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Blog entry by jbswearingen posted 07-09-2012 01:07 PM 1719 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The missus and I bought a house three years ago. It was a great deal; we got it a week before it went into foreclosure. We got it for about half what the owner paid; it was near the bottom of the market. Five bedrooms, three full baths, lots of room, and a garage that is my cave. Structurally the house is sound and in great shape. Cosmetically? Well, it leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve done the easy (cheap) things to fix it—repaired walls, painted rooms, etc. Unfortunately, though, all the floors need to be replaced, the kitchen is hideous, and we want to remodel the bathrooms. Did I mention that the budget is tight?

Well…as part of the home hunt, my only requirement was that there be an enclosed, powered garage so I could set up a ww’ing shop. It took the past three years, but I have (mainly through CL) filled it with the basics for turning expensive lumber into expensive mulch. Discounting pens and bowls from the lathe, I finally recently finished my first piece of furniture, a blanket chest for the missus.

She now wants a new kitchen. I can’t blame her. The floor is institutional 12” square vinyl. It’s cracking in places because the floor flexes (undersized joists supporting the floor). The cabinets are a mix of painted wood and oak paneling; it doesn’t match. The sink is too small, the counter is ugly, and the oven/range is actually 5” NARROWER than the opening for it. There’s a stand alone unit against a wall that racks left and right if you put too much weight on it. There’s a set of cabinets hung randomly on the wall that makes no sense and matches nothing else.

So, when you have a big project like this, you can throw two things at it—time or money. Since we don’t have a whole lot of the latter, we have decided that we’ll throw time at it. What exactly does that mean? Well, the missus said that she’ll be happy if I do the cabinets a piece at a time. The upper cabinets are fine—they just need new face frames and doors. She’ll be happy if I can complete one frame and panel door every week, maybe two weeks. Right now I’m thinking that’s a feasible goal. Right now. We’ll see once I actually get into it.

This is where the planning starts. I have all the necessary tooling to complete the job, depending on the route I take. I don’t have a big router, so I don’t know if I can safely do arched frame-and-panel doors. I’ve had a certain tennoning jig in mind for my table saw, so square doors would be a cake walk, but I think the addition of arches would be nice. So I’ll look into how I might be able to accomplish it with my Bosch 1617EVS or I’ll talk to her about sinking money into a big 3hp router to spin larger bits safely.

I have lots of ww’ing, Handyman, and other home improvement magazines that have been sitting, collecting dust. Time to break those out for ideas. I’m also reading up on cabinet construction to wrap my mind around it.

As said above, the upper cabinet carcasses are fine. They’ll just need new face frames and doors. That should be fairly easy. The lower cabinets will be a lot more involved, though: The sink, dishwasher, and oven will be moved, new storage methods will be incorporated (more sliding drawers, less shelving), the wall-mounted oven will be moved, and the pantry will be rebuilt with sliding shelves. Because of this, I probably won’t start construction on that part until next spring, as we’ll need to plan it AND buy all the hardware, which is still pricey when doing it yourself.

So I’ll soon get some pictures up of what it looks like now and will hopefully have a happy ending some time next year. Keep your fingers crossed!

-- Semper fi, Brad

15 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile


17429 posts in 3035 days

#1 posted 07-09-2012 01:22 PM

All i can do i wish you the best of luck Brad. It certainly sounds like itll be one heck of a journey youre about to embark on. Definately try some test runs on cheaper lumber before you go hackin into somethin expensive.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View jumbojack's profile


1677 posts in 2653 days

#2 posted 07-09-2012 02:53 PM

Hey Brad:
I just finished our kitchen. We were hosting Christmas dinner and the wife wanted her kitchen fresh. I started in June and lets just say the flooring went in on the 22 of December.
I cannot stress this enough, it does not have to have time constraints on it but it is essential you get a SOLID idea of what you are going to do.
Infrastructure should of course be first. A solid foundation is critical to the rest of the project.
If you are going to build your own cabinet doors, do them all at once, that means you will have to build your cabinets before the doors.
Look into a router, I used mine exclusively for the profiles on the doors. Thankfully the wife did not want ‘frilly’ doors; rather a simple ‘Shaker’ style profile. I bought a stacked bit from MLCS and it worked beautifully. You mentioned arched doors again the router and a pattern with a pattern bit would make this a piece of cake.
Building your own cabinets is pretty straight forward, just look at them as a series of simple boxes. No big deal.
Did I mention CLAMPS you are going to need a ton of them. BIG ones; the more you have the faster things will progress from day to day. I only had eight 48” clamps and found it woefully inadequate. That is only two cabinets or four doors at a time.
For the sake of your sanity go in stages. Complete a stage before going on to the next. Leave demo to the last, a disrupted kitchen makes the entire house a mess. You are going to need a place to store all of the units as they should be installed at once.
One last bit. SQUARE, SQUARE, SQUARE. Good enough is NOT. You can fix minor gaps easily, but fitting something to a piece that is not square is not so simple and it will glare at you EVERY time you walk past it.
You did not say how you were going to finish the cabinets, but what ever material; get a spray rig. Learn ahead of time how to use it. I used a brush and roller. NOT GOOD! My build took a little less than a week (working on it full time, I was on vacation) painting every thing took three times that long. I could have sprayed it in two or three days. I have since gotten a rig to spray paints and varnishes. It was cheap and works like a charm.
I envy and mourn your future.
Come here often, take pictures, before, after and during we love to see this stuff.


