Same guy- new name - new website!

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and update your bookmarks. Thanks! -Peter

Friday, January 29, 2010

New Tile for Two Bathrooms- Before and After

At the beginning of the week I started a new project replacing the flooring in two bathrooms with tile. When I started, there was some 4" white tile in the wet areas around the shower and toilets. The rest of the rooms was carpet. The homeowner wanted it all replaced with new tile and I was happy to help her out with that.

After removing the old flooring I installed 1/2" Hardibacker throughout each room over a layer of modified thinset. This gives us a good foundation for the tile to rest on. I also removed all the baseboard and shoe moulding which would be replaced later as well.

I installed 13" tiles in the larger master bath. They are 'glazed porcelain' tiles which is a type of ceramic that has a glazing that makes it repel stains very well. As you can see in the picture there are quite a few angles and cabinets in the master bath to work around. Around cabinets I try to cut the tile so that I leave a margin between the cabinet and tile that's approximately the same width as the grout lines. Then, I grout this to match the rest.

With all those different items to tile around, I spent some time upfront to consider the layout so that I would minimize the small pieces around the perimeter. I always try to stay away from having pieces smaller than half a tile if I can help it. This layout worked out great with the only small pieces being behind the toilet where they won't be seen much anyway.

I also re-tiled the guest bathroom down the hall. It was much smaller so I used a 6 1/2" tile that matched the tile in the master. I think the smaller tiles feel more appropriate for a smaller room like this, but I guess it's just a personal preference.

It was fun to see the transformation in these rooms. I was quite happy with the result.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Repair a Broken Toilet Flange

Toilets are not especially fun to deal with. This week I've been tiling a couple bathroom floors for one of my favorite clients and was ready to reinstall the toilet. Everything was moving smoothly until I noticed that the PVC toilet flange was cracked and broken.

Not cool.

This is a problem because the flange holds the bolts that, in turn, hold the toilet down. If I were to ignore the crack in the flange the bolt would not tighten down enough resulting in a toilet that will likely rock back-and-forth and possibly leak wastewater...

So, how to fix it?!

You don't have to replace the entire flange. Instead, head to the home store and get a repair flange. You'll probably find it next to where the normal toilet flanges are sold, somewhere on a top shelf where it's hard to locate. It's a fairly simple metal disc that is the size of the flange. It slips right over the old broken flange. You screw it down to the subfloor and it's ready to go.

By the way, make sure you use some kind of moisture resistant screws that won't rust and eventually break. (No drywall screws allowed here. :)

It's not a difficult fix, but can be frustrating if you're unsure what to do about it. So, be frustrated no longer...


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prepare the Door Jambs for Tile

One of the marks of a professional tile job is how the door jambs look when you're done. The idea is to not leave any raw edges of tile showing. These should be covered with trim of some kind, unless it's up against a threshold or cabinet. Let's talk about how I handle the tile around the door, which can be a tricky spot.

To make the cuts to the door jamb or casing, I use one of my new favorite tools, a Rockwell Sonicrafter. It has a small blade that oscillates back-and-forth allowing you to make plunge cuts into wood that would be otherwise impossible, or at least, barely possible.

I used to attempt these cuts with a reciprocal saw which is crazy at best. It's hard to control and I would normally end up replacing all the casing after the damage I made...

The Sonicrafter comes to the rescue. It's nearly identical to the Fein Multimaster, but costs much less. I considered the Fein, but for the amount of use that I give it, I think the Rockwell tool will suit me fine. So far I'm thrilled with it and I'm sure I'll think of many more uses for it as time goes on.

Anyway, for this project, I laid the blade over a scrap of the 1/2" Hardibacker and a piece of tile and used this height to guide my cut. Adding to this the width of the blade, this will usually be exactly the right height to allow me to slide the tile in underneath later.

This picture shows how it looks after I've laid the tile. The marble threshold butts up to the inside of the door jamb, while the tile slides under the casing back to the wall. Any exposed edges will get covered up by the baseboard and shoe moulding.

