The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Renovation Page 1 of 34

The Kitchen: Cabinet Installation

The cabinets are in, and it starts feeling like a proper kitchen again.






After wrapping up the electrical work, we spent a couple days tidying up the house. We sold the sofa which was supposed to be a placeholder but lasted over four years! And the living room was clean and nicely empty for a day – until the cabinets arrived.

It was surprising how much space these boxes took. Our living room was filled to the brim. Fortunately, our contractor immediately started installing them, which took three full days.


Day 1: Installing the lower cabinets

Our contractor started with the corner cabinets and worked his way out. Right off the bat, this first cabinet threw him a curved ball. It turned out that our cabinet designer did not take the existing sink plumbing into consideration. The corner cabinet covered the existing sink plumbing, which should be inside the adjacent sink cabinet. Our contractor had to move the plumbing and waterlines a few inches to the right.


After the cornet cabinet went in, the sink cabinet followed, then the two 12″ units went in. A filler was added between the sink cabinet and the smaller units to make sure that the gas stove will be centered on the wall between the windows.


Despite the walls and floors are all new, the sink/stove wall is still wavy and lots of shims had to be used:


Day 2: Fridge cabinet and the island

The rest of the lower cabinets went in on the second day of installation. The fridge cabinets were put in not without a fight. It took two strong man to hold the tall panels up while many L-brackets were screwed in. The top cabinets were secured to the side panels with screws inside and L brackets at the bottom.


I cannot tell you how much planning and measuring it took to decide the final dimension for the fridge alcove. Honestly, up until it was installed, I had been nervous about if the fridge is gonna sit well inside… Slav stayed home and installed it with our contractor. I think they nailed down the details. The side panels were lined up almost perfectly with the two walls and the floor tile line, and the overhead cabinets were nicely centered with half an inch filler on both sides.


Here is the view I am most excited about – from the front door/living room side! We used to have a hall closet facing the front door, which had no design value to speak of. Improving the look of this wall facing front door has always been one of my motivations to renovate the kitchen. We will extend the baseboard to cover the bottom of the panel as a finishing touch. And as of the wall itself, I think it is a great backdrop for a large vertical art piece. Do you agree?


Between the fridge and the corner cabinet, two 15″ units were installed. A dishwasher will be located between them. These cabinets will be used for utensils and cutleries for easy unloading of the dishwasher.


Then the island was installed! It comprises three cabinets: one wide (36″) cabinet facing the stove for cooking utensils, and pots and pans, and two 24″ wide cabinets sit back to back as pantry storage. We lived in houses with island before and always liked them. I am so glad that we could accommodate one in our own kitchen.


Our contractor grouped the cabinets together, and pinned them down with big bolts through the tiles. Oh my, it looked so brutal.


Inside the cabinets are the HVAC air returns. The bottom of the cabinets had to be cut open. And  we will install the return cover into the side panels.


This was what the kitchen looked like by the end of the second day. The upper cabinets were still yet to be installed, but we already got a good feeling of the space. 🙂



Honestly, I was a bit surprised how wide the walkways are between the island and other wall cabinets. The distances are actually pretty standard for our time – around 42 inches. But I think our kitchen is small so 42″ feels really wide! We know that countertop will be 1.5 inches passing the cabinet fronts on either side, and the fridge and the stove will come into the room a bit too. Hopefully after everything is installed, we will not feel that the walkways are too wide to work with.


Day 3: Installing upper cabinets and trims

The last day of the cabinet installation went smoothly and quickly. The uppers were put up in merely a couple hours. These cabinets were designed to fill the wall. At the end, only a narrow filler piece was used on the very right.


Removing the soffit enabled us to install these 36″ tall uppers, which look much better compared to the old 24″ cabinets. All the five uppers have identical width for a more uniform look. Just to make things appear to be lighter, we ordered a glass door for the middle cabinet. Pretty drinkware will be displayed here, and dishes and cookware will populate the other four.


