Category Archives: DIY Projects

Kitchen Cabinet Makeover… On a Tight Budget

We decided the kitchen needed a fresh look. The cabinets were in fine shape but bland, and lacking features common with custom cabinets.   We used A Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit in that we had some left over from a previous project.  A quality cabinet or trim paint would have worked fine as well.  

20160709_115524For us, refinishing the cabinets was a thee step process…

  1. Prep and paint the cabinet frame.
  2. Prep and paint the cabinet doors.
  3. Install door / drawer handles (our cabinets didn’t have any)

We decided the island was a great place to start.kitchencabinetcompare

We painted the cabinet frames by hand and sprayed the doors (front and back) with an HVLP sprayer and were really pleased with how it turned out.  The nice thing about spraying the doors is that it goes A LOT faster.  To provide increased durability we put two coats of white and three coats of clear finish on everything.

Now, on to the remaining cabinets…


Spraying the cabinet doors and drawers saved A LOT of time.


More doors, drawers, and trim to spray



Halfway done. We divided the the kitchen into three sections and painted one section at a time to minimize disruption.










After. The end cabinets were lifted slightly to provide a variation in elevation. We plan to accent this further (in the future) with crown molding at the top of the cabinets and accessories, such as a glass stemware rack, underneath.



Bathroom Shelves

Our master bath is designed so the toilet is separate from the rest of the bathroom.  My wife refers to it as the water closet, using a fake British accent whenever she says it.  The room has an 8′ foot ceiling and looked very stark.

We decided a pair of floating shelves was just what we were looking for and decided to do them in walnut since we had some left over from previous projects.

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Like many of our projects we used painters tape to model the placement of the shelves.  This helped to determine shelf placement before attaching the frame to the wall.


The shelf frames were made from furring strips.  This is the technique we used for the pantry project where the frame is attached to the wall studs and then wrapped with finished boards.

We decided to finish the walnut pieces before placing them on the shelf.  Once finished we cut them to size and attached with 18ga finish nails.  Our finished dimensions for each shelf were 37″ wide x 10″ deep x 2.5″ high.

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As usual, my wife did a fantastic job decorating the space once the shelves were in place.


Kitchen Command Center

One of my wife’s favorite sayings, often directed to me, is “don’t put it down – put it away”.   As usual, she’s exactly right.  When things have a place to go, it’s so much easier to find them. One thing that we’ve longed for was a central location for sorting mail, paying bills and other daily tasks.   Since many of these activities are performed over the Internet we also wanted an easy way to pay bills, or look up a recipe, online.

Our kitchen had an unused corner that was screaming “use me” every time we walked by it. While the TV tray worked for an interim solution, it was screaming to be replaced as well.

Before and After

Our first step was to visualize a layout that would best meet our needs and maximize the use of this small (4′ x 2′) space. Painters tape is great for mocking up ideas on a wall in that it’s easy to adjust and doesn’t leave a mark. Once we had a rough feel for logistics we picked up a stock 15″ base cabinet.  This left plenty of leg room at the work area.

kitchen station mockup    kitchen mockup2
Initial mockups with painters tape and stock cabinet

After moving the tape around a few times, we decided on the following elements.
   A stock 15” four drawer cabinet
   Counter height workspace
   Bill / mail sorter
   Organization cubbie
   A low profile computer workstation with a wireless keyboard and mouse.  

Our goal with having all items wall mounted is that we’d have the full work surface available for entertaining and other special events. The white cubbie and hanging sorter were made from plywood scraps. The storage boxes and pencil holders are walnut (my new favorite).  

kitchen station final
Final result… Voila.

If you’re interested in plans for how the individual components were built, come back soon.  We are documenting these now and will post the plans once complete.

Storage Closet

We had (another) empty closet near the pantry, that for whatever reason didn’t have a door either.  After much discussion and a rough sketch, we decided to make a couple floating shelves to match the pantry that would accommodate cleaning supplies and other household products.

Rough Sketch
This was another sketch that took place over coffee – yes, this is a recurring theme.  We wanted the shelf to accommodate cleaning supplies and bulk items like paper towels.  We kept the shelves narrow to make things easy to find, while leaving plenty of room at the sides of the walls for brooms, Swiffer and other large items.

The technique for the closet shelves was the same we used for the panty project.  A simple frame mounted to the wall studs, topped with plywood which was then sanded, caulked and painted for a finished look.





