Nov 302012

So, I promised that I would write about our kitchen problem, and I’ll be honest…I put off this post because I simply didn’t want to relive it. But, now that the kitchen is finished, I don’t feel like I’m going to start bawling every time I think about it, so here goes…

On October 18, I woke up and decided that I wanted to paint the kitchen. When I told my husband this, he gave me a look that I’ve become quite familiar with, the sentiment behind it being, “Oh crap….here she goes again.” He saw nothing wrong with the kitchen, but I had several problems with it:

1. I was over the blue paint under the chair rail, mainly because I had chosen that color to match my pretty octagon-shaped rug under the table, which I can no longer use, because my children are incapable of eating anything without spilling (see this post).

2. I had always hated the chair rail, because it wasn’t installed correctly, and didn’t serve its intended purpose.

3. I felt that painting the walls a single color would make our dining area seem larger and more spacious.

Please understand that I fully intended to do nearly all of this work myself. That first day, I painted the dingy ceiling bright white, and I was quite pleased with myself.

That afternoon, I went to the hardware store and got all of my paint and supplies, with the intention of painting the walls the next day. I just needed for my husband to remove the chair rail for me, which he did, even though he thought the kitchen was fine as it was, and I was crazy.

There was just one small problem. When he pulled the chair rail off, some paint came off with it, so he told me that I would need to scrape and patch those areas first. No big deal, right?

Except that we are the Crap Family, remember? Do you not know us, but at all?!

When I started scraping the paint, I hit a rather large snag – ALL of the paint was loose. It was peeling off, right down to the original plaster coat, sometimes in giant sheets, and other times in tiny pieces. I kept scraping, thinking that I would get to a point where the paint was firmly adhered, but I never did. In a panic, I called my husband upstairs, and we spent quite a lot of time staring at the walls in dismay, trying to figure out why this was happening.

To make a long story short, after a consultation with a professional painter, we were finally able to ascertain that when our house was built in 1971, the drywall was coated with plaster for a stronger, higher-quality finish, which is great. The problem is that the plaster was never allowed to cure thoroughly (at least a month), and it wasn’t primed before it was painted with oil-based paint, so the paint never adhered properly. Over the years, the oil-based paint was covered with several layers of latex paint (which NEVER works), so basically, the first time the paint was disturbed, everything fell apart like a house of cards. The upside is that we’ve repainted nearly every other room in the house, and have never encountered this problem, so it appears to be confined to the kitchen only. Perhaps it was the last room plastered, and the builders were anxious to be finished, so they skimped on drying time.

If you’re at all familiar with drywall finishing, you know that while you can successfully patch and feather a small area, it’s impossible to “patch” an area where all the paint is loose and peeling, so the only solution is to remove as much of the loose paint as possible. Which, in our case, was ALL of it. For the next week, every time I walked into the kitchen, I worked on peeling off paint, and over the weekend, my husband and I worked together for 3 days straight to remove what was left. After I destroyed 3 of my fingernails (they still haven’t recovered), broke my plastic scraper, and bent a small metal spatula (which worked surprising well for awhile) we finally figured out that razor blade scrapers worked best (we went through about 50 razor blades).

Even Bee helped for awhile, until the novelty of peeling paint wore off (this happens rather quickly).

Our kitchen floor was always covered in paint peels and plaster dust. We had to sweep and damp mop several times a day. In retrospect, we should definitely have put down dropcloths, but I think we were delirious from all the mindless scraping.

I’m not going to lie to you. During this time, I was so tired and discouraged that I went to bed at night and cried. A lot. Also, I lost count of how many times I said, “I just wanted to change the damn wall color!”

When all the paint was scraped off, we cleaned everything up and took a break for a couple weeks because of the girls’ birthday preparations. Then, in a comical-in-retrospect, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie type scenario, all of this happened:

1. Because we were already going to an incredible amount of work, we decided to refinish the trim, which was bleached and faded from the sun, and covered in paint splatters. We also decided to remove the ugly firewood transfer door.

2. I primed the walls, and gave them two coats of paint. Then, we discovered that some of our outlets weren’t up to code, and after we replaced them the new switch plates didn’t cover the same area as the old ones, so we had to patch. The patches were really visible after we touched them up, because the walls are smooth, and get a lot of light, and we used semi-gloss paint. So I ended up repainting one wall entirely, and other walls partially, in addition to numerous other touch-up paint jobs. During this time, my kitchen frequently looked like this:

3. When my husband was working on the outlets, a couple of our old, touchy 70s breakers were blown, and had to be replaced.

