Kitchen Backsplash

After the kitchen remodeling was completed, Marilyn wanted a backsplash behind the stove and stove counter tops. Off to The Tile Shop to learn all about tiling.  They have an enormous selection of tiles in a wide variety of materials and all of the stuff to make them stick to the wall.  They also have free “how to” classes every Saturday at 9:30 AM.  We selected natural stone tiles and with some design help, we created our own focal point using a smaller tile pattern surrounded by double pencil tiles.  I like the new look and it adds a touch of class to a successful kitchen renovation.



I drew up the layout using Sketchup to help visualize the pattern scheme. Here we are laying out the tiles according to the plan.

Wet Sawing

The part I hated most was wet sawing the tiles because it’s messy and we had to do it indoors since it was sub-zero outside. The splatter was fairly well contained with plastic sheeting. A friend lent us his wet saw so we didn’t have to rent or buy one. I figured that I could do all the sawing in two days but it took closer to four without rushing the project.

Final Layout

The final layout with the focal point cut. The reason the wet sawing took so long is because there were a lot of picky cuts.

Protecting the counter tops

The counter tops were masked, then a layer of plastic followed by a layer of red resin paper. The floor between the counters was protected as well.

Closeup of Focal Point

The focal point is cut and ready for installation. A ledger board was attached to the wall for the bottom pencils to rest upon.

Installing the focal point

Installing the focal point using thinset morter.

Focal point installed

The focal point went up smoothly and we let it dry overnight before installing the larger tiles.

Installing large tiles

Installing the larger tiles.

Tile installation completed

It was a lot of work but well worth the effort! We let the tiles dry for two days before grouting.

Sponging the grout

After grouting, the excess material was removed with a damp sponge. Several wipings were necessary to adequately clean the tiles and level the grout below the surface of the tiles. The grout will cure for three days before applying a sealer.

Completed Kitchen Project

View of the completed project with the appliances moved into position.

Kitchen Remodel – The Details

It’s been nearly a year since I began the design phase of our kitchen remodel project. The summer was consumed with cabinet construction and finishing and the fall was spent doing demolition, reconstruction and shopping for floors, counter tops, lights, plumbing fixtures, and hardware. With any large scale project, you run into surprises that must be addressed if the job is to be done correctly and this project was no exception. I ran into rotten drywall, squeaky floors, and ventilation issues. Speaking of drywall, if I never hang another piece, it will not break my heart. It seems that gravity kept throwing drywall mud in my hair and on my face, not to mention a few pounds on the floor. Grossly uneven 2×4’s meant elevation mismatches that required shimming and multiple coats of mud to even out. Despite sectioning off the kitchen from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting, drywall dust is everywhere.

Another observation is that everything is connected to something else. Translation – where does the project end? We realized that the carpeting in the adjacent family room looked crappy next to the new kitchen floor so we decided to replace it even though it’s not technically part of the kitchen. Oh no, the hallway carpet needs to be changed as well because it matches the family room carpeting. The family room walls need repair and re-painting, but that’s for another time, we had to stop somewhere. So here are a lot of pictures detailing the largest project we have ever attempted. Overall, it turned out quite nicely and we saved tens of thousands of dollars doing the cabinetry, demolition and construction ourselves.

I will be adding more pictures to this post as the project unfolds so stay tuned for more!

Beginning point

Where to start? In the corner by the patio door! Out you faded, sun burnt floor. I decided to rip out the entire old floor including the luan because I did not want to change the elevation when the new floor was installed.

Floor removal

Here’s how the floor removal proceeded.

Pulling staples

The old luan was held down with 8 billion staples which Marilyn meticulously pulled.

Old cabinets

The old cabinets had seen better days and the uppers were hung below a soffit. Ugly dated Z Brick was applied to the walls which meant that they too must be removed.

Kitchen ventilation

The ceiling had a ventilation fan which served as a makeshift cooking hood. The new plan called for a real hood above the stove so it had to be removed.

Removing the old uppers

It was fun getting rid of the old cabinets but I was not looking forward to dealing with the walls.

Removing uppers above the sink

Across the room, more upper cabinets were hung from a soffit above the sink. The plan called for complete removal of the cabinets to open up the space leading to the family room.

