Kitchen Renovation: Timeline & Demo
posted in: Home & DIY        date: 10.31.13

You’ve likely seen pictures of our kitchen renovation on InstagramTwitter or Facebook. I thought I’d share some of our progress and experiences along the way. To follow along with us, just check out the hashtag #diylikeachampion on Instagram. This is Part 1 of our renovation series, and I’ll try to keep the rest of them shorter than this one. 

The backstory:
The reason for our renovation started a couple months ago, when we discovered a leak in our kitchen. I noticed water damage on one of our base cabinets, and a few hours later, a plumber was here repairing a leak behind our washing machine (which is in a closet just off our kitchen). A small area of the kitchen floor had water damage, too, and we had an insurance adjuster come take a look. He recommended we rip up the entire floor in our kitchen/eat-in area, dry that area of subfloor and put in new flooring once the subfloor dried. Being the DIY people we are, we decided to tackle this ourselves.

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This is what our kitchen looked like before we started the renovation. The cabinet in the background is the one that had water damage, and unfortunately it affected the area under the stove, too. 

Our house is a foreclosure, and, let’s just say that it wasn’t taken very good care of by the prior owners. Worse than that, the contractors that handled the repairs before the house was sold did a really crappy job. Imagine me, more than seven months pregnant, sitting on the floor cleaning up a house that had been vacant for some time (and was really, really filthy). And just so you get an accurate picture, you should also imagine me cussing. A lot. It was not a happy time. Sure, there was new paint and carpet, but the house was pretty disgusting overall.

The kitchen was the worst, and the amount of stains and gunk on and inside the cabinets was awful. I cleaned them and promptly lined the insides with cork because they still didn’t feel or look clean. We decided that, sometime after Clara’s birth, we would paint the cabinets. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that last year wasn’t the easiest year for us, so it didn’t happen. Honestly, after everything we went through, thinking about painting the kitchen cabinets was far from our minds.

The plan:
Once we found out we needed to replace the kitchen floor, we knew that it would be the perfect time to paint the cabinets. Eric took a week off work, and we figured out a timeline. This is a simplified version, but it gives you an idea of what we had planned.

Friday night, Saturday & Sunday: Remove cabinet doors. Clean, sand and prime cabinet boxes and doors.
Monday: Remove old floor.
Tuesday: Use rented fan to dry subfloor. Put first coat of paint on cabinet boxes and backs of cabinet doors. Flip doors and paint the fronts.
Wednesday & Thursday: Put second coat of paint on cabinet boxes backs of doors, then put second coat of paint on door fronts and start laying floor.
Friday: Finish laying floor.
Saturday: Clean door hinges. Add quarter-round and thresholds.

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Eric’s favorite part of the renovation was growing a beard for the week. 🙂

With cold brew in hand, we got so much accomplished over the weekend. Everything was going fine until Monday when we started pulling up the floor. (I’ll go into detail about the cabinets in a later post.) We’ve already ripped up the carpet in the rest of the downstairs, and we kept talking about how taking out the vinyl would be so much easier (not as many floor staples, or so we thought). We knew there were several layers to pull up because we’d seen them when replacing the floor in the adjacent rooms. The layers were: vinyl, thin plywood, vinyl, thin plywood, subfloor.

Much to our dismay, each layer of plywood was stapled like crazy into the layer beneath it. This meant we had to pull up the floor one layer at a time. It was hard work, especially considering the size of each sheet of plywood. The thing that worked best for us was using a crowbar to get under the wood and then prying it up enough to lift it with our gloved hands the rest of the way. There were so.many.staples.

floor staples
We used pliers to pull these up, and there were some celebratory high fives when we pulled up the last one.

By Tuesday, we got to the area we knew had water damage and discovered there was still a leak. Apparently, the plumber we hired back in August fixed a leak, just not the leak. We moved the damaged cabinet and found that the drywall behind it was also wet. I remember saying to Eric, “Oh look, it’s a mildew rainbow.” We were both pretty shocked, and I may have even laughed because it was either that or cry. We halted, called a plumber, and kept working on the areas that weren’t affected. While upset, we were trying to stay positive and decided to end the day on a good note at one of our favorite restaurants. A cheese and hummus plate + wine is one of the best ways to cheer me up.

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This obviously wasn’t what we were hoping to see when we moved the cabinet.

The plumbers were at our house for more than four hours on Wednesday, and when they left, we had a hole in our kitchen ceiling (where they went in to fix the leak) and a giant hole in our wall where the drywall was removed. (Side note: RVA people, Robinson’s Pluming was awesome and so, so helpful.) We had also seen a good amount of the day go by where we couldn’t accomplish anything. This is where I started to feel pretty defeated.

