This is wordy. You've been warned.
After I shared my beautiful! new! kitchen! I had a few people comment and email me with some questions, so I thought I'd lay it all out here in case there were other inquiring minds. And if you're wondering about anything else, don't hesitate to ask!
1. What did (and didn't) you DIY?
This was honestly the biggest question that we wrestled with, but ultimately it came down to maintaining realistic expectations. If Andrew had a normal job where he was home at a decent time every night and had every weekend off, we probably would have tackled the whole thing ourselves. But when we looked at the calendar, there were only a handful of days where he might be able to work on the kitchen before deployment and then he'd be gone for 6+ months. It just made sense to hire it out. There were a few things that we crossed off the contractor's list (I don't need to pay someone $450 to install hardware on the cabinets) but they did most everything else, with the exception of the back splash. A few things we learned/observed:
- We saved a lot of money by doing the demo ourselves. It was stressful and not very fun, but we knocked it out (pun intended) in a weekend and saved a couple thousand dollars in the process.
- The counters probably would have been pretty easy to measure and install, as long as you have the right power tools (i.e. table and miter saws).
- Read over the contract line by line! $450 for hardware installation is ridiculous, considering it took us a total of 30 minutes to drill the holes and install it ourselves. And we're saving around $500 by installing the molding. Things are still slightly unfinished, but it was worth it to us to save that money.
- Trying to DIY the cabinets would have been a nightmare. Maybe if we would have considered it if we had more time or we weren't working on our primary kitchen, but the amount of precision required really made us thankful that we hired out the help. And we chose a contractor who had experience with IKEA cabinets before, so they knew exactly what they were doing + how to modify the parts to give us a more custom look. For example, they were able to modify some cabinets to give us open shelving and another narrow cabinet for cutting boards on the left side of the stove and microwave to maximize what would have been wasted space.
2. How did you install the back splash?
I mentioned that it was a $50 back splash, including paint. And I love it! I think it's perfect for the kitchen. We bought two sheets of primed bead board paneling, cut it to size and used a brad nailer to install it. You could also use liquid nails, but the brads worked so well that we didn't feel like we needed that. We used a jigsaw to cut holes for the outlets, although Andrew said a simple box cutter would have worked just as well if the blade was sharp enough.
Once Andrew cut the pieces, I painted them before I put it up so I didn't have to get between the counters and cabinets with a roller later. I just touched it up with a brush after it was nailed down. We used quarter round to finish it off - on the bottom where the back splash meets the counter and in one section by the window where the top wasn't hidden by cabinets.
There were a few places where you could sea the seam between two cut pieces and there was a gap between the quarter round and the back splash in some spots, but I just used some standard paintable caulk to fill it in and then painted over it. That worked really well to hide some of the imperfections. And this tutorial was helpful while we were educating ourselves beforehand.
My mother-in-law took a pottery class a few months ago and made that for me. Isn't it beautiful?
3. How do you like the counter tops?
LOVE. I think they're beautiful and perfect for the house and the look we were going for. We went with the NUMERAR Oak from IKEA and used several coats of Watco Butcher Block to seal it. I didn't want to stain it unless I could find a food-safe stain (which I couldn't) and even though several sources recommended Waterlox to be extra, extra sure that it's waterproof, they won't even sell it in Connecticut because the VOCs are so high. Yikes. Plus you have to wait 24 hours between each coat AND it takes a week to fully cure. We didn't have that kind of time, so we went with Watco. In the end, I love how it brought out the richness of the wood and it's working very well.
Full disclosure: I probably wouldn't pick butcher block for my entire kitchen in my forever home. Even though the seal is working just as it should and any water beads up on the surface, I still feel like I need to wipe up any water right away just in case. And even though any scratches can just be sanded out and re-oiled, I don't like that it's not as durable as some of the other options. For this kitchen, it's perfect because it's beautiful and it was super affordable. But even though I'm probably being overly cautious and it would hold up just fine, I want to be able to sit glasses on the counter after clearing the dining room table without worrying about whether or not it's going to leave a ring. I just don't want to think about it, you know? So there's that.
4. How do you like the IKEA cabinets?
This is short and easy: they're my favorite part of the kitchen. The functionality of them, the cleverness of the design that leads to more storage, the look, the price. I love it all. If we ever re-do another kitchen, our first stop will be IKEA.
I think that's it! Phew. Are you still here? Any other questions?
The feedback from you guys was great - I wish I could have all of you here to drink some coffee with me while we stare at my cabinets :)