More upper removal

The upper cabinets came out fairly nicely but the drywall underneath suffered water damage from a leaky roof so it all had to be removed.

Drywall removal

The old soffit needed extensive repair. The old drywall had to be removed.

Drywall removal 2

Down to the insulation. It was an extremely messy job because the attic insulation was revealed. Luckily it stayed in place long enough to staple new insulation below it.

New insulation

New insulation was pushed into the rafters and secured with staples preventing the existing insulation from falling down.

Wall demolition

Back on the other side of the room, Marilyn was removing the old wall behind the stove.

Goodby Z Brick

Marilyn holding a portion of the old Z Brick to which she bid a not so fond farewell.

Soffit removal

Mark went after the old soffit with a Sawsall. Lots of fun!

Insulation removal

Not so much fun was removing the old insulation contained in the soffit.

Insulation mess

Much of the old insulation fell to the floor when the soffit was removed.

View into the attic

Some of the old insulation stayed in place between the rafters but some fell through revealing a look into the attic. Cold air was pouring in so the holes needed immediate re-insulation.


New insulation was stapled into place keeping the cold air in the attic where it belongs.

Island counter removal

Back on the other side of the room, the island sink counter gets it’s first cut in the removal process

Goodbye plumbing

We are now without a kitchen sink because the plumbing has been removed.

Island cabinet gone

A dramatic change in appearance without the kitchen island cabinet.

20 Yard Roll-off

We rented a 20 yard roll-off for the debris and literally filled it up to the brim. It saved a lot of effort because I didn’t have to cut the old cabinets into small pieces. We struggled with the old cast iron sink because lifting it over the top edge tested our strength to it’s limits.

Drywall 1

Not exactly in sequence, the following couple of photos show the fun we had with drywall, NOT!

Drywall 2

Taping and mudding seams.

Drywall 3

Overhead mudding. Now I know how the expression “Here’s mud in your eye” originated.

Drywall 4

Taping, mudding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, remudding, sanding, sanding, sanding, etc.

Drywall 5

Starting to look like a wall!


After the drywall was completed, the ceiling and room were primed and painted. We had the ceiling paint tinted to the same color as the walls but a lighter tone.

Cabinet Assembly

Meanwhile, the cabinet carcasses were being glued up.

Cabinet Drawer Slides

Hettich self close, soft close, full extension drawer slides rated at 100 pounds were installed in the cabinets. Marilyn wanted all drawers in the lower cabinets instead of doors for ease of access to her kitchen stuff. 14 drawers total were constructed in the three lower cabinets.

Stove Cabinets

Here are the two cabinets on either side of the stove fully assembled awaiting installation.

Finishing the doors

The 8 doors for the upper cabinets and the 2 below the sink were stained and finished with three coats of polyurethane applied by HVLP. There was still a lot of hand sanding between coats but spraying saved an enormous amount of time and provided a superior finish.

Drawer finishing

The drawers were finished with 2 coats of lacquer applied by HVLP.


Because the weather was turning cold, the doors were carried indoors to dry between coats. It was challenging just moving around without tripping.

Upper Face Frame

The upper face frame was constructed in the garage because there wasn’t enough space in the basement for an object this large. I wanted the upper cabinets to be a single unit to give the completed project a built-in look.

Face frame sanding

We took every advantage of the weather to sand and finish outdoors.

Upper Face Frame Storage

The upper face frame was nearly 12 feet long so we had to store it in our hallway before attaching the carcase.

New Flooring

The old floor was completely removed in order to fix squeaks and preserve the elevation. Here new luan is being installed.

Leveling the luan

After stapling the luan to the subfloor, the floor was leveled similar to the way drywall is mudded and sanded.

New vinyl rollout

Rolling out our new vinyl floor.

New floor installed

The new floor installed and drying overnight to seal the seam. The color of the floor was chosen to compliment the cabinets, counter tops, stainless steel appliances, carpeting and wall color. This gave the kitchen a completely new look!

Sink Cabinet Assembly

Due to it’s size, the sink cabinet had to be assembled near it’s final position.

New Sink Island Assembly

Another sink cabinet assembly photo. Although it’s one piece, the side facing the family room is a book case.