-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#3 posted 07-09-2012 03:03 PM

It is a big job your facing ,Here is one of the best books I’ve found about making cabinets and at a bargain price.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View jbswearingen's profile


108 posts in 2189 days

#4 posted 07-09-2012 03:17 PM

Thanks, Jack. I do have router table, and if I go with simple, straight rails, it won’t be needed—all grooves can be cut on the table saw. But if I go the arched rail route, I’ll probably pony up for a 3hp router for template work.

The floor is supported (I think) by 6” joists—the floor flexes in places. It’s a split foyer home—there’s a living room under the kitchen. We’re considering ripping up the flooring, tearing out the ceiling below, and reinforcing with sister joists before beginning—I’d really like to install ceramic tile later on.

On clamps…yeah, I learned that on my hope chest build, so I basically buy myself two clamps every payday, whether they’re large F-style or pipe clamps. I’ve NEVER heard a man say he had too many clamps.

The floor cabinets won’t be started for months to come, so I’ll have time to study and plan for that. We have a spare bedroom the new cabinets can hide in as I’m building them.

I do know that once we start, the kitchen will be a mess for months to come. It’s a good thing I’m the cook in the family!


I was actually looking at the book. I think I’ll go ahead and buy it. Thanks!

-- Semper fi, Brad

View bullhead1's profile


228 posts in 2278 days

#5 posted 07-09-2012 08:27 PM

Arched doors are much more difficult to make. You will have to invest in a some expensive profile bits and build a jig to do the profile safely. I don’t know how extensive your shop equipment is but to make arched doors look good a band saw and stationary belt sander helps. Are you doing raised panel doors? That would be another router bit as I don’t know how you would do that safely on a table saw. I worked part time in a small cabinet shop after I retired for five years to learn woodworking. I don’t wan’t to scare you or disuade you from reaching for the stars, but there is another alternative. If your not going into the cabinet business and want arched doors have you considered buying unfinshed doors and just building the boxes? I just don’t want you to get frustrated on such a big project.

View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 2682 days

#6 posted 07-09-2012 08:36 PM

I can relate to the title of your post! I have an out-dated kitchen the wife and I have talked about replacing. Maybe something for next year.

My kitchen reno has gone through so basic planning. As Jack said, I am trying to figure the best way to do it and keep the kitchen functioning as much as possible.

I’ll be watching for update. Good luck with it all.



View WhoMe's profile


1564 posts in 3272 days

#7 posted 07-10-2012 12:45 AM

I bookmarked this to keep up on your progress. As jumbojack mentioned, have a master plan. Our kitchen is cirica 1954 (as is the house) with a couple of added plywood cabinets where the washroom and water heater used to be located in the kitchen. Only the appliances and faucets have been replaced.
For us, we have been wanting to redo our kitchen for years and still have not settled on a basic reconfiguration. We keep changing that. As for me, the plan is to strip the kitchen to the bare studs, floors and rafters. Do all new plumbing and electrical including a sub panel for all the kitchen electrical. we will also be removing 2 walls to counter height to open the kitchen to the living and dining room for a great room.
So I know in my case it will be a HUGE endeavor. Like you I am very handy with the ww’ing and handyman stuff (I have my own side handyman business) so I want to do as much as possible. BUT I will probably contract out the drywall and maybe some other items. I know my limitations and skills.
You probably already know this but in your master plan, add a large buffer for the planned budget and overall time to complete the kitchen. I am finding with my house, EVERYTHING costs more and takes more time than planned. And for some reason, the larger the project, the larger the increase in project timing.

I also would like to build my own cabinets and jumbojack, you had a really good suggestion of building the cabinets prior to demo. That makes a LOT of sense.