After cleaning and drying the water damage, it looked a lot better. Sadly, we were way behind schedule and still had more floor to pull up. We also had to replace the insulation where the leak was because it was totally soaked through. We discovered that the leak in our laundry room had also caused damage to the subfloor that needed to be cleaned and dried AND there was water damage from a leak in our kitchen sink (which we knew about and repaired when we moved in). It may have even been there when the contractors covered the floor up with new vinyl. I spent most of the day Thursday thinking “You’ve got to be effing kidding me.”

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The moment we realized this was under our floor for an indeterminate amount of time. Eww.

So, to sum it up – four layers of flooring, three leaks/areas of water damage, two deflated home cooks/DIYers and one kitchen that looked like this most of last week:

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This was after pulling up the first two layers. You can see the wet subfloor in the background.

We spent the rest of the week pulling up the floor and then pulling out, by hand, each and every one of the staples from the subfloor. By Sunday, Eric had laid enough flooring for us to move our washer, dryer and stove back into place. So that’s where we are now – a partially floored kitchen, primed cabinets with no doors on them and a hole in our ceiling. Things are looking better, though, and I know that we’re going to love our new kitchen once we finish it.

Lessons learned for next time – wine and ice cream should totally be included in the renovation budget. Also, even the happiest of people can get frustrated and annoyed with each other in situations like this.

Stay tuned to read about the cabinet prep and painting and to see pictures of the final before and after shots!

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COMMENTS: ( 73 )
  • Jan

    Oh, dear! I sure hope things have gone better since this. But I’m sure you’ll love it when you’re finished and the bad memories of this will fade away 🙂

    • Thanks! That’s what I keep telling myself, too. Even if it takes longer than planned, we still get a nicer kitchen in the end, and that is something we are very excited about.

  • Jan

    Oh, dear! I sure hope things have gone better since this. But I’m sure you’ll love it when you’re finished and the bad memories of this will fade away 🙂

    • Thanks! That’s what I keep telling myself, too. Even if it takes longer than planned, we still get a nicer kitchen in the end, and that is something we are very excited about.

  • Oh man you poor thing. I cannot even imagine having to do all of that…it will be SO worth it though and I can’t wait to see the finished product!!

    • Thanks! I’m really excited and am ready to skip to the end, but I know things will go much more smoothly now.

  • Oh man you poor thing. I cannot even imagine having to do all of that…it will be SO worth it though and I can’t wait to see the finished product!!

    • Thanks! I’m really excited and am ready to skip to the end, but I know things will go much more smoothly now.

  • Courtney Helland

    “Oh look, a mold rainbow” lol… and ewe.

    • I still have no idea why that was the first thing that popped into my mind, but it was funny in that moment. I mean, as funny as it could be considering the state of our kitchen.

  • Courtney Helland

    “Oh look, a mold rainbow” lol… and ewe.

    • I still have no idea why that was the first thing that popped into my mind, but it was funny in that moment. I mean, as funny as it could be considering the state of our kitchen.

  • Erin

    Wow what a job! I can’t wait to see the finished product, though. You guys will knock it out of the park!

    • Thanks! I am feeling much better about it now than I was last week, and I really appreciate the support. 🙂

  • Erin

    Wow what a job! I can’t wait to see the finished product, though. You guys will knock it out of the park!

    • Thanks! I am feeling much better about it now than I was last week, and I really appreciate the support. 🙂

  • Steph

    what a nightmare! I’m impressed you continued forward with DIY plans and can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • Thanks! I was feeling pretty defeated for a couple days, but it was what we had to deal with and moving forward was the only option. Thankfully, we’ll have a new kitchen when we’re done, so that’s good motivation to keep going.

  • Steph

    what a nightmare! I’m impressed you continued forward with DIY plans and can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • Thanks! I was feeling pretty defeated for a couple days, but it was what we had to deal with and moving forward was the only option. Thankfully, we’ll have a new kitchen when we’re done, so that’s good motivation to keep going.

  • bornincola

    Oh no! Mold is a nasty beast. Your tip about wine and ice cream in the reno budget is spot on. Can’t wait to see the final results!

    • Haha, thanks! I felt kind of silly admitting that, but it really was part of the renovation process for us. Unwinding after each long day definitely helped keep us sane.

  • bornincola

    Oh no! Mold is a nasty beast. Your tip about wine and ice cream in the reno budget is spot on. Can’t wait to see the final results!