For most bathrooms, I like to use a marble threshold (also called a sanitary sill) at the doorway. This should be placed directly under the door, but it's typically wider than the door. I prefer to notch the door jambs and slide it forward until it's flush with the door jamb on the inside.

If you don't do this, you'll have a small place in the corner that won't get covered by the door casing where you'll have a tricky cut or a very small piece of tile to deal with as you can see in this picture.

Grouting the tile and caulking around the threshold complete the job and hopefully leave the homeowner with a top-notch finished product.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tile Upgrade for Two Bathrooms

For most people I know, carpet in a bathroom is not preferred and that's putting it lightly. I'm not sure that carpet in any wet area is a good idea. My current project involves removing a small amount of tile and carpet from two upstairs bathrooms and replacing the entire floor with new tile.

The master bath is large and has a separate shower and tub with lots of interesting angles. You can see in the pictures that when the house was built they just tiled directly in front of the shower and around the toilet and bath. The center area is just carpet. I'm not sure if they were trying to save money or if they really liked it, but the homeowner is tired of the carpet and ready for a tile makeover.

The first day of the project started with cleaning out all the old flooring. I always try to dismantle things in the reverse order that they were installed. In this case, I started by ripping out the carpet and then went after the tile, which cooperated fairly well.

I removed all the staples and nails and tried to scrape off all the old thinset mortar that was under the tile backer board. Then it was time to start over.

The old subfloor was meant for carpet and consisted of only 3/4" plywood. It's best to have at least 1 1/4" of subflooring beneath the tile, so I installed 1/2" Hardibacker cement board throughout over a thin layer of modified thinset mortar. I'm a fan of Hardibacker because it's designed to be impervious to water. This means that it won't absorb moisture the way that wood does. It's also very flat and smooth, giving me a great surface to tile over.

I would normally secure the Hardibacker with galvanized roofing nails but my air compressor died and my new one hasn't arrived yet. I wasn't about to hammer all those nails the old fashioned way so I instead used screws designed to be used with the cementboard. It was a little slower to install than using the roofing nailer.

With all the angles in this room you can see that I had some interesting cuts to make. I mainly use the score-and-snap method of cutting the stuff, occasionally using my jigsaw equipped with a carbide tipped blade for cutting holes and notches. Read more about cutting Hardibacker here.

In addition to the master bathroom, I'm also re-tiling a smaller guest bath down the hall. There's only around 25 square feet of flooring in there so we're planning to use a smaller size tile to help the room feel a little larger.

Tile coming soon!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Install a Roof Vent for Your Bath Exhaust Fan

Unless they've been remodeled along the way, most older homes don't have a nifty exhaust fan in the bathroom. Sometimes it can be a chore to add one, but they come in handy when you want to clear the air... :)

Adding a bath fan takes two major steps. First, is installing the fan and a switch to control it. The next step is venting it outside. You don't want it to vent into an attic space because the moisture in the air can cause mold or rot or numerous other problems. Don't worry, it's a fairly basic process, assuming you don't mind getting on the roof!

1. First, I like to go into the attic above the roof vent and locate a good spot for the roof vent from the inside. Steer clear of rafters and other items that would interfere. Usually, I can find a spot directly above the fan. I like to drill a hole through the roof at the center of the spot I've picked out.

2. Drilling a hole through the roof helps me locate the exact spot from the top side. I head outside, taking all the safety precautions so I live to write about it... I can find the hole I drilled and the use a jig saw to cut out a 5" hole centered on the spot.

3. Test fit the vent and cut the shingles so that the upper courses will over lap the flange and surround the vent like the picture. Once it will fit, you can put in in place and put a few galvanized roofing nails around the edges. Remember the upper nails will be under the shingles, while the bottom corners are nailed from the top.

4. Seal the vent with roofing cement around the edges, under the overlapping shingles, and on any exposed nail heads. Grab your tools and head back to the attic.

