Not everyone should DIY their kitchen!

The back story: the kitchen countertops in the last home we purchased were crooked and wonky- they were pre-fab counters from Lowe’s or Home Depot.  Turns out the previous homeowner had redone the kitchen themselves, using IKEA cabinets- which they did not level, nor mount to the wall properly, and when they went to put the counter tops on and things didn’t line up right, they added shims and boards to “make it work” and called it good.  It looked O.K. at a glance, but if you really looked at them, you could tell something was wrong.

I knew nothing about IKEA cabinets, knew nothing about leveling cabinets, and wanted to spend my time on other renovations for this home instead, so we hired a contractor to come in and level/secure the cabinets and fix the pre-fab counter tops.

I met with a few contractors and ALL of them said the countertops needed to go, they can’t be salvaged or re-used as they were cut improperly and too short, so we would need to put a new countertop down.  UGH!  That was not in the plan!

I hired the guy I liked best…he said he’d come back in a few days, remove the countertops, straighten the cabinets and we could decide if we wanted to have him install a new trendy concrete-tile looking countertop, or we could have Wong’s install a solid surface counter.  Yay!  Other than shopping for countertop material- Jim and I don’t need to lift a finger.

But then this happened:

Kitchen emptied

The project snowballed on a massive scale.  Massive.

This was the kitchen BEFORE:


Not bad, right?  I mean, not great…. but it was livable.

So how did we end up with a gutted kitchen?

Our contractor came over to get started- he removed the peninsula countertop, but when he went to shut off the water to the sink to remove that section, the valve was broken and the water wouldn’t shut off.  He couldn’t (wouldn’t) fix it himself, so needed Jim to do it.  Well, Jim couldn’t do it THAT day.  This would put Levi behind schedule- so he said he’d come back in 7 days to pick up where he left off.  We had until then to get the sink valve fixed/replaced so the water could be shut off.

So now we have 7 days.  Good thing I planned in advance and had the time to spare!

And look- now that the countertop is off, we can see that the cabinets AREN’T EVEN MOUNTED TO THE WALL!  They were just free-standing!


This would be a great opportunity to take out that half wall and open up the space!  Great idea!  Maybe we slide the cabinet on the right all the way over to the left…..


And what if we had barstool seating on the other side?


Easy enough to check out- since nothing is attached!  Ha!


Looks OK, but it kinda feels like we need one more cabinet.  Thankfully- IKEA still sold the same doors- and similar cabinets… so YAY!  Let’s go ahead and demo that wall!

Floor after wall removed

Holy crap!  Do you see ALL THE THINGS wrong with that picture?

The floor!! Floor after wall removed close up

We can’t cover that up!  We can’t get the two floors to meet!!  OMG.  We knew the flooring was peel and stick vinyl tiles…. but it’s attached to linoleum on top of linoleum!  There’s no way to seamlessly transition this.  Now we have to replace all the flooring!

And the backsplash?

Removed backsplash

WHAT THE HECK!  Could the previous owner have taken any more shortcuts???  He CUT the old tile backsplash out… didn’t patch the wall with new drywall….and instead put whiteboard up and used STICKER TILES for the backsplash.


Did you forget about the broken valve?  At this point, we knew that the sink cabinet wasn’t attached to the wall, so Jim just pulled it out of the way to make it easier to work on- ha!  Got that fixed.  Again, a bigger project than originally anticipated.

This project went from a simple- let’s have someone level the kitchen cabinets and put on a new countertop….. to…. let’s take out a wall, reconfigure the peninsula with another cabinet, patch the walls, install new countertops and a new backsplash.  AND new flooring!

I’ll do another post on our flooring fiasco.  I already have another post about the tile countertop fiasco.  But the moral of the story on this post- be careful what you start to pick at because you might pick too far!

Let’s just say our contractor was a little surprised when he came back 7 days later to this:


I also realized during this process that “I” could level the cabinets myself, now that I know how IKEA cabinets work.  When we reconfigured the peninsula, I spent nearly and HOUR getting it completely level, doing Levi’s job for him.  I let him know that I had done that and asked that he double-check it…..thinking this should speed up his tile installation!

There’s sooo much more to this story and more lessons learned.  But keeping it simple… here’s the before and after….



OH- the peninsula backside- that was all me!  Well, Rockler woodworking helped me to match the stain color so it would match the cabinets EXACTLY and of course hubby helped with the cutting and hauling of my custom plywood board.


You can see how the newer IKEA cabinet doesn’t match exactly with the older cabinets.  It ended up being OK though.

Here’s the stain matching….


And installed- woop woop!!


What a feeling of accomplishment all the way around!

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