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Our Sweet New $3000 Kitchen: A DIY Story

before and after

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you've come to realize that we're pretty much constantly renovating our house.

And if you're new, let me tell you that my husband and I are desperately, desperately trying to pull our townhouse out of the 1980s into this millennium. So far, we've only partially succeed. (But that doesn't keep us from trying!) (

A particular source of house angst for us was the kitchen. It was nasty--dark with beat-up cabinets and ancient laminate countertops--but it had potential.

How to make your kitchen look better

The L-shaped layout made good use of the fairly small space, and the cabinets were custom built for the kitchen.

Landon and I had wanted to do a pretty extensive makeover of the kitchen, including replacing the countertops with granite, refinishing the floors, and repainting all of the cabinets, but the pre-baby budget just didn't allow for all that awesome.

We are nothing if not 1) thrifty, 2) motivated, and 3) creative, so I knew that Landon would be up for a renovation if I could find something that wouldn't cost us an arm and a leg. I couldn't stomach the thought of looking at that hideous yellow laminate countertop all day every day when I officially made the switch to a stay-at-home mom.

So, after much research, I came across the Pinterest pin that changed everything (here is the original project website if you're interested).

pinterest DIY kitchen ideas

I fell head over heels in love with the idea of dark stained wood countertops matched up with the white cabinets that we already had. When I read the original blog post about the installation of the countertops, I thought, "We could do this!"

Best of all, they would cost a fraction of the cost of granite AND Landon was confident that he could do the project himself (with a little help from my dad--I was absolutely no help since I was seven months pregnant and couldn't be around all of the fumes and dust).


So, for about $3000, Landon gave me a new kitchen.

Here's what we (he) did:
1) We measured the boards for the countertops. He carefully cut each of them and allowed them to dry in our garage so they wouldn't warp after placement.

2) After the boards cured, he used a router to round the edges of the outside pieces.
DIY kitchen

3) He stained them (several times) using a dark brown wood stain. This step took several days because we had to let the boards dry completely in between coats.

4) He removed the existing laminate countertops. (Good riddance.)

5) He and my dad installed each piece by bolting it to the existing cabinet framework. The pieces were then furthur encouraged to stay in place with copious amounts of wood glue.

DIY kitchen

6) Once the boards were in place and the glue was dry, Landon applied several coats of a marine-grade sealant. We chose to use this sealant over bar-quality resin because it was easier to work with and there was less risk of getting a billion bubbles in the finished product. If you're brave, however, knock yourself out with resin. Either will give a pretty shine and waterproof finish.

How to install kitchen countertops
Halfway done!
7) After the countertops were coated and dried, Landon installed the new glass backsplash (I'm seriously in love with it. So, so, pretty) and grouted it.
white backsplash and dark countertops

8) While Landon was grouting, my dad (who is awesome) sanded down every single one of the cabinet and drawer fronts from the kitchen, then primed and repainted the fronts and backs. It is amazing what a little bit of white paint can do to spruce up some cabinets.

9) After the cabinets were painted and re-installed, Landon hooked up our new over-the-stove microwave. More counter space!!!

10) And for the heck of it, while he was messing with the microwave electric stuff, he also wired in some new under-the-counter lights so we can actually see what we're cooking now, which I've heard is a big advantage when it comes to fixing good food.

11) For the grand finale, he hooked up the new sink and faucet, and we only had a super tiny little flood when the old sink pipe burst. But--unlike our big flood in April--this was easy peasy to deal with.

Ta-da! The finished product:

DIY wooden countertops
Oh, it's so beautiful. And please note, I have not killed the basil plant yet. 
In the end, we had to buy:

  • About a dozen boards (2 x 8)
  • 14 squares of backsplash (though we did end up returning 2 of them)
  • A bucket of white grout
  • Wood stain
  • Marine-grade wood sealant
  • Under the counter lights (super cheap--like $12 each at Lowe's)
  • Two gallons of primer
  • Two gallons of paint
  • A new microwave
  • A new sink
  • A new faucet
  • Lots of hardware to keep the countertop in place
  • Copious amounts of wood glue
Our final total came in just under $3000, but, if you wanted to recreate the project, it could be less if you didn't need to buy a new sink, faucet, and microwave like we did. 

Overall, my dad and Landon had very little trouble with the project. The thing they complained about the most was the time commitment; since they work full-time jobs, they could only do reno work at night, so the project stretched out over two weeks and one weekend.

In the end, we have a gorgeous kitchen that feels brand new, and I love the fact that it was completely done by my husband and dad. Yay for free labor! The kitchen's now been done for almost ten months (major blogger fail for just getting around to posting now), but I am still in love with the final product.

Have you ever done a renovation project--big or small? How did it turn out?