4. My husband, who was an unwilling participant in this whole project to begin with, had to patch the hole in the wall, left by the firewood transfer door, skim coat and sand all the walls, and scrape and sand what seemed like miles of trim (I did help with this part, though).

5. Because polyurethane gives me asthma attacks, my husband had to varnish all the trim, and we had to leave the house while it dried, so we ate supper out about 6 days in a row.

6. When the trim was finished, it looked so nice that we decided to take down our chipped, worn-out bulletin board, and repaint the pantry door, which was very banged up, and its shabby appearance was amplified by the now-smooth, shiny trim. My husband also fixed some problems with the door before hanging it again. It looks really nice now at least, even though it was never part of the plan (but really, 90% of what we ended up doing wasn’t).

7. My husband accidentally tipped over a jar of touch-up paint, and it spilled all over the floor. He had to clean it out of the grooves with a toothbrush.

8. There was so much dust in the house from the drywall sanding that we had to take apart all the light fixtures, and even the oven door, to clean it all up.

9. During the cleaning process, we discovered that along the dining area walls, the hardwood floor was rough and damaged from embedded drywall dust, so we had to borrow my Dad’s electric car buffer so we could polish it. Then we had to clean up the polishing compound and rub orange oil into the wood.

But…the good news is that the kitchen is now done, and I’m very happy with it. I think I achieved my goal of making the dining area feel bigger, and everything is clean, fresh, bright, uncluttered, and spacious.

My husband likes it too, and I’ve promised him that even though I bought us a new comforter, and I’m just itching to repaint our bedroom to match it, I won’t take on anymore projects for awhile. To be honest, the kitchen nightmare made me so depressed that the thought of even starting another DIY project makes me feel somewhat pukish.

The kids are happy because we finished up the kitchen just in time to get all the Christmas stuff out,

and their Mom and Dad are generally more relaxed, and in a much better mood.

I told my husband that all I wanted for Christmas was for the bleepin’ kitchen to be done, so Merry Christmas to me!


  13 Responses to “Our Kitchen Nightmare”

  1. So glad you got it done! May I just say it looks GREAT! Hard work always pays off in the end! =]

  2. The kitchen looks amazing, but the in progress shots made me want to cry along with you. I can’t even imagine the stress! Your husband deserves a medal and you deserve a glass of wine!

  3. Heather,
    What a wonderful job you guys did! Amazing. I couldn’t stop reading the story. I love your blog

  4. Whoa Heather! For being sincere, if it was me, I still would be pulling out every hair on my head…but the dining room looks so bright, simple yet beautiful. You guys did a great job 🙂

  5. We just finished up our living room (drywalling, new light fixtures, rewiring, painting, new carpet). I totally understand the drywall dust getting EVERYWHERE! We have a big pocket door that we closed to keep the dust out of the other rooms, but it didn’t work! Thankfully the way it looks (which is amazingly better then before) makes it worth the mess and torn up house for a month. Sorry your project went so crazy! Glad it is done and looks amazing! 🙂

  6. What an emotional roller coaster your post put me on. When I saw the photo of your kitchen in disarray I knew exactly how you felt. But the final results look like it was worth all the hassle. Love it!!

  7. I’m impressed you would share with us all. I can relate too well to your nightmare. After living for 5 years in an unfinished home, we are just now starting to refinish floors, walls, baseboards, doors, molding, closets, and anything else that we find (on the main floor only at this time). Not sure I want to share and take pictures. It is such a nightmare that I want to forget it. But seeing this post has made me rethink things. Maybe I will share my horrors too. So glad it is done for you.

  8. It looks fantastic! A job very well done.

  9. It looks beautiful though..

  10. Your home-related posts always inspire me to tackle problems and come up with creative solutions. But your Crap Family stories are my favorites, so you can imagine how this kitchen post was the best of both worlds! Though I hate to see you struggle with problems, I appreciate your sharing the details — especially the funny ones — with us!

  11. At least all the hard work paid off and it looks sooooooo good!

  12. Heather, it looks AMAZING! So sorry about the “crap” to add to your chronicles, though…what a nightmare! I’m glad the finished product turned out so nice and that your husband survived the unintended project in one piece, as well!

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