I wish you the best of luck with your kitchen and am envious you are getting to do it.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#8 posted 07-10-2012 12:47 AM

I’ve got nothing for you but best wishes. I put thousands of square feet of hardwood floors in my home a couple of years back. When I say I put them in, I mean I put in a call to have someone put them in:) You have my respect.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Sarit's profile


549 posts in 3169 days

#9 posted 07-10-2012 07:23 AM

I think jumbojack is right. You need a master plan of what you want to do and then an operational plan to make sure what you do now isn’t gonna get ruined because of some other thing you need to do down the line. For instance you might want to move a toilet upstairs only to find that now you gotta take down the upper cabinets in your kitchen to extend the drain line. Then the soffit you made to hide the drainline pushes your cabinets down too low and now you need to make new cabinets. Get the picture?

If your floors are flexing now, then that’s the first thing I would tackle. Areas that will receive tile need to be even stronger than areas with other types of flooring. Are you gonna put a cast iron soaker tub next to 18” stone tiles supported by a couple of 10’ long 2×6 joists 24” on center? If so, you may end up bathing in your dining room.

View maxhall's profile


80 posts in 2230 days

#10 posted 07-10-2012 06:22 PM

I certainly have no advice to give my wife and I bought a 100 yr old colonial in Massachusetts that has good bones but is in desperate need of a facelift. Thankfully the kitchen is the last big project we’re going to tackle because albeit ugly, its very functional (plenty of cabinets gas range and double oven) the other things like exterior paint floors rewiring, bathrooms, master suite are coming first and we hope to do the majority ourselves, and long some valuable lessons along the way prior to tackling the kitchen. Our kitchen will have to be ripped down to the studs, 4 layers of vinyl pulled off the floor, the ceilings dropped for recessed lighting, coffered celings, etc… I figure I have six yrs to plan and save for this pita endeavor. So far we’ve managed to stay on budget for projects that we’ve completed. But I’m sure the bigger and more expensive the project the more you need to allocate for unforseen expenses. Good luck and I will be following your progress.

View jbswearingen's profile


108 posts in 2189 days

#11 posted 07-10-2012 06:31 PM

Thanks for all the tips, guys. I’ve been looking into it more, and as you suggest, Sarit, the floor will be done first. SWMBO has a cousin who is a contractor. He’s gonna come over and we’ll study the floor and see what we need to do/buy to fix it. Then we’ll schedule a weekend when he can come over and we’ll tear out the floor and put in the sister joists (or whatever he recommends). We’re installing a new fence in the backyard, so anything we do will have to wait until that’s completed (and paid for!).


I have a pretty complete workshop. I actually just added a 1966 Unisaw (I started a blog on it), but it’ll be months before it’s ready for use, I’m sure. I have a band saw and am hoping to add an oscillating sander to the mix, though I have a set of plans for a foot operated jig that mounts on the drill press which will work as a light duty sander.

If I go with just straight Shaker style frame and panel construction, I won’t need to use a router at all—the tenons, half mortices, and grooves can all be cut with a flat-top TS blade and/or dado set.


Don’t expect quick progress! This is gonna be a long, slow slog that might have an end sometime in the future.

Thanks for all the well wishes and warnings!

-- Semper fi, Brad

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#12 posted 07-10-2012 06:34 PM

^I went with the straight Shaker set from MLCS/MCLS (I can never spell that right). Once I got them dialed in, they really perform well for the money. I’ve got some mismatched Freuds and an Amana or two but the core set worked pretty well.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3261 days

#13 posted 07-10-2012 07:05 PM

I have found that if you can make the same cut repeatedly for a bunch of like parts, it is best to get that done at one time. Making one door, then moving on to the next seems a poor use of time. If the doors are the same size. Make all the rails, THEN make all the stiles, THEN make all the panels, or work inside out, doesn’t matter, just get one setup tuned, and crank the work out, then change the setup for the next step. She won’t get the first door on as fast as she’d probably like, but the whole job will get done faster, with better accuracy / repeatability.

MLCS bits are great for raised panel doors etc… You might want to look into the mitered frame door sets too. Some profiles there that give supermodels a run for their money!

Do you really need new face frames? If not just strip the originals and refinish them!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View jbswearingen's profile


108 posts in 2189 days

#14 posted 07-10-2012 07:10 PM

Yeah, I’m thinking of just doing a day-long run on the doors to get them all done at once. The face frames need to be replaced, too—they’re covered with who knows how many layers of paint. I want them to match the doors—cherry wood.

-- Semper fi, Brad

View WhoMe's profile


1564 posts in 3272 days

#15 posted 07-28-2012 07:23 PM

Brad, I liked your comment about that being a long term project. I think my kitchen redo is on the century plan. It will probably take that long to save and plan our redo. Actually doing it will be much shorter…. i hope….
To all others, there is already some GREAT advice on this thread. I knew I was following it for a reason.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

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