    • Haha, thanks! I felt kind of silly admitting that, but it really was part of the renovation process for us. Unwinding after each long day definitely helped keep us sane.

  • ellysaysopa

    Ugh, I’m sorry you had to go through this, but considering you guys are truly DIY champions, I know it will come out looking awesome in the end!

    • Hah! I don’t know about that, but we certainly try. There’s a lot of research involved before we ever start a project, but sometimes we still wing it.

  • ellysaysopa

    Ugh, I’m sorry you had to go through this, but considering you guys are truly DIY champions, I know it will come out looking awesome in the end!

  • Stephanie Eckstein

    Kitchen renovations are tough when they go exactly as planned! I can’t imagine running into this much all in one week. Hang in there!

    • Thanks! Now that all that’s over, I’m hoping we can focus on the “fun” parts of sanding and painting over and over again. 😉 And then the actual fun part of enjoying the new kitchen, obviously.

  • Kylee Durant

    I can’t imagine the undertaking! You guys are SO organized 🙂 I can’t wait to see more and the final result!

    • Aw thanks! It certainly didn’t feel that way when our timeline got thrown out, but I’m ready to tackle it again this weekend. I’m in a “bring it on” mode now. 🙂

  • Kylee Durant

    I can’t imagine the undertaking! You guys are SO organized 🙂 I can’t wait to see more and the final result!

    • Aw thanks! It certainly didn’t feel that way when our timeline got thrown out, but I’m ready to tackle it again this weekend. I’m in a “bring it on” mode now. 🙂

  • Thanks! Now that all that’s over, I’m hoping we can focus on the “fun” parts of sanding and painting over and over again. 😉 And then the actual fun part of enjoying the new kitchen, obviously.

  • Shannon

    Oh my gosh, what a mess! I totally feel your pain with dealing with crappy crap from former owners. We are looking at having to do some foundation repair (NOT DIY!) thanks to a similar situation. It is so much easier and cheaper to do things right the first time people!

    • Right?! Sigh. I guess that’s part of home ownership, but it doesn’t make it suck any less. Good luck with the foundation repair!

  • Shannon

    Oh my gosh, what a mess! I totally feel your pain with dealing with crappy crap from former owners. We are looking at having to do some foundation repair (NOT DIY!) thanks to a similar situation. It is so much easier and cheaper to do things right the first time people!

    • Right?! Sigh. I guess that’s part of home ownership, but it doesn’t make it suck any less. Good luck with the foundation repair!

  • Kim

    Oh, wow!! What a nightmare! I hope it is smooth sailing for the rest of the reno. I cannot wait to see the final result!

    • Thanks! I can’t wait, either, because I’m having a hard time visualizing it in my head. I know it will look better than it does currently, and that in itself is an exciting thought!

  • Casey McNeese

    I would have just crumbled into a ball and cried. Can’t wait to see the final result! It’ll feel worth it then.

    • I was near that, trust me, but taking sad-face selfies made me laugh instead of cry and we managed to get through it. I’m sure the wine/ice cream helped, too. 😉

  • Bonita Kazmir

    Oh goodness. I cannot wait to see what two creative people like you do with the kitchen! But what a mess. I’d have gone to hide under a rock.

    • Well, if we had unlimited time and resources, we’d probably use our creativity to gut the whole thing. Even if it’s just paint and new floors, I still thing it’s going to look really good when we’re done. And we did hide under rock for a night by drinking wine and watching New Girl. 😉

    • Well, if we had unlimited time and resources, we’d probably use our creativity to gut the whole thing. Even if it’s just paint and new floors, I still thing it’s going to look really good when we’re done. And we did hide under rock for a night by drinking wine and watching New Girl. 😉

  • Kendra

    Wow. That bucket o’ staples is impressive! I can’t wait to see the final result- it will all be worth it in the end I’m sure 🙂

    • Those things were the bane of our existence last week. The amount of them we pulled out was astounding and ridiculous. The worst part was not expecting there to be so many. Oops.

  • Danielle

    I can’t wait to see the finished result! And a picture of just how scruffy Eric is by the time this is finished 🙂

    • Sadly, he had to shave it before going back to work on Monday. I tried to convince him to hold onto it until the renovation was complete, but his corporate job frowns upon facial hair (though he says “old guy mustaches” are okay haha).

  • Sadly, he had to shave it before going back to work on Monday. I tried to convince him to hold onto it until the renovation was complete, but his corporate job frowns upon facial hair (though he says “old guy mustaches” are okay haha).

