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14 things I've learned from starting a major renovation project.

14 things I've learned from starting a major renovation project.

14 things I learned before I even started renovating

Sources listed on this board.

The renovations on our home have not even started (we are replacing all windows and remodeling the kitchen), and I can tell you all sorts of things I've learned so far. (I've divided these lessons learned into six window items and eight kitchen items... i.e.: 14 things I've learned.) I'm not going to mention any brands until the windows and kitchen are finished as of course I don't know until I actually live with it. 

First, let's start with windows.

Below are the largest windows in the house in the main room. As you might imagine faulty windows of this size (the seals are broken for starters) make this desert home VERY hot. Oddly, more so in the winter when we aren't running A/C. The sun hits these windows directly in the winter and it can be 60 outside and 90 in here. In the summer we have been wasting tons of energy on air conditioning.

Bari J. Family Room Windows

Retrofitting an existing house is a whole different ball of wax when it comes to windows. In a new build, they just put them in as they're building, obviously. When you are putting new windows in an existing home you need to be aware of how they are installed. This is what I know:

1. Some companies simply cover the existing frames of your windows with new window frames. That makes the appearance on the outside and the inside of your home different. You lose actual glass expanse. We did not want to do that so we did not choose this option.

2. Some companies just replace glass. I was totally surprised with that one. I wanted the whole thing replaced.

3. The best option for us, we felt, was a pulling out the old windows AND their frames and replacing with all new material. This is a more invasive option as the installers will need to remove and replace the stucco on the outside of the house and then we will need the whole house repainted. So if you're not up for this, go with the option where they put it over the existing frames.

4. Our current window frames are metal. They conduct the heat straight into the house. It's super lovely. (ahem. no.) In the heat that we have here (and likely for cold as well), your best option is fiberglass frames or steel clad wood. The company we chose does both and some of each are going in our home. The largest windows in our house are too big for the fiberglass option so they're getting the steel clad wood option which was a little more pricey. In the end I think it will be worth it. Vinyl windows do not last as long in the heat of Arizona. I think they're ok for cold, and they're much less expensive. So you might want to check that out.  

5. Regarding glass we are getting low e glass which will help keep the heat out and I believe it does the same for cold. You'll want to get the best you can afford for your climate.

6. Quotes can differ vastly. I got 5. That was overkill and it was mainly due to my ignorance on the kinds of windows you can get. I'd say three is good. We ended up with 2 quotes that were apples to apples for the products, but were 10k apart in price. Guess which one we chose.

Now for the kitchen. Here is the inspiration photo as far as colors for the kitchen. I'm going with green, black, white and wood tones.

Kitchen Inspiration from Apartment Therapy

Below is the before on the kitchen. Not terrible looking but not fab. And what you can't see is the cabinet wear and that a ton of them are practically hanging off hinges. But the bottom line is, we are staying here and we want it to be a room we love.

Bari J. Kitchen before

I had no clue what I was in for here. This is what I've learned (so far!)

1. Things gotta go in, in a very specific order. And if you're putting in new windows, you most certainly don't want brand new tiled sills. So do the kitchen after the windows. Then of course there's the order in which all things in the kitchen are installed. Be sure your carpenter can check in with your countertop guy etc. Our carpenter isn't a general contractor, but he's taking the numbers of other contractors anyways so we aren't playing the telephone game.

2. Again, quotes can differ vastly. Get several for every thing you are doing, be that cabinets, tile, counters, or appliances.

3. You can retrofit a subzero refrigerator that has a front panel (our original was made to look like a cabinet and I don't love it) with a new front. We are going with stainless steel. In fact, subzero refrigerators are built to last. You can even have the motor changed out. We are also changing the gaskets and the handle to a new handle and we are having it serviced.

4. Look at reviews for appliances. Even some top brands have issues that you'll want to avoid. For instance, we almost ordered a particular wine fridge but many reviews said it was noisy. So we went for a well reviewed one that was actually less money and reviewed as quiet.

5. Holy HECK. There is a lot of tile out there and the price ranges are from the sublime to the ridiculous. I recommend really looking around for this.

This here is my inspiration for color. Though we may go a bit lighter because .. black cabinets. If things go as planned the tile in this kitchen is going to be mind blowing! More on that later.

Mercury Mosaics Blue Grass tile

Source: Mercury Mosaics.

6. Marble is a soft stone and will etch with acidic things left on it and can stain. You'll need to reseal marble twice yearly to keep it nice. But you have to know that it will have a patina over time. I personally like patina, so we may very well go with it over the harder more durable material, quartz. I'm partial to real stone. Quartz or Quartzite is made of stone and composite material.

Below is a quartz piece from Caesar stone. As you can see, it really does look like marble. I'm actually receiving a box of samples from them soon. So jury is still out on the counters. Thank goodness I started early.

Noble Grey from Caesar stone

7. Refacing cabinets is less expensive than replacing. Refacing means new cabinet fronts and repainted inner boxes. We decided in the end to go with all new which was around 8k more (we have a big kitchen) because we know we are going to stay here a long time. If I was leaving sooner, I'd say we'd reface.

8. There are inset cabinets and there are cabinets that go over the frame. An inset cabinet stays within the frame of the box. I liked the clean look of the inset, so that's what we chose. The con of inset cabinetry is you do lose a little bit of space in your cabinets.

Here are some inset cabinet doors/drawers from our carpenter. As you can see, the cabinet doors and drawer fronts are set into the frame. You can see the frame around it.

Public House Creative Inset Cabinets

Source: Public House Creative

And below are over the frame cabinets:

Studio McGee Kitchen

Source: Studio McGee

Oh man! I think that's it so far! But just you wait. I'm know I'm going to be educated by the end of this for SURE!


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1 comment

  • Mercedes Austin

    Absolutely fascinating to read about your journey. The tidbits about the nuances on cabinetry design and choosing appliances down to the detail of the sound. It’s amazing the level of research that goes into a project like a kitchen. Excited to learn more about your kitchen journey and to see the process through your perspective. Thanks for sharing!

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