The Kitchen Chronicles: Prologue

Two and a half years later, I don't think it has quite sunk in that we will be getting this kitchen finished by Summer's end. I've talked about kitchens and cabinets and appliances for so long that I think it has just become surreal to actually picture them in our house! This is our first kitchen renovation and we truly have no experience with pulling together a project of this size. So if you have one on the horizon maybe you can learn from some of our mistakes because as people who have been there tell me, there are plenty. And it always feels good to have your friends by your side so you will be getting the full virtual kitchen renovation experience.

Let's start with the key component: CASH. Funny how that one little thing dictates everything...

We purchased our first home during the beginning of the housing boom, 2 years later we wanted to upgrade to this house and were lucky enough to have doubled our investment. Surprisingly, here in Edmonton home sales have somewhat softened but prices still continue to rise. And based on a bank assessment we have been paying a mortgage that was less than 50% of our home's value. As much as we had our heart set on paying for this entire house's renovations in cash and sweat equity, we were just taking forever to get enough to do this kitchen. Unexpected car repairs, vacations, and life always seem to pop up just when you are on the brink! But Sean took the initiative this month and called our fabulous account manager at the bank to see what she suggested. I think we both just kind of feel DONE with the renos at this point. We need to see some major progress and finished rooms so that we can get back to focusing on life!

So in the end we settled on a home equity line of credit that gives us the flexibility to get it done and pay it back whenever and however we choose. Interest rates are so low right now that the cost to borrow is REALLY worth it to us based on how fast we plan to repay it. The bank cleared us to use up to 50% of our equity, but we won't come close to that. Plus, the renovation will only increase the property value, hence our equity so we win on that end as well. Turns out debt isn't as scary as we made it out to be!

Despite the fact that we just recently gained access to the funds to finish this thing, we have been doing our homework for close to a year. We have talked with dozens of cabinet manufacturers and had several create 3-D mock ups of what we wanted along with pricing. We know exactly what we want and where we want it. Many of the manufacturers tried to talk us out of things or tried to sell us on others. For instance we want solid wood cabinets in a white finish, but almost all of them tried to talk us down to laminate before we even discussed budget. I have nothing against laminate cabinets, but I honestly have done enough research to know what I want and I don't think laminate ever looks the same as wood. Of course it costs more, but it just wasn't a compromise I wanted to make.

So we sat at a cross roads for quite some time. Do we bite the bullet and pay the $250-$350 per foot cost of white wood cabinets or do we just go ahead with laminate, in which case we will go with Ikea because their prices were still half of what the showrooms quoted? We agonized with this for a LONG time, had many heated discussions over it.

And then, like a bolt of lightening came my hero: Martha Stewart.

Just recently available here in Canada, we knew immediately after seeing them in person that they were precisely what we wanted. And the price? INSANE. Every style is under $200/foot. And with a little luck we waited until the 15% off event this past weekend and got them for even less. They take 8 weeks to order, but that gives us time to get everything ready.

Thankfully we had made a little headway last year when we bought our appliances (check out the adventure here) which made it a lot easier when getting quotes and talking with kitchen designers. And we have decided on a sink as well, so the actual time working with a designer is much more productive.

So here we go! The adventure is really about to begin. Our check list of things to do before the cabinets arrive is going to go down like this:
* pick out and order sink faucet and pot filler for stove
* have new, larger windows ordered and hopefully installed. They definitely need to be installed before counters.
* pick out a counter top and cabinet hardware
* have old cabinets ripped out and pantry walls torn down, chip up tile floor
* have new electrical for recessed lighting done
* move water lines to new sink location and add gas line for stove
* have beadboard ceilings installed in family room and kitchen, new recessed lighting.
* lay new wood floors and repair dry wall.

The mission? To do it ALL, including cabinets, counters and appliances (which we've already dropped $3000 on) for less than $15,000. Sounds crazy to me, so it's a plan.
I just need to find someone to do it all!