As you can see, these uppers are directly above the dishwasher. I think putting away dishes and cups will be a breeze.


The ceiling trims, toe kicks, and baseboard were also installed on the last day.




I am glad that I painted the wall behind the fridge and dishwasher dark. I am not sure how much we would be able to see the wall once the appliances are in, but having a darker color back here puts my mind at ease.


Can you imagine a whole wall of pretty tiles between the windows, with oversized range hood over a stainless steel stove? It is going to be so pretty!


The cabinets and hardware

We are so happy with the color and door style of our cabinets. The style is called Clarke, which offers a classic trim design but a full overlay. The cabinet color is Maritime, which sounds like a deep blue. But in person, it has a green undertone and I think it is a perfect blend of dark blue, green, and grey.


It is interesting to watch how the color changes throughout the day with different lighting. In bright morning light, it appears to be an earthy green, and as the natural lighting gets darker in the afternoon, the blue started appear. At night, when all lights were off, the cabinets look almost gun powder black. And with the recessed lighting on, it looks blue/grey again. I love it.


We have picked the hardware for the cabinets – these bronze knobs will be installed on both drawers and doors. We will have them installed when our contractor come in again to tile backsplash.

Restoring the normality, slowly but steadily

With the cabinets installed and a whole trailer of cardboard out of the way, we did some deep cleaning around the house. Our offices are finally back in order:



We also moved the temporary kitchen from the basement utility room to the living room, and all the (heavy) boxes of kitchen stuff inside from the garage inside. Finally, all kitchen stuff are together again! We are still not cooking due to the difficulty of washing pots and pans, but not for long!


Roxie has been locked in the basement during the day when the contractor worked on the kitchen. I think she appreciates having her “neighborhood-watch spot” back.


Moving forward, countertops!

The day after these cabinets were installed, the countertop company came in and did the template. Our quartz countertop will be installed TODAY! Then, our contractor can tile the backsplash and hook up the appliances. I can finally see the finish line and it is not far.


The current to-do list:

  1. Demoing the kitchen and the dividing walls between kitchen and living room. All existing tile, drywall, and floor will be removed including soffit.
  2. Demoing the hall closet space for housing the fridge.
  3. Running utilities – installing new gas line for the new gas stove, adding new plumbing and waterline for the fridge and dishwasher, modifying plumbing and waterline for the new sink and garbage disposal, rerouting the hood vent in the attic.
  4. Slav wiring for outlets and switches.
  5. Tiling the floor.
  6. Adding exterior insulation and installing drywall; repairing ceiling drywall and skim-coat the existing walls.
  7. Installing stair railing.
  8. Priming and painting all the new drywall in the kitchen and stairwell.
  9. Installing recessed lighting for the kitchen and the living room.
  10. Cabinets installation.
  11. Countertop template and installation (today!).
  12. Tiling the backsplash and installing window stools.
  13. Appliances installation (Contract work ends here).
  14. Slav installing the HVAC return panels on island cabinets.
  15. Slav installing the under the cabinet lighting (his pet project).
  16. Finishing the kitchen and stairwell with door trims, moulding, and baseboards.

Installing Recessed Lights to the Main Floor

Since last time we were in the kitchen together, we have crossed a couple big ticket items off the to-do list:

  1. Demoing the kitchen and the dividing walls between kitchen and living room. All existing tile, drywall, and floor will be removed including soffit.
  2. Demoing the hall closet space for housing the fridge.
  3. Running utilities – installing new gas line for the new gas stove, adding new plumbing and waterline for the fridge and dishwasher, modifying plumbing and waterline for the new sink and garbage disposal, rerouting the hood vent in the attic.
  4. Slav wiring for outlets and switches.
  5. Tiling the floor.
  6. Adding exterior insulation and installing drywall; repairing ceiling drywall and skim-coat the existing walls.
  7. Installing stair railing.
  8. Priming and painting all the new drywall in the kitchen and stairwell.
  9. Installing recessed lighting for the kitchen and the living room.
  10. Cabinets installation (90% done!).
  11. Countertop template and installation.
  12. Tiling the backsplash and finish window trims.
  13. Appliances installation.
  14. Installing under the cabinet lighting.
  15. Finishing the room with door trims and baseboards.

