I Designed and Built a Complete Kitchen from Scratch–Now What?

Hey 2017, what am I gonna do with you? Please, don’t leave me in a funk.

You showed up just a few weeks after I completed some pretty major projects at home and the office. And so far, I’ve been twiddling my thumbs wondering, “Now what?” I need something to do. As Colonel Brandon said in Sense and Sensibility, “Give me an occupation Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.”

Our kitchen prior to demolition

Prior to demolition

2015 was fairly ambitious. New floors were installed. I hung crown molding and repainted a couple of rooms, made custom baseboard for the entire main level. And I was just starting to build new kitchen cabinets when, on September 30th 2015, I took an ambulance ride to the emergency room. Then followed back surgery on October 2nd, and again on November 13th. And so, I spent the rest of 2016 horizontal, watching Doctor Who and reading Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels.

Demolition in progress

Demolition in progress

2016 was better. I stayed injury free (though I was sad to have to give up running—doctor’s orders). I worked on the kitchen from late-January to late-November. That was a very satisfying accomplishment. Along the way I also built a few Christmas gifts. More importantly, Dawn and I renewed our vows to celebrate our 30 years of marriage.

Kitchen Island

Kitchen Island

And 2017? What do you hold? Well, for starters let’s be more disciplined about my fitness. Sure, I went to the gym regularly through 2016, but I never worked hard. I was too afraid to re-injure my back. And anyway, I spent most of January and February just learning how to walk normally again. As a result my waistline is growing beyond what it should be, my cardio fitness is pretty bad and I’ve lost a ton of good, solid muscle strength. So, let’s be more ambitious. Let’s make a few reasonable fitness goals and specific workout plans to achieve them. I’ll start by taking up swimming twice a week. (I kept saying I would after the kitchen was finished. Time to put my money where my mouth is.)

Hutch and Chest with Shelves

Hutch and Chest with Shelves

Around the house, I’ll build a new pantry for Dawn. Then, I’ll remodel the half-bath with a rustic vanity made from pallet wood, and topped by a pottery vessel sink. What about the deck though? It’ll be 15 years old this year and looks pretty bad. Hmmm… there are budget considerations. The roof and gutters need some repair and I’ll have to hire someone. We’ll have to see about the deck.

What about blogging? Yeah, I had to put that off during the kitchen build epic. It’s time for a reboot. I’m amazed that, even neglected, it still had over 100,000 page views in 2016. But, I really would like to produce 20-30 new posts this year.

And your spiritual life? Yes, that’s a big deal. I plan to read through the entire Bible this year. I actually started in November and I’m up through Deuteronomy 20. (BTW, who knew that one of the best-known blessings—even non-Christians have heard of—is found in the book of Numbers of all places??

“The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

—Numbers 6:22-24

Love that. Thank you Father for Your commitment to bless your people with everlasting kindness.) I also plan to start a new men’s discipleship group that will meet in my home. Oh, how I’ve missed the blessing of those deep connections.

Floating Shelves with Pottery

Floating Shelves with Pottery

Finances? Yes, the budget is planned for the year. Giving? We added two more ministries to support. Projects at the office? Still a little slow; I hope to be more engaged next week. Vacation plans? Not sure yet, but I’m hopeful. Starbucks card? Re-charged. :)

Okay 2017, let’s get things in gear! We have places to go, things to do/fix/build, people to see, and I love going, doing, and seeing.

What’s on your 2017 radar?


Photo Friday: How to Build a Custom Kitchen

Happy Friday! I am neck-deep in building a new kitchen for Dawn. I’m making progress but have a long way to go. If you’ve never tackled a big project like this you may wonder how it’s done. The easiest explanation is that you follow these nine high-level steps:

  1. Design: Take your time. Do it over and over and over until your client and you are satisfied. I think I went through 15+ iterations before my client (Dawn ;) said “Yes! That’s what I want!” (My status: Done, but always tweaking.)
  2. Carcasses: You have a lot of cabinet boxes (carcasses) to build out of plywood. Remember to finish the inside with a clear finish. I used Minwax Polycrylic. (My status: Done finally, though I took October-January off to recuperate from back surgery.)
  3. Face Frames: If you are building traditional cabinets, face frames come next. These are made out of the hardwood of your choice. Your material decision depends on how you plan to finish your cabinets: paint or stain. We are using Ambrosia Maple and plan to use a chemical treatment to make them look gray and weathered. See the photos below. (My status: Done.)

    Cabinet Face frames & Carcasses

    Here, some face frames are resting against cabinet carcasses in my basement

  4. Doors & Drawers: This is where you build and carefully fit doors and drawers. This requires math, accurate measurements, and some skill with hand planes. (My status: Starts tomorrow.)
  5. Miscellaneous Internal Parts: This step is where you build all of your sliding trays, knife drawer inserts, spice racks, etc.
  6. Finish: No, you’re not finished ;). This is the step where you can start applying paint or stain and top coats to the face frames, doors, and drawers. Depending on your finish, you may want to do this after the Assembly step. (My status: decisions made, but not started.)
    Untreated Ambrosia Maple Scraps

    These ambrosia maple scraps show the natural color of the wood.

    Chemically treated Ambrosia Maple Scraps

    Here are the same scraps treated with a vineger/steel wool solution that ages them to a silvery gray. (the image makes them look a bit more green than real life). The milk painted red square will be used on our new island. Picture these with dark stone countertops.

  7. Assembly: This is the fun part. Now you get to attach all those face frames, doors and drawers and see your design become reality.
  8. Install: Hooray, now you can do the tedious work of temporarily removing the doors and drawers, and installing your cabinets so they are perfectly level, straight, square and plumb. Be prepared for a little frustration since your home’s walls are NEVER straight, plumb and square. Take your time. A poor installation will haunt your dreams forever.
  9. Countertops: Buy them or make something fancy out of wood, stone, or concrete. But for goodness sake, don’t top off your beautiful, custom work with laminate countertops!

You may be wondering how much a custom DIY kitchen costs? So far, I have spent about $3,500, including $2,500 for stainless steel appliances. Once the countertops and fancy apron sink are in, I expect to be around $6,000-$7,000. Compare this to paying a contractor $25,000-$30,000 for a kitchen like this. I expect the new kitchen will add ~$20,000 to our home’s market value.

I hope this post inspired your own dreams. If so, please leave a comment or question below.

Happy Friday, and don’t forget to stop for worship this Palm Sunday.

The Plaid Posse

Happy Friday!

This past Sunday our family gathered to celebrate our son’s youngest child’s 2nd birthday. When I arrived we discovered that me and our three kids (Häns, Haley, and Heidi) were all wearing plaid. Unplanned, but priceless.

Here’s the proof:

Hetricks in plaid

L to R: Heidi, Lon, Hans, Haley (The Plaid Posse)

Meanwhile my months-long project to remodel our kitchen continues.

To date, the entire first floor has new hardwood. There is new paint in several rooms, along with new crown moulding, and custom baseboard I made in my shop. The kitchen is fully designed and I’m currently building cabinets with ambrosia maple face frames.

Here’s an in-progress sample:

Ambrosia Maple Wall Cabinet in progress

Ambrosia Maple Wall Cabinet in progress

Have a great weekend!