To hold the broom, dustpan and other hanging stuff, we used 1″ cup hooks.  For the Swiffer WetJet, that weighs about 10lbs, we used a $1 wardrobe hook from Menards.


Total cost = less than $20 for shelf boards, hooks, and paint.

It is very rewarding to have an organized closets so that everything has its place. Now I can gladly do as my wife says… “don’t put it down, put it away”.

Kitchen Pantry

Our First Real Project – The Kitchen Pantry
The pantry was the first project we wanted to tackle after moving in.  Located near the kitchen, we had an unused closet that didn’t have a door or any shelving.  We thought this space would be ideal for the pantry. 

The layout of the room was perfect for providing wrap around shelves with 9” to 12” deep shelving in the back and 6” shelving on the sides.  Having shelves with varied depths accommodated different sized items and helps avoid the trap of having shelves so deep that you can’t find what gets buried in the back.    A tempting option was to mount a rail alongside each wall and simply place a shelf board between them. We decided to go for a wider look, making a “floating shelf” capable of supporting heavy loads without having to use shelf supports.




Here we go.

We made a visual mock-up using painters tape.  We then grabbed boxes and cans of food to determine optimal height between the shelves.



Building the frame.   We thought about using 2×2’s but ended up setting up the table saw for 1 and 1/16” and ripped 2×4’s into three strips per board.  The frame was attached to the wall studs then assembled with screws and wood glue for extra strength.  Our original plan was to provide 6 shelves, two of which were to accommodate short items like canned goods.  In performing a final mock-up we ended up going with 5 shelves with more room in between.











We used ½” plywood for the top and ¼” plywood for the bottom.  The bottom board wasn’t required but we wanted a finished look.  A piece of face trim hides the frame and plywood edges for a clean built-in look.

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We finished up by sanding, caulking and painting.





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Voila! Each finished shelf is just over 2 inches thick and because the back and side shelves are tied together, they provided the wrap around look we were going for.

Total Cost = < $125 (including the closet door, trim and shelves).
Value of getting boxes of food off the floor  = priceless

Knocking out the small stuff

Welcome to our first blog post.  We’ve been moved in for a couple weeks and are so excited to be here.  Our first project is really a bunch of little projects, taking care of things that need to be addressed right away.  Since the house was a foreclosure we knew we’d need to address these items as soon as we moved in.

No shower heads
Replacing a shower head is an easy job.  We spent a lot more time researching shower heads than the 2 minutes it took to install them.  Thanks to Amazon reviews, we selected the Speakman Anystream (S-2005-HB).  14261271787020

This shower head is listed as a hotel spec shower head, with Speakman being a supplier to many hotel chains.  Shower heads in the U.S. must meet conservation guidelines so they use no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm).  Many folks complain about low water pressure and remove the aerator that restricts water flow to provide more pressure.  We picked this water head based on reviews that praised the water pressure and adjustable spray pattern without compromising water conservation.  The performance of this shower head is fantastic and meets the approval of the toughest shower head critic there is, at least in this family, my wife. 

Shower Rods
You guessed it, the shower rods in each bathroom were missing as well.  We decided to go with curved shower rods.  We chose fixed mounted shower rods.  We have had bad experiences with tension rods that eventually loosen up and mar up the wall. The process for installing a shower rod is very straightforward and doesn’t require many tools.  One trick that helped simplify mounting the brackets was to make a paper template of the mounting bracket hole patterns and the cap that covers it up.

LED Lights
Switching out the recessed lighting fixtures with an LED replacement is a simple project that makes a big difference both aesthetically and in energy savings  We decided to use a one piece LED light with a built in trim ring to replace missing light bulbs in recessed (can light) fixtures. Since the unit is one piece, there is no unsightly gap between the bulb and the trim ring.  The light quality of these units is fantastic and consumes 11 watts of electricity while providing much better light output than the 65 watt flood lamps they replaced.  These units are rated for 50,000 hours which means that if we use them 8 hours a day, every day of the year, they should last 17 years.  They are especially well suited for high locations, like our 18 foot living room ceiling.  In reviewing many brands and options, we chose Commercial Electric LED lights from Home Depot.  At $35 for a two pack they are more pricey than your standard flood lamp, but considering the energy they save and the fact they replace the poor fitting trim rings I had before, they are a great value.


These lights are designed for use in high moisture areas such as bathrooms and outside.




Installing them is a piece of cake. Simply remove the trim ring and existing flood lamp from the recessed light fixture, screw the power connector into the light bulb socket, and lock the unit in place with the attached mounting clips.