Kitchens and Bathrooms sell houses.
That’s what our Realtor told us. Repeatedly. Leaving it clearly implied, if not implicitly stated, that our kitchen and bathroom were never going to sell anything. Feedback from prospective buyers supported this theory. Our kitchen needed “too much work”, and was never going to sell our house for us- was, in fact, impeding the process. Damn-it.
Yes, we are currently in the process of trying to sell our home. It’s a first time experience for me, and my(!), isn’t it fun?? The showings are going to frick’n kill me. Trying to keep a 4-bedroom home in immaculate, show-ready condition at all times? When you have 3 children, 2 dogs, and 3 cats?? Please. I have cleaning calluses. I didn’t even know you could get those. Oh, the constant striving to achieve the perfectly staged home. I pretty much just gave away all my stuff to the Salvation Army. None of it was worthy of a perfectly staged home. I kept two pretty things that passed muster and are allowed to sit on a completely dust-free shelf.
And while I’m at it, a word to prospective buyers. If you make an appointment to see my home, do NOT under ANY circumstances cancel or reschedule that appointment. I cleaned my already spotless house for 6 hours to prepare for your coming. The second coming of Christ himself will be characterized by no more pomp or splendor than I put into the anticipation of your arrival. I arranged time off work so I will be able to remove my dog from the premises lest she intimidate you in any way while you peruse my home. (There is nothing so frightening as a fat little French Bulldog gazing benevolently at you from her pillow bed while you are trying to view a home) . I prearranged for my children to go somewhere else after school so they won’t be there while you browse. I solicitously programmed a selection of subtle background music, and adjusted the aromatic wax burners just so to delight your senses while you are in my house. No, it is not okay to move the appointment by two hours because you need to run to WalMart!
Whoo. Deep breath. That’s not what I’m here to ramble (rant) about. The Great Kitchen Remodel, that’s what I came for.
Kitchens sell houses, and unless we were to find the perfect family transported forward in time from the 70’s and thus still in love with dark and gloomy cabinetry, funky linoleum floors, plywood wall paneling, and multicolored pastel walls, we were going to have to do something about ours.
Below, the kitchen as we began our odyssey. Note the 70’s era wood paneling staple-gunned to all the walls, the remnants of 80’s era wallpaper that the previous owners started to remove but gave up as a bad job, the 60’s era blue and green paint under the wallpaper, and the indeterminately aged dark faux wood cabinetry… as well as the no-longer-produced microwave vent shelf chained to the wall…
Introducing our $966.44 kitchen remodel!
Step 1) Remove all cabinetry, and the custom shelf from the radiant heater. Transport these items to the garage where they will meet a product called Rust-Oleum® Cabinet Transformation, wielded by myself. Product cost? $62.98. Manual labor cost? I don’t know, how long was I out in the garage working on those damn things? Three days? Four? Wash every single bit of surface area, scrub the shit out of every single bit of surface area with de-glosser, clean every single bit of surface area again, apply first coat of paint to every single bit of surface area, apply second coat of paint to every single bit of surface area, apply the glaze to every single bit of surface area, wipe off the glaze from every single bit of surface area, and finally, top-coat every single bit of surface area.
It took awhile.
I loved the results of this cabinet transformation product, by the way.
Removal of the cabinets also revealed that an undiscovered leak in the kitchen faucet had completely destroyed the back side of the lowest shelf in the cabinet under the sink. Made note to instruct husband to rebuild the entire interior of that cabinet while it is in the garage.
Step 2) Gleefully tear the plywood paneling from the walls. Stop thoughtfully every few feet to contemplate yet another layer of wallpaper remnant revealed. “This tiny, day-glo, border strip of manically cheerful flowers I would estimate around 1965… the strawberries on cream with the linen backing? Probably late 1940’s. The blue, yellow, and orange stripes? Anyone’s guess...” Discover random holes in the walls that will need to be repaired.
Step 3) The Walls.
A phenomenon we encountered during the remodel process was the “what we would do if we were keeping this house” versus the “what we would do to try and sell this house“. First example, if we were keeping the house, my husband declared he would pull all the old plaster and lathe off the wood wall struts, and put up new drywall, as the plaster walls were cracked with age. As we are selling the house, and constrained by budget, he carefully repaired the holes, and then used joint compound to create a texture over every square inch of wall, effectively hiding all the cracks while at the same time creating an interesting and uniform surface. As it turns out, it created a beautiful texture pattern which I love and which I have insisted he must duplicate on the kitchen walls of whatever house we buy to replace this one.
It was finally time to paint the walls. I had spent a week researching the many, many shades of neutral, keeping in mind that “warm neutrals” are the undisputed re-sale colors of choice recommended by every staging or Realtor blog that I had managed to get my eyes on. One name kept popping up again and again -“Water Chestnut” by Glidden. Water Chestnut, I read, “works with both warm and cool focused rooms, is not a white but is just enough color to have an impact even for those that are afraid of color, is a color that no one has been disappointed with in staging, design and redesign, is a very light neutral but honestly works everywhere, even clients that are afraid of anything but white love this color”, etc, etc.
We went with Water Chestnut. It turned out to be every bit as awesome as stated, working particularly well over the textured joint compound, resembling warm vanilla taffy to the extent that I must restrain myself from attempting to lick it off the kitchen walls. After testing three different shades of white, two of which looked identical to me, we went with Glidden’s Crisp Linen White on the trim.
Step 4) The Floor.
