Today, I have a gift guide for the old house lover in your life. Whether they are restoring an old house or they simply like admiring old houses, this list ought to help you check off a few items from your shopping list.Read More
IT'S DONE!! I've officially completed my THIRD One Room Challenge and what a journey! The ORC has been such a big part of my home and blog - HALF of my house has been transformed through the design challenge. I'm so proud and grateful to participate! I mean, look at this new bedroom I get to sleep in, now!Read More
Guess what! I've decided to do a One and a Half Room Challenge with outdoor seating! The new back door will give access to the outdoors, which is such a great way to expand the size of our master. The problem is, our backyard isn't so great.Read More
The kitchen has seen a wild transformation! So far, I've shared the plans, the concrete counter DIY, and three tutorials for adding more work space - check out those posts here. But the floors! They made the kitchen into a wonderfully different space. I couldn't have been more excited to get started on the quick/cheap/transformative project of giving my kitchen floors a fresh buffalo check pattern. This DIY kitchen transformation using vinyl floor tiles is among my favorites yet - and it costs about as much as it does to paint a room!
I made my first-ever video! Check out the video below to see the flooring tutorial which includes an über satisfying timelapse and a favorite song. Then, read below for the detailed step-by-step guide.
1. Prep: Simply vacuum and mop. Being sure to get into all of the corners and edges, give your floor a really good cleaning. The vinyl tiles will stick to whatever you put them on and the goal is to stick them to the existing flooring, not the dirt or grease. If your floors are significantly damaged (like chipped, bubbled, or unlevel), I'd recommend taking more time during prep to resolve these issues. You may want to pull up the existing linoleum, scrape off uneven surfaces, or even level your floors. However, if you're doing this cheap and easy project as a stopgap like me, you can probably live with some of these irregularities if you keep in mind that the vinyl tiles aren't magic and you may see traces of your wonky floors.
2. Gather materials: I used Nexus Vinyl Floor Tiles in black, white, and grey. All are 12"x12" and are a thin 1.2mm thick. Any peel-and-stick tile should do the trick, but I chose these because they were the cheapest ($1/sqft!), and came in the colors I wanted for my pattern. Note that there are high-end vinyl floor tiles that can be grouted and have a much sturdier long-lasting finish. Check out the process and incredible transformation that Chris Loves Julia did in their Pittsburg kitchen remodel.
3. Measure: Planning exactly where the tiles will go is a critical step. For floors of all the same color, it is less crucial, but with patterned designs, you need to be mindful of how the edges will terminate. I laid out the tiles to do a rough plan of the flooring and instantly noticed that I didn't want full 12"x12" tiles at the edges of the cabinets. It made it look like I plopped the tiles on after the fact (which I was doing!). The solution was to cut them to around 6" wide to give the illusion of the tiles going underneath the cabinets.
In addition to considering how the tiles terminate at the cabinets, the edges where the tile transitions to walls and existing flooring are key. My kitchen had two points of entry where the flooring would transition from hardwoods to the new tile. It was important that these spots didn't have the floating-on-top-of-the-floor look, and even more important that the edges weren't 0.5" slivers of tile. Tiny pieces of tile on a threshold will most certainly get kicked up after lots of treading on them.
To make sure I avoided the two measuring concerns, I took the length of the kitchen and focused on just the last few inches that didn't make up a full foot. (Since the tiles are each a foot, I subtracted them from the equation.) The length I measured was 14'11", so I took the 11" inches and decided how I could use that amount to create two cuts on either side of the kitchen. Making each side 5.5" inches wide with 14 tiles in the middle was an easy solution. Then, I did this again in the opposite direction.
Once I knew how wide I wanted the edge pieces to be, I measured to find the middle of the kitchen floor. Since I'm a rule follower, I did as the packaging told me and started in the middle and worked my way out. If your kitchen has a different configuration, I fully support you starting at an edge. However, if the edge you butt your tiles up against, or the cut you made for your edge tile isn't perfectly square to the cabinets or prominent walls, you'll have a lopsided flooring pattern by the time you get to the other side.
