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UT Remodel Projects

A new kitchen in a downstairs "garden" unit

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Dianne Walker writes,

"The process of remodeling my kitchen sometimes felt like the long and winding road with no end! In the preliminary design phase, I looked at neighbors' kitchens, studied websites such as Houzz, consulted (first hour free!) with local designers Charlotte Moco and Dan Hana, and visited several local kitchen/bath design firms. Just when I thought I was set on something - countertop, cabinets, pulls, tile, sink, dishwasher - I was persuaded, sometimes by myself, to change my mind.

"This project was completed in three phases. The first phase involved installing an engineered floor in red oak to provide continuity with the floors in the rest of my home and to install a two-panel sliding door on the pantry wall. The second phase involved gutting the rest of the kitchen and installing cabinets, tile, sink, and touch-ups, as well as making sure that everything was up to Berkeley City codes. The third phase was devoted to building and installing a custom-built spice rack -- done by our neighbor Patrice Brault.

"For the first phase, I hired Farid Alami of Maison Bleue Construction, who had previously worked for Alix Schwartz as a project manager on her kitchen remodel. Farid first installed the flooring which enabled him to perfectly balance the custom maple sliding doors. The maple stain is Zar's honey maple with a water-based polyurethane seal. The doors are inset with a resin product from Lumicor named Paper Leaf. Farid was able to keep the original melamine boxes.

"After interviewing a number of contractors for the second phase, I ended up with Jeffrey Lim at KitchenSync with Joe Borba, joeborba@sbcglobal.net, as a contractor. Jeffrey measured my kitchen, listened to my needs, made suggestions, and provided me and Joe with CAD drawings that assisted in installing the cabinets I ordered from him. Joe Borba has now worked on five UT kitchens. I would hire him again in a flash. Joe also listened to my needs, made suggestions, most of which I followed, and really worked to make me happy with the final product.

"The maple cabinets with a slab door in Natural are from Kraftmaid, the quartz countertops are Silestone Vortium, and the tile backsplash is from Heath Ceramics, Dwell Wide Hex Twist in Opal Blue. The dishwasher is Fisher & Paykel's Tall Single DishDrawer. I especially like the slide-ins for cutting boards and cookies sheets, the pull-out table above the drawer dishwasher, the tilt-out in front of the sink for sponges and brushes, the sliding doors on the pantry, and the custom spice rack -- all optimize my use of space. Total cost was under $30K, excluding appliances.

"One of the many questions I had prior to the construction was the timing: what was going to be done when? The photos below document the process day-by-day (days of actual work). Excluding the spice rack, the total build took just under six weeks. I was able to manage because I had access to my refrigerator, a microwave, and a toaster oven -- all were moved into my dining area.

"My contractor Joe preferred to build to code and have the City do the required inspections. I agreed, first because there's a safety reason for the gas and electrical codes, and second because I don't live in a stand-alone home. Whatever I do around safety with the gas and electrical in my home -- the focus of the inspections -- impacts everyone else in my building.

"Would I do it again? In a minute!!!"


Day 0: Cabinets are empty and countertops are (almost) clear.

Day 1: Demolition took about three hours. The range was moved to my garden.

Day 2: The electrical is first. Outlets have to be no greater than 24" apart per City code.

Day 3: City Inspector for the electrical - a must before continuing any other work.

Day 4: The cabinets arrive and need to be stored - à la Tetris! - so Joe can work on them one-by-one.

Day 5: Lower cabinets are installed.

Days 6 and 7: Upper cabinets are and all cabinet doors are installed.

Day 8: Range hood installed. There is no microwave as code required the bottom of the microwave
to be greater than 18" above the top surface of the range. I have a remote for the hood. Also, the hood goes on automatically if the temperature of either the stove or the oven goes above a certain temperature. It turns off automatically -- with no override.

Day 9: A failed attempt to install a built-in spice rack in the wall to the right of the fridge
that backs up into the laundry closet. Ok, back to the drawing board.

Day 10: A pull-out table is installed just above the space for the drawer dishwasher.
Pulls for the lower drawers and cabinets are installed.

Day 10 (continued): Sink area cabinets all aligned and ready for the measurement for the countertop.
The fixture locations are marked so the countertop can be made precisely. Note the level on the left.
The undermount sink is an Elkay.

Day 10 (continued): Tilt-out sponge drawer in front of the sink.

Day 11: Some realigning of the upper cabinets -- thanks to Joe, my contractor, for bearing with me.

Day 12: Slide-in for cookie sheets is installed to the left of the range.

Day 12 (continued): LED lights are installed under the upper cabinets.

Day 13: The Silestone quartz countertop in Vortium is installed.

Day 14: Tiling begins. The tiles came in sheets (more expensive, but easier to install).
The install was tricky because of the angle and need to fit the sheets together as well as cutting the tiles
so they fit flush with the countertop and the upper cabinets.

Day 15: More tiling.

Day 15 (continued): More tiling.

Day 16: The tiling is done!

Day 17: Grouting is done for the tile.

Day 18: Upper pulls are installed.

Day 19: Switchplates installed.

Day 19 (continued): The drawer dishwasher is installed below the pullout table.
The lower cabinet to the left of the dishwasher has a slide-out drawer for a blender and food processor.

Day 20: The threshold is evened so the transition is smoother.

Day 21: Painting -- walls, ceiling, and baseboards.

Day 21 (continued): New stainless steel switchplates installed to complement the sink and appliances.

[Day 22: Refrigerator, range moved back into the kitchen. See "After" photos below.]

Day 24: New faucet installed as original faucet not working well. The button on the left is for the garbage disposal.

Day 25: New smoke detectors and CO monitors are installed per City code.
The CO monitors are in the bedrooms, far from the kitchen, but are still required.

Day 26: A missing side panel is installed -- needed because of moving the cabinets to optimize storage space.

Day 26 (continued): A soap dispenser is installed next to the garbage disposal button.

Day 27 (which was actually several months later): The maple spice rack is clamped prior to staining.

After - counterclock-wise around the kitchen starting with the fridge.

From the fridge to the range.

The sink with the slide-in for cutting boards on the lower right.

The dishwasher with the pull-out table above and a drawer below.

Sliding doors for the pantry: maple with a resin insert

The sliding pantry doors are just beyond the spicerack.

The spicerack is on the wall on the left as you stand in front of the fridge positioned
so the fridge and freezer doors can open fully. I love the curved top and the dowels.

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