5. Now it's just a matter of hooking up both ends of the hose that came with the roof vent kit. I secured both ends with the included plastic straps and then covered each with aluminum foil tape to prevent any leakage. (sort of like duct tape, except it's really meant for sealing ducts and it seals much better)


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Apartment Kitchen Before and After

This project has been complete for a while, but I thought I'd post some of the pictures showing the transformation from a den to a kitchen for this downstairs apartment.

To separate the living areas and make room for the kitchen, we would need to remove the stairs and close up this wall. This would be where all the plumbing and new electrical would be located.

It's an apartment, so there's nothing too high-grade here. The floor is tile and the counters are stock-laminate. Even using fairly basic cabinets and materials, the end product is quite nice, especially compared to a lot of the other places out there for rent.

Here's an interesting picture after we had removed the stairs and were ready to start framing the new wall. We saved all the pieces so that the stairs could be put back together someday if it was needed. (Someone will be thankful for our consideration, I'm sure.)

Just for fun, I sketched the kitchen out using the design program from IKEA. I didn't end up using any IKEA products, but this helped me get a good idea of how everything would fit together. Read more about that here.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tips for Cutting and Installing a Laminate Countertop

It's pretty amazing to consider the options you have available for countertops these days. From some of the most beautiful polished stone designs and custom concrete to solid surface or less-expensive laminate.

For my Inglewood Cottage project we wanted the high-end look without the price tag (who doesn't, right?) so the homeowners chose a textured black custom laminate top that had the look of a natural stone. My job was to install it. Here are some tips for cutting and installing a laminate counter.

This was a simple galley kitchen that would be just a matter of cutting the counter to the right length and then making a place for the sink. I measured the space and cut the counter around 3/8" short so that I have enough wiggle room to side it in.

To make the cut I first put painters tape across the counter. This serves two purposes: 1) It helps me see my pencil line on the black counter & 2) It helps prevent any chipping or scratches from my saw while I'm making the cut. I use a jig saw to first cut through the backsplash and the back corner. Then I cut the rest from the front.

After the counter is in place on the cabinets, it's very important to get it level. This is especially important because I'm tiling the backsplash and I want it to be level along the top of the counter. Leveling is a matter of securing the counter at the high point and then shimming the low points to bring them up to level before adding screws in those areas. It's worth the time to make sure it's level both left-to-right and front-to-back.

Cutting out the sink is a time to measure at least twice. If anything, make the hole a little small. You can always make it bigger... :) Usually, it is centered on the sink cabinet. Look inside and see if there are any braces that will get in the way. In my case, I wanted the sink to be as far back on the counter as possible. This would give me just enough room to get the sink in these particular cabinets.

I like to start by using a hole saw to make a hole in each corner. Sink corners are normally not square, so this allows for more of the counter to support the sink. I then use a reciprocal saw and carefully cut along the back before I use the jig saw to cut out the rest. However, before you completely cut out the sink hole, place a board across the opening and screw it to the piece that's in the way of the sink. This keeps it from falling or breaking off before you're ready.

Mounting the sink requires a little silicone caulk under the lip and sink mounting clips underneath. You can usually get these wherever you buy sinks, but make sure they fit your particular sink. I've had cases when I'm reusing an old sink and they need a unique sink mounting clip. Unfortunately, they aren't one-size-fits-all.

With the counter and sink in, I'm ready to think about the upcoming subway tile backsplash. Stay tuned for that,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Mystery of the Flickering Porch Lights

After installing the patio door (see this post) I got to add a couple porch lights to this East Nashville home. Adding wiring in an older home like this has a tendency to be a nightmare at times, because the wires are inaccessible and the walls are plaster. I didn't run into these problems on this project, but I did have a mystery to unravel at the end.

The homeowner wanted me to add a couple wall mounted porch lights to add more light to his porch. He had showed me a light switch at the front door that he wanted me to use because it didn't seem to do anything.
After a little research I figured that there must have been a ceiling fan in the front room at one time, and the switch controlled the fan. This was a great find, because I could use the switch and junction the wires in the attic without running any new wires to the switch.

