A “Screwy” Situation


What does every school-aged kid and marketing professional look forward to every year?  Two magical words: holiday break.  Those two glorious weeks where you can go to bed as late as you want, sleep in as equally late, and spend the days doing whatever the heck you want.  Ahhh, perfection.

Last year’s holiday time rolled around.  Chris and I busily migrated from one family to another in the quick span of 3 days as Chris only had the weekend off.  As he went back to work, I soon found myself with a whole week’s worth of time to fill.  So, what did I decide to do?  Refinish our kitchen cabinets and install new knobs.  I was determined to show Chris that I could accomplish a handy task on my own, without complaint and without help.  No biggie.  I got this!

… not exactly.  Let me start by saying that I had never refinished a kitchen cabinet before (I actually had to Google it quite a bit before I even comprehended what I was saying by “refinishing”), I had just mastered the art of determining a Phillips head screwdriver from a flat head screwdriver, and the closest thing I had come to sanding was filing my nails.  Needless to say, I had quite the task in front of me but it needed to be done.

The cabinets had originally been painted a stark white but that white had now turned into a yellow-y cream over the years.  They were due for a refresh.  The last time the cabinets were painted, the hinges were painted over.  To help with the “refreshed look,” I knew that these cabinets would need a fresh, unpainted set of hinges thus I had to unscrew the hinges before painting then replace with new hinges.  Easier said than done.

During Chris’ first day back at work after the holidays, I set about attempting to unscrew the hinges.  Two hours, eight stripped screws, and one desperate phone call to my dad (who I can attribute my bountiful array of handiness to) later, I had successfully accomplished nothing.  Chris arrived home to a very sullen wife that night.  See the “during” picture below for a clear account of the state of the kitchen when Chris arrived home.  He couldn’t decide whether to be frustrated with me or prance around the house singing, “I told you so.”  But, as the dutiful husband (and after I put in several convincing pouts), he got to work and finally the cabinet doors came unscrewed.

“Ah!” I thought, “Now we’re on a roll.”  Wrong.  Cue the several hours worth of painting, repainting, drying, flipping the cabinet doors over, painting, repainting, drying.  Oh, and then we had to paint three coats on the interior of the cabinets as they were still the dark, original wood color.  Phew!  Before I knew it, it was Sunday night and work was calling my name the next morning.  But, we survived… after 9 days, 2 paint cans, 6 paint brushes, 44 hinges unscrewed (and rescrewed), and countless hours of 80s music (the only music Chris and I can agree on).

Was it worth it?  At the time, no.  Now that the memories have dulled?  Yes.  I love our new kitchen and am still amazed at how much a room can transform by a coat of paint, new hinges, and new knobs (and several hours slaving away).  God love my husband and his patience for my ambition.

Other things we did in the kitchen:

  • New curtains
  • Painted walls and ceiling
  • Installed new light fixture in kitchen nook
  • Repainted crown and baseboards
  • Installed new outlet and light plates

I have a real job. That means I don’t get two weeks off at Christmas, so when Julie proposed that “we” refinish the kitchen over “Christmas break” it was abundantly clear that she meant she would refinish the kitchen. My only regret over agreeing to this was that I had to go to work the next day, meaning I couldn’t grab some popcorn and watch the hilarity ensue.

I refinished the cabinets in my parents’ house a few years ago, so I knew exactly what it entailed. Julie, on the other hand, had refinished… well, nothing. On top of that, she wanted to relocate the position of the cabinet pulls on the doors, which easily doubled the amount of work it would take to complete the project.

The old hinges had been painted over with oil-based paint, so paint literally had to be chiseled out of the screw heads. Because of this, I was very specific in my instructions to NOT attempt to remove the hinges. I love my wife, but I know that when she begins a sentence with “don’t get mad, but…”, it means I’m about to get mad. So when I walked through the door that afternoon and she greeted me with “don’t get mad, but something’s wrong with the cabinets,” I instantly knew what she had done- half the doors were gone, the other half were hanging by one hinge. That’s exactly what I told you NOT to do…

Anyway, I spent the next few hours painstakingly removing stripped out screws. Fortunately, I’ve always owned German cars, so busted hardware doesn’t phase me much. I should also thank my father-in-law, who had the presence of mind to tell Julie to just put the tools down and let me fix it before she made it worse after she called him panicking because the screwdriver “just kept jumping out of the screws.” Once everything was properly disassembled, the real work began- sanding, filling, stripping, priming, painting, etc. You’ve heard this story before.

The final task, though, was lining everything up. It drives me nuts when things aren’t properly aligned, so I had to fend off psychotic episodes every time I grabbed my cereal and saw how shoddy the alignment was on the old cabinets. I spent at least a day re-mounting all the doors, but my now cabinets are square, level, and evenly spaced. Of course, this is only half the battle, and I wouldn’t be able to stand uneven pulls. Another day later, I had even, straight, and level pulls. And now I can enjoy my Lucky Charms.

And here’s the evidence!


Filed under Before & After, Kitchen, Renovation

2 responses to “A “Screwy” Situation

  1. My fiance and I JUST refinished our cabinets as well. Holy cow did we underestimate that one! The whole thing start to finish was just under a month, due to oil enamel taking forever to dry. BUT the finished product came out great and was totally worth it. Much better than spending $5k on new cabinets!

    • DO or DIY

      I feel your pain, Ashlee. It’s a frustratingly slow process, but I agree with you, the end result is so worth it! And it makes you that much more appreciative of the new look! Enjoy your newly refinished cabinets!


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