4. Lay the tile: I placed the first tile in the center of the floor using the existing hardwood floors as my linear guide, since I used my speed square earlier to ensure the floorboards were, in fact, trustworthy. Then, I put the next tile adjacent to that one using the first tile's edges as a guide. I then spiraled out from the center. This provided me with corners as my guides, which maintained the pattern much better than had I gone in a stripe pattern.
The application was incredibly simple. I just peeled off the back paper and placed the tile on the floor starting with the corner or edge guide, then rolled the rest of the tile down. The adhesive has some give to it, so I could tug on the tile to slide it close to the previous tile for a tight joint.
Being mindful not to mix up the colors in my pattern, I continued the spiral application until I got to an edge that would require a cut piece. I saved all cut pieces until the end primarily because I wanted instant gratification without slowing down for cutting and measuring. Also, I frequently came across tiles with dented corners that wouldn't have worked as full tiles, but I could cut off the damaged part and have a salvageable cut edge piece. I saved these in a pile to use later for cut pieces, which helped preserve the intact tiles for the main attraction. We have a pretty good amount of flooring in the kitchen, but placing the tiles went surprisingly quickly. Since there's no cleanup, I was also able to stop at this point and save cutting the edge pieces for another day.
5. Cut the tile: The vinyl was very easy to cut with a quick score and snap technique. The trickiest part was measuring and ensuring the cuts were square. To do this, I set up my cutting station on the counter and used the edge to line up the tile along with my trusty speed square. Keeping the tile squared to my two tools, I measured the length of tile needed, lined up the edge of my speed square to that mark, then butted up a straight edge to the speed square (since it was too short to go the length of the tile). I pressed firmly so nothing would budge, then gave a single score down the tile with a utility knife. No need to press hard. After scoring the tile, fold it to snap the tile into two pieces.
When I got to spots needing multiple cuts to account for moulding or other floor obstructions, I followed the same steps as above. The only difference is the measuring is more meticulous, and the scoring/snapping technique is a touch more challenging - but totally doable! Any edges that didn't get a perfect cut can be filled in later with caulking to blend into the cabinets or baseboards.
6. Get under appliances: Make sure the tile edges go partially under appliances and furniture pieces to give a clean continuous look. To do this, you'll need to move the appliances temporarily out of the way. Ross was out of town, so I used my brute strength to shimmy the fridge and stove out of the way. If you don't have room to slide appliances around, you can lift the appliance up a few inches, then have an assistant tuck a piece of scrap lumber underneath, so you can squeeze in your tile. Be careful when moving appliances that you don't kink any gas or water lines!
7. Clean up: There's nearly no clean up other than recycling the paper backings and tossing out the scraps. On a few tiles, the adhesive oozed out of the seams a couple of days later. You can use olive oil or goo gone to clean up these spots.
That's pretty much it! Super simple, relatively quick, and cheap!
If you didn't catch the video, you can watch it here. This is my first video tutorial! Should I make more? What else would you like to see from me in video format?
The phase 1 kitchen earned several upgrades already, like new paint, hardware, concrete countertops, and even more countertops. However, the floors didn't get much love other than a coat of poly when we refinished the the rest of the floors. As much as I love the fir, the wood was pretty damaged. Nearly every plank had either huge gouges or was brittle from years of termites gnawing on the softwood. The previous owner made attempts at repairing the mangled boards by filling the cavities with wood putty, but it definitely didn't help the aesthetics.
These photos don't do justice to the damage. We lived with the flooring as-is for a couple of years letting those termite gaps fill up with a hefty amount of cat litter and crumbs. But, I lost my patience and had to remedy it. Knowing that the kitchen will eventually get a full gut renovation, I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted without it impacting the future plans - even if it pushes my design boundaries. So, I jumped on to the graphic look and committed myself to installing a funky pattern that I like, but wouldn't be my first choice for a permanent kitchen floor. This transitional renovation fix lets me get the bold/graphic/retro vibe out of my system before having to make the forever-flooring decision. Win win.