Completed Sink Cabinet Carcase

The sink cabinet as it appears from the family room. Raised panels similar to the doors were incorporated into the design of the cabinet side. The cutout is for an electrical outlet.

Upper Cabinet Assembly

Like the sink cabinet, the upper cabinet carcase had to be assembled in the family room because of it’s size. Although I don’t have any photos of the installation, my son George and his friend Ron lifted the completed assembly unto cleats attached to the wall and held it in place while I drove screws through the nail rail into wall studs securing the cabinet.

Test Fitting the Upper Cabinet

The upper cabinet had to fit between a wall and a chimney chase. The right stile was left off the assembly in order to fit and scribe to the final size. Notice the temporary cleats attached to the wall holding up the cabinet. This line is exactly 54″ above the highest point on the floor as determined by a story stick and a self leveling laser. Once this line is established, all other cabinets are leveled and after the counter top is installed, the distance between the upper and lower cabinets is a standard 18″.

Door Hinges

Blum bluemotion soft close European style hinges were selected for all the doors.

Door Hinges 2

Each door needed only two hinges despite the fact that the large doors were 41″ in length.

Installing the cabinets

Here’s a nice picture of my butt as I’m doing some work leveling the cabinets and getting the anti-tip bracket installed for the stove. As you can see, a new Broan hood was installed into the cavity of the upper cabinets above the stove. The hood is ducted outdoors which required several trips into the attic.

Completed Kitchen Project

View of the completed project. The last step was the natural stone backsplash.

Kitchen Remodel – Before and After

The kitchen remodel project is extensive because it involves making the cabinets, replacing the floor, removing soffits, drywall, new counter tops and anything else that pops up along the way.  This post shows the before and after of the project and other posts detail some of the construction.  We started planning the project in January 2013 and completed the project December 2013, nearly a year later. Check out the blog posts for more information.

Louvered Pantry Door

The pantry was concealed by ugly louvered slide-by doors on a track that didn’t work very well.

Stove Cabinet 1

Here is our 20+ year old electric stove in the equally old custom made cabinets.

Stove Cabinet 2

Another view of the old cabinet showing the very old refrigerator.

Sink Cabinet

The existing sink cabinet had a raised back splash which we never used for that purpose. The overhead cabinets will be permanently removed.


A view from our family room looking into our newly remodeled kitchen. The back side of the sink island is a bookshelf.

Kitchen 2

A view of the sink island from the kitchen looking into the family room.

Kitchen 3

Cathedral arches grace the upper cabinets and the lower cabinets incorporate drawers exclusively.

Six Panel Doors

Our kitchen is sadly outdated so 2013 is the year we are doing a major renovation.  The pantry had dark louvered doors and we wanted the new ones to match the cabinets I will build soon.  We love the look of oak and it’s reasonably priced so that was our choice of material.  I took measurements from the existing doors and designed six panel doors around those dimensions.  This was my first attempt at making doors and I was surprised at how heavy the timbers were to mill and assemble.  I used Freud’s 3 Piece Premier Adjustable Cabinet Door Set for the cope and stick cuts as well as panel raising.  I also used their glue bit for the individual panel pieces which worked very well because the segments had additional surface area and were perfectly registered during clamping.  Instead of making extended tenons to support the weight, I added 2″ dowels to the rails and stiles.  The door was finished with oil based stain followed by 5 coats of General Finishes’ satin urethane.

Louvered Doors

Ugly dark stained louvered doors covered our pantry alcove for the past 25 years. Time for a change!

Oak Boards

Oak boards before milling.

Milling Boards

The timber was milled flat to provide a surface for thickness planing.

Thickness Planing

After milling a flat surface, the boards are planed to uniform thickness.

Re-sawing Timber

In order to save wear and tear on the planer, some overly thick boards were re-sawed prior to planing. It also helps to minimize chip collection.

Routing Panel Pieces

Here the glue bit is being used to prepare the individual panel pieces.

Panel Glue-Up

The glue bit really helped with panel construction.

Sanding Panels

After the glue dried, the panels were run through a drum sander to render them perfectly flat.