I ran new wires from the attic down to the location of the new wall-mounted porch lights. Thankfully, there weren't any studs in my way and this process went smoothly. Whenever mounting exterior lights on clapboard siding I like to first cut out a place to add some kind of mounting board, usually some sort of 1x8. Otherwise, the fixture won't sit flat against the wall and instead lean in or out at an angle.

After running the wires and installing the fixtures it was time to turn on the breaker and give it a try.

Yea! The lights came on and the switch worked.

Wait... the lights went off... one came back on... now they're both on...


This continued for several minutes. The lights were coming on and off independently of the switch. Sometimes together, sometimes not.

Usually, there's a logical explanation for these types of things. In this case, I retraced my steps in my mind. My first thought was to check the switch. It was the same old switch that had previously not been used. Perhaps it was faulty. I replaced it with a new one.

Same problems.

Hmmm... all the wires from the switch and the attic come together in a junction box in the attic. Perhaps one of the wires is not making a good connection. So, off to the attic I went to check the junction box. I took it apart and put it back together. Let's check it again.

Lights still flickering! Oh my!

At this point, I was starting to feel quite befuddled. I checked the connections at the fixtures. Thinking that a wire might be broken or had a nail in it, I went into the attic and wiggled wires while the homeowner watched below to see if that changed anything. No luck.

At this point, it was time to pull out the box and find the instructions.

I started looking over the first page and read the words "Motion-Activated..."


It turns out that the lights were a gift to the homeowner and he didn't realize they were motion-activated. I installed them without looking much at the box or instructions. The sensors were very small and matched the finish of the fixture and the adjustment knobs were hidden at the bottom where I didn't see them.

I was so glad to find the answer to this one. You know the old saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try reading the instructions." I'll take that to heart.
I guess it at least makes for a good story...



Monday, January 11, 2010

Installing Sliding Glass Patio Doors

This great home in East Nashville has had quite a few updates including a laundry room on the back of the house. It's a nice addition complete with glass doors that let it lots of light. The problem is that the door swings into the room and competes with the washer and dryer for space. The old door is also had some water damage over the years.

The homeowner called me to replace the entire thing with a new sliding glass patio door that would seal better to keep out the elements, and not swing into the room when it was opened.

The main issue to consider is the size of the opening. Thankfully, the old doors fit in a 60" opening and this is a standard size for patio doors.

I started by carefully removing all the trim inside and out to reveal the door jamb. I saved the trim to reinstall around the new door. With the trim off, I could cut around the door jamb with a reciprocal saw to sever the nails and get the entire piece out as a unit. Now I could inspect the framing and see what I was dealing with.

(This is the moment where you have a big hole in the side of your house and you wonder if you really know what you're doing... :)

The new door had a vinyl frame with 'fins' that stuck out from all the sides. The fins get attached to the framing to secure the door. For that to work, I needed to have less than a 1/2" gap around the door, so I added plywood filler where necessary. To get the threshold at a good height to match the tile floor in the laundry room, I also needed to raise the bottom of the door up around 3/4".

After making sure the door was level, plumb, square, and lookin' good I shimmed it attached it with screws all the way around.

The next step involves sealing the perimeter of the door with a product called "flexible flashing". You can get it in rolls of various sizes. It's used to provide a moisture/vapor barrier around doors and windows. It's installed over the fins to cover up the screws and make it harder for moisture to get around that door.

Re-installing the trim should be an easy job, however, the new door is hardly ever the exact same dimensions as the old one. Thankfully, the new door was a little bigger, so I could make adjustments to the exterior trim and reuse them. The inside was harder because the patio door wasn't as thick as the old one. I had to rip a 3/4" board into 1" strips to fill around the door and then add casing over that.

Some caulk and paint, and this door is ready for business.