At first, I was sure that I would install the checkerboard pattern to get that retro diner vibe. But after a few Photoshop mock-ups, I realized that with the large amount of uninterrupted floor space, the high contrast of black and white was too busy and could give us vertigo. The idea of modern geometric shapes was also appealing, but I worried I'd spend years cutting the tiny pieces. It didn't take much for me to fall for the buffalo check pattern. The grey neutralizes the high contrast black and white, while also adding texture with the illusion of the weaving pattern. It also has enough style that I can feel confident I didn't play it too safe.
Since this was merely a temporary solution that really only needed a bandaid, I found a flooring solution that was quick, cheap, effective, and super easy to install. The perfect improvement project for a newbie DIYer or renter.
I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. The installation went swimmingly and the result is sleek, clean, and full of personality. Come back next week to get the full tutorial and link to all of the sources! Subscribe, so you don't miss out.
The biggest challenge with many kitchens is a lack of work surfaces. It's a pain to cook without sufficient countertop space, right? Yet, it's easy and inexpensive to DIY a spot to prep and cook. So, I bring you three super simple ways to add custom counters for cheap.
There are oodles of rolling bar cart options like this, this, or this, to give you more space to work, and they are great! Some have additional storage, some have spots for wine bottles, and some have fancy hooks and bars for all of your kitchen needs. But they don't always fit a space perfectly. Sometimes the height doesn't line up with the existing counters, or there's a gap next to the range, or it blocks an outlet. I tried out three different methods to add valuable work surface to a kitchen that has a couple of empty nooks.
1. The Cabinet & Counter
Our range was centered on a narrow wall so we never had a spot to rest our tools or prep. With a few inches on either side of the appliance, the area was the perfect candidate for a new work surface and even some concealed storage. The search for a base cabinet started at Habitat for Humanity ReStore, then Home Depot and Lowe's, but I ultimately found the best size and cheapest option at IKEA. After wiggling the stove over, I had the perfect amount of room to wedge in this 18x24x30" SEKTION base cabinet.
I assembled the base cabinet according to the instructions provided. Instead of using the track system for the full kitchen cabinet installation, I used the components that mount it directly to the wall and supported it with the adjustable cabinet legs.
These cabinets don't come with a countertop, so I made my own. Butcher block was my first choice since wood is easier to work with than stone. However, even the cheapest slabs were too pricy and more material than I needed, so I used this piece of 3/4" pine that works swimmingly. In an effort to get as much surface area as possible, I made the wood overhang by 2” and notched out a spot for the door trim using my trusty jigsaw. I also sanded the corners to match the round profile of the range.
To finish, I coated the pine with food-safe Acrylacq so it could better stand up to the moisture in the kitchen.
Cabinet legs: $6
Acrylacq: left over from the concrete countertop project
Total Cost for The Cabinet & Counter: $86
2. The Custom Cleat Counter
The corner of the kitchen had been the home for a small breakfast table, but we never used it. A better use of the space was a long shelf to extend the existing counter. Instead of store-bought brackets (see #3), I used a cleat system. This technique provides strong support and gives the illusion of a floating countertop.
The first step was to identify the wall studs so the cleats would have something strong to sink into. I used my favorite technique from when I installed picture rail molding.
After finding all of the studs, the next step was to screw in lumber along the walls just below the counter. To find the height to screw in the cleats, subtract the thickness of the counter material from the height you want it off the floor. Make your mark, then using a level, draw the guide along all of the walls. It’s important that you make the cleats level so your food doesn’t roll off the counter!