While I labored over the cabinets in the garage, my husband tackled the floor. With a jackhammer. Apparently at no time in the last 100 years had anyone actually removed a previous kitchen floor in this house before laying in their own choice. Oh, the layers of linoleum and vinyl. At long last, the ultimate layer was reached -the original hardwood, and here again we encountered the phenomenon. There is nothing so desirable to either of us as original hardwood floors, beautifully restored. And if we were keeping the house, we would have put in the required three weeks of slave labor it would have taken to restore that floor. The wood was in rough, rough shape. The last flooring layer that my husband managed to partially remove from the kitchen was some sort of tough, sticky black tar substance. Just chiseling and sanding off the remnants of that mess would have taken a full week. As we are selling, and were pressed for time due to the possibility of a random showing appointment at any time, we installed vinyl tile for a total flooring cost of $144.63.
Step 5) Re-install the cabinetry, install the new wall-mounted microwave, and install a new sink & faucet.
The cabinetry went without a hitch. Pretty much. I didn’t refinish the under support boards on the floor cabinets, because I didn’t think they would be visible, only they kind of are. In some areas, my drawers and cabinet doors are darker than in other areas (it was my first time using a glaze) but the overall look is nice. We raised the height of the wall cabinet above the sink so it wouldn’t feel so cramped in that area. Originally, the cabinets and drawers had no pulls or knobs -we installed all new brushed nickle hinges and pulls for a lovely effect.
We got a great early Black Friday deal on a Maytag microwave with built-in oven vent from Home Depot to replace the grimy, early 80’s oven vent shelf. When we opened the crate, it was dented. When we returned to Home Depot, they were sold out. We went with a similar-looking, no-name brand for $50 cheaper. Upon attempting installation, we realized that the microwave required a cupboard above it for mounting purposes. We had no such cupboard. Back to Home Depot. Again. We purchased a sturdy white shelf and installed that above the microwave, thus enabling the microwave to be mounted and secured.
Lastly, the new sink, or as I like to call it: The Find of the Century. A cast iron, porcelain enamel, double “offset” kitchen sink which I picked up for $37.10 at the local home salvage center. I love that sink. In fact, I had no idea I was such a kitchen sink whore. I lusted after it the moment I saw it, dusty and forgotten on the Habitat Restore bottom shelves. Now I just stand, transfixed in my kitchen, in awe of its sensuous, gleaming white porcelain overlay. Its clever offset bowls, and sturdy iron construction delight all my senses.
I’m taking it with me when we go.
My husband had already purchased a new faucet, new plumbing hoses, and all the doo-hickeys that go under the sink in order to correct the newly discovered leak. Unfortunately, my spectacular find was a deeper sink than our original stainless steel model, and the hose length was off. Back to Home Depot. Again.
Step 6) In which my husband does many finishing items, such as installing new push light switches, installing GFCI outlets, creating custom light switch covers from wood switch plate covers and tiny wood molding pieces, putting in the floor molding, etc… and in which I create custom curtains for the kitchen windows, even though I don’t sew, from sailcloth and wire burlap ribbon.
Step 7) The Breakfast Nook
In the photo above, you see a stool. A stool which I’d refinished to match the cabinets, and meant to place a plant upon. The plan was to replace the large utility shelf that we’d had sitting in this tiny corner with something considerably smaller, to increase the illusion of spaciousness in the kitchen. Then I had an idea. (The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea!) A small enough table and chairs could fit neatly in this corner, creating an actual breakfast nook! The psychological implication on any buyer’s mind would be that a kitchen with a breakfast nook was a kitchen of spacious attributes! Plus, who doesn’t love a breakfast nook?
I searched for two weeks to find the perfect table and found it at last at a local thrift shop. A glossy yellow, 1940’s farmhouse table with folding leaves ($35). The Salvation Army Thrift Store yielded up two old wooden chairs ($10), and I was back to the garage with the Rust-Oleum®.
We are quite pleased with the remodeled kitchen, and wonder why we didn’t do it years ago…
In the time since our home went on the market 4 months ago, we’ve had a total of 2 offers. Even with the original kitchen! Go figure. The first offer was ridiculously lowball. $25,000 lower, in fact, than our asking price, which is already at the low end of our CMA. The buyers, as it turned out, were only approved up to the amount that they offered, and though they knew it was a super low bid, they decided “we’d just kick ourselves if we didn’t at least try“. Okay. The second offer was reasonable and was accepted, but the buyers found something else that they liked better during the inspection period and pulled out. Of course, they didn’t say it was because they’d found something else that they liked better, they said instead that “we’ve realized after a lot of thought that the outside bulkhead cellar door is just too hard to open. It’s heavy” Okay.
Other fascinating feedback we have received from our showings from prospective buyers…, or
“Why I am not buying your House“.
1. The yard is too big. As a single man with no children, I cannot possibly handle caring for a yard this large.
2. Our elderly father doesn’t want a bedroom in a basement room. (But we decided to see a house with the 3rd bedroom in the basement on the off chance that you were lying about where the 3rd bedroom is located.)
3. The kitchen needs too much work.
4. The kitchen is beautiful but I am not at all pleased with the arrangement of the bathroom.
5. The steal bulkhead door outside to the cellar is just too hard to operate. It is, to quote, “hard-operating”.
6. Due to the price being higher than I qualify for in a loan, it is over-priced.
7. I smell a cat. I know I am right because I then saw a cat.
8. It’s just very old, isn’t it?
The kitchen remodel was completed in late November. It was an excellent time to tackle the project, as we had not a single showing that entire month. We have, however, already had three showings in December since the new kitchen photos were placed on the MLS. A positive sign for sure. We haven’t had an offer from those showings, but are still hopeful that the right buyers will come. And anyway, as our Realtor points out, Kitchens and Bathrooms sell houses.
Just think what we could do to make the bathroom more attractive to potential buyers! It boggles the mind.
I can’t write anymore about this now, though, I really must go. We have a showing scheduled in the morning, and I haven’t cleaned a thing since lunchtime.