Friday, January 8, 2010

How To Level the Floor Before You Tile

Before you tile a floor you want to consider the structure below and make sure it's suitable for tile- strength, deflection, etc. It's also important to make sure the floor is pretty much level or at least flat.

Many times the back part of an older home presents a problem because it's often a porch that was enclosed, or in the case of my Inglewood renovation, likely an old breezeway. The floors are often a problem because the structure just wasn't constructed as well in the beginning.

The floor at my project mainly had a large dip around the doorway leading to the old garage that is now a den. It felt very solid and has likely been like this from the beginning. I don't think it has sunk over time. Here's how I took care of the problem using a nifty product called self-leveling cement.

1. First we need to define what level is and how bad your situation is. Often, you're dealing with an isolated part of the room. If it's a widespread problem, you will likely have framing issues to deal with. In my case, I could place a level on the floor and see that there was around a 5/8" dip from the edge of the kitchen to the den doorway. The bottom of the dip was actually very flat, it was just low.

2. Since the bottom of my low spot was 5/8" below level, I nailed a piece of 5/8" thick plywood there. This serves a couple purposes. A) It gives me a guide so that I know where level is. B) It makes a barrier so the self-leveling cement is contained in the kitchen and doesn't spill into the den. C) It saves me some extra cement, which means money. It runs around $33 for a 50 lb bag.

3. I'm now ready to fill the area between the plywood (the low spot) and the kitchen (identified as level). This project took at least an entire bag of self-leveling cement, if not a little more. I applied it in 2 batches, leaving the first one overnight before finishing with the second.

4. Basically, you just add water and pour it on the ground. Read all the installation instructions on the bag to get a good mix. You've got about 10 minutes to work with it, although there isn't much you need to do. I used a small piece of scrap wood as a screed board (like used to smooth concrete). This is mainly to push the cement around to the right spots and make sure it's evenly distributed. It will level itself all on it's own.

5. In small amounts, it will dry really quickly and you can even tile over it the same day. I'll give mine a day or two before I lay Hardibacker over it and then tile.

It's a little extra work, but in the end you'll be glad to have a level floor, especially if you're planning to sell to a discriminating home buyer someday.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Drywall for an Arched Doorway

The Tudor inspired home that I'm currently renovating (see these posts) has several arched doorways with curved corners. I recently widened the doorway between the dining room and kitchen in this smaller home to open up the space and improve the traffic flow through the kitchen.

Check out this post to see how I did the framing for the curved corners. Now it's time to drywall those curves.

There are a few ways to approach hanging drywall on a curve like this. You could use very thin 1/4" drywall that is somewhat flexible if your curve isn't too sharp. I've even heard of wetting the drywall and letting it hang between a couple sawhorses to bend into a nice curve. I'm going to use a different approach.

First, I cut the piece to the right width and then marked on the back where the curve would be. Then, I made a series of cuts to score the back every inch or so. This allows the drywall to curve (and I didn't have to get it wet.. :).

After the drywall is in place, it's time to add a product called flexible corner bead. Normal corners have a rigid corner bead, but this one is meant to be bent around a corner. It works great, but you'll likely have to add a lot of screws around the flexible edge that's made up of a lot of small tabs. You want to make sure they are laying down flush with the wall and not sticking up where they'll become a problem when you mud the corners.

In the background of this photo you can see the arched doorway into the living room that I was trying to match. Hopefully, future homeowners will just think it was always like this!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Most Profitable Remodeling Projects for You

Yesterday, I wrote about Remodeling Magazines current Cost vs. Value report. ( It's the results of their research into what projects hold the most value when it comes to selling your home.

Anyway, here's my opinion. I'd say that the most profitable projects are ones where you're adding finished square footage to your home. It might be finishing a garage to become a den or converting an attic into a master suite. Even adding a sunroom on the back. These can actually make you money when it's time to sell.

Hang with me and let's look at some real numbers...

