buy a gallon, but to do 2 coats on all the crown I didn't even make a dent, so a quart would be more than enough.

Now the crown looks seamless and gives the cabinets the custom look we were hoping for.

You can see next to the white trim, how off-white the Adel cabinets really are. 

Something else you can see is the cabinet pulls we installed.

We went with these from Lowe's.

They are both modern, yet traditional, and look great on the white upper cabinets, but even more awesome on the lowers.

Since they are "special order", (something I found out when I went to our local store), I ordered while I was at work and counted perfectly the correct number of doors and drawers from memory.  It would have worked out perfectly, but when they arrived they were a little smaller than what we were expecting.  It's not something that made that big of a difference on most of the doors, but our large drawers in the peninsula looked weird so I decided to use two per drawer, making my number 2 pulls short.

Mike already drilled the holes, so when the new ones arrive in 10 days, we'll only need to screw them in.

Since all the painting is complete in the room, (except for the door, which requires a little warmer weather than the 20's we've been having), we're officially ready for the counter tops which are scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Obviously we have a little clean-up to do before then, but compared to all that we've done to this point that's nothing.

I'm hoping to check back in on Friday with the counter top photos, we seriously CAN.NOT.WAIT!

Kitchen Renovation | Doors, Drawers and Appliances

Quickly after the tile grout was cured, we began installing the cover panels.  We began on the lowers, mostly because it was easily reached and I was really excited about finally seeing the black added to the room.

We had to install the refrigerator panels in order to lock all the bases in.  It was a bitch to scribe those to our old wavy walls, (more on that saga below), but they are in!  We also added a panel to the back of the peninsula.

During the ordering we discussed needing one large cover panel (this 3'x8' one) for the back and the associate then said we could cut all the other ones from another large one.  Well, for some reason she added all the little ones to our order as well.  We had planned to return one of the big ones, for $125 you better believe we'd drive the 1 1/2 hours, but when we tried to cut it down for the peninsula we messed up and cut it too short.  Womp, womp.  We actually took hours trying to figure it out since the walls and floors are not level in our house, so we had to cut everything at an angle to have it line up perfectly.  Thank goodness we had that extra panel!  We set the bad one up on the counter to use it for all the tools.  It's like a preview of how great it'll be having counter tops again.

It was then we could move on to the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
The plan was that I would do all this while Mike was out for the day helping brew some beer at a commercial brewery.  I tried to do as many of the upper doors as I could on my own, but with the uppers being as tall as they are, it was difficult holding the door while attaching the hinges.  I did what I could and then moved on to adding the drawers.  Or, should I say, tried to.

Listen up any future Ikea kitchen DIY'ers: Something you should all know is that we read the directions each a couple times before connecting the cabinet bases together and adding the cover panels to the exposed edges.  There aren't really directions for where to connect the bases together, but the cover panels are laid out pretty clearly:

We attached all the panels in the 4th holes from the top and bottom.  We connected the bases together using the 4th holes as well.  These you actually have to drill.

What do you think happened when I tried to start attaching our drawers, (which make up about 75% of the bottom cabinets), they used the bleeping 4th holes!!  I'm sharing this because you obviously have to build your kitchen the wrong way first to know this little nuance.  After googling around for a bit, I found people warning not to follow the instructions for the cover panels because of the drawers.  Where were you guys last week?!

I was not a happy camper needless to say.  One thing I hate more than anything is having to do things twice.  I had to wait for Mike to get home to help reattach all the cover panels, 4 in total (each with a minimum of 4 screws), and drill and reattach all the bases together, 4 cabinets (each with 4 holes) in total.  The hinges use holes 2 and 3, and so we moved everything down to the 5th hole.

Public service annoucement over.

Once we got all that redone, we added all the drawer hardware and fronts and finally brought in our appliances!  Mike installed the microwave first, then, with the help of an appliance dolly and my sister's awesome door opening skills (shoutout Michelle!), Mike and I manhandled the range and refrigerator into place.

It's amazing how doors and appliances can take a room from this: something that finally looks like a kitchen.
I quickly took this photos this morning, so the light is pretty bad, but we've made a lot of progress!  We're happy to report that there is a very comfortable amount of room between the refrigerator and peninsula.  So glad we went with the counter depth model to gain those extra inches.

Once the bottom cabinet/drawer situation got resolved we added all the RAMSJÖ doors/drawers to finally give it that tuxedo look.

Mike added the toekick and we used the Ikea plinth in the RAMSJÖ black brown to match the cabinets.  Something we couldn't find online was how to terminate the cover panel/toekick on the edge cabinets.  The base cabinet cover panels only extend to the bottom of the base, but Mike had assumed it went to the floor, (in his defense, we were also working off the assumption that we would be cutting the large panel down
for all these), so he built the base to be flush with the cabinet.

We had decided that we would be happy with this type of look:


As I said earlier, we were sold all the base cover panels, and we used up the spare extra large one, so we wouldn't get this look, (Mike was kinda happy because he said it would be a crumb catcher - I think I would have to agree, although it does look really nice).  But this left us trying to figure out how the 3/4" Ikea plinth would sit next to the 5/8" cover panel.  In the end, Mike ripped down the plinth to about 1/4" or so and there is a small reveal.  My worry was that it would sit flush and it would look like we had messed up.  It doesn't though, and he did this on all the edge cabinets.  Including the peninsula, which butts up against the full panel piece.

We have to fill all the holes, but we bought black putty, so that shouldn't be too bad.

Another panel that had Mike concerned was the panel for the refrigerator.  One side would be attached to a base cabinet for support, but the other one was free.

We thought long and hard about how to support the bottom of the panel from being free to move around.  I had said it wouldn't matter because the fridge would prevent it from moving inwards, but Mike was determined.  He had planned to install clips into the tile, but we forgot and it's a good thing too, because we ended up having to shift everything down an inch or two and the panel ended up lining up on the hardwood floor.

We couldn't decide what to do, until after we rolled the fridge in, we realized it was such a tight fit that the panel wasn't going anywhere.  Wait, didn't I mention that at some point?  Mike simply caulked the edge with some silicon on the inside along the back and bottom, and some paintable caulk on the back on the other side.  Here's a photo of what the inside looks like while Mike was trying to fix a loud clicking noise last night.

You can see we also added a piece of rubber base along the back to finish off the edge behind the fridge.      

After all that, Mike still was going strong and installed all the trim around the doors, windows, and even the crown.

Instead of cutting the side panels to fit, we lined up the bottom and let them extend past the top of the cabinet.  This gave an edge to nail into.  In front of the doors, Mike screwed 3" pieces of the white panels that were left over from the fridge panels to the top of the cabinets.  This was the other edge that the crown was nailed into.

EDITED: A sweet reader commented that she was installing the Adel cabinets with crown molding.  I was having a hard time describing how we did it so I made a diagram to show it better.

We did this to have something to nail the crown into.  As you can see in the photos before the trim was added, the cabinets were installed a couple inches from the ceiling, so we had a few inches to play with.

The base of the crown lined with the the top of the cabinet base and was nailed into the cover panels.  The top was nailed into the ceiling.

I hope this helps explain it a little better!

We filled all the holes last night, and we just got word this morning that our countertops will be installed next Thursday, so I've got a date with a paint brush to get the crown and trim ready before than.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we'll have this kitchen finished before the end of the month!  Hope I don't regret saying that out loud!

Ps. I hope I explained everything well enough, but if not feel free to ask!  There was definitely a lack of information on a few of the little details we were able to find online, and if I help just one person not drill that damn 4th hole, our troubles will be worth it!