I was lucky to have some scrap lumber, but you could get a few feet of 2x4s and cut them to size. I purposefully left a gap between the cleats so I could feed a power cord through to the top of the counter. It conveniently gets hidden behind the coffee maker.
I cut the pine panel to just a hair bigger than needed, then sanded it down until it was a snug fit. After cleaning up the edges, it got a coat of Acrylacq just like the cabinet counter.
Lumber & fasteners: already on hand
Acrylacq: left over from the concrete countertop project
Total Cost for The Cleat Counter: $35
3. The Off-The-Shelf Shelf
I used these brackets with this white melamine board to create out-of-the-way kitchen storage. It's as easy as hanging the brackets in the studs, then screwing the top to them. Simple dimple. We use this counter space to get the microwave out of the main part of the kitchen, store some small appliances, and plop things that are going in and out of the house. It's such a helpful spot to dump stuff, but over time, the board started to sag. See it bowing in the photo? It also started to tilt forward, so we had to reinforce it with some L brackets. Not a big deal, but it certainly doesn't have the floating cleat counter look.
Shelf brackets: $26
Melamine board: $13
L brackets: $6
Total Cost for The Off-The-Shelf Shelf: $45
For a grand total of $166, we gained 10.5 feet of additional counter space (and a few shelves)! While we were lucky to have lots of room to expand, I’m certain that even adding a 6” shelf between the range and the counter in a small space would do wonders. Each of these projects can be done in a weekend and are great for a rental. How would you upgrade the work surface in your kitchen?
While the kitchen didn't get a full gut and remodel like the bathroom, it received its fair share of updates to make it usable. Among the most impactful were the concrete countertops.
The existing counters were granite tiles. Now, some of you may swoon when you hear "granite counters" but these were NOT swoon-worthy (but also, not many granite counters are swoon-worthy in my personal opinion - though, I digress).
You may be familiar with concrete countertops that are a solid piece of concrete that's poured in place, but skim coating is an easy option that doesn't require any demo. If you're a DIY-loving renter that has the "go ahead and make changes but I'm not going to pay for it" landlord, then this project is for you.
I'm not going to pretend that I came up with this DIY. I followed the instructions from John and Sherry of Young House Love to a T. For a comprehensive step-by-step, take a look at their whole process here and here, but you can follow along with my brief play-by-play below. Then, I'll get into how they are holding up 2 years later.
What you'll need:
- Ardex Feather Finish - this is the star of the show. Amazon sells it in packs of 4 which is good if you need a lot. My kitchen needed less than 2 bags for a 12' run of counters and no backsplash. I got this option which comes with 2 bags and a trowel.
- Measuring and mixing buckets - I used an old gardening pail and a cup. The ratios are what matter more than the actual measurements.
- Scraping tool - I used a metal putty knife, but a 6-in-1 tool works great. I recommend something with a 2-4" blade.
- Trowel - You can get creative with lots of different sized and shaped trowels but I used the one in the combo pack of concrete and a trowel. If you're new to this type of work, I'd recommend a short trowel to give you more control. A "pool" trowel has smooth edges which also helps newbies not make track marks as they spread. If that's what you're after, here's one.
- Sandpaper - I used a heavy grit paper on my sander, then finer grits on the sanding block.
- Mask and eye protection - During the sanding stages, it gets really, really, really dusty. You'll want eye protection and a mask or respirator.
- Sealer - to protect the concrete that you so laboriously applied.
- SafeCoat Acrylacq - to finish the counters and make them food safe.
- Foam brushes - If you have a lot to cover, you can get a foam roller, but I used a wide foam brush.
As a reminder, here's what the kitchen looked like before.
The first step is to quarantine the room you'll be working in. I was lucky to be doing this project in the midst of renovations, so dust was aplenty. But, if you're living in the house while doing this project, you'll want to thoroughly seal off the space to contain the mess. Note that this is a multi-day project, so plan accordingly.