For example, I recently converted an unfinished garage to become office space in a smaller home. It added around 200 square feet to the house. The homeowner should easily get at least $100+ a square foot when they sell, which means this additional space will bring an additional $20,000! With construction costs around $10,000, this renovation just made them $10,000 or more in profit!

In addition, the homeowner gets to enjoy the space while they live there. Truly a win-win scenario.

Here are a couple other things to think about when you're remodeling:
1. Be careful not to over-build for your neighborhood. For example, if all the homes on your street are small 2 bedroom homes with around 1000 square feet, you may not want to add that 1500 square foot addition. If all the other homes are carpet and vinyl flooring, you may not see much return by replacing it all with hardwood and tile.

2. Call a Realtor. Before I was a contractor, I was a Realtor helping buyers and sellers with their home sales. I had worked with dozens of clients and developed a real feel for what buyers in my area were looking for and what they wouldn't like. Find one that you like and talk to them about any major renovations that you're considering. They are bound to have some great input and might even save you some money (and headaches).

3. When finishing an attic or basement, keep in mind that there are often rules about minimum ceiling height allowed to officially count the space as finished square feet when you sell. This makes a huge difference, especially in an attic space that feels huge, but has shorter knee-walls around the sides. This lower space normally doesn't count toward the square footage of the home. Again, you might check with your Realtor on this one.

So, if you're ready to finish off that basement, give me a call and let me make you some money, eh? :)


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cost vs. Value Report for Remodeling Projects

There are many motivating reasons for improving your home. Most of the time it's because you'll enjoy the results, but often it's also because you want your home to be more attractive to future homebuyers.

As you consider different projects to tackle you might want to check out Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. (

It's an amazing amount of information that you can sort through by geographical region. Unfortunately, they don't feature a section on Nashville, but you can view information on Knoxville and Memphis and get an idea of what the numbers would be here in Middle Tennessee.

For a "midrange" home, adding an attic bedroom was the top choice, preserving 90% of it's value at resale. This means if you spend $10,000 to do the project, you'd make an addition $9,000 when you sell the home.

For a "high-end" home, adding or renovating a bathroom was at the top of the list, preserving around 60% of it's value.

See the interactive report here:

I'll give you some of my thoughts on the subject in my next post when I discuss the projects that I think are the most profitable.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Build a Basic Cabinet

After removing some kitchen cabinets next to the sink to make room for the new dishwasher, (see this post), I had a 36" space to work with. The dishwasher is only 24" wide, so what should we do with the extra 12"?

Let's build a cabinet.

The homeowners wanted something simple so I thought I could make a 12" cabinet to match the originals in the kitchen, except it would have two open shelves rather than any doors or drawers. Here's the basic process:


1. The hardest part is to make the face of the cabinet. Before you start, consider the exact width and height and exactly where you want the shelves and toe kick. For this project, I could easily measure the existing cabinets and design mine to match.

2. Once I had the dimensions in mind, I ripped some old boards that came from the house that were the same thickness as the original 7/8" thick cabinet faces.

3. Make the joints. The original cabinets were assembled using something called a half-lap joint. It's made by removing half of each piece so that when they are joined the surfaces are flush. It's sort of like working with Lincoln Logs... :)

I cut the joints on my table saw by setting the fence to the maximum depth of the joint, in my case, 1 1/2". I set the saw depth so that it would cut exactly half-way through the piece. After the first cut, make successive cuts from that point all the way to the end of the piece or as wide as the notch needs to be. (By the way, use all the appropriate safety precautions so you keep your fingers.) It's a great idea to test fit a couple pieces and adjust the height and fence until you're sure that the pieces will fit snugly and flush with each other.

4. I dry-fit the face of the cabinet to make sure it was right and then assembled it with glue and clamped it in place until it was dry.

Next, I needed to make the body of the cabinet which would consist of plywood sides and back. I cut the sides first out of cabinet-grade 3/4" plywood which is sanded smooth and free of knots, etc. The quality for this is not all that important because it will be hidden. Mainly, for this cabinet, I'm trying to match the quality of the original cabinets that were 70 years old...

