Tuesday, April 28, 2009 @ 20:01:05
The Butterfly Effect
We all know the story. A homeowner decides to paint his house and then realizes that the carpet doesn't match. He tears out the carpet and discovers hardwood flooring that would just be beautiful with a bit of sanding and finishing. However he then realizes that it's better feng shui to carry the flooring throughout the house, so he might as well tear down a few walls in the process and open up the room. In doing so, he finds that the electrical system is dangerously outdated, and he needs to upgrade the wiring in the house. A few holes here and there, a few patches in the wall, and he needs to repaint the house. And so on and so on....
In my defense, I really did intend the kitchen remodel to be a simple and straightforward cosmetic makeover. We agreed to scrape and sand the old cabinets, paint, and replace the hardware. Nothing else. As soon as Doug heard me critiquing the state of our old laminate countertops, he knew. Not me. Nope. I was in denial.
"Come on. We can just replace the countertops. Everything else is fine. Just look at the old seams - they're so ugly. Compared to our newly painted cabinets and shiny hardware, they'll be an eyesore. Let's at least go look at options and see if there are any good deals out there."
"Wow! Home Depot has a great deal. $45 a square foot for granite?!?! Let's do it - it won't be that much."
Now we just need to make sure the old 1955 cabinets are level and sturdy enough to handle a massive and expensive slab of stone. We'll shim them. That'll work.
"Let's strip and scrape and sand the cabinets!"Now, for those of you who have been following my posts on Facebook, you are well aware of what transpired. After testing for lead and applying 2-3 coats of eco-friendly, non-toxic, Earth-hugging paint stripper, we spent several days scraping paint. Not just a layer or two, but multiple layers of old, gummy paint in colors that were reminiscent of a decrepit Coney Island sno-cone stand. Underneath the maize-yellow that had graced our lives for seven years, we found avocado green, melon-orange, teal-blue, white, and a black-brown gummy mess of tacky varnish. We scraped paint for hours on end and struggled to remove ancient hardware that had long been painted over. My arms and back screamed in protest.
After removing the countertops ourselves, we noticed the rather unfortunate state of the cabinets themselves. Still coated with flecks and blobs of green and yellow paint, the Eisenhower-era support members were ridiculously flimsy. One drawer had an odd odor. Ewwww. Closer inspection revealed creative design techniques that couldn't possibly be up to code. Should we really put granite on these flimsy bits of plywood? Plausible deniability only goes so far. More importantly, I was beyond sick of scraping cabinets. I had headaches and nausea from the fumes. I was officially over it.
I abruptly excused myself one evening as Doug continued the never-ending scraping. How expensive were cabinets really? If we do our homework and find a good deal, what would it cost? I consulted the Oracle (my pet name for the laptop). Much to my surprise, the local salvage outlet had oak cabinets of a much better quality and price point than the big box stores. Just doing the math quickly...oh my! We could do this. We could totally get new cabinets. "Hey Doug, where's the tape measure???" - words that rarely come out of my mouth.
He knew. He knew well before I walked back into the mess of a kitchen and announced that there wasn't enough money in the world to convince me to keep scraping those cabinets. He knew well before I gleefully grabbed claw hammers and random implements of destruction. He knew well before we both had to get tetanus shots. He knew well before we decided that the old floor didn't match the new kitchen layout, our appliances were old and energy inefficient, the lighting was all wrong, and the walls had to be floated with drywall mud.
He knew. We had crossed the fine line from just spending some money to fix up the house and were now firmly in the category of "investing." It will increase the value of our home. We will get this money back one day. It's a good investment. It's okay that we're blowing through our remodeling budget like Rick James with an eight ball at Studio 54.
Really. It is.