  • Erin

    Ugh, what a pain!! But thankfully you guys caught it all before it got even worse. Can’t wait to see the before and after! And go buy yourself a few bottles of good wine ahead of time. You may need to break them open at a moment’s notice! 🙂

    • Yes, I am thankful for that because I know it could have been much worse than it already was. And I will most certainly take your advice and stock up on the wine pre-renovation next time around. 🙂

  • Erin

    Ugh, what a pain!! But thankfully you guys caught it all before it got even worse. Can’t wait to see the before and after! And go buy yourself a few bottles of good wine ahead of time. You may need to break them open at a moment’s notice! 🙂

    • Yes, I am thankful for that because I know it could have been much worse than it already was. And I will most certainly take your advice and stock up on the wine pre-renovation next time around. 🙂

  • Those things were the bane of our existence last week. The amount of them we pulled out was astounding and ridiculous. The worst part was not expecting there to be so many. Oops.

  • Well, if we had unlimited time and resources, we’d probably use our creativity to gut the whole thing. Even if it’s just paint and new floors, I still thing it’s going to look really good when we’re done. And we did hide under rock for a night by drinking wine and watching New Girl. 😉

  • I was near that, trust me, but taking sad-face selfies made me laugh instead of cry and we managed to get through it. I’m sure the wine/ice cream helped, too. 😉

  • Thanks! I can’t wait, either, because I’m having a hard time visualizing it in my head. I know it will look better than it does currently, and that in itself is an exciting thought!

  • Alicia S

    Ugh, what a nightmare but I’m pretty sure your kitchen will look fabulous when it’s all done! Can’t wait to see it!

    • Thanks! It looked so bad last week that it already looks better, even without a floor, now that all the water damage has been cleaned up.

  • Alicia S

    Ugh, what a nightmare but I’m pretty sure your kitchen will look fabulous when it’s all done! Can’t wait to see it!

    • Thanks! It looked so bad last week that it already looks better, even without a floor, now that all the water damage has been cleaned up.

  • Laura Leigh Daniel Cross

    I am hoping we don’t run into a lot of issues with our 40 year old house. We already have to do some foundation work under the kitchen before the renovation can even start. Hoping the husband can do most himself but with 2 kids and staying home with them- NOT looking forward to any of it. Thankfully I have inlaws a mile away who will go to their beach house and we can crash their house to escape it!! Good luck with the rest, thanks for sharing!

    • It hasn’t been easy with Clara running around, so I can only imagine having two little ones. That’s great that you have a place to stay, though, and I think it will definitely help with some of the renovation stress. Good luck with yours, too, whenever you get started!

  • Oh Courtney, I had no idea you went through all of this (I was following along on instagram, but didn’t realize the extent of it!). There’s a reason your last name is Champion–you two are just that! When I build things or undertake projects, there’s usually a lot of fbombs–I think it’s only natural when your project throws you a huge curveball…or seven of them. Hang in there! You’ll be so thankful when it’s all over and you know that there won’t be any gross mildew lurking in your floors! Can’t wait to see the finished project xo

    • Aw thanks, friend! I keep joking with Eric that we have a name to uphold, so we’ve got to make the kitchen look good. 😉 It may seem cheesy, but sometimes it helps to joke so that we aren’t like “OMG, is this really happening?”

  • Oh Courtney, I had no idea you went through all of this (I was following along on instagram, but didn’t realize the extent of it!). There’s a reason your last name is Champion–you two are just that! When I build things or undertake projects, there’s usually a lot of fbombs–I think it’s only natural when your project throws you a huge curveball…or seven of them. Hang in there! You’ll be so thankful when it’s all over and you know that there won’t be any gross mildew lurking in your floors! Can’t wait to see the finished project xo

    • Aw thanks, friend! I keep joking with Eric that we have a name to uphold, so we’ve got to make the kitchen look good. 😉 It may seem cheesy, but sometimes it helps to joke so that we aren’t like “OMG, is this really happening?”

  • It hasn’t been easy with Clara running around, so I can only imagine having two little ones. That’s great that you have a place to stay, though, and I think it will definitely help with some of the renovation stress. Good luck with yours, too, whenever you get started!

  • Star Jimenez Johnson

    I slightly understand the frustration of crappy construction. Even in my house that no one else has ever lived in, I find things that I just can’t believe passed some sort of inspection. It is saddening that quality work & workmanship is so hard to find these days. I look forward to more pictures.

  • Star Jimenez Johnson

    I slightly understand the frustration of crappy construction. Even in my house that no one else has ever lived in, I find things that I just can’t believe passed some sort of inspection. It is saddening that quality work & workmanship is so hard to find these days. I look forward to more pictures.