Panel Raising

The next step is to raise the panels. I ran each piece in 4 passes because it is strenuous work pushing work past a 3″ diameter router bit.

Finish sanding the panels

Marilyn was recruited to help with finish sanding the panels. Actually, she volunteered and we enjoyed working together on this project.

Frame Assembly

The next few photos show how the door was assembled. If you look closely, you can see holes for the dowel tenons added for strength.

Frame Glue-up

Panel Insertion

The panels are inserted with “Space Balls” for anti-rattle expansion allowance. The stile on the empty panel positions did not have glue at this point.

Final Assembly

Wow! It looks like a door!

Sanding the finished door

Sanding the finished door.

Staining the door

Staining the door.

Applying top coat

The urethane top coat was applied over a five day period allowing 24 hours between coats.

Doors in place

The finished doors weigh about 60 pounds each so new tracks and trucks were installed. The overhead moulding will not be installed until the kitchen project is underway but we are very happy with the new look. The results provide an incentive to build the cabinets!

Bathroom Renovation

Bathroom before renovation

After living in our home for over 20 years, we decided to fix the place up now that we’re heading into retirement.  Marilyn has been nagging me about our main bathroom for years because it was so dated with hanging light fixtures and yellow tub and toilet (yuk).  I have been equipping my wood shop with new stationary tools with the idea that I would learn how to make cabinets so this was a perfect way to get started.

Removing the old floor

My main gripe about the old bathroom was the squeaky floor so the first thing I did was remove the old linoleum using a Fein MultiMaster that I received as a Christmas gift.  Surprise, surprise!  I found that the old toilet had been leaking for quite a while and the floor around the toilet was rotten.  OK, first things first so I completed the flooring removal.  If you have ever tried to lift linoleum, you know how difficult it is but the Fein MultiMaster made the job easy.  It was a joy to use and it made a crummy job more than just tolerable.

Gotta do something about the floor.  Went into the basement and looked from below and here is what I saw.

Stained floor from leaking toilet

Floor view from basement

Hey, I get a chance to use the Fein MultiMaster again!  Pull the toilet and cut around the rotten wood making sure I hit the rafters in the middle so I can drop in a new piece.

Wet sub floor removed

Oh, oh, another problem.  I found out why the toilet was leaking.  The cast iron ring that holds the toilet up against the soil pipe had disintegrated.

Soil pipe with corroded iron ring

Nothing was holding the toilet in place except for the wax ring.  Another MultiMaster moment.  Cut the top off of the soil pipe so a new plastic ring can be glued in place.  Things are starting to come together nicely.  Measure and cut a replacement piece for the sub floor and screw into place (no more squeaking nails).

New sub floor installed










Time to remove the old tub surround.  It was installed when the house was built back in the 1970’s and it was put in place before the walls were constructed.  It had to be cut up to remove it and once again, I used the Fein MultiMaster.  The old tub was made of fiberglass so precautions were taken to avoid breathing the dust.  This was the most difficult phase of the project because the fiberglass was extremely hard to cut and it was very abrasive to the cutting tools.

Removing old bath insert

Removing old bath insert

Old tub insert partially removed

Old tub insert partially removed

Old tub insert removed

Old tub insert removed










After the old tub was cut up and removed, I finished my prep by removing the old medicine cabinet, the old sink and vanity, and re-wired for installing the new light fixture on the wall above the vanity instead of the old lights which were hanging from the ceiling by chains.  That was fun because I love crawling around in the attic fiberglass on hot days!

Now I get to watch somebody else work!  The project was turned over to our remodeling contractor who we hired to install the new tub, surround, floor and toilet.  Here are a few pictures of that phase.

Installing luan over sub floor

Installing luan over sub floor


Floor and tub partially installed

Floor and tub partially installed


New floor ready for grouting

New floor ready for grouting










Shower stall wall prep

Shower stall wall prep



New shower surround partially installed

New shower surround partially installed

Completed shower corner

Completed shower corner













Cutting opening for new medicine cabinet

Cutting opening for new medicine cabinet

Medicine cabinet installed

Medicine cabinet installed










Prior to the installation, I made a vanity to replace the old one.  It was my first casework project and I will devote another post to it.

The completed renovation was exactly what we wanted!