I used a coarse grit sandpaper on my sander to rough up the counters. It seems silly to sand granite which is a pretty darn strong material, but I did it anyway to really clean up the surface and sand down remnants of anything that I didn't want between the counters and the concrete. If you have a softer countertop material, this step is helpful for scratching the surface and giving the concrete something to grip to.
After wiping up the dust, I mixed the concrete according to the ratio on the bag (2 parts powder to 1 part water) to get a toothpaste consistency. If you're doing a lot of vertical work you'll want more of a peanut butter consistency, but if you're just working on the flat counter, it can be runnier. Find what works for you! I mixed small amounts at first to see how far it went. If you mix too much, it will harden and all you'll have is a concrete mold of your bucket.
Coating the counter was like icing a cake - over and over again. The first coat is similar to the crumb coat of a cake - not pretty but an important base for the next step. I dumped out the mixture onto the counters and used the trowel to spread it to an even thickness. You don't want to go too thick or you'll prolong the already-lengthy process. Coat everything and don't worry too much about the edges.
After the concrete dried for a few hours, I followed up with a scraper to knock down the bumps and imperfections. You can try to make it perfectly smooth right after you apply it, but it's often too wet and you end up messing up, then reapplying, then fudging a little, then reapplying. Hot tip: set a lamp low on the counter and point it parallel to the surface; this will emphasize the imperfections so you can scrape them off easily.
After the first coat dried completely, I followed up with the sander to make it smooth for the next coating. I used a power sander which made everything go by quickly, but it did get suuuuper dusty.
Once the base coat was sanded and smooth, I applied another coat the same way as before, and then again. Three coats is the minimum I'd recommend, and it does indeed take three days! I applied the concrete late at night, went home, went to sleep, went to work, came back, sanded, sanded, sanded, wiped up dust, applied another coat, went home, went to sleep, and repeated.
The sanding block was helpful for refining the edges that the power sander couldn't do. I started with a coarse grit block, then graduated to a finer grit for the last layer.
I purposefully left trowel swooshes and visual texture in the concrete. If I didn't, then any imperfection would show dramatically. Concrete isn't known for being particularly beautiful, so I embraced the nature of the material and aimed for a handmade look - plus, imperfection is so much easier!
Once the countertops were shaped and smoothed to my liking, they had to be sealed. There are lots of opinions on sealers, but John and Sherry did lots of research, so I followed their lead. This final process included wiping on a few coats of sealer, then coating everything with a few layers of Acrylacq which is basically a polyurethane - but a non-toxic food-safe version. I don't have photos of this process, but it's easy as pouring the sealer on and spreading it out, then waiting for it to dry between coats.
How they're holding up two years later
They are doing pretty well after two years of use! They still have a nice shine to them and still have the natural concrete look. I haven't babied them, so they're definitely seeing signs of wear.
Water: I store our dish scrubber on the countertop, so a puddle of water will pool on top of the counters for hours/days. I worried it would break down the finish and cause big issues like mold, but the only problem is it darkens the tone. Since I don't mind the darker shade, water on the surface doesn't bug me at all.
Heat: I somehow forgot that I had (essentially) a coating of plastic on my counters when I sat a hot cookie sheet on top of them. It didn't sit there long before I remembered the many days of labor I put into the countertop project, but the cookie sheet definitely left a burn mark. There are a few small spots where the finish completely melted away.
Chemical: I sat down some laundry spray on the counters only to come back the next day to find an oval-shaped haze on the counter from where the product leaked out of the bottle. I haven't managed to get rid of these, but the haze has dissipated over time and blended into the other markings.
Rust: The bottom of my coffee maker started rusting and left a nice orange spot on the surface of the counter. I used some Bar Keepers Friend to buff off the rust, though I scrubbed through a layer of coating because it's a bit more dull there. It isn't attracting any issues, so I don't mind!
My review? Overall, I love the concrete counters and how much this project transformed the kitchen. I would do it again in a heartbeat.