Yes, you read that right. We are almost done with the cabinet installation! Our contractor still needs to put on some trims and decorative moulding. And I will come back next week to show you the complete installation. What I want to talk about today, is the work Slav has been working on during the past three weeks: installing recessed lighting for the kitchen and living room.


Installing kitchen recessed lighting

We have been wanting recessed lighting for the main floor ever since we installed them in our basement suite. They are so nice to have when you want to brighten up the space for activities and gatherings, while the dimmer function makes moody lighting possible. The question has always been how many to install and what the layout should be. Now we have set on the new kitchen design, we could finally pinpoint where these recessed lights should be.


After discussing the lighting location, we marked them on the ceiling, then Slav drilled from below and used utility flags to mark the locations in the attic. We decided to install six of 6″ cans over the 10′ x 11′ floor space (without the cabinets), plus two 4″ cans directly above the two windows as task lighting.


With the flags poking out of the insulation in the attic, Slav were able to locate them quickly and cut the openings from above.


He then attached the cans to the bottom chord of the roof trusses, and wired all six of the 6″ cans in a daisy-chain fashion.



It took a whole afternoon to complete all the wiring and installation. And this is the final results!


When Slav wired for the kitchen electrical a couple weeks ago, he prepared switches for the recessed lighting with wires going into the attic. After all the can lights were linked, he connected the circuit to the switch, and everything worked immediately:


The two tasking lighting above the windows were put on a separate circuit. These lights are turned on by a switch next to the sink, while the six bigger can lights are controlled by two 3-way switches installed at each end of the kitchen.


Living room recessed lighting installation

The following weekend, Slav repeated the same procedure in the living room:


The above picture showed 12 markings, but we ended up installing only eight recessed lights. These 65W-equivalent recessed lights provide pretty good coverage. If we ever want to make the room brighter, we could upgrade the lights to 75W- or even 90W-equivalent down the road.


Typical Slav, repurposing my wine (plastic) cup for less drywall dust. 🙂


Here is the final results! It took only a few hours to install all eight lights in the living room, but probably equal amount of effort to patch these 12 holes. Ha!


The living room did not have overhead lighting before. Per fire code, there needs to be some form of light that can be switched on at the front door. So the previous owner wired a wall outlet to a switch next to the front door, and connected a floor lamp to it. It is a rather creative approach to satisfy the code, but not very practical in my mind. Since we had to open some drywall to add switches for the new recessed lights, Slav took the opportunity to rewire the outlet so it stays constantly “hot”.


As you can see, now we have three switches at the front entry: the leftmost switch controls the outdoor porch light, and the rest two are for the two new circuits for recessed lighting.


The two cans closest to the front door are on their own circuit. The recessed lighting we installed in the living room has a night light function, so we can keep the front door area lit for the night if needed.


We have been living with all sixteen recessed lighting in our living space for a week. They are pretty nice! The living room felt a lot bigger at night now it is well-lit. For darker lighting we could simply dim all the lights, use the night light function in the living room, or just to leave the task lighting on. There are so many combination already, and we still have the under-the-cabinet lighting to add into the mix!


Finally, a mirror in the main floor bathroom!

Speaking of lighting, Slav also added a backlit LED mirror in the guest bathroom. The new mirror offers several light colors with different brightness, and an anti-fog function, all of which are controlled by the three touch buttons on the mirror.



The clivia miniata started blooming a couple days ago. I think the mirror and pretty blooms completed the bathroom quite elegantly. Don’t you think?