6. The last piece would be the plywood for the back. This adds strength and holds it all together. Usually, some 1/4" plywood is fine for this.

7. With a smaller cabinet, this is a good time to think about shelf supports because it's easier to install them before the cabinet is assembled. Usually, a simple piece 3/4" plywood along the side is enough to hold the shelves. Make sure that you adjust the height of the supports so that the shelf height is flush with the face frame. This allows the face piece to hide the edge of the shelf and makes it look much better.

8. This cabinet would be painted, so It wasn't as important to hide all the fasteners and get too fancy. Remember, I'm trying to keep it simple and not spend to much time (and money) to get this cabinet done. So, instead of assembling with biscuits or even pocket screws, I stood the pieces up, made sure everything was square, glued and nailed them in place with my finish nailer. With a little putty those nail holes will disappear after it's painted.

9. All that's left is to cut a couple shelves to the right size and add the toe kick. I suppose you wouldn't have to nail the shelves in place, but I like to secure them unless they are adjustable.

10. Lastly, add a corner brace or two in the places where the countertop will be secured. You'll be happy you did when you go to screw down the countertop.

Paint it and you're done! For mine, the paint will come later. It was still fun to create a functional piece like this that will get a lot of use and match the original cabinets.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Add a Dishwasher and Save the Cabinet!

Of course, our Inglewood project house from the 1940's wasn't designed with a space for a dishwasher. However, it's almost a requirement for today's lifestyle, especially if you want your home to be more appealing to home buyers.

This kitchen had one bank of cabinets along the exterior wall while the stove sat on the interior wall. There weren't many cabinets to begin with and even less counter space. We knew we wanted to replace the counter and add a new tile backsplash, but how would we fit a dishwasher into this space? Could we also add more counterspace while we're at it?


At first we tossed around the idea of building a separate cabinet that would contain the dishwasher next to the stove. This may have worked, but presented problems making the plumbing connections because the dishwasher would be on the opposite wall from the sink.

The better option would be to remove some cabinets and add the dishwasher next to the sink, saving and repairing the cabinets to be placed on the interior wall next to the stove. This plan would solve the plumbing issues and give the homeowners nearly 36" more counterspace next to the stove. That's a win-win!

(I also widened the doorway in the kitchen picture above to help the traffic flow and better connect the kitchen to the cozy dining area. See this post)

After removing the old tile and countertop, I carefully thought about how to cut out the cabinet that was in the way of the forthcoming dishwasher. If I did it right, it could be easily repaired.

I started at the edge of the sink cabinet and made a vertical cut using mostly my jig saw, but also the reciprocal saw in the places (like along the back) where the jig saw wouldn't fit. The most important part would be the faces of the cabinets. In our case, this would all be painted, however, I still needed to make straight cuts.

These cabinets were originally built as one large unit, rather than individual cabinets. This meant that once I made the cuts, I was left with a cabinet that was open on the end. I wanted to repair this so that the cabinet could be reused.

I started by making a new end piece for the face. Thankfully, I had some scrap of the original stock that was around 7/8" thick. (Typical stock nowadays is 3/4"). If possible, it's best to match the original materials as exactly as you can to make it look like it's always been there.

I ripped the board to the same width as the rest of the cabinet face pieces and attached it using wood glue and small finish nails. The big thing here is to make sure the pieces are attached squarely so that the door and drawers will fit and not rub. If you need to, you can sand or plane the door as needed.

Once the face was fully assembled I just needed to cut out an end piece from a sheet of cabinet-grade plywood that I had picked up. Higher grade plywood is nicer because it often has more plys (making it stronger) and less defects on the sanded surface. Mine had zero knots and would paint very well.

With a couple coats of paint, this cabinet will be ready to go.

If you'll remember, we removed 36" of cabinets to install a 24" dishwasher. What about those extra 12 inches?? For that, I built a small two-shelf cabinet from scratch. I'll cover that in my next post.