I'm pretty excited to share this inexpensive kitchen makeover that we did ourselves! When we first moved to our new house last year, we knew it needed some serious cosmetic work done (But such is life when buying a cheap starter home). And Although the kitchen cabinets were already white, everything else seemed outdated. (But mind you, our house was built in the late 70's) There was an ugly grey Famica counter top (that was already peeling in some places), the appliances were old, and there was not much counter top space and storage. This project felt like it took forever, but the process really wasn't that long, and it was actually pretty inexpensive to renovate, which was even better. So, grab a snack and enjoy our kitchen makeover story, or just scroll down too see the final result!
Time: 3 WeeksCost: $2200Difficulty: Advanced
Firstly, here you can see the the before picture, before the cosmetic make over. But as you can see, it was quite congested and cluttered. There wasn't much counter top space too work with, the back splash and paint made the space look and feel darker and smaller. And although, that particular refrigerator that came with the house fit in that space next to the dishwasher, it wasn't the size we desired. So, we decided to completely get rid of the old refrigerator and fill that space in with counter top.
So the first thing we did was Paint this ugly half wall white. (We haven't determined if it is structural yet, if it is, we'll be demolishing it once we redo the floors in the future). We found that this was the main eye sore when you walked into the kitchen. So, since white = bright, we went with gambling on it looking better with some white paint, instead of the ugly brown wood look. And to be honest, it did A LOT to the room.
As you can see, it did a lot. It turned the eye sore into a bright half wall, that didn't break up the room visually. (Also, we took down the "old-lady" wallpaper, and painted the room over, which is the connecting dining room. But that's a different story.)
So after we sold the old white refrigerator that was eating up valuable potential counter top space, my amazingly talented, fiance, saved us a few hundred dollars and built us a custom sized cabinet, that took the old refrigerators place. (Also, if you can already spot the difference, we replaced the old dishwasher with a stainless steel one that matched the new fridge). We bought the appliances super cheap. We waited until Lowes came out with some sales, which I'm glad we did, because we got both for 50% off, after the new year.
We spent some time thinking about how else we could save more counter-top space and we realized the microwave took up a huge chunk. We loved the over the stove microwaves, but that would've required more time and money than we wanted to invest. So, we discovered the new trend everyone seems to be doing these day, and that's putting the microwave under the counter top. We decided to custom fit out existing microwave to the shelving on the cabinet (which we can change if/when we replace the microwave so there is no awkward space gaps on the top).
So now, we ran into the dilemma of what to do with the counter top. So after some time thinking it over, we decided that butcher block not only looked the best, but would fit into our remodeling budget as well.
So, we went to work on taking down the ugly brown-ish-grey, back splash. We found the best way to take down back splash without damaging the dry wall behind it was to hit it with a hammer. Yes, you read that right. This back splash in particular was stone, so hammering it made a bit of a mess, but our kitchen was already a construction zone at this point, so why not?
As you can see in the picture, near the windows in particular we ran into some tough spot. So we hammered it too loosen it up, an pried it off. Which worked very well.
We encountered that there were actual holes behind the back splash, where the dry wall was, so we simply patched it up, which felt like a process that took longer than anything else we've done this far. This process took a little over a week. There were some spots that didn't dry fast enough, so we took a blow drier, and tried completing the process quicker.
The beauty of changing out your counter top and back splash at the same time, was not having to worry about the existing counter top being ruined in the process. So, we didn't have to bother with putting plastic down or any of that worrisome stuff.
Also, you can see we put little effort into fixing up the dry wall below the window. This is because we were putting up the matching back splash with the butcher block, so it would cover it.
We decided to paint the wall behind the counters instead of doing a new back splash. Which again, saved us time and money.
The fun begins! Putting the butcher block on was the easy part. Since we decided to keep our existing sink for the time being (Soon we'll update the cabinetry and update the sink to our dream apron front farm sink), cutting the hole for it wasn't that crucial since its top mounted.
* Above is a picture of installing the back splash of the counter top, once it was secured down to the cabinets. *
Here is a picture of what the oak butcher block looked like, pre-conditioning. Here, you can see how dry it is. We sanded the entirety of the face, to open the wood up more for the oiling that is soon to come.
Side note: We polyurethaned the under side and the sides where it would be impossible for us to reach while oiling. We did this for added security, so that no moisture would get into the wood on the sides where we couldn't oil.
And now, to the oiling...
We know. There's probably 101 ways to condition and seal a butcher block counter top. But since this is in our kitchen and food is bound to get on to the counter, we decided that doing it the food grade way was the best way for us. So here is the steps to conditioning a butcher block counter top properly, safe for cutting and placing food onto.
1. You want to make sure the counter top is completely cleaned of dust, etc. It' going to feel rough, but dont worry, it will get smoother in time with sanding.
2. Use Mineral oil. And don't get sucked into paying $8 for the brand name stuff, simply go to a pharmacy or your local grocery store and pick up mineral oil. For a container like the one in the picture, it only cost about $2. Oh, and make sure you buy more than one. We went through about 3 bottles.
3. Put the oil on the counter top heavily (I guess now you know why we went through so much.) We used our hands to massage the oil into the wood. But you can use any sort of cloth. We found that our hands didn't absorb nearly as much as a cloth or paper towel did though. The wood will open up, so it will feel a little prickly, but it won't hurt.
4. Wait 24 hours between each oiling. You also want to make sure you sand the wood between every oiling too. We started off with a 220 grit, then 400, then 600. We did this process for 4 days. Then there was no need to use the mineral oil and sand paper, because the wood felt smooth and was pretty much done drinking up all the oil.
5. Once you're finished with oiling the counter top with mineral oil for about 3-4 times, switch to butcher block conditioner (we used Howard's, you can find this at any hardware store). It's food grade, its a mix of mineral oil and beeswax. So it seals and conditions pretty well. Do this for the remainder of the week. Or until you don't feel any dry rough spots. After you're done, you can preform the water test, which is just pouring a bit of water on the counter, and seeing if it beads up, and doesn't sink in. Trust me, you will know if it needs it or not.
6. Condition it once a week for a month, once a month for a year, then whenever you think it needs it after that. (2-3 times a year, if that?)
*Although I would advise you to still use a cutting board, you can still safey cut on the counter top. Just be careful to not leave knife marks on it, unless you like that look, the world is your pickle.
We know, it seems like a lot of work. But it's really not. Sure, granite or anything else is probably easier to maintain, but we find they definitely don't hold as much character and warmth as a butcher block does.
After about 3 weeks, we're finally finished. (For now). We added the shelf where the old fridge was, for extra storage. It looks more open, flows better, and we're extremely happy with how it came out. We're also pretty proud that we accomplished this.
Whats next on our agenda for the kitchen is replacing the stove with a stainless steel gas burner one, and extending the cabinets out a bit more next to the stove. And working on the ceilings and floors. So we still have a long way too go, but we know after doing this project, it will be worth it in the end.
Thanks for reading!
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