What’s in store next

As I speak, our contractor is finishing the cabinets installation, and we will have the countertop templated tomorrow! For the countertop installation we went with a local mom-and-pop stone shop, which operates a lot quicker than big box stores. Our quartz countertop will get installed in just a week after template appointment, then we can start tiling the backsplash and installing appliances. 🙂 We feel so relieved now we can see the end of the finish line, and personally, watching the to-do list getting shorter is so satisfying.

Here is what is left to do in the kitchen:

  1. Countertop template (tomorrow!) and installation (in a week!).
  2. Tiling the backsplash and finish window trims (targeted to finish by mid-May).
  3. Appliances installation.
  4. Unpacking the kitchen (the part I am most looking forward to!).
  5. Slav installing the under-the-cabinet lighting.
  6. Trimming doorways and completing baseboards.

I can totally see us cooking in the new kitchen on the Memorial Day. Maybe not everything on the current to-do list will be complete, but I think the kitchen will be functional enough by the end of May. What do you think? I cannot wait!

The Kitchen: Hiccups and Progress

I love renovations. I love the planning, the demolition, the new finishes, and of course the finished product. But I also have to endure some really ugly phrases before anything gets better: I am talking about the invisible work behind the walls, electrical, plumbing, insulation, framing, and the most dusty of all, drywall work. But today, I am happy to report that all these work is behind us, and we have this brand new room!


Where we left off

When I showed you the kitchen three weeks ago, we just finished demolition, which exposed old electrical.


When I said old, I meant oooooold. The existing electrical work was done 60 years ago and looked very messy.


The exterior wall has very little electrical to speak of. We will be adding quite a few more outlets and switches for task lighting.


Upgrading the electrical

Slav decided to tackle the electrical himself. He learned a lot from wiring for the hall bath. Wiring for the kitchen is certainly a lot more work than the small bathroom: not only we decided to add four more outlets, we also wanted more lighting, which means many more switches and new circuits.


It took Slav almost a day of planning and a couple days of work. And here is the result:


Isn’t it neat? Slav added four new outlets lower to the ground, which are for the fridge, the dishwasher, the garbage disposal, and the stove. He also added five outlets above the counter.


In addition, he wired new circuits for cabinet lighting, task lighting above the windows, recessed lighting, and moved the range hood power supply to the new location between the windows.


Since we removed the dividing wall between the living room and the kitchen, we needed to relocate the door bell and the thermostat, and terminate a couple outlets that were inside the wall. All these work had to be done in the attic from the above. Slav worked in the attic filled with loose insulation for days, which was certainly not pleasant. But getting these things right is crucial, and I think he has done a fabulous job.


There were some wires running inside this wall to supply the basement, which we had to keep. Slav moved them as close to the side of the new opening as possible, so we could drywall around to hide them.


The thermostat was relocated to one side of the opening, facing the living room, whereas the doorbell was relocated to near the front door.


Slav also added a new wire for the future outlet in the island. We estimated the location of the island and will add the outlet after the island cabinets are installed.


Tiling the floor and finishing plumbing

After the electrical work, out contractor came in and installed the floor tiles. We decided to tile the entire room, along with the landing area for the back entry. It is more common in the States to just tile up to the cabinets. But to us, tiling from wall to wall makes a lot more sense. Not only it makes leveling the cabinets a breeze, but also the whole kitchen floor is now waterproof from potential leaks.


The tile went around the air return on the floor. The island cabinets will go over it and we will cut into the cabinets to create a new return air opening.


After installing the floor tiles, our contractor installed the water supplies for the fridge and dishwasher.


For the fridge, we added a new line to bring cold water to the icemaker, installed inside an ice maker outlet:



For the dishwater, we added a hot water line which was split from the bathroom sink supply. Some newer models of dishwasher can heat up water quickly and therefore only require cold water supply. But supplying hot water is always better.


The waterlines and sewer pipe for the sink were replaced two years ago. We are switching from a double sink to a single one, so the plumbing will be modified when we install the sink. For now, our contractor tiled around the pipes and capped the vent.


