We have been asked the question over and over: “Why don’t you have a kitchen yet?”
The only real way to answer that question is to tell you the story of what has happened. Our inexperience, financial issues, noncommittal contractors, exhaustion, and an ever-expanding list of required repairs that have to be done before the kitchen can be installed have all played a role in our never-ending kitchen saga.
The Kitchen Before
In May of 2014, when we moved into our 1893 folk Victorian farmhouse that only needed “cosmetic updates” like renovating the kitchen and bathroom, we were blissfully unaware of all that lurked beneath decades of Band-Aid fixes to major structural issues.
The existing kitchen was in bad shape. It was moldy, rusty, dark and tiny. Showing our profound naiveté, we demoed it in the first week without any real plan for how to replace it. We had a case of too much HGTV and too little real DIY experience.
Before & After
Before & After
Because the downstairs bath was disgusting, and particularly because Sara was pregnant with our 2nd daughter Avonlee Rose (who was born in March 2015) renovating the upstairs bathroom became top priority. Both the bathroom and the baby took 9 months to develop. They are both beautiful and we are proud of our accomplishments, but they didn’t speed up the kitchen’s progress.
Original Layout vs. New Layout
Now it was time to turn our attention back to the kitchen. The more we looked at the layout, we realized that it would make more sense to use the downstairs bedroom with the tiny closet as our kitchen and pantry, and to put our master suite where the kitchen and downstairs bathroom were. Besides, having the kitchen and bathroom that close together seemed a bit unsanitary.
Unfortunately, our progress was brought to a grinding halt because of all of the damage we were finding. The vinyl siding covered entire corners of the farmhouse that had been destroyed. Aluminum storm/screen windows had been caulked at the bottom so that the water that came through the screens sat on the window sills and rotted them out.
Conveniently, this damage was covered with flashing that not only hid it from view, but also kept the wood from drying. Window A/C condensation and delayed roof replacement added to the water infiltration and successfully rotted out many of the house sills, rims, and all of the joists on the north side of the farmhouse: exactly where we now wanted our kitchen to go. None of this was caught by the “inspector”.
Back when we sold our house in Georgia, we made enough in the sale of our foreclosure-turned-charmer to pay for our farmhouse outright. NO MORTGAGE! We were DEBT FREE FOREVER…. We planned to use our paychecks to do the repairs, and do things ourselves. We were so glad to be out from under the bondage of paycheck-to-paycheck living.
Slowly, this dream lifestyle crumbled and even more slowly we came to grips with the fact that if we didn’t get a Home Equity loan the farmhouse would deteriorate beyond saving before we could do the necessary repairs. Grudgingly we got a HELOC, our first mortgage on the property.
Then we set about finding a contractor to do the things that DIYers of our caliber shouldn’t attempt (structural, electrical, and plumbing). Unlike on TV, we found that most real contractors are not willing to do everything that you want them to. They are set in their ways, and if you try to go outside their comfort zone they will drop you. I cannot tell you how many times I have had “the talk” about replacing our windows with vinyl. The average contractor would rather lose the work than deal with restoring our 123 year old windows.
We kept thinking that we had found the one that we would go with. This contractor would assure us that he would have it done in a couple of months. We would continue talking only to have him drop us for a better opportunity shortly before work was to commence. After dealing with seven contractors, we were completely drained emotionally. It seemed like we would never make any progress. At times, we just ignored our kitchen and focused on other things like our blog and shop.
Finally, a contractor told us straight up that we needed a structural engineer to develop a plan for a contractor to follow. This would lift much of the liability-based anxiety for the contractor and make him much more willing to take the job. So we did. We found a structural engineer who brought in an experienced and professional contractor who just finished work on a historic house similar to ours. Together, they developed a plan.
We now have a contractor, a signed contract, and a massive amount of preparation work ahead of us. As you may have seen on Instagram, we have been busy taking off the siding and restoring the original windows. (Yes, we finally just decided to do the window repairs ourselves.) We would really appreciate your prayers regarding this kitchen project. Through all of this at least we can say that we learned a lot, grown closer to the Lord and gained serious DIY experience.
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