The last utility installed was the new gas line to the future stove location. When Slav did the electrical work in the attic, he installed the range hood vent pipes from the above.


Here is the room after all the utilities were finished. It felt good to finally bring everything up to code!


Closing up the walls

We worked on the utilities for a week straight on the utilities. Once we have finished, it was almost hard to believe that we are finally ready for drywall. The night before the drywall got installed, we double checked everything and added insulation. The exterior wall was insulated with R15 batt, and sound insulation went into the interior wall in between the bathroom and the kitchen. We always install sound insulation in interior walls especially surrounding bathrooms and utilities. They are very helpful in reducing noise level inside the house.


New framing were also added to make the drywall installation easier.


A new 2″x4″ was installed over the electrical at the opening, so drywall can be installed around the wires.


It took another week before the drywall was up. The contractor not only needed to install new drywall and close off the ceiling opening from the old soffit, but also needed to skim coated the existing walls and ceiling, including the entire stairwell so everything can be in the same smooth finish. It was very exciting to watch the room come together, and drywall certainly played a big part of it.



Finishing the drywall means that we are almost ready for the cabinets! Unfortunately, our cabinet delivery has been postponed over and over again. It seems to take a few weeks from shipping and delivering. I cannot help but worrying about potential damages during transportation, and all these complaint about diamond cabinet did not help… But there is nothing we could do right now except to wait. The delayed cabinet delivery means we could not get the kitchen wrapped on time for Slav’s mom visit, which is a huge disappointment and a major inconvenience. But didn’t we all learned our lessons from the pandemic already? Nothing goes as planned and we just have to work through problems…

Our contractor had to take a forced vacation because he had nothing left to do till the cabinets get here…LOL. Before he went out of the town he installed the stair railing. Apprently he was concerned that Roxie would fall off the “cliff”. Awwww.


The work ahead


With the unexpected delay, we decided to use this time to prime the kitchen walls. It was not necessary to prime or paint all the walls that will go behind the cabinets or and tiles, but a good layer of primer will never hurt anybody. I have been using the Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer in bathrooms and it is a fantastic primer that seals the pores on the drywall very well. We will apply two coats on the ceiling and all the walls to protect them from water and grease. And I also plan to paint the ceiling before the cabinets goes in so our contractor can install ceiling trims all at once. At the mean time, Slav is working on installing the recessed lighting for the kitchen and the living room. We are still busy!

That was lots of progress during the last three weeks, don’t you think? Now we can cross lots of things off the long renovation to-do list:

The current to-do list:

  1. Demoing the kitchen and the dividing walls between kitchen and living room. All existing tile, drywall, and floor will be removed including soffit.
  2. Demoing the hall closet space for housing the fridge.
  3. Running utilities – installing new gas line for the new gas stove, adding new plumbing and waterline for the fridge and dishwasher, modifying plumbing and waterline for the new sink and garbage disposal, rerouting the hood vent in the attic.
  4. Slav wiring for outlets and switches and installing the recessed lighting for the living room and the kitchen (we are in planning phrase for this task).
  5. Tiling the floor.
  6. Adding exterior insulation; repairing ceiling drywall, installing new drywall.
  7. Taping and mudding all the new drywall and skim coating old ones.
  8. Installing stair railing.
  9. Installing recessed lighting for the kitchen and the living room (in progress).
  10. Prime and paint the kitchen (in progress).
  11. Cabinets installation.
  12. Countertop template, installation, and sink/garbage disposal hookup.
  13. With the sink we will be able to start using the kitchen again. So….unpacking the kitchen!
  14. Tiling the backsplash and finish window trims.
  15. Appliances installation including the range hood.
  16. Slav finishing the electrical: installing light fixes, wall plates, and cabinet lighting.
  17. Upgrade/paint the two back doors. Installing door trims and finish the baseboard.
  18. Installing island